Félix Mesnil (1868-1938)
French zoologist and biologist, born on Dec. 12, 1868 in Omonville-la-Petite (Manche, France).
High school studies in Cherbourg, then attended the course of "mathématiques spéciales" at the Lycée Saint-Louis in Paris (1885).
1887-1891 Successful candidate in entrance examinations for both the "Ecole Polytechnique" and the "Ecole Normale Supérieure" ; chose the latter school, where he attended Alfred Giard's lessons.
1891-1892 Obtained the highest academic-rank qualification (Agrégation), after passing the French national competitive examination, as a professor in natural sciences ; together with Maurice Caullery, obtained a grant for a study trip and visited German and European laboratories, where he met successively : R. Hertwig and K. von Zittel (Munich) ; F. Vejdovsky (Prague) ; E. Haeckel (Iena) ; W. Flemming (Kiel) ; A.A. Hubrecht and T.W. Engelmann (Utrecht) ; M. Weber (Amsterdam) ; P. Pelseneer (Ghent) ; Ch. Julin (Liege).
1892 Entered the Institut Pasteur as an "agrégé" demonstrator ; Louis Pasteur admitted him as his assistant ; in the meanwhile, undertook studies on cellular immunity, physiology and comparative pathology, in E. Metchnikoff 's laboratory.
1893 Married M. Caullery's sister.
1895 Thesis defense for doctorate in natural sciences, with a dissertation topic entitled : Sur la résistance des vertébrés inférieurs aux infections microbiennes artificielles (resistance of lower vertebrates to experimental microbial infections).
1896-1920 Each year, vacation at his house in the cove of Saint-Martin, where he busied himself, alone or in collaboration with his brother-in-law M. Caullery, with his fascination for the marine invertebrate fauna there (such as the lithothamne calcareous algae) ; published a series of reports on it.
1897 Appointed as substitute lecturer in zoology, at the Ecole Normale Supérieure.
1898 Played a role in the protest against irregularities in Captain Dreyfus's trial, serving as signatory of the petition "Second call", published by the daily newspaper L'Aurore, along with another Louis Pasteur's student, H. Pottevin .
1899 Gave lessons on protozoan parasites, at the microbiology course of the Institut Pasteur (cours de microbiologie).
1899-1904 Called by A. Laveran to conduct research on haematozoa and protozoan blood parasites. In 1900, both researchers conducted research on trypanosomes which caused many epidemic outbreaks of diseases in human, such as sleeping sickness. This work led to the publication of a treaty entitled Trypanosomes et trypanosomiases (trypanosomes and trypanosomiasis), 2nd ed., 1912 (completely modified).
1903 Co-founded the " Bulletin de l'Institut Pasteur", along with G. Bertrand, A. Besredka, A. Borrel, C. Delezenne, A. Marie. He was responsible for the bi-monthly deployment of the publication, during 35 years.
1903 In collaboration with A. Laveran, he showed that kala-azar (or Indian fever, as described by W. Leisham) was due to infection by a new protozoan parasite (different from trypanosomes and from the haematozoan agent causing malaria), which they temporily called P. donovani ; it was shown to belong to the Leishmania Genus created by R. Ross in the same year.
1905-1916 Continued to conduct research on trypanosomes, addressing issues of chemotherapy, taxonomy, building up a taxa collection, in collaboration with G. Bourret, E. Brimont, Kerandel, A. Leboeuf, M. Léger, M. Nicolle, G. Ringenbach.
1905 Became a member of the marine fisheries advisory committee, then of the fischeries executive committee, in 1907.
1906 Became a member of the French committee for sleeping sickness ; took part in the organization of the scientific mission to French Equatorial Africa, along with G. Martin, A. Leboeuf, and E. Roubaud.
1907 Co-founded the French Society of Exotic Pathology ("Société de Pathologie Exotique", SPE) : held there the position of secretary general (1908-1920), then president (1924-1928).
1907-1938 Appointed as head of the Paris Pasteur Institute's colonial microbiology laboratory.
1908 Deputy director at the Ecole pratique des hautes-études.
1909 When A. Giard died, became a member of the editorial board of the Bulletin scientifique de la France et de la Belgique along with L. Blaringhem, G. Bohn, M. Caullery, Ch. Julin, P. Pelseneer, Et. Rabaud.
1910 Appointed as professor at the Institut Pasteur.
1913 Vice-president of the French Society of Biology ( Société de biologie ).
1920 Became a member of the advisory committee for colonial veterinary education.
1921 Became a member of the French National Academy of Sciences.
1922 Founding member of the French National Academy of Colonial Sciences.
1925 The public health services overseen by the French Ministry of Colonies required Mesnil to the international meeting on trypanosomiasis in London, organized by L. Rajchman (on behalf of the League of Nations), in order to lead the French delegation, consisting of E. Brumpt and G. Martin.
1931 Elected member of the French National Academy of Medicine.
1934 When A. Calmette and E. Roux died, the Institut Pasteur's board of directors established a scientific advisory board, to which F. Mesnil belonged, along with G. Bertrand, J. Bordet, A. Borrel, Ch. Nicolle, A. Yersin.
1938 On Feb. 15, he died in Paris.
Collaborators : Alexeieff, M. Blanchard, E. Brimont, G. Bourret, M. Caullery, Ed. Chatton, Kerandel, A. Laveran, Leboeuf, M. Léger, E. Marchoux, G. Martin, E. Metchnikoff, M. Nicolle, Pérard, P. Remlinger, G. Ringenbach, J. Rouget, Sarrailhé, M. Weinberg.
Biographical reference tools :
- Mesnil (Maurice), Titres et travaux scientifiques (1893-1920) de Maurice Mesnil, Laval, L. Barnéoud et Cie imp., 1921, 18 p.
- Telkes (Eva), Maurice Caullery un biologiste au quotidien 1868-1958, Presse Universitaire de Lyon, 1993, 366 p.
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