Auguste Pettit (1869-1939)
French physician and biologist, born on March. 10, 1869, in Paris. Obtained a bachelor's degree in biology from the Sorbonne University in Paris.
Started his career as a research assistant under G. Pouchet, in the laboratory of zoological histology at the Ecole pratique des hautes études (depending of the chair of comparative anatomy, Museum d'histoire naturelle, Paris) ; trained in histology. Meanwhile, enrolled in medical training and visited the laboratories of Balbiani, Cornil, Dastre, Mathias-Duval, Malassez.
1889 Military service at Compiègne where he met J. Jolly.
1891 Traveled to Germany and worked in the laboratories of C. Weigert, P. Ehrlich and W. Flemming.
1892 With G. Pouchet, took part in the La Manche mission to Spitzberg and Jan Mayen island.
1893 Appointed as research assistant at the Medical School in Paris, then as head of laboratory, under Le Dentu, at the surgical clinic in Necker hospital.
1896 Thesis defense for Doctorate in Sciences, which dissertation topic was about adrenals ; obtained the Bellion prize from the French Academy of Sciences.
1898 Became a member of the French Society of Biology.
1899-1908 Appointed as head of laboratory, under Albarran, at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris (clinic for the diseases of the urinary passages).
1900 Thesis defense for Medical Doctorate, which dissertation topic was about uterine cancer ; gave lectures in normal and pathological histology.
1908 Obtained the Lallemand prize from the French academy of sciences.
1908-1914 Entered the Pasteur Institute, on the recommendation of E. Roux, who noticed his work on the diphtheria toxin ; appointed as head of laboratory, under A. Laveran ; conducted research on leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis ; discovered a toxin produced by the trypanosomes ; then, worked in the diphtheria laboratory of L. Martin, where he described various cellular reactions in response to microorganisms or toxins, and the immune response against the diphtheria toxin in rats ; with J. Dumas, studied the action of lipoids in the diphtheria bacillus.
1909-1926 Secretary General of the French Society of Biology, under the chairmanships of A. Dastre, Ch. Richet, Henneguy, successively ; devoted himself to the publication of the revew Comptes rendus de la Société de Biologie and extended the Society's audience by merging about twenty other societies into it.
1914-1918 During First World War, as a reservist in the territorial army, served in the Belgian army, then in the army of the Vosges ; by request of the French ministry of war and navy, took part in missions for studying spirochaetosis ; at the end of the war, the Croix de guerre was awarded to him and he was promoted to be a knight of the Legion d'honneur.
1917 Obtained the Montyon prize from the French Academy of Sciences.
1917-1919 By returning to the Pasteur Institute, with L. Martin, continued extensive research on icterohemorrhagic spirochaetosis : structure of the parasite, anatomo-pathology of the lesions, role of rats in the disease transmission, culture of the parasite, development of a serodiagnosis method.
1918-1936 With his collaborators B. Kolochine-Erber, Stefanopoulo, P. Mollaret, contributed to research on experimental yellow fever in monkeys, and developed an anti-amarilic serum ; conducted research on multiple sclerosis, which led him to study poliomyelitis and to produce an anti-poliomyelitic animal serum (used in France and abroad for its therapeutic value).
1919 With L. Martin, published a monograph about icterohemorrhagic spirochaetosis (spirochétose ictérohémorragique) ; obtained the Montyon prize from the French Academy of Sciences, for the second time.
1920-1921 By request of the French foreign ministry, traveled to Spain and Portugal, as part of three successive missions for teaching and lecturing.
1925 Appointed as professor at the Pasteur Institute ; elected member of the French Academy of Medicine.
1939 On Oct. 11, died in Paris.
Collaborators : Bierry, Eug. Etchegoin, J. Girard, B. Kolochine-Erber, A. Laveran, L. Martin, P. Mazé, A. Vaudremer.
Biographical reference tools :
- Dujarric de la Rivière (René), "Obsèques du professeur A. Pettit (1869-1939)", 3 p. dact. (archives Pasteur, Bio.P1).
- Jolly (J.), "Auguste Pettit (1869-1939", Bulletin de l'Académie de médecine, t. 122, n° 32, 21/11/1939, p. 421.
- Kolochine-Erber, (Berthe), "Auguste Pettit, 1896-1939", Annales de l'Institut Pasteur, décembre 1939, t. 63, p. 525 et suivantes.
- Pettit (Auguste), Titres et Travaux, Paris, Editions médicales, 1922.
Service des Archives de l'Institut Pasteur