Jean Cantacuzène (1863-1934)
Romanian physician and bacteriologist, born on Nov. 25, 1863 in Bucharest (Romania). He was a member of the Cantacuzino family which they claimed to get their roots from a Byzantine emperor reigning in the 14th century. His father was an attorney general during the reign of Alexandre Cuza, his mother was General Mavros's daughter.
Spent his childhood in Bucharest. He early showed his tendency towards natural history and built up a collection of butterflies.
1872-1879 A Swiss tutor was entrusted with his education and taught him general knowledge, French and German ; two other teachers taught him Greek and Latin dead languages.
1879-1882 Traveled to Paris for completing his classical studies, at the Lycée Louis Legrand ; made friends with Bédier, Victor Bérard, Romain Rolland.
1882-1885 Attended the Faculty of Arts in Paris ; graduated with a degree in philosophy (license).
1885-1886 Back to Romania in order to do his national service.
1886 By returning to Paris, undertook studies in natural sciences and attended the lessons of Y. Delage and H. Lacaze-Duthier ; graduated with a degree in natural sciences (license), in 1891 ; at the end of the school year, went on summer vacation to the marine biological Station in Roscoff ; since then, was used to return there nearly each year.
1886-1892 Enrollment in medical training ; successful candidate in entrance exams for the Medical School of Paris, in 1887 ; as a non-resident student doctor, entered the La Charité hospital, under Luys, then worked at the Cochin hospital, under Théophile Anger and Dujardin-Beaumetz, successively.
1889-1892 Traveled to Wagner's Bayreuth Festival (Germany) several times, in order to attend Wagner's operas with some friends, such as A.-P. Marie.
1892-1900 Abandoned medical internship to devote himself to scientific research ; attended the microbiology course (cours de microbiologie) of the Institut Pasteur and entered Elie Metchnikoff 's laboratory.
1894 Thesis defense for medical doctorate, the dissertation topic of which was entitled : Recherches sur le mode de destruction du vibrion cholérique dans l'organisme ; contribution à l'étude du problème de l'immunité (Research on a mechanism for the Vibrio cholerae destruction in the body ; contribution to the study of immunity).
1894-1896 Back to Romania, began his academic career as a deputy professor in animal morphology, at the University of Iasi. As a medical practitioner, provided free medical assistance to patients with no money.
1896 Married Hélène Bals, with whom he had two sons, Jean and Alexandre.
1896-1901 Returned to Paris to serve on the Institut Pasteur's staff, where he continued research with E. Metchnikoff ; resumed his studies on the issue of immunity : his experiments in geese showed that phagocytosis caused the complete destruction of the spirillose parasite in vivo ; in an attempt to conciliate E. Metchnikoff's theory (cellular immunity) and J. Bordet 's one (humoral immunity), he showed that the "précipitine" (i.e. the antibody bound to its specific antigen, resulting in the production of an insoluble precipitate), first occurred in the mononuclear leukocytes of immunized organisms ; he concluded that the immune response was triggered up by the phenomenon of phagocytosis, even if the humoral response had an influence on it.
1902 Called back to Romania to occupy the new Chair of Experimental Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine in Bucharest ; appointed there as Professor during 32 years, until the end of his life.
1906 With P. Athanasiu, co-founded the first branch of the French Society of Biology ( Société de biologie ) abroad, which was named Bucharest Biological Meeting ; was a member of the Romanian delegation to the International Office of Public Health.
1907-1910 Assigned to the position of Director General of Romanian health services ; as such, he promoted the health care reform law ("Legea Cantacuzino"), created the first regional laboratories for bacteriology and health care, as well as several tuberculosis sanatoriums.
1913 During the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria, he organized the widespread implementation of vaccination against cholera and typhoid in the ranks of the army ; elected corresponding member of the French Society of Biology (Société de Biologie).
1914-1915 In anticipation of Romanian entry into World War I, he organized the health services in Bucharest ; established the "National Act", the aim of which was to ask the Romanian government for joining the allied Cause ; travelled to Serbia for studying the outbreak of epidemic typhus in the army.
1916-1918 At the onset of the Romanian campaign in World War I, served as a medical officer (colonel) and was responsible for the organization of vaccinations against epidemic typhus, cholera and recurrent fever that threatened the Romanian army. After the German invasion (Nov. 1916) and the defeat of the Romanian army, travelled to Iasi with the Romanian authorities, where he served as superintendent of sanitary, military and civil services ; his management of the health services as well as the recommended hygiene measures allowed the troops to resist the invaders and to achieved the Romanian military victory at Maracesti.
1918 Promoted to be a commander of Legion of Honor.
1918-1919 (June) Left Romania and went to Marseille (France), where he remained at the service of the Health Service director ; conducted studies on cases of flu and epidemic typhus ; organized a laboratory at the Pharo and was appointed as head of service, at Saint-Sébastien hospital ; travelled to Paris several times, as head of the Romanian Red Cross in France.
1919-1928 While two simultaneous outbreaks of epidemic typhus and recurrent fever were raging, he obtained significant results in studying on the pathology of each disease, especially typhus ; described the etiology and transmission of typhus through lice to human, which could be cured using convalescent serum, with encouraging results.
1920 Back to Bucharest, was assigned to prepare anti-meningococcal and anti-gangrenous serums. Entered the Vaida-Voevod Ministry, where he served as Romanian prime delegated signatory to the Trianon treaty.
1921 Founded an institute of serology bearing his name, the Ioan Cantacuzino Institute, which was created on the model of the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
1923 Took part in the creation of the French Institut des Hautes-Etudes, in Bucharest. During the the celebration of the Société de Biologie's 75th anniversary, he gave a lecture about his results in studying on the problem of immunity with invertebrates, since 1912 : reported that every animal species displayed a humoral immune response and discovered an unknown type of immune response in several invertebrates, which he called "contact immunity".
1924 Mandated to sit at the Health Council of the League of Nations, as successivly : representative of the Red Cross Societies' League, close collaborator, vice-president (1931).
1925 Participated in the organization of the Romanian Art exhibition, at the Pavillon du Jeu de Paume, in Paris.
1926 In Romania, commenced treatment of new-born infants with BCG vaccination. A serious accident, occuring in Switzerland, while travelling to the biological station in Roscoff, broke his legs and kept him housebound during more than six months.
1928 Founded and led the scientific review Archives Roumaines de Pathologie expérimentale et de Microbiologie ; head of the editorial board of Cultura Nationale ; contributed to the literary review Viata Romaneasca.
1929 Became an associated member of the French National Academy of Medicine, in Paris.
1931-1932 Nominated ministry of public health and labour, under N. Jorga's government ; undertook to modernize the Public Health Service and to reform the Romanian health legislation ; organized the Interbalkan Medical meeting ; became a member of the International Labour Organization.
1932 Elected corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences (section of medicine and surgery) ; chair of the International Medical History meeting, in Bucharest.
1933 Chair of the National Tuberculosis meeting, in Cluj. Traveled to Paris to attend A. Calmette 's and E. Roux 's funeral ; worked at the biological station in Roscoff, then gave a series of lectures on his major works, in Toulouse, Montpellier, Bordeaux (France).
1934 On Jan.14, died a few days after he came back to Romania, where he had chaired the committee for the organization of the Romanian Anti-tuberculosis League.
Collaborators : J. Alexa, O. Bonciu, M. Ciuca, N. Cosmovici, Damboviceanu, O. Galanesco, Gérard, C. Ionesco Mihaiesti, S. Longhin, A-P. Marie, M. Nasta, M. Nicolle, V. Panaitesco, P. Riegler, Slatineanu, E. Soru, A. Tchakirian, T. Veber, F. Vlès.
Biographical reference tools :
- Hommage à la mémoire du Professeur Jean Cantacuzène, Paris, Masson et Cie éd., VII-XVII, 1934.
- Tiffeneau (Marc), "Le Professeur Jean Cantacuzène", Bulletin de l'Académie de Médecine, t. CXI, n° 24, 21 p., 06/1934.
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