Claude Bernard

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Bernard, Claude

(klōd bĕrnär`), 1813–78, French physiologist. He turned from literature to medicine, working in Paris under Magendie and teaching at the Collège de France and at the Sorbonne. One of the great scientific investigators, he is known as the founder of experimental medicine because of his work on digestive processes, especially the discovery of the glycogenic function of the liver and of the action of pancreatic juice, and on the vasomotor mechanism. He wrote An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865, tr. 1927).


See J. M. D. Olmsted and E. H. Olmsted, Claude Bernard and the Experimental Method in Medicine (1952); R. Virtanen, Claude Bernard and His Place in the History of Ideas (1960).

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Bernard, Claude


Born July 12, 1813, in St. Julien, near Villefranche; died Feb. 10, 1878, in Paris. French physiologist and pathologist, one of the founders of contemporary physiology and experimental pathology; member of the Academy of Sciences in Paris (1854).

In 1839, Bernard graduated from the University of Paris and began to work in the laboratory of F. Magendie. From 1854 he was head of the subdepartment of general physiology at the University of Paris; from 1868 he was head of the subdepartment of comparative physiology at the Museum of Natural History. In 1843 he published his first work on the anatomy and physiology of the secretory nerve of the salivary gland, which was followed by a number of research studies devoted to the function of the pancreas, its role in fat digestion, the production of glycogen by the liver, and gastric juice and its significance in nutrition (doctoral dissertation).

Bernard studied carbohydrate metabolism and showed that the liver and the central nervous system participate in its regulation. By his experiment that came to be called sugar injection, Bernard showed that there are centers regulating Carbohydrate metabolism of the body located in the medulla oblongata, since sugar is excreted in the urine when these centers are injured. In 1853, Bernard discovered the vasomotor function of the sympathetic nervous system, which participates in the regulation of the blood circulation as a whole and of the supply of blood to certain areas of the body. Bernard’s research on the problems of the internal and external secretion of glands, on electrical phenomena in animal tissues, on the functions of various nerves, on heat formation by the liver, on blood gases, on the paralyzing effect of curare on the motor nerve endings, on the effect of carbohydrate oxidation on the body, and so forth has significance not only for physiology but for pharmacology, toxicology, pathology, and other medical disciplines as well. Bernard believed that all life phenomena are conditioned (determined) by material causes, at the foundations of which are physicochemical principles. Nevertheless, according to Bernard, there exist some kinds of unknown causes, which create life and dictate its laws.


De la physiologie générale. Paris, 1872.
In Russian translation:
Kurs obshchei fiziologii: Svoistva zhivykh tkanei. St. Petersburg, 1867.
Kurs obshchei fiziologii: Zhiznennye iavleniia, obshchie zhivotnym i rasteniiam. St. Petersburg, 1878.
Lekstsii po eksperimental’noi patologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.


Karlik, L. N. Klod Bernar. Moscow, 1964.
Faure, J. L. Claude Bernard. Paris, 1925.
Olmsted, I. M. D. Claude Bernard, Physiologist. New York-London, 1938.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.