Marlon Salomon, Obituary, François Delaporte (1941 – 2019)
Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science (6) 2019: 115-123
On the 28th of May, the French philosopher and historian of sciences, François Delaporte died in Amiens at the age of 78. He was an emeritus professor at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV). His death is an irreparable loss to the philosophy and historiography of the sciences.
From 1966, Delaporte began to regularly attend Canguilhem’s courses, and soon after in May of 1968, he began his master’s studies under his professor’s guidance. Two years later, he presented his master’s dissertation, on issues surrounding the notion of vegetality in the eighteenth century.
Delaporte then started to work on a doctoral thesis (troisième cycle). Georges Canguilhem, however, could no longer advise him, since he would retire in 1971, so Canguilhem asked Michel Foucault, who used to attend the Institute and was elected at the end of 1969 to be the chair of the History of Systems of Thought at the Collège de France. Canguilhem had not only been Foucault’s teacher, but had also advised his doctoral thesis on the history of madness in the Classical Age. At the time, Foucault was interested in the theme of sexuality, and Delaporte’s research project proposal on the history on the concepts of vegetal sexuality pleased him – if I am not mistaken, this was the only thesis Foucault ever advised.
Early in 1976, Delaporte defended his thesis entitled Les questions de la végétalité au XVIIIe siècle. There was a noticeable shift concerning the original project. Instead of a history of the notion of plant sexuality, it became a study of “the historicity of a knowledge whose object is the very nature of the vegetable” and an analysis of “the practices” through which the objects of knowledge “are elaborated according to precise rules” (Delaporte 1979, 205).
In 1979, Delaporte published Le second règne de la nature. The title of the book was suggested by Foucault himself.
After defending his doctoral thesis in the “troisième cycle”, Delaporte participated in Michel Foucault’s seminars at the Collège de France from 1977 to 1979. At that moment, he decided to write a thesis of doctorate of state [doctorat d’etat]. He wanted to move away from the history of biology, and spend some time researching something related to the history of medicine. Foucault advised him and suggested at least three possibilities of research that included a study which became the subject of his analysis, the cholera epidemic of 1832 in Paris (Salomon 2012, 248-262). Foucault again agreed to advise him. Delaporte resumed, to a certain extent, the study of Naissance de la clinique at the place where Foucault had left it.
At the beginning of 1984, the first version of his doctorat d’etat thesis was ready. The doctorate of state was, however, finished in France that year, so this work moved away from its original proposal. Foucault, who died in June of that year, still had the opportunity to read it. In 1986, it would be published in English under the title, Disease and civilization: The cholera in Paris, in 1832, with a preface by Paul Rabinow.
With thanks to Colin Gordon for this link