ROTTOT, JEAN-PHILIPPE, physician, professor, editor, and politician; b. 3 July 1825 in L’Assomption, Lower Canada, son of Pierre Rottot, a merchant, and Marie-Marguerite (Mary) Short; m. first 28 May 1849 Sara O’Leary, daughter of James O’Leary, a physician, at Saint-Hyacinthe, Lower Canada, and they had three children; m. secondly 1879 Aglaé Benoît, widow of the notary Napoléon Migneault; they had no children; d. 28 Sept. 1910 in Montreal.
Jean-Philippe Rottot’s grandfather Pierre Rottot served as a captain in the Voltigeurs Canadiens and was killed in the battle of Saint-Régis in 1812. His father was commissioned lieutenant in the Chasseurs Canadiens that year and took part in various engagements between British and American troops.
Jean-Phillipe did his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1836 to 1843. He then studied medicine at the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery and was licensed to practise on 16 Nov. 1847. As a doctor he was in great demand, and he was also deeply involved in developing the profession in French-speaking circles in the province. His brother-in-law and colleague Emmanuel-Persillier Benoît used to say that Rottot was “the foremost French Canadian doctor of his time.” He practised for 63 years, first at Saint-Césaire, then at Saint-Hyacinthe, and finally in Montreal, where he was physician to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice and the mother house of the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général. In 1860 he was appointed to the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal, and in 1881 he helped found Notre-Dame Hospital, of which he became a trustee and the chief physician.
At the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery, where he had been made professor in 1859, Rottot taught botany, toxicology, medical jurisprudence, and internal pathology. He collaborated with his colleagues there in writing Traité élémentaire de matière médicale et Guide pratique des Sœurs de la charité de l’asile de la Providence, which was published in 1869. During the conflict that set the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery against the Université Laval, when Rome considered it inopportune for a second Catholic university in the province to be founded, Rottot was amongst those choosing in 1878 to leave the school and move to the Montreal branch of Laval. He was appointed dean of its medical faculty that year and also served as professor of internal pathology and clinical medicine. When the two establishments were united in 1891 the faculty named him dean. Rottot distrusted the new medical theories of his time, complaining that they changed too often. For example, he did not believe in microbes. His rule in medicine was not to thwart nature’s efforts.
Rottot had been one of the founding members of the Société Médicale de Montréal in 1871. In order to fill a gap in French Canadian medicine he took the initiative that year, along with Adolphe Dagenais and Louis J.-P. Desrosiers, both physicians, of establishing a periodical, L’Union médicale du Canada, which first appeared in January 1872 and is still being published. To ensure its success he encouraged 24 of his colleagues to subscribe “a sum sufficient to ensure publication of the journal for three years” and he was the first editor, serving from 1872 to 1874.
Present at Quebec on 9–10 Oct. 1867, when the founding congress of the Canadian Medical Association was held, Rottot was named chairman of the association’s audit committee in 1868. That year he strongly opposed the plan put forward by Dr George Edgeworth Fenwick*, a professor at McGill College and co-editor of the Canada Medical Journal and Monthly Record of Medical and Surgical Science of Montreal, to set up a body that would supervise medical training in all of Canada. Rottot maintained that francophones would be a minority in it and that under the Canadian constitution education fell within provincial jurisdiction. He had, in fact, always protested against attempts to place medical education under the authority of the federal government. The story of Rottot’s life is also linked with that of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Province of Quebec, of which he was president from 1877 to 1880. He was an ardent defender of the college’s authority in conflicts with the universities, particularly in the matters of admission to the study of medicine and the conferring of the right to practise.
Rottot was esteemed outside medical circles. In 1856 he was elected a city councillor by acclamation, and he retained the office in 1857 and 1858. In 1874 he was one of the founders of the Club Saint-Denis, which became the meeting-place of the leading francophone citizens of Montreal. Rottot served as its president from 1874 to 1875, and the earliest gatherings took place at his home on the corner of Rue Sainte-Catherine and Rue Berry. In 1877 the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal chose him president. When he died in 1910, newspapers reported that a huge crowd attended his funeral, which was held in the cathedral of Saint-Jacques in Montreal.
Jean-Philippe Rottot was involved in several important chapters of the medical history of his time. According to his biographers, he was an energetic and fervent Catholic, tall in stature, whose devotion to his work and to his patients was admired by his colleagues.
Jean-Philippe Rottot is the author of “Discours prononcé par M. le Dr J.-P. Rottot, le 1er octobre, 1879, à l’ouverture des cours de l’université Laval à Montréal,” L’Union médicale, 8 (1879): 433–42, and “La science médicale à Montréal depuis 50 ans jusqu’à nos jours,” La Rev. médicale de Montréal, 6 (1902): 342–47.
AC, Montréal, État civil, Catholiques, Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Montreal), 1er oct. 1910. ANQ-M, CE2-5, 28 mai 1849. AP, L’Assomption-de-la-Sainte-Vierge (L’Assomption, Qué.), RBMS, 4 juill. 1825. La Patrie, 28 sept., 1er oct. 1910. E.-P. Benoît, “Jean-Philippe Rottot, 1825–1910,” L’Union médicale, 39 (1910): 621–26. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth). Albert LeSage, “Les débuts de L’Union médicale durant l’année 1872: le Dr Rottot”; “Le décanat à la faculté de médecine de l’université de Montreal”; and “75e anniversaire de la fondation de ‘L’Union médicale du Canada,’ 1872–1947,” in L’Union médicale, 61 (1932): 80–94; 68 (1939): 166–78; and 75 (1946): 1265–68, respectively. L.-D. Mignault, “Histoire de l’école de médecine et de chirurgie de Montréal,” L’Union médicale, 55 (1926): 444–50, 511–14, 536–42, 597–674. Univ. Laval (Québec), Annuaire, 1879–91.