Paris: Rignoux, 1843.
First edition, very rare inscribed presentation copy, of Claude Bernard’s doctoral thesis on the gastric juice and the process of digestion, which he defended on 7 December 1843. Although Bernard never practiced medicine, his thesis “was a work both useful to medicine and dedicated to pure science, since it furnished new facts on gastric digestion and the transformations of carbohydrates in the animal organism” (DSB). “Bernard’s doctoral thesis on the gastric juice published the first results of his experiments on the artificial ingestion of food substances. It linked two important discoveries: first, that when sucrose (a complex sugar) is injected into the bloodstream, it is eliminated in the urine, while injected glucose (a simple sugar) is retained in the organism; and second, that gastric juice transforms sucrose into physiologically usable sugar; i.e. one that, when injected, is not eliminated” (Norman). “As much through concrete discoveries as through the creation of new concepts, the work of Claude Bernard constitutes the founding of modern experimental physiology. His scientific career started with two series of precise and well delimited researches: on the one hand, the chemical and physiological study of gastric digestion, and on the other, experimental sections of nerves” (DSB). ABPC/RBH record only two copies sold in the last 75 years, that of Haskell Norman copy being the only presentation copy.
Provenance: Inscribed by Bernard on upper wrapper to “Professor Payen en homage respectueux.” The recipient is probably Anselme Payen (1795-1878), French chemist known for discovering the enzyme diastase and the carbohydrate cellulose. Payen became a professor at the École Centrale, Paris, in 1835 and in 1839 he was elected professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. He became a member of the Académie des Sciences in 1842.
A protégé of Pierre Rayer (1793-1867), Bernard worked at the Charité and in 1839 was an intern under François Magendie (1783-1855) at the Hôtel-Dieu. What he admired in Magendie was not so much the clinician as the physiologist, the bold experimenter, and the aggressive sceptic. It was in Magendie's laboratory at the Collège de France that Bernard, even before the end of his clinical studies, discovered his real vocation: physiological experimentation.
From 1841 to December 1844 Bernard worked as préparateur to Magendie at the Collège de France, assisting him in experiments concerning the physiology of nerves, especially the problem of "recurrent sensitivity" of the spinal nerve roots, the cerebrospinal fluid, the question of the seat of oxidation in the body of horses (by important experiments with cardiac catheterisation), and the physiology of digestion.
In order to carry out his own research, Bernard installed a very modest private laboratory in the Cour du Commerce de Saint-André-des-Arts. He also made use of the adjoining laboratory of Théophile Pelouze (1807-1867), where he enjoyed the intelligent help of his friend Charles-Louis Barreswil.
It was Magendie who taught Bernard to use animal vivisection as the principal means of medical research and to be suspicious of generally accepted theories and doctrines. Magendie noticed Bernard's skilful dissections, but his gruff manner disheartened the student, and Bernard almost resigned himself to settling in Beaujolais in a country practice. Fortunately Rayer gave him new hope, and Magendie took him on as a research assistant. The two worked together from 1839 to 1844.
“In May 1843, [Bernard] published his first communication, “Recherches anatomiques et physiologiques sur la corde du tympan, pur server à l’histoire de l’hémiplégie faciale,” followed, in December of the same year, by his “Thèse pour le Doctorat en médicine” having for title “Du suc gastrique et se son rôle dans la nutrition” …
“The thesis on the gastric juice was the first of a long series of investigations; it was the first step in an enquiry which before long led him to the discovery of the glycogenic function of the liver. The main result made known in the thesis was that while cane sugar injected directly into the veins readily appeared in the urine, this did not occur when the cane sugar, previous to the injection, had been subjected to the influence of the gastric juice. He inferred that cane sugar as such in the blood was unsuitable for the nutrition of the tissues, and was consequently cast out, but that by the influence of gastric juice it was so modified as to become suitable, and in that condition was retained and utilised. In this simple result lay the germ of much of what was to come afterwards. The paper is also interesting as containing the record of the experiment which has hitherto become classical, of the simultaneous injection of potassium ferrocyanide, and ferrous sulphate, by which he showed that the acid of gastric juice makes its appearance on the surface and not in the depths of the gastric glands.
“These two researches in a way illustrate, when put together, the main idea which governed almost the entire course of Bernard’s labours. The action of the nervous system on the chemical changes which constitute the basis of nutrition, was a problem always present in his mind, and on which he attempted to solve on the one hand by experimental investigations on nerves, and on the other by direct chemical researches; he was almost always busy with the one or the other, and happy when he was employing the two methods at the same time and in concert” (Foster, Claude Bernard, pp. 44-7).
Claude Bernard (1813-78) is “known chiefly for his discoveries concerning the role of the pancreas in digestion, the glycogenic function of the liver, and the regulation of the blood supply by the vasomotor nerves. On a broader stage, Bernard played a role in establishing the principles of experimentation in the life sciences, advancing beyond the vitalism and indeterminism of earlier physiologists to become one of the founders of experimental medicine. His most seminal contribution was his concept of the internal environment of the organism, which led to the present understanding of homeostasis—i.e., the self-regulation of vital processes” (Britannica).
The present separate printing of Bernard’s thesis precedes its journal appearance (Gazette médicale de Paris, t. 12, 1844, no II (18 mars 1844), p. 165-172).
Garrison-Morton 992.3; Norman 197; Waller 950; Wellcome II, p. 151.
4to (257 x 200 mm), pp [1-7] 8-34 [2:blank]. Later vellum-backed boards, with the original wrappers preserved (some occasional light foxing).