Michel Sarrazin was born in Nuits-sous-Beaune in the province of Burgundy, France, on September 5, 1659.
He arrived in New France in 1685, and it was pressed into service almost immediately to work as a surgeon. In Michel Sarrazin, the new colony found its first great scientist. In 1686, he was made surgeon-major of the troops at Ville-Marie (Montreal) and Quebec City, and he continued in that position until 1692 when he was succeeded by Pierre Baudeau.
Sarrazin’s hobby – his scientific endeavours – brought his into contact with the Royal Academy of Sciences in France. The institution brought together distinguished French and foreign scientists, most of whom were in the prime of life and at the height of their work.
On March 4, 1699, the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris honoured Sarrazin, naming his a corresponding member in recognition of his work in the field of botany and zoology. Correspondents helped the Academy learn more about foreign countries.
Sarrazin was introduced to botany by scientist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, in France. In New France, he spent almost thirty years collecting and observing plants and minerals. He was the first person to collect and catalogue plant specimens systematically. He compiled a catalogue of more than 200 Canadian plants, with extensive notes on their pharmaceutical properties determined after thorough experimentation. Sarrazin also carefully dissected animals and sent his tests to scientists in France.
The one animal that defeated Sarrazin was the skunk. The scientist was forced to abandon attempts to dissect and study its anatomy because, as he once noted “it had a dreadful smell, capable of making a whole canton desert”.
Sarrazin’s herbarium of dried plants is said to contain about eight hundred species.
As a doctor, Michel Sarrazin helped hundreds of troops recover from smallpox, yellow fever, and influenza. He died in Quebec, on September 8, 1734. His work was continued by Jean-Francois Gaultier.