Add to bookbag
Title: Hermaphrodite
Original Title: Hermaphrodite
Volume and Page: Vol. 8 (1765), pp. 165–167
Author: Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt
Translator: Naomi J. Andrews [Santa Clara University, nandrews@scu.edu]
Subject terms:
Anatomy
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Availability:

This text is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Please see http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/did/terms.html for information on reproduction.

URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.208
Citation (MLA): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Hermaphrodite." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Naomi J. Andrews. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.208>. Trans. of "Hermaphrodite," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 8. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Hermaphrodite." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Naomi J. Andrews. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.208 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Hermaphrodite," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 8:165–167 (Paris, 1765).

Hermaphrodite. A person who has both sexes, or the natural parts of man and woman.

This term comes to us from the Greeks; they composed it of the name of a god and a goddess, in order to express in one word, according to custom, the mix or the conjunction of Mercury and Venus, whom they believed to have presided over the birth of this extraordinary being. But whether the Greeks drew this prejudice from the principles of Astrology or from hermetic philosophy, they cleverly imagined that the hermaphrodite was the offspring of Mercury and of Venus. An honorable place is due to the child of a god and a goddess, and this is why legend continues to honor Greek illusions. The nymph Salmacis having fallen desperately in love with a young hermaphrodite , and not being able to awaken him, prayed to the gods to make their two bodies into one; Salmacis got her wish, but the gods left traces of both sexes on the new being.

Nevertheless, this prodigal of nature, who united the two sexes in the same being, was not favorably welcomed by all, if we believe the account of Alexander ab Alexandro, who says that the people who bore the sexes of both man and woman, or to use a single word, the hermaphrodites , were regarded by the Athenians and the Romans as monsters, and thrown into the sea at Athens and at Rome into the Tiber.

But are there true hermaphrodites ? One could raise this question in the times of ignorance; one should no longer propose it during the enlightened centuries. If nature wanders sometimes in the production of man, it does not go as far as metamorphoses, confusions of substances, and perfect assemblages of two sexes. That which is given at birth, even, perhaps, at conception, does not change into another; there is no person in whom the two sexes are perfect, that is to say who could reproduce in herself as a woman, and also outside himself as a man, tanquam mas generare ex alio, & tanquam foemina generare in se ipso [...for as much as the male to produce out of another and the female to produce in her own self...] in the words of one canonist. Nature never permanently confuses these true signs, nor its true marks; nature ultimately shows the characteristics that distinguish sex; and if from time to time these are hidden in infancy, they are definitively revealed in puberty.

All of the following is equally true for both sexes: although nature can sometimes hide a woman in the exterior of a man, this exterior, this superficial bark, this appearance, does not impress enlightened men, and and does not make this woman into a man. If there have been men who passed for a woman, it is certainly via ambivalent characteristics; but it is during the age which is the season of pleasures that the profusion of life, the source of force and of health, can no longer be contained inside, and searches in this happy age to be seen outside, announces itself, and definitively succeeds. This is what happened to the supposed Italian girl, who, during Constantine's time, became a man, as reported by one of the fathers of the Church. In this invigorating state of humanity, the least effort can produce parts which have never before been perceived; witness Marie Germain, of whom Paré spoke, who, after having jumped a creek, appeared a man at the same moment, and was never seen again as the sex by which she had previously been known.

The supposed hermaphrodite men who have a menstrual flow are simply real girls; Columbus is said to have examined their internal organs without having found anything essentially different from those of other women. The small round, hollow yet sensitive body that is located at the back part of the vulva has almost always caused to be described as hermaphrodites , girls who, by a trick of nature, have had this part long enough to abuse. The same Columbus, of whom we were just speaking, saw a Bohemian woman, who asked him to remove this body, and to enlarge the canal to her shame in order to be able, she said, to receive the embraces of the man she loved.

The Negro hermaphrodite of Angola, who caused such a stir in London in the middle of this century, was a woman who found herself in the same situation as Columbus' Bohemian woman; and this case is less rare in the blazing hot countries of Africa and of Asia than among us.

The famous Marguerite Malaure would certainly have passed for a hermaphrodite , without Saviard. She lived in Paris in 1693, dressed as a boy, sword at her side, hat turned up and dressed otherwise as a man; she believed herself to be an hermaphrodite ; she said that she had the natural parts of both sexes, and and that she was in a position to use the one and the other. She displayed herself in public and private assemblies of doctors and surgeons, and she allowed herself to be examined, for a small compensation, by those who were curious.

Among the curious who examined her, there were without doubt several who lacked sufficient enlightenment to judge her condition accurately, and who concurred in the most common opinion that she inspired, which was that she was a hermaphrodite . There were so many well known doctors and surgeons who would haughtily assure the public that she was really that which she said she was, and would guarantee it with their certificates, that apparently one could have acquired a great reputation in Medicine and Surgery without having a great depth of solid knowledge or genuine capacity.

Finally, M. Saviard, finding himself to be the only skilled man who was unbelieving, gave in to the pressing demands of his friends to have a look, and and examined this prodigal in their presence. He had no sooner seen it than he declared that this boy had a prolapsed uterus; accordingly, he reduced the prolapse, and cured her perfectly. Thus the inexplicable enigma of hermaphrodism , in this subject, turned out to be clearer than day. Marguerite Malaure, recovered from her illness and presented to the king her well-written request for permission to return to woman's dress, despite the sentence of the municipal magistrates of Toulouse, who had enjoined her to wear men's clothing.

We conclude, therefore, that hermaphrodism is nothing more than a chimera, and that the examples that one hears of married hermaphrodites , who have both had children, each as man and woman, are childish fables, drawn from the heart of ignorance in the love of marvels, so difficult to dismantle.

It is necessary, nevertheless, to concede that nature plays very strange tricks on natural parts, and that there have appeared a few times subjects of an exterior appearance so bizarre that the inability to distinguish their true nature is, in some way, excusable.

In 1697, M. Saviard, whom I just mentioned, delivered full term twins, of whom one lived only eight hours and the other was given away because of the singularity of his sex.

One of these babies had a well formed penis, situated in the normal place, with the glans exposed, behind which the inverted foreskin formed a tubular roll of flesh. This penis had no urethra; there was no opening at the end of the glans as a consequence; it only formed two hollow bodies and ordinary teguments; and these hollow bodies had as well their own erection and acceleration muscles.

His scrotum was divided in the manner of a vulva; and at the bottom of this split, there was a hole that one could take for a vagina; urine came out through this opening; around it there were small reddish protuberances that one could take for caruncula hymenalis. One saw below this a fold of skin, which could pass for what is called la fourchette in women; and next to it there were other wrinkles, that one could see as vestigial labia. Finally, on each side of the divided scrotum, one could distinctly make out a testicle. The interior genital parts were shaped like a male's; and and as there was no sign of a womb, nor of its ancillaries, it appeared that this was a male subject in whom the urethra had been changed by a defect of conformation, which would render him incapable of having children. His twin brother who was put out for adoption died six weeks after his birth; and it is a pity that we do not have a description of his natural parts.

M. Saviard saw again the next year a second child delivered at full term, who had approximately the same defects to his genitals as the previous child. His urethra was split from the end of the glans to the root of the penis; this separated the scrotum into two sacs, which contained the testicles. The reversed foreskin below the glans formed a roll very similar to that of the aforementioned subject; and the urethra came out through a hole which was at the base of the penis, at the place where the urethra is situated on a woman. It follows from this that this subject would have been similarly incapable of reproduction. I chose these two cases of Saviard only, because one can rely on his evidence.

The late M. Petit, doctor at Namur, to whom the Anatomists owe many important observations about the brain, the eye and the nerves, has left us a very curious case study in l'Hist. de l'acad. des Science. ann. 1720, on a interior hermaphrodite, if I may use this term. This was a soldier, who, having been wounded, died at the age of 22 at the hospital in Namur; the primary surgeon who opened him, solely out of curiosity over the nature of his injury, was quite surprised not to find testicles in the scrotum; he found them rather in the lower abdomen, but with a form of womb or of vagina, and the reproductive organs of a woman. This variant of a womb was attached to the neck of the bladder, and and by its mouth pierced the urethra between the cervix and the prostate. The body of this womb had running here and there two cornices or trumpets which were attached to the two feminine ovaries, or if you like, masculine testicles, small, limp, and which each had their own epididymis and vas deferens.

Finally, we have seen, painted and engraved a hermaphrodite who appeared in Paris before the public eye in 1749. She was then aged 16 years, had not had her period, had no sign of budding breasts, nor the developing hips suitable to a girl of her age: I say girl, because she had been baptized as of the feminine sex; but elsewhere Paré, in his traité des Monstres , ch. Vij. [p. 167] pag. 1015, recounts the history of three subjects who were baptized and raised as girls, and whose masculine parts developed at the age of puberty.

Be that as it may, the penis of Marie-Anne Drouart, which was her name, was masked by its foreskin, covered by a bit of hair at the root, had a glans and two hollow bodies; but the urethral canal lacked an opening for the passage of urine; the foreskin left an opening, which approached a woman's vulva. This opening ended down below in a fold similar to a fourchette , with a small button, such as that which is found in young virgins. Above this button was the opening of the urethral canal, which was extremely short. The opening of the vulva was very narrow, and allowed with pain the insertion of a small finger; one saw no caruncula hymenalis, nor the appearance of testicles, either in the groin nor in that which took the place of the scrotum; in a word, this subject had not and would never have, if it continued to live, the potency of either sex.

These are the only authentic facts to my knowledge of the most astonishing way in which nature plays tricks with the conformation of the generative parts. I know that several writers have published tracts devoted to hermaphrodites . See Aldrovandus, in his book de Monstris, Bononioe, 1642, fol . Caspar Bauhin, de Hermaphroditis; Oppenheim, 1614, in - 8 °. Jacobus Mollerus, de Cornutis & Hermaphroditis, Berolini, 1708, in - 4 °. Duval, traité de l'Accouchement des femmes , & des , Rouen, 1612, in - 8 °.

I have fruitlessly perused all these writings, such as the Medico-legal questions of Zacchias, Spondanus, ad annum 1478 , num. 22. Bonaciolus, de conformatione foetus; the newest literature from the Baltic sea, dated 1704, by Loffhagen, and other similar works, which I do not recommend to any reader. I would only recommend Riolan's discourse on hermaphrodites , in which he proves that there is no truth to the story of them. But what is more valuable is the work recently published in London by M. Parsons, and which is worth translating into French; it is called Parsons's Mechanical, and Critical Enquiry into the nature of hermaphrodites , London, 1741, in - 8°. The author there demonstrates skillfully and briefly that the existence of hermaphrodites is solely a popular misconception.