The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Quesnay, François (1694–1774)

  • G. Vaggi
Reference work entry


Quesnay was born at Mère, Seine-et-Oise. He came from a family of humble origin, the eighth of 13 children. His father Nicholas was a small merchant, and the family also had a piece of land; thanks to these two activities they were comfortably off. François Quesnay had no systematic education; at ten he could not even read, but early on he developed an interest in medicine. In 1711 he went to Paris for formal training in medicine and surgery. There he read Descartes and Malebranche, and the latter’s Recherche de la verité had a profound impact on the young Quesnay. In 1717 he married Jeanne-Cathérine Dauphin, who gave him four children, two of whom survived. He began his career at Mantes, a small town not far from Paris, and in the 1720s and 1730s he made his reputation as a surgeon, particularly with respect to bleeding techniques. In 1736 he published l’Essai physique sur l’oeconomie animale, his first major work. Quesnay was deeply involved in the polemic between surgeons and physicians which took place in the 1740s. At that time he was also physician to the Duke of Villeroy and through him and the Comtesse d’Estrades he met Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s favourite. Quesnay became her private physician and established himself at Versailles. In 1752 he saved the Dauphin from smallpox, and in gratitude the King granted Quesnay a noble title and a sum of money which he used to buy an estate at Beauvoir in the Minervois for his son Blaise-Guillaume. In 1750 and 1751 Quesnay published the last of his medical works and became a member of the French Académie des Sciences and of the Royal Society in London.


Avances Baudeau, N. Capital accumulation Circulation of commodities Du Pont de Nemours, P. S. Effective demand Ephémérides du citoyen Free trade Mercier de La Rivière, P.-P. Mirabeau, Marquis de Net product Petty, W. Physiocracy Price determination Price theory Prix fundamental Quesnay, F. Single tax Sterile class Surplus Tableau économique Turgot, A. R. J. 

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Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Vaggi
    • 1
  1. 1.