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The Values of Versatility: Pharmacists, Plants, and Place in the French (Post)Colonial World

  • Laurence Monnais (a1) and Noémi Tousignant (a2)


Colonial pharmacists bio-prospected, acclimatized, chemically screened, and tinkered with plants and their parts, hoping to create products to supply colonial public health care, metropolitan industries, and imperial markets. This article's approach is to examine the trajectories of expertise of two French colonial pharmacists, Franck Guichard and Joseph Kerharo, to illuminate the history of modern medicinal plant research. Both men studied medicinal plants as part of their colonial duties, yet their interests in indigenous therapies exceeded and outlived colonial projects. We take this “overflow” as our point of departure to explore how science transformed medicinal plant values in French colonial and postcolonial contexts. Our focus is on the relationship between value and space—on the processes of conceptual and material (de-/re-)localization through which plant value is calculated, intensified, and distributed. We study and compare these processes in French Indochina and French West Africa where Guichard and Kerharo, respectively, engaged in them most intensively. We show that their engagements with matter, value, knowledge, and mobility defy easy categorizations of medicinal plant science as either extractive or neo-traditionalist. By eschewing simple equations of scientists' motivations with political projects and knowledge-production, we argue that approaching plant medicine through trajectories of expertise opens up grounds for finer analyses of how colonial power and projects, and their legacies, shaped scientific activity.

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1 Indochina was a colonial territory headed by a governor general in Hanoi and made up of five territorial entities (pays) from 1887 to the end of the Indochina War of independence (1954): a colony, Cochinchina (Southern Vietnam), and four protectorates Annam (central Vietnam), Tonkin (northern Vietnam), Cambodia and Laos. AOF (1895–1958) was a federation headed by a governor general that grouped up to eight French colonies in Western Africa: Senegal, French Sudan, Mauritania, Côte d'Ivoire, Dahomey, Guinea, Upper Volta, and Niger. From 1902, its capital was Dakar.

2 Voeks, Robert A., “Disturbance Pharmacopoeias: Medicine and Myth from the Humid Tropics,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94 (2004): 868–88; Harold J. Cook, Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007); Londa L. Schiebinger, Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World (London: Harvard University Press, 2004); Merson, John, “Bio-Prospecting or Bio-Piracy: Intellectual Property Rights and Biodiversity in a Colonial and Postcolonial Context,” Osiris 15 (2000): 282–96; Lucile H. Brockway, Science and Colonial Expansion: The Role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens (New York: Academic Press, 1979); Richard Drayton, Nature's Government: Science, Imperial Britain and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

3 De Vos, Paula, “The Science of Spices: Empiricism and Economic Botany in the Early Spanish Empire,” Journal of World History 17 (2006): 399427.

4 Schiebinger, Plants and Empire, 5.

5 Abena Dove Osseo-Asare, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

6 Osborne, Michael A., “Acclimatising the World: A History of the Paradigmatic Colonial Science,” Osiris 15 (2000): 135–51.

7 Hokkanen, Markku, “Imperial Networks, Colonial Bioprospecting and Burroughs Wellcome & Co.: The Case of Strophanthus Kombe from Malawi (1859–1915),” Social History of Medicine 25, 3 (2012): 589607; Osseo-Asare, Bitter Roots; Merson, “Bio-Prospecting.”

8 Chakrabarty, Pratik, “Empire and Alternatives: Swietenia Febrifuga and the Cinchona Substitutes,” Medical History 54 (2010): 7594. On botanical gardens, see Brockway, Science; and Drayton, Nature's Government. On centers of calculation, see Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

9 Merson, “Bio-Prospecting”; Hayden, Cori, “From Market to Market: Bioprospecting's Idioms of Inclusion,” American Ethnologist 30 (2003): 359–71.

10 Schiebinger, Plants and Empire, 17; Hayden, “From Market to Market,” 361.

11 Osseo-Asare, Bitter Roots.

12 Raffles, Hughes, “Intimate Knowledge,” International Social Science Journal 54, 173 (2002): 325–35.

13 Nigh, Ronald, “Maya Medicine in the Biological Gaze: Bioprospecting Research as Herbal Fetishism,” Current Anthropology 43, 3 (2002): 451–77; Greene, Shane, “Indigenous People Incorporated? Culture as Politics, Culture as Property in Pharmaceutical Bioprospecting,” Current Anthropology 45 (2004): 211–37.

14 Hayden, “From Market to Market,” 362.

15 Ibid., 368.

16 For a relevant analysis of the relation between (re)localization, naming, and historicization, see Mukharji, Projit Bihari, “Vishalyakarani as Eupatorium Ayapana: Retro-Botanizing, Embedded Traditions, and Multiple Historicities of Plants in Colonial Bengal, 1890–1940,” Journal of Asian Studies 73, 1 (2014): 6587.

17 For examples, see: Stacey A. Langwick, “Healers and Scientists: The Epistemological Politics of Research about Medicinal Plants in Tanzania,” in Wenzel P. Geissler and Catherine Molyneux, eds., Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: The Anthropology and History of Medical Research in Africa (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011), 263–96; Laurence Monnais, C.-Michele Thompson, and Ayo Wahlberg, eds., Southern Medicine for Southern People: Vietnamese Medicine in the Making (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012).

18 On this movement, see Laurence Monnais, “Can Traditional Medicine Be (Scientifically) Trustworthy? Colonial Views of Vietnamese Medicine in the First Half of the Twentieth Century,” in Monnais, Thompson, and Wahlberg, Southern Medicine, 61–84.

19 On the general history of colonial pharmacists, see Pierre Pluchon, Histoire des Médecins et des Pharmaciens de la Marine et des Colonies (Toulouse: Privat, 1985); and Oudart, Jean-Louis, “Les Pharmaciens Coloniaux,” Médecine Tropicale 65 (2005): 265–72.

20 Laurence Monnais, Médicaments Coloniaux: L'Expérience Vietnamienne, 1905–40 (Paris: Les Indes Savantes, 2014), 56–57. Although pharmaceutical regulation was being tightened across Europe, the French government appears to have been particularly obsessed with this issue, and transferred strict legislation on toxics to its colonies.

21 Dreux, Claude, “Hommage à M. L. Girard: Gestation et Naissance de la Biochimie Hospitalière,” Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie 87, 324 (1999): 425–32; Moan, Georges Le, “L'Enseignement de la Toxicologie à Paris dans le Cursus des Etudes Pharmaceutiques,” Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie 72, 262 (1984): 319–26.

22 Sophie Bréchoteau, Les Pharmaciens et l'Industrie Sucrière aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, Doctorat d’état en pharmacie, Université Bordeaux II, 1997; Berman, Alex, “J.B.A. Chevallier, Pharmacist-Chemist, a Major Figure in Nineteenth-Century Public Health,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 52 (1978): 200–13; Baverey-Massat-Bourrat, Séverine, “De la copie au nouveau médicament: Le Laboratoire de chimie thérapeutique et Rhône-Poulenc: Un réseau alternatif d'innovation,” Entreprises et Histoire 36, 2 (2004): 4863.

23 Oudart, “Les Pharmaciens,” 263.

24 Indochinese auxiliary pharmacists were trained at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in Hanoi from 1917. From 1935, they were able to obtain the full status of pharmacist (with a doctorate) there (Monnais, Médicaments Coloniaux, 155). In AOF, auxiliary pharmacists were trained in Dakar starting in 1919, and were renamed “African pharmacists” in 1949. Until independence, West Africans had to study in France to obtain a full state diploma.

25 According to the pharmacy inspection service in Tonkin, there were at least 1,700 shops selling traditional medicines in 1931, of which 180 were in Hanoi, in contrast with around twenty private pharmacies; “Rapport sanitaire annuel du Tonkin, 1931,” Vietnam National Archives, center 1, Hanoi, Fonds de la Résidence Supérieure du Tonkin Nouveau Fonds (RST NF), 3683. In French West Africa, inspections were considerably more lax and covered a much smaller pharmacy market that excluded “traditional” therapeutic transactions.

26 On the ideology, see Albert Sarraut, La Mise en Valeur des Colonies (Paris: Payot, 1923); and on its application, see Alice Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997). On the relationship between mise en valeur and French colonial science, see Christophe Bonneuil, Des Savants pour l'Empire: La Structuration des Recherches Coloniales au Temps de ‘la Mise en Valeur des colonies françaises’ 1917–1935 (Paris: Editions de l'ORSTOM, 1991).

27 “Rapport sur le fonctionnement du service de santé de l'AOF pendant l'année 1941,” Archives Nationales du Sénégal, Dakar, 2G41-5.

28 Emile Perrot, Dix Années d'Efforts pour la Production de Plantes Médicinales et Aromatiques (Paris: Office National des Matières Premières Végétales, 1929). On Perrot's career, see Christine Debue-Barazer, Des Simples aux Plantes Médicinales: Emile Perrot (1867–1951), Un Pharmagnoste Colonial (Mémoire de DEA en histoire, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, 2002).

29 Bonneuil, Des Savants pour l'Empire. National scientific research was overseen by the Conseil national de recherche scientifique (CNRS), created in 1939.

30 For example, the head of the pharmacy services for AOF complained in 1941 that personnel is “insufficient … a single pharmacist cannot be simultaneously a manager and a chemist, for due to the accumulation of functions, the noble portion of his professional activities is reduced to practically nothing, to the detriment of … technical excellence” (Archives Nationales du Sénégal, 2G41-5).

31 Unlike doctors, there was never a civil corps for colonial pharmacists. They could be “taken out” of military ranks and “lent” to metropolitan or overseas scientific institutions or to the colonial health services for a limited time. Administrative files suggest three possible reasons for longer-than-usual stays: an administrative request, based on an officers' particular competence or usefulness to the local health service; the detachment of an officer to a colonial research institution, such as an Institut Pasteur; or a personal request by the officer (who might be interested in pursuing a long-term project).

32 Harrison, Mark, “Science and the British Empire,” Isis 96 (2005): 5663. MacLeod, Roy, “Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise. Introduction,” Osiris 15 (2000): 113.

33 Tilley, Helen, “Global Histories, Vernacular Science, and African Genealogies; or, Is the History of Science Ready for the World?Isis 101, 1 (2010): 110–19; Beinart, William, Brown, Karen, and Gilfoyle, Daniel, “Experts and Expertise in Colonial Africa Reconsidered: Science and the Interpenetration of Knowledge,” African Affairs 108 (2009): 413–33.

34 Jacobs, Nancy, “The Intimate Politics of Ornithology in Colonial Africa,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 48, 3 (2006): 564603.

35 Raffles, “Intimate Knowledge.”

36 Bruno Latour, “Circulating Reference: Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest,” in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 24–79.

37 Bruno Latour, “Science's Blood Flow: An Example from Joliot's Scientific Intelligence,” in Pandora's Hope, 80–112.

38 Both pharmacists have slim biographical files at the Bibliothèque Inter Universitaire de Pharmacie at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Paris. Information on Guichard's career is also drawn from his personal file kept by the Army Historical Service in Vincennes (GR 15 Yd 1032). Archived colonial reports contain little information about pharmacists, but following individuals allowed us to connect them to institutional reports and scientific publications. The latter proved a rich source of information about collaborative networks, the practices through which they acquired and transformed knowledge about plants, and, to some extent, the imagined patrons, audiences, and beneficiaries of their work.

39 Guichard's retirement from the military in 1945 might explain the lack of documentation about the last part of his career.

40 Joyeux, Bernard, Guichard, Franck, and Poilane, Eugène, “L'Hymenodictyon Excelsum Velutinum au Tonkin,” Annales de Médecine et de Pharmacie Coloniales 35 (1937): 234–48, 997–98.

41 Guichard, Franck and Aubert, C., “Contribution à l'Etude de la Décoloration des Huiles de Palme: Application à l'Amélioration du Procédé Indigène de Préparation de ces Huiles,” Annales de Médecine et de Pharmacie Coloniales 30 (1932): 3459, 280–91.

42 Ibid., 56. It appears that this research was oriented by Guichard's own choice of product and objectives.

43 Guichard wrote at least eight other articles on this topic between 1936 and 1960.

44 Rotenone was isolated by a Japanese chemist in 1902. In the 1920s, it was already being used as an insecticide powder worldwide. Thousands of tons were produced using plants from Brazil, Peru, Belgian Congo, Dutch East Indies, and French Equatorial Africa. It was replaced by DDT during World War II.

45 Guichard nevertheless retained the ambition of making fishing poisons into “very useful” products (Kerharo, Guichard, and Bouquet, “Les Végétaux,” 313).

46 Guichard might have been interested in these plants as a potential alternative to santonine, an effective but also toxic product widely used against worms.

47 Joyeux, Guichard, and Poilane, “L'Hymenodictyon,” 245–46.

48 Cajeput oil was also traditionally used to make torches and to seal fermentation jars, and reportedly was already exported to France as a solvent for rubber; Guichard, Franck and Huard, Pierre, “Utilisation Chirurgicale de l'Essence de Cajeput,” Annales de Médecine et de Pharmacie Coloniales 35 (1937): 935.

49 He cites often Emile Perrot and Paul Hurrier's Matière Médicale et la Pharmacopée Sino-annamites (Paris: Vigot, 1907); Paul H. Leconte's La Flore Générale de l'Indochine (Paris: Masson, 1907–1942); and Charles Crévost's Catalogue des Produits de l'Indochine (Hanoi: Imprimerie d'Extrême-Orient, 1917–1941).

50 “Direction locale de la santé, rapport annuel, 1936,” Archives Nationales d'Outre-mer, RST NF 3686.

51 See notes 20 and 25. A large number of local remedies used substances that were defined as toxic by colonial law. Thus their dispensation was restricted to state-qualified healthcare professionals.

52 “Organisation de l'Assistance rurale en Annam, 1935–1937,” Vietnam National Archives, Center 2, Ho Chi Minh City, Fonds de la Résidence Supérieure d’Annam (RSA), 3362.

53 Archives Nationales d'Outre-mer, RST NF 3686; and Fonds du Gouvernement général de l’Indochine (Gougal), 17172; and Gougal SE C49 c 2(2).

54 Franck Guichard, “La Matière Médicale Indochinoise,” in Recueil des Notices Rédigées à l'Occasion du 10e Congrès de la Far Eastern Association for Tropical Medicine (Hanoi: Taupin, 1938), 600–6; Observations sur Quelques Expertises et Recherches Toxicologiques Effectuées en Indochine,” Annales Pharmaceutiques Françaises 7 (1949): 615–19.

55 Despite commercial agreements signed by the governments of Indochina and Japan from 1940, it would soon become impossible for the colony to import needed pharmaceutical raw materials and products. Bigot, A. and Auriol, R-F., “Le Problème des Médicaments en Indochine de 1940 à 1945,” Produits Pharmaceutiques 2, 3 (1947): 109.

56 Guichard, Franck, “Création d'un Jardin de Botanique Médicale,” Annales de l'Ecole de Médecine et de Pharmacie de Hanoi 5 (1941): 137.

57 Guichard, Franck and Chu, Dao Si, “Etude Préliminaire des Graines du Momordica Cochinchinensis Spreng,” Annales de l'Ecole de Médecine et de Pharmacie de Hanoi 5 (1941): 143–46; Franck Guichard and Bùi Đình Sang, “Contribution à l'Etude de la Sapotoxine du Thea Sasanqua Pierre,” idem.: 139–40; “La Matière Colorante du Fruit du Momordica Cochinchinensis Spreng,” idem: 141–42; Contribution à l'Etude de la Saponine de Aesculus Chinensis Bge Enum pl.” Annales de l'Ecole de Médecine et de Pharmacie de Hanoi 7 (1942): 145–46.

58 Bibliothèque Inter Universitaire de Pharmacie, dossier biographique Joseph Kerharo.

59 Bordet, Gaël, “Joseph Kerharo, Itinéraire d'un Arpenteur: La Naissance de l'Ethnopharmacognosie,” Incursions 4 (2010), (accessed 10 June 2013).

60 See also the Wikipedia entry on Kerharo: (accessed 10 June 2013).

61 Christophe Bonneuil, “Auguste Chevalier, Savant Colonial: Entre Science et Empire, Entre Botanique et Agronomie,” in Patrick Petitjean, ed., Les Sciences hors d'Occident au 20ème Siècle (Paris: ORSTOM, 1996), 15–35; Perrot, Émile, “Une Mission en Afrique Equatoriale et Occidentale,” Extrait de l'Afrique Française (1915): 115; Sur les Productions Végétales Indigènes ou Cultivées de l'Afrique Occidentale Française (Lons-Le-Saulnier: Declume, 1929); Où en est l'Afrique Occidentale Française? Mission en Côte d'Ivoire, Haute-Guinée, Soudan, Sénégal (Paris: Larose, 1939).

62 Bouquet would continue collaborating with Kerharo. He is also the third author of a paper co-authored with Kerharo and Guichard and published in 1960.

63 Ministre des colonies au Gouverneur général de l’AOF, Paris, 5 décembre 1944,” Archives Nationales du Sénégal,1H119 (63).

64 Ibid.

65 Kerharo, Joseph and Bouquet, Armand, “Sur Quatre Diospyros Africains Utilisés dans la Pharmacopée Indigène de la Côte d'Ivoire (Haute-Volta),” Revue Internationale de Botanique Appliquée 29 (1949): 601–5. Paris also analyzed plants from the Laffitte mission; René-Raymond Hélène Moyse Paris and Paris, Marie-Louise, “Le Musée de Matière Médicale de la Faculté de Pharmacie de Paris,” Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie 63 (1975): 299306; “Pharmacopée indigène en AOF: Mission Kerharo-Bouquet. Rapport d'activité pour 1947,” Archives Nationales du Sénégal, 1H119 (63).

66 Ibid.

67 Latour, “Circulating Reference.”

68 Joseph Kerharo, Recherches Ethnopharmacognosiques sur les Plantes Médicinales et Toxiques de la Pharmacopée Sénégalaise Traditionnelle (Thèse de doctorat, Faculté de médecine et de pharmacie, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, 1971); Joseph Kerharo and Jacques G. Adam, La Pharmacopée Sénégalaise Traditionnelle: Plantes Médicinales et Toxiques (Paris: Vigot Frères, 1974).

69 Joseph Kerharo, “L'Inventaire Ethnobotanique Systématique des Plantes Médicinales et Toxiques, Point de Départ de Toute Etude sur les Médecines et Pharmacopées Africaines Traditionnelles,” Colloque du CAMES sur la pharmacopée et la médecine africaines traditionnelles, Lome, 19–22 Nov. 1974.

70 “Kerharo to Dr. Patel, Khartoum, 28 January 1965.” Orders, bills, receipts, and inventories show that his lab was equipped in the 1960s mainly with materials for preparing plant samples (grinders, evaporators, etc.). Unclassified archives of the Laboratoire de matière médicale et de phamacognosie, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar.

71 Kerharo, Joseph, “Esquisse d'un Programme d'Etude et d'Exploitation des Ressources de l'Afrique Noire en Plantes Médicinales: Reproduit d'une Communication aux 4e Journées Médicales de Dakar, 4–12 janvier 1965,” Bulletin et Memoires de L'ecole Nationale de Medecine et de Pharmacie de Dakar 13 (1965): 212–16.

72 Ibid.

73 This project was submitted to the Direction générale de la recherche scientifique et technologique in 1975 (“Kerharo to J.-P. Guengant, 9 January 1975,” unclassified archives of the Laboratoire de matière médicale et de phamacognosie, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar). No copies were found among his correspondence.

74 This fund was allocated by the Direction générale de la recherche scientifique et technologique that was created in 1973 to prioritize science and technology in development planning; “Quatre Années de Fonctionnement de la Délégation Générale à la Recherche Scientifique et Technique: Le Point sur la Politique Scientifique et Technique du Sénégal et les Perspectives de son Evolution” (Dakar: République du Sénégal, 1978).

75 Ibid.

76 Kerharo, Joseph, “La Recherche de Médicaments Nouveaux dans le Cadre de l'Etude et de l'Exploitation de la Pharmacopée Africaine Traditionnelle,” Bulletin et Mémoires de l’Ecole Nationale de Médecine et de Pharmacie de Dakar 24 (1976): 82.

77 The last-planned Fonds d'impulsion pour la recherche scientifique et technique budget was likely cut or eliminated due to cuts in public spending at the end of the 1970s brought on by the effects of the oil crisis, drought, dropping global commodity prices, and the conditions attached to loans by the International Monetary Fund.

78 Numa Laffitte, Missions du Pharmacien-Colonel Laffitte (Paris: ORSC, 1946). Bouquet and Kerharo helped edit these documents after Laffitte died, and read them in Paris as they were preparing their own mission in 1944. On the function given to healers as a “screening” for value, see Langwick, “Healers and Scientists.”

79 “Directeur Général de la Santé Publique AOF to Directeur Local de la Santé Publique, Côte d'Ivoire, 24 March 1948,” Archives Nationales du Sénégal, 1H119(63).

80 Joseph Kerharo, “Pharmacopées Africaines Traditionnelles et Recherche Scientifique,” Congrès International des Africanistes, Dakar, 11–20 Dec. 1967 (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1972), 479; Kerharo and Adam, Pharmacopée, 12–13.

81 Joseph Kerharo and Armand Bouquet, Plantes Médicinales et Toxiques de la Côte d'Ivoire-Haute-Volta: Mission d'Etude de la Pharmacopée Indigène en AOF (Paris: Vigot Frères, 1950); Sorciers, Féticheurs et Guérisseurs de la Côte d'Ivoire- Haute-Volta (Paris: Vigot Frères, 1950). A reviewer criticized the latter for its “naiveté,” and indeed in 1967 Kerharo “confessed” to an audience of Africanists that he regretted that neither an ethnologist nor sociologist had been involved (“Pharmacopées Africaines,” 481).

82 Kerharo, Joseph, “Connaissance de la Pharmacopée Sénégalaise: Conférence Enregistrée à Radio-Sénégal pour l'Université Radiophonique, Dakar, 1964,” Bulletin et Mémoires de l’Ecole Nationale de Médecine et de Pharmacie de Dakar 12 (1964): 230–41.

83 Kerharo, Recherches, 8.

84 Leonard Markovitz, Léopold Sédar Senghor and the Politics of Négritude (New York: Atheneum, 1969); Elizabeth Harney, In Senghor's Shadow: Art, Politics and the Avant-Garde in Senegal, 1960–1995 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004).

85 Leopold Sedar Senghor, “Préface,” to Kerharo and Adam, Pharmacopée; Quenum, Alfred, “Senghor et la Santé du Peuple,” Ethiopiques (1976), (last accessed 22 June 2015); Souleymane, Niang, “De la Politique Scientifique Senghorienne: Principes et Stratégies,” Ethiopiques (1976), (last accessed 22 June 2015).

86 Id.

87 One of the most mentioned is Portuguese Jesuit Joao de Loureiro's Flora Cochinchinensis: Sistens Plantas in Regno Cochinchina Nascentes (Ulyssipone: Typis, et Expensis Academicis 1790).

88 Guichard focused his research on plants used in Vietnam, but it is unclear whether these were only or mainly used by the Viêt population (the ethnic majority).

89 Monnais, “Can Traditional Medicine Be (Scientifically) Trustworthy?”

90 Kerharo, “Pharmacopées,” 476.

91 Kerharo, “L'Inventaire.”

92 This definition of essential medicines contrasts with the later World Health Organization definition in the context of expanding primary care. See Greene, Jeremy, “Making Medicines Essential: The Emergent Centrality of Pharmaceuticals in Global Health,” BioSocieties 6 (2011): 1033.

93 Kerharo, “L'Inventaire.”

94 Grants were also obtained from the French research council (CNRS) and UNESCO.

95 In about 170 letters dating from 1963 to 1976, found in Kerharo's former office in Dakar, about twenty responded to requests for plant specimens. Kerharo also traded in reprints.

96 For an analysis of how “biocolonial” exchanges in specimens secured status, see Warwick Anderson, The Collectors of Lost Souls: Turning Kuru Scientists into Whitemen (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

97 Bigot and Auriol, “Le Problème,” 112.

98 “Plantes médicinales. 1. Comité d’études, constitution, réunions, travaux, 1942,” Archives Nationales d'Outre-mer, GG SE 2293.

99 Bonnet, Pierre, Sur l'Utilisation Possible de Quelques Plantes Diurétiques et Anthelminthiques d'Indochine,” Revue Médicale Française d'Extrême-Orient 3 (1942): 469–70.

100 Sang's role in this discovery is unclear, since the director of the lab likely claimed most of the credit for what had been collaborative work. See Noyer, B., Bonnet, Pierre, and Sang, Bùi Đình, “Etude Préliminaire de l'Action Pharmacodynamique de la ‘Rotundine’ Alcaloïde Nouveau Retiré du Stephania Rotunda,” C.R.S. Conseil de la recherche scientifique de l'Indochine (1943): 6166.

102 Đỗ Tất Lợi, Những Cây Thuốc Và Vị Thuốc Việt Nam (Hanoi: Khoa học, 1963). The 2001 edition includes a four-page notice on Cây bình vôi (Stephania rotunda Lour.) that describes the discovery of Rotundin, and mentions Sang, Guichard, and Bonnet (779–82).

103 Research on the alkaloid content of Stephania rotunda Lour. is ongoing, and even the object of collaborative Vietnamese and French research. The alkaloid is also one of the active components of several pharmaceuticals currently produced industrially, distributed, and consumed in Vietnam as “mild herbal” sleeping pills or mild anxiolytics. On the Trasleepy (Traphaco) notice one can read: “Trasleepy with a unique formula combining herbal Rotundin sulfate and nursing care, sedation has been used effectively in Traditional Medicine”; (last accessed 17 Dec. 2014).

The Values of Versatility: Pharmacists, Plants, and Place in the French (Post)Colonial World

  • Laurence Monnais (a1) and Noémi Tousignant (a2)


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