Duclos's nemesis was the young Dodart, physician and protégé of Perrault, whose association with the Academy began in 1671. Dodart quickly took a position of responsibility and leadership. He was instrumental in reinstating the practice of keeping minutes and in reviving the Academy during an early slump. Within five years he had become director of the natural history of plants, and his Mémoires des plantes reveals his control rather than Duclos's. With Perrault's protection, his influence transcended his lack of seniority in the Academy.
Dodart rose at the expense of Duclos. Director of the botanical project and leading theoretician of chemical research at the Academy in the 1660s, Duclos found his authority diminished during the 1670s. The minutes chart this decline. In his heyday from 1667 until 1669, Duclos read an average of more than three substantial papers a year — on topics ranging from coagulation and solvents to a detailed analysis of one of Boyle's books — filling roughly five hundred pages of minutes. During his decline in the period from 1675 to 1683, Duclos presented an average of fewer than two papers a year, and these fill at most twenty-odd pages in the minutes. In the 1660s Duclos dominated chemical and botanical planning with his long-range proposals, the status symbols that were the preserve of members who controlled the facilities and supervised others. Thereafter, this became Dodart's prerogative. Duclos conducted only his personal research by the mid-1670s, while Dodart supervised some of the work in chemistry and directed the natural history of plants. Why did this happen?
Dodart's interests and relative youth made him a plausible replacement for Duclos as director of the natural history of plants. Duclos's papers focused on experimental or theoretical chemistry, while Dodart was fascinated with all natural phenomena. Dodart supervised the natural history and chemical analysis of plants energetically. Duclos, however, was preoccupied with his books on mineral waters and on alchemical subjects. Since Duclos was at least thirty-five years older than Dodart, his flagging energy and waning interest in all but his favorite projects make Dodart's assumption of the natural history of plants even more understandable. Yet Duclos did not happily relinquish his responsibility to the new junior colleague. Thus Dodart's interests and qualifications do not explain a succession that was forced rather than amicable.
Duclos's espousal of Platonist and Paracelsian views and his lifelong alchemical study complete the explanation. He made no secret of these interests, which he presented to his colleagues in several papers during the 1660s. For a while the Academy tolerated Duclos's pursuits. Later it feared embarrassment should his leanings become associated in the public mind with the institution itself, and academicians went so far as to refuse Duclos permission to publish one of his books.
Duclos deeply resented Dodart's usurpation and counterattacked by maligning his editorial, scholarly, and collegial integrity. He accused Dodart of writing badly and reproached him for ignorance and careless reasoning. He unfairly denied that the Academy asked Dodart to write the Mémoires des plantes . Most important, Duclos criticized Dodart for misrepresenting the Academy. Dodart, he claimed, attributed ideas improperly to the Academy, represented his own views as those of his colleagues, portrayed the opinions of a few as if all academicians accepted them, and misrepresented theories he did not share. Duclos claimed that Dodart failed to collaborate with other academicians who had directed the research. The truth was that Dodart had simply rejected many of Duclos's views. Finally, Duclos was appalled because Dodart's book elaborated methodological issues instead of presenting conclusions about the nature of plants. At the heart of their disagreement was an argument about the purpose of analyzing plants chemically: Duclos had anticipated substantial insights into the nature of plants, but Dodart found the analyses more beneficial for medicine. Duclos's animosity, therefore, had both personal and professional aspects; the latter, which focused on the purposes of chemical analysis, will become clearer in the following chapter.
Dodart certainly used his editorial power to alter the project, and his Mémoires des plantes was a very different book from anything Perrault or Duclos had conceived. It enumerated the obstacles to carrying out Duclos's instructions of 1668. In contrast, Marchant's Descriptions de quelques plantes nouvelles simply ignored them. Duclos had hoped to establish from the chemical analyses a theory with practical applications, but Dodart declared such efforts fruitless and advocated a more pragmatic use of Bourdelin's findings. It is not surprising therefore that Duclos perceived the book as a disavowal of his views.