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In Memory Of Edouard Seguin, M.D.

Creator: n/a
Date: 1880
Publication: Proceedings of the Association of Medical Officers of American Institutions for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Persons
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 1

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Dr. Edouard O. Seguin died on Thursday, October 28, 1880, at his home, No. 58 West 57th Street, New York. His last illness was acute dysentery of about two weeks' duration. There is every reason to believe that he soon foresaw the fatal issue, as he prepared himself for the end with intelligence and calmness.


Dr. Seguin's last conscious hours were tranquil; no anxiety, or fear, or doubt appeared in his manner and conversation. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by those whom he loved.


On October 31st a large number of the friends of the deceased assembled at the house of his son, Dr. Edward C. Seguin, and a lay funeral service was held. Addresses on the life and character of Dr. Seguin were made, and it is these loving tributes which are now offered to the same friends in print.


The remarks of Dr. Brockett were read by Dr. J. Marion Sims, who also spoke a few words of kindness and affection.


The ceremony was opened by the following explanatory remarks by Dr. E. C. Seguin:


My friends: To some of you it may not be known that my dear father, whose memory you honor by coming here, had been a deliberate and consistent free-thinker throughout his adult life. He was not an atheist, but he rejected all religious theories and practices.


He worshipped truth and honor, and his life was steadfastly guided by moral principles and love for his fellow-men. While holding firmly to his philosophic ideas of life, he was truly respectful of the faith which others were able to exercise, and he never, to my knowledge, made a deliberate attempt to destroy it in his acquaintances.


At the close of such a life, it seemed to his family that to hold a religious service over his remains would be a contradiction. We therefore decided to have a lay service, in which several of my father's old and dear friends will speak to you of his character and his work with words coming from the heart.




AMONG the names inscribed in "The Angel's Book of Gold, as those who loved their fellow-men," there is none more worthy of such record than his, upon whose features, now pale and still, we look for the last time, as we pay him the tribute of love and honor.


Engaged for forty-three years in a philanthropic enterprise of the highest importance, though, so far as he was concerned, wholly unremunerative, Dr. Seguin had held persistently to his great purpose, through evil report and good report, amid obstacles and difficulties which would have utterly discouraged most men; and dedicated his last days, as he had his earliest years of professional life, to the noble work of restoring the arrested development of idiot children, and training them up for a life of greater intelligence.


In all this work of so many long years, there was nothing of self-seeking, no itching for notoriety, no complaining or repining at misfortunes and failures, no sourness or bitterness against the world for its want of appreciation of him. He had none of the traits of the philanthropist by profession; none of the disposition which prompts so many men who imagine that they have done the world some great service, to thrust themselves prominently before the public. He was simply a modest, cultivated and refined gentleman who never seemed conscious of having done anything remarkable. He was, moreover, one of the most benevolent and unselfish of men, and though he could flame out at a white heat at any great wrong or injustice done to others, that must have been the most intimate of his friends who ever heard him allude to any injustice done to himself. His philosophical spirit enabled him to bear patiently the disappointments, and they were many, which befell his most cherished plans, and to wait patiently and cheerfully for a better opportunity.


Edouard Seguin, M.D., was born at Clamecy, department of Nièvre, France, January 20, 1812. He was of excellent family, and his ancestors for several generations had been eminent as physicians, ranking at the head of their profession in the department. Edouard received a very thorough education at the college of Auxerre, and at that of St. Louis in Paris. He then commenced the study of medicine, having the celebrated Itard for his perceptor, and being subsequently associated with Esquirol, the distinguished psychologist and alienist, in his investigations. He had imbibed from his preceptor, Itard, a great fondness for psychological studies, and while reviewing Itard's apparently fruitless experiments and efforts for the instruction of the idiot youth, known as the Savage of Aveyron, his genius led him to the great discoveries which Itard had failed to make, viz.: that idiocy was not the result of deficiency or malformation of the brain or nervous system, but was simply an arrest of mental development, occurring either before, at, or after birth, induced in a variety of ways and by differing causes; that this arrested development could be overcome by appropriate treatment and the idiot restored to society and life, if not to the highest intelligence. This restoration, he believed, could be accomplished by a careful physiological training of all the senses. It is doubtful if Itard was wholly converted to these views, which explained the reason of the failures of Vincent de Paul and others who had attempted, without success, to instruct and improve idiot children; but Esquirol was so much delighted with them, that he obtained for him the opportunity to make experiments to prove his theories, at the Hospice de Bicêtre, and in his first pamphlet associated his own name, already illustrious, with that of the young physician (1838). Dr. Seguin pursued his experiments with great zeal and persistence, but as they were wholly at his own cost, he maintained himself and his pupils by such general practice of his profession as he could command, and by literary labor, being for several years art critic of one of the leading journals of Paris, and also a vigorous and earnest writer of articles on political and politico-economical subjects. He soon became associated with a coterie of the most brilliant young men who had engaged in the literary profession in Paris since the Revolution. Among them were Ledru Rollin, Pierre Leroux, Louis Blanc, Michel Chevalier, the elder Flourens, Jean Reynaud, and Victor Hugo who, though somewhat older, was a welcome member of the group. Of this band of brothers, all of whom in after years attained distinction, Edouard Seguin was the youngest, but not in spite of his modesty, the least brilliant member. They had all accepted the teachings of Saint Simon and his successors, the Père Enfantin and Olinde Rodrigue, in philosophy and political economy, and were strong in their faith of the speedy ascendancy of a republic, founded on the principle of the greatest good to the greatest number.

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