Lucien Joubert


Dr. Joubert (Lucien-Eugène) was born in Primarette in the canton of Beaurepaire in Isère on January 26, 1832, the last of four boys to join a modest family: his father being merely an innkeeper.

As an auxiliary surgeon of the navy in 1854, he was unable to qualify as a primary surgeon due to his participation in the Crimean campaign. He, therefore, asked to leave for Senegal where he was assigned to the hospital of Saint-Louis in 1857.

He returned to France in late 1862 and took a cure at Vichy to restore his health affected by his six years in Africa. Subsequently, he approached the maritime authorities; firstly, to solicit the benefit of free tuition in a medical faculty; secondly, to be given leave to study for a doctorate in medicine which he obtained in Montpellier in July 1863.

Joubert seems to have possessed a true colonial scientific vocation, when he sent a letter to the Minister on December 19, 1865, in which he expressed the desire to serve in Cochin China:

My intention, if my request is accepted, would be to to ask the governor of the colony to attach me to the journey of exploration that is being prepared in Cambodia in order to further my special studies in geology and mineralogy which I have been engaged in for several years and have had the opportunity to apply in Upper Senegal.

He left France in early 1866 and reached Saigon shortly before the departure of the Mekong Exploration Commission being duly assigned by the Admiral  La Grandière, according to his stated wishes, to simultaneously perform the functions of both doctor and geologist.

His scientific harvest from this expedition was considerable: an entire chapter of the official report published in 1873 concerns the geology and mineralogy of the entire region traversed from Cambodia to China.

In addition, Joubert demonstrated throughout this very long journey a tireless dedication to both his companions and the people – often unhappy and living in poor sanitary conditions –  whom they met along their way.

When Doudart de Lagrée, the commander of the expedition, fell seriously ill and had to stop at Tong-Tchouan, a small village in the province of Yunnan in South China, Joubert remained with him, while their companions continued their march towards the city of Tali located not far from LanTsang-Kiang (the Chinese name of the Mekong).

Ultimately, they had to turn back, because of the revolt of the Muslims of the province against the imperial power of Beijing, and it was on their return to Tong-Tchouan on April 3, 1868, that they learned from the mouth of Joubert of the death their leader, which occurred on March 12th.

By puncturing de Lagree’s liver, an ultimately futile operation conducted under extremely precarious conditions, Joubert had tried to save his patient. When conducting his autopsy of the Commander, before temporarily burying him, Joubert discovered a second abscess which had proved fatal.

Returning to France at the end of 1868, Joubert participated in the drafting of the official expedition report and resigned from the Navy on August 17, 1869.

Although ater reinstated as a second-class auxiliary doctor, he finally left active service following the brief Franco-Prussian war and settled in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne where he remained for many years as medical inspector of the spa, before dying at the age of sixty-one in 1893.


Source: Men and Destiny: Dictionary of Overseas Biography, Volume 2, Volume 1 (1977, Academy of Sciences Overseas, France).




































































































































































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