Famous quotes – Claude Bernard
Claude Bernard was a French physiologist, and according to the historian I. Bernard Cohen of Harvard University he was “one of the greatest of all men of science“.
After rather poor studies, Claude Bernard failed the Baccalaureate in 1831. Then, he became an apprentice in pharmacy near Lyon, but preferred to devote himself to writing plays. Fortunately for science, his plays were not successful. In 1834, at the age of twenty-one, he went to Paris, armed with a prose drama in five acts, Arthur de Bretagne, but the critic dissuaded him from adopting literature as a profession, and urged him rather to take up the study of medicine.
Following lectures by François Magendie, Professor of Experimental Medicine at the Collège de France, he decided to devote his own life to experimental physiology and, because of his skillful aptitudes, he was engaged by Magendie in 1841 as a research assistant (préparateur). Interestingly, in 1843, Claude Bernard became a medical doctor but failed to qualify for teaching medicine, and he had to work in the private laboratory of a close friend of Magendie.
In 1845, Bernard married Marie Françoise “Fanny” Martin, and it was her dowry from her father, a physician, that allowed him to pursue his studies under François Magendie at the Collège de France in Paris. In 1847 he was appointed Magendie’s deputy-professor at the college, and in 1855 he succeeded him as full professor.
The father of modern physiology and experimental medicine
Galen is considered the originator of the experimental method in medical investigation. But many would agree that Claude Bernard is the father of modern physiology and experimental medicine.
At the time of Claude Bernard, medicine described and classified illnesses. Treatments were empirical. Claude Bernard revolutionized medicine and medical research by conceptualizing a method he called “experimental medicine”, which still forms the basis of countless medical advances today.
In 1865, forced by sickness to abandon his teaching and research activities, he wrote his book ‘Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine’, in which he establishes as general principles his thoughts about experimentation in physiology and medicine.
Predicting the future, Claude Bernard wrote that “the experimental physician wants to understand what he does (…). He wants to scientifically experiment and to
understand the physiological mechanisms underlying the disease process and the curative action of one drug.
In the history of biomedical research, one of Bernard’s key discoveries is to have elaborated the concept of milieu intérieur.
The constancy of the internal environment is the condition for a free and independent life.
By writing this, he opens one of the most intriguing and fascinating fields in science, the one of regulations, adjustments, and compensations. Claude Bernard mentioned four examples that have been illustrating this concept until today: regulation of water volumes, body temperature, oxygen concentration, and metabolic stores. In 1926, Walter Cannon will reformulate the constancy of the internal environment in a new way as the concept of homeostasis.
Claude Bernard – a few more quotes
“The joy of discovery is certainly the liveliest that the mind of man can ever feel.”
“The terrain is everything; the germ is nothing.”
“Experimentation is an active science.”
“For a man of science, there is no separate science of medicine or physiology, there is only a science of life.”
“The true worth of an experimenter consists in his pursuing not only what he seeks in his experiment, but also what he did not seek.”
“Observation is a passive science, experimentation an active science.”
“It is what we know already that often prevents us from learning.”
“The investigator should have a robust faith – and yet not believe.”
Theories can only be destroyed by new theories.
“Mediocre men often have the most acquired knowledge.”
“Art is I; science is we.”