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Biographical sketch
Charles Nicolle (1866-1936)
version française  
 

French physician and biologist, born on Sept. 21, 1866 in Rouen (Seine-Maritime, France). His father, Eugène, was a physician and a lecturer in natural medical sciences, in Rouen ; his mother was the daughter of a watchmaker in Bayeux. He had two brothers : Maurice, the oldest, who also became a physician and Marcel, the youngest, who opted for an artistic carreer.
High School degree at the Pierre Corneille high school in Rouen.
1884 Enrollment in medical training at the Medical School of Rouen. His father died.
1887 Continued medical training at the Medical School of Paris.
1889 Obtained medical internship in the Paris Hospitals ; became Gombault's assistant, at the chair of pathological anatomy of the Medical School of Paris.
1890 Commenced training courses in the laboratories of the Institut Pasteur of Paris, where he met up with his brother, M. Nicolle.
1892 Attended the renown microbiological course (cours de microbiologie), before being appointed as the assistant.
1893 Thesis defense for medical doctorate ; the doctoral dissertation topic was the study of chancroid. Nominated as "Professeur suppléant" in pathology and clinical medicine at the Medical School of Rouen.
1890 Commenced training courses in the laboratories of the Institut Pasteur of Paris, where he met up with his brother, M. Nicolle.
1892 Attended the renown microbiological course (cours de microbiologie), before being appointed as the assistant.
1893 Thesis defense for medical doctorate ; the doctoral dissertation topic was the study of chancroid. Nominated as "Professeur suppléant" in pathology and clinical medicine at the Medical School of Rouen.
1894-1902 Became hospital physician, then head of the bacteriology laboratory at the Medical School of Rouen. Succeeded in inoculating syphilis and chancroid agents into lower monkeys. His attemps to create a center, on the model of the Institut Pasteur, for microbiology teaching and medical research, and production of anti-diphteria serum, were unsuccessful. With A. Halipré, created the first sanatorium around Rouen, in Oissel. Conducted research on the control of venereal diseases.
1895 Married Alice Avice, with whom he had two children, Marcelle and Pierre.
1902 At his request, he took over the head of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, succeeding A. Loir. The Regency's administration entitled him to have a new Pasteur Institute built, with greater facilities, on the site of the School of Agriculture's former test Garden (1903-1906).
1903 Commenced research on malaria and brucellosis.
1907 Commenced research on trachoma.
1907-1908 Collaborated with local and French colonial physicians on several cases of Mediterranean splenomegaly in children, the parasitic agent of which had been previously studied by A. Laveran and F. Mesnil and recognized as Leishmania donovani responsible for kala-azar disease in India. Provided a clinical description of this type of leishmaniasis and developed methods for its diagnosis. Developed the culturing methods for Leishmania donovani in evaporated water from the de Novy and Mc Neal's medium (NNN medium). Succeeded in transmitting leishmaniasis to monkeys and dogs, and definitely showed that the dog is the viral reservoir for the Mediterranean disease, in contrast with the Indian disease, for which human had been shown to be the reservoir. With Ch. Comte, obtained cultures in NNN medium of Leishmania tropica, which is the parasitic agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis (East button). With Sicre, conducted experiments in order to transmit the dermatosis to monkeys and dogs (1910), which led him to consider a canine origin of the disease.
1909 With L. Manceaux, discovered a new parasite, named Toxoplasma gondii, in the blood of the gondi, which is a small rodent living in South Tunisia. Highlighted the exclusive role of lice in the transmission of typhus and published two reports at the French Academy of Sciences : "Reproduction expérimentale du typhus exanthématique chez le singe" and, in collaboration with Ch. Comte and E. Conseil, "Transmission expérimentale du typhus exanthématique par le pou du corps". From then on, getting rid of lices revealed sufficient for controlling the disease ; this was to be organized in Tunis, over a three-year period.
1909 Became associated member of the French Society of Exotic Pathology (SPE).
1910 With E. Conseil, developed methods of protection against typhus, using convalescent serum injections.Efforts against infant mortality using attenuated sera for typhus prophylaxis.
1911 Commenced research on recurrent fever.
1913-1930 Published several novels such as : "Le Pâtissier de Bellone" (1913), "Les Feuilles de la Sagittaire" (1920), "La Narquoise" (1922), "Les Menus Plaisirs de l'Ennui" (1924), "Marmouse et ses hôtes" (1927), "Les deux Larrons" (1929), "Les Contes de Marmouse et ses hôtes" (1930).
1914-1918 Durind First World War, prophylactic measures against epidemic typhus, resulting from Nicolle's work, were set up successfully, saving the western armies from a scourge on humanity which is always going hand to hand with long-lasting wars.
1918 Whereas a flu pandemic was threatening, he demonstrated with Ch. Lebailly that the agent is a filtering virus, which he named "infra-microbe". Became an associated member of the French Society of Biology (Société de Biologie).
1919 With Ch. Lebailly, commenced research on typhus in rats and guinea-pigs and developed the concept of "non-appearing" infection.
1923 Co-founder and chair of the International League against Trachoma (with V. Morax as vice-chair).
1924 Traveled to Greece with the writer Georges Duhamel.
1927 Obtained the Osiris prize. His daughter Marcelle became a physician in Tunis.
1928 Was awarded the Nobel prize in october. Celebration of his 25th jubilee as director of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis.
1929 Named non-resident member of the French Academy of Medicine. 1930 Published "Naissance, vie et mort des maladies infectieuses".
1931 During a mission to Mexico, in collaboration with H. Sparrow and Mooser, he showed that the mild type of typhus transmitted through fleas from rat to human is less adapted to human than the most severe typhus transmitted through lices. They concluded that both types of typhus may exist, either conferring a certain degree of cross-immunity.
1932 Appointed as professor at the Collège de France in Paris.
Published several works on biological and medical philosophy.
1934 When A. Calmette and E. Roux died, the Institut Pasteur's board of trustees established the scientific advisory board, to which Ch. Nicolle belonged, along with G. Bertrand, J. Bordet, A. Borrel, F. Mesnil, A. Yersin.
1936 On Feb. 28, he died in Tunis.

Collaborators : Ch. Anderson, L. Blaizot, G. Blanc, L. Cathoire, G. Catouillard, Ed. Chatton, Ch. Comte, A. Conor, M. Conor, E. Conseil, A. Cuénod, P. Durand, E. Gobert, Habib, A. Husson, M. Langeron, Ch. Lebailly, U. Lumbroso, L. Manceaux, C. Mathis, H. Mooser, E. Pinoy, E. Pringault, A. Sicre, H. Sparrow.

Biographical reference tools :
- Giroud (Paul), "Charles Nicolle (1866-1936)", Bulletin de l'Académie nationale de médecine, t. 145, n° 33, p. 714, 1961.
- Huet (Maurice), Le pommier et l'olivier, imp. Lienhart, Aubenas, 1995, 243 p.
- Nicolle (Pierre), "La vie et l'oeuvre de Charles Nicolle", Classiques de la médecine, éd. La Guilde internationale des médecins, 28 p.


 

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