Jean Nicot: one smokin' dude


I love it when reporters do our job here at the _floss. By that I mean, I like when they jam a whole bunch of interesting factoids into an article so I don't have to bother culling them from five different places (okay, maybe not five, but still"¦). Well, that was almost the case last week when an article published in The New York Times on a parliamentary committee in France that approved a proposal to ban smoking in public areas dropped the following fact:

  • France's history with tobacco goes back more than four centuries. Nicotine, after all, is named after Jean Nicot, a 16th century ambassador to Portugal who took tobacco leaves imported from America to Catherine de Medici as a cure for her migraines

Sadly, that's where the juicy factoids ended and the story on smoking in France continued. If you want to read about that, click on that link up there. But if you'd like to know more about old Jean Nicot, what I consider to be the more interesting story here, read on, read on...

  • Born in Nîmes, in the south of France, he was French ambassador in Lisbon, Portugal from 1559 to 1561.
  • At the age of 29, he was sent from France to Portugal to negotiate the marriage of six-year-old Princess Marguerite de Valois to five-year-old King Sebastian of Portugal.
  • He introduced snuff to the French court.
  • The plant was also an instant success with the Father Superior of Malta, who shared tobacco with all of his monks.
  • More and more of the fashionable people of Paris began to use the plant, making Nicot a celebrity.
  • At first, the plant was called Nicotina. But nicotine later came to refer only to the active ingredient of the plant.
  • And my personal fav: Jean Nicot also compiled one of the first French dictionaries (published in 1606). If you read French, you can check that out here.

(Factoids courtesy of this site, this site, and, of course, Wiki)