ONE hundred years ago, in a little village in eastern France, there was born of humble parentage a man who was to become one of the greatest physiologists of France and of the world. Though a pioneer in a field despised and looked down upon at the time, he was to make discoveries which were of fundamental importance to physiology and medicine and were to influence the whole general aspect of biology toward certain questions.
Claude Bernard was born in the little village of Saint Julien, department of Rhone, July 12, 1813. His father was a small land owner of the district and earned a comfortable living from the fruit of his vineyard. Bernard later came into possession of the estate and spent his vacations there, working out of doors among his trees and vines. He describes it thus:
Bernard and a sister were the only children. He was apparently a bright child, for the cure made him a choir boy and taught him Latin. Later, he went to the small Jesuit college at Villefranche and from there went to Lyons, where he soon left school to enter a practical pharmacy. At first he received only board and lodging for his services, but soon his manual dexterity won for him a small salary. He remained here two years, but his employers mode of business made him sceptical of medical and pharmaceutical practise of the day as shown by the following story related by Sir Michael Foster.