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Vicat, Béat-Philippe (* 1715.11.06 † 1770.09.25)

Basic Overview Data

1715.11.06, Aigle
1770.09.25, Lausanne
Protestant, Calvinist
Institutional Affiliation
Academy of Lausanne (Académie de Lausanne)
Keyword Filters
Calvinism, Christian Wolff
Important Family Relations:
Father, Jean Vicat, notary and tax collector(Descendant of a family of huguenot refugees)
Mother, Catherine Römerstal,
Wife, Catherine Elisabeth Curtat (1712 - 1772),
Canonical URL:


Béat-Philippe Vicat was born in Aigle on 6 November 1715. He studied law at the University of Basel from 1735 to 1737. He defended his doctoral dissertation on the profession of a lawyer on September 11, 1737. He was appointed professor of natural and civil law at the Academy of Lausanne in 1741. The successor of Charles Guillaume Loys de Bochat, he was the first professor who held a chair exclusively in law. He served twice as rector of the Academy (1746-49, 1762-65). In 1748, Vicat applied for the chair of natural and civil law at the more prestigious Academy of Berne, with a probationary lecture on testamentary succession according to natural, civil and local law, Praelectio de successione testamentaria ex jure naturali, civili & statutario. He lost out to Sigmund Ludwig von Lerber, the son of a Bernese patrician family. He was very productive in Lausanne, where he served as librarian of the academic library from 1749 to 1762 and compiled the first library catalogue in 1764. He edited the works of two specialists of Roman law, Johann Harpprecht’s Commentary on the Code of Justinian (1748), and Cornelius van Bynkershoek’s Opera omnia (1761). He also edited a vocabulary of civil and church law (1759). In addition, he worked on comparative and feudal law. Vicat died on 25 September 1770 in Lausanne. His own treatise on natural law was published posthumously in 1777.

Comment on main natural law works:

In his treatise on natural law, Vicat does not refer to any textbook he might have used in his courses. Since the editors of his treatise did not add a preface, it is impossible to tell on what basis Vicat taught natural law. The lecture notes of his students, which have not yet been studied in detail, seem not to provide further information concerning this question. They only show that the structure of Vicat's published treatise reproduces the structure of at least some of his lectures. The treatise comprises four parts: the first one deals with moral nature of man, with natural law in general and with the duties imposed on man towards himself, towards others, and towards God, the second part with various adventitious duties and rights (speech, sermon, property, contracts on one hand, duties and rights within the family on the other). The third and the fourth part deal with the state and universal public law, and with the law of nations.

Regarding the first part of the treatise, it is remarkable that having dealt with the duties imposed on man by natural law, he turns to the droits de l'homme (the rights of man), which he declares to be the principal object of his study (vol. 1, chap. 16, §242, p. 145). While his distinction between two kinds of natural rights - "essential" or "inseparable" (inalienable) rights on one hand, and "separable" (alienable) rights on the other - may recall Christian Wolff's doctrine of jura connata, Vicat seems to understand essential rights in a different way. In his view this class of rights comprises, first, the right to liberty of conscience and of exercising one's cult in public (§261-63), and second, the right not to be humiliated (not to have one's bodily organs abused against common practice consistent with shame and honesty) even in extreme situations, for instance by an executioner or by the victor. Dufour (1979, p. 140) thinks that Vicat's definition of obligation, which is certainly not in tune with Pufendorf's voluntarism, is indebted to Christian Wolff. Nothing is known about the reception of Vicat's treatise, neither in the Swiss republics or elsewhere.

Academic Data


1735 - 1737.09.11, Law, University of Basel (It is uncertain under which professor(s) Vicat studied law. Perhaps he attended Andreas Weiss' courses, who lectured on natural law based on Pufendorf's manual at the faculty of philosophy (ethics) from 1734-1747)


1737.09.11, Doctor of law, University of Basel


1741-1770: "Natural and civil law", Academy of Lausanne

Professional Data


1741 - 1770, Professor of natural and civil law, Academy of Lausanne
1742 - 1749, Rector, Academy of Lausanne
1749 - 1762, University librarian, Academy of Lausanne
1762 - 1765, Rector, Academy of Lausanne

Printed Sources


Praelectio de successione testamentaria ex jure naturali, civili & statutario (Berne: Typogr. Reip. Bernensis, 1748): Digital version

Traité du droit naturel & de l’application de ses principes au droit civil et au droit des gens, 4 vols. (Lausanne: Société typographique, Yverdon: Société littéraire et typographique, 1777)
          - Vol. 1-2: Digital version
          - Vol. 3-4: Digital version
     - Edition 1782 (Lausanne: Jul. Henri Pott), 4 vols.
          - Vol. 1-2: Digital version
          - Vol. 3-4: Digital version


Dissertatio juridica inauguralis de postulando: seu de avocatis (Basel: Friedrich Ludwig Meyer, 1737): Digital version

Periodica and Compiled Works:

[editor], Johann Harpprecht, Commantarius in IV. libros institutionum juris civilis divi Justiniani, 4th ed., 4 vols. (Lausanne: Marc-Michel Bousquet, 1748)
     - Vol. 1: Digital version
     - Vol. 2: Digital version
     - Vol. 3: Digital version
     - Vol. 4: Digital version

Vocabularium juris utriusque ex variis ante editis: praeserti ex Alexand. Scoti, Jo. Kahl, Barn. Brisonii et Jo. Gottl. Heinecii, 3 vols. (Lausanne: Marc-Michel Bousquet, 1759)
     - Vol. 1: Digital version
     - Vol. 2: Digital version
     - Vol. 3: Digital version

[editor], Cornelius van Binkershoek, Opera omnia, 3 vols. (Cologny: Marc-Michel Bousquet & Chapuis, 1761)
     - Vol. 1: Digital version
     - Vol. 2: Digital version
     - Vol. 3: not found

Manuscript Sources


Lagarde, Louis André, Cours de droit naturel par Monsieur Vicat copié pour François Reboul [Lausanne, n.d.], Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire, Lausanne, Ms. IS 4029: Digital version

[Anonymous], Abrégé de Droit naturel Pr. Mr. Vicat Professeur en droit à Lausanne (Lausanne, 1763), Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire, Lausanne, Ms. IS 4480: Digital version

Direct Personal Connections:

1741, Charles Guillaume Loys de Bochat, Lausanne [Vicat succeeded Loys de Bochat on the chair of natural law at the Academy of Lausanne. While the latter held, like Barbeyrac before him, a chair in natural law and history, Vicat was the first to hold a chair exclusively in law (natural and civil law)]
Mikkel Munthe Jensen, Last Update:  21.07.2022