Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Claude Bernard (1813-1879)

Sierra Club


In teaching man, experimental science results in lessening his pride more and more by proving to him every day that primary causes, like the objective reality of things, will be hidden from him forever and that he can only know relations.


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French physiologist, born on the 12th of July 1813 in the village of Saint-Julien near Villefranche. He received his early education in the Jesuit school of that town. Claude Bernard's first important work was on the functions of the pancreas gland, the juice of which he proved to be of great significance in the process of digestion; this achievement won him the prize for experimental physiology from the Academy of Sciences. A second investigation - perhaps his most famous - was on the glycogenic function of the liver; in the course of this he was led to the conclusion, which throws light on the causation of diabetes, that the liver, in addition to secreting bile, is the seat of an "internal secretion", by which it prepares sugar at the expense of the elements of the blood passing through it. A third research resulted in the discovery of the vaso-motor system. While engaged, about 1851, in examining the effects produced in the temperature of various parts of the body by section of the nerve or nerves belonging to them, he noticed that division of the cervical sympathetic gave rise to more active circulation and more forcible pulsation of the arteries in certain parts of the head, and a few months afterwards he observed that electrical excitation of the upper portion of the divided nerve had the contrary effect. In this way he established the existence of vaso-motor nerves - both vaso-dilalator and vaso-constrictor. He is best remembered now for his Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865). An English Life of Bernard, by Sir Michael Foster, was published in London in 1899. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)]

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