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Biographical sketch
Etienne Burnet (1873-1960)
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French physician and bacteriologist, born on Oct.11, 1873, in Maurupt-le-Montoy (Champagne, France). His father was a school inspector.
He initiated into the observation of nature with his father's help, in Joigny, where he spent his youth.
1888 (Sept.) Secondary school at the "collège" in Joigny, then high school at the lycée in Sens.
1890 Won the first prize in history, at the French competition named "Concours général".
1890 Attended philosophy class and Henri Bergson's lessons at the high school lycée Henri IV.
1893 Won first place in entrance competitive exam for the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS).
1894 Performed military service at the 82nd infantry regiment in Paris.
1894 (Nov.) Bachelor of arts (licence de lettres) graduated from Sorbonne university ; entered the ENS, where he met Charles Péguy, as a student.
1894 Performed military service at the 82nd infantry regiment in Paris.
1894 (Nov.) Bachelor of arts (licence de lettres) graduated from Sorbonne university ; entered the ENS, where he met Charles Péguy, as a student.
1896-1897 Provided tutoring to the son of a rich Parisian family, that introduced him into the well-educated gentry ; he then frequented the salons of Paris, where he met Dr. F. Widal.
1897 (July) Obtained the highest academic-rank qualification in philosophy (aggregation), after passing the French national competitive exam ; left the ENS and spent one year in Germany ; after visiting several cities in Rhineland, registered at the university upon arrival in Berlin, where he met André Tardieu, who was appointed as French embassy secretary ; there, decided to enrol in medical training.
1898 After returning to Paris, obtained pre-medical PCN certificate (physics, chemistry and natural sciences), as a grant-holder from the Thiers foundation.
1899 Met G. Abt, at the Medical School of Paris ; both students decided to work together.
1901 In collaboration with François Simiand and Mario Roques, published a controversial pamphlet, in which he sided with Captain Dreyfus.
1903 F. Widal suggested him to attend the microbiology course at the Institut Pasteur (cours de microbiologie) ; thesis defense for training.
1898 After returning to Paris, obtained pre-medical PCN certificate (physics, chemistry and natural sciences), as a grant-holder from the Thiers foundation.
1899 Met G. Abt, at the Medical School of Paris ; both students decided to work together.
1901 In collaboration with François Simiand and Mario Roques, published a controversial pamphlet, in which he sided with Captain Dreyfus.
1903 F. Widal suggested him to attend the microbiology course at the Institut Pasteur (cours de microbiologie) ; thesis defense for Medical Doctorate about pleural eosinophilia (L'Eosinophilie pleurale).
1904 On F. Widal's and F. Mesnil 's recommendations, entered A. Borrel 's laboratory, as an assistant researcher ; contributed to the microbiology course, by giving lectures and tutorials.
1905 Published a work about classification and morphology of spirochetes causing syphilis.
1905-1906 Appointed as head of the vaccination service of Paris.
1907-1919 Entered E. Metchnikoff 's laboratory at the Institut Pasteur, and commenced research on syphilis.
1908 Published a popular scientific work about fight against germs, titled "La lutte contre les microbes".
1911 Published a book titled "Microbes and toxins", with a foreword written by E. Metchnikoff, which met a lasting success.
1911 With A. Salimbeni and Yamanouchi, the Institut Pasteur sent him on a mission led by E. Metchnikoff for investigating plague and tuberculosis into the Kalmyk and Kyrgyz communities.
1912 Traveled to Chile and taught microbiology classes, at the University of Santiago.
1914-1918 During First World War, served at the ambulance of the 7th independent cavalry division, in Fontainebleau ; as a volunteer, he was one of the first to be sent on the French war front ; in 1915, served at the 4th Army laboratory, meanwhile a severe typhoid fever epidemic was raging ; in 1916, at E. Roux 's request, served on the Salonika front, and had to cope with malaria, which was decimating the East Army ranks, as part of a mission led by Ed. Sergent ; in 1917, he contracted malaria and was evacuated to France ; there, he served at the Epernay Study Center, created by both the Institut Pasteur and the military health service ; awarded the "Légion d'Honneur" and the "Croix de guerre" for distinguished service during the war.
1918 Married Lydia, who was posted to a field ambulance in Salonika ; she was Olga Metchnikoff's friend. In Oct., at the French government's request, travelled to the US and participated in an intellectual propaganda mission, as a member of the Institut Pasteur.
1919 (May) With his wife, resided in the Anatole France's house, around Tours ; once returned to research on tuberculosis at the Institut Pasteur, he caught hemoptysis, considered as tuberculosis, which forced him to convalesce and therefore travel to Tunisia, where he was wellcomed by Ch. Nicolle.
1920-1928 Appointed as health director in Tunis ; conducted research on maltese fever (brucellosis) and developed a diagnosis method which bore his name.
1921 Appointed as deputy director of the Institut Pasteur in Tunis.
1922 As a delegate from both the French government and the Institut Pasteur, travelled to the US for attending the Pasteur centenary celebrations, held in Philadelphia.
1923 Published a novel titled Loin des Icônes, in which he described the life of White Russian exiles in Tunisia.
1923 On Dec.10, participated in a mission mandated by the League of Nations (LN) for scientific cooperation and health in Poland and Russia ; published a novel titled La porte du sauveur, vision de Moscou.
1924 In honor of the 80th anniversary of his friend Anatole France, lectured on his reminiscences when he was a regular attendee at the salon of Mme de Caillavet, at 12 avenue Hoche in Paris.
1926 Elected corresponding member of the French Academy of Medicine ; became a member of the French Society of Biology and the French Society of Exotic Pathology (SPE).
1928-1936 Following a disagreement with Ch. Nicolle and on the A. Calmette 's advice, he left Tunis and travelled to Geneva, where he became a member of the LN Health Organization, directed by L. Rajchman.
1929-1931 Appointed as secretary of the LN leprosy commission ; participated in investigating leprosy in Europe, South America and Far East ; as a LN delegate, attended leprosy meetings in Bangkok and Manila.
1931 Several European countries represented at Geneva, required the LN Health Committee a report on tuberculosis prevention ; E. Burnet was in charge of the investigations in a dozen of European countries ; his report, titled "Main recommendations for tuberculosis prevention", was immediately adopted by the LN Health Committee.
1933 Published the previous work in the Bibliothèque de phtisiologie. Investigated into medical education reform and planning, in England, USSR, Italy.
1933-1934 At the LN Health Committee's request, took part in the management of the international center for leprosy research, at Rio de Janeiro.
1936-1943 Succeeded Ch. Nicolle, as head of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, where he had to cope with serious dissension among the scientific staff, upon arrival.
1938 Attended the international leprosy meeting, in Cairo.
1938 (Feb.) While he was travelling by car to a leper colony in Rabta, near Tunis, he had a car accident and lost the use of one of his hands.
1939 Lydia Burnet published a biography of her husband, titled Etienne Burnet, un humaniste français de ce temps.
1943 Once German troops began arriving in Tunisia, staff conflicts erupted at the Pasteur Institute, which forced him to retire ; he then devoted himself to writing.
1953 Published an essay titled Don Quichotte, Cervantès et le XVIe siècle ; sided with the independence of Tunisia.
1956 Because of their lack of retirement savings, the Burnet were in a precarious situation ; President Bourguiba decided to grant them a pension.
1957 (Nov.) Published an newspaper article in Le Petit Matin, seeking clemency for Djamila Bouhired, an Algerian FLN's young militant, who was sentenced to death by a military tribunal.
1960 On Dec.20, died in Tunis.

Collaborators : P. Abrami, Ch. Anderson, J. Bance, Boidin, E. Bonan, A. Borrel, G. Brun, Calamida, E. Conseil, P. Durand, J. L. de Lagoanère, E. Legroux, F. Masselot, E. Metchnikoff, Ch. Mantoux, Ch. Nicolle, D. Olmer, P. Ravaut, Sacquépée, L. Tarassévitch, G. Tibierge, C. Vincent, R. J. Weinssenbach, F. Widal.

Biographical reference tools :
- Burnet (Etienne), Titres et Travaux scientifiques du docteur Etienne Burnet, 1933, Barnéoud, Laval.
- Huet (Maurice) : "La personnalité complexe d'Etienne Burnet (1873-1960), successeur de Charles Nicolle à l'Institut Pasteur de Tunis", Bulletin de l'Association des anciens élèves de l'Institut Pasteur, vol 51, n° 198, pp. 17-17, 03/2009.
- Levaditi (Constantin), "Etienne Burnet, 1873-1960", Annales de l'Institut Pasteur, t. 100, 04/1961, pp 401-405.

Service des Archives de l'Institut Pasteur