Claude Bernard


The nineteenth‐century French physiologist whose animal experiments on digestion, neurophysiology and metabolism led to fundamental insights in general physiology. His concept of the ‘internal environment’ was based on the experimental demonstration of various mechanisms by which warm‐blooded animals maintained equilibrium conditions necessary for life. Although trained as a physician, Bernard's working career was spent in laboratory research and teaching at the Paris Collège de France. He believed the understanding of disease and ultimately clinical medical practice depended on the elucidation of fixed or deterministic laws of body function. His discoveries and conceptual contributions, along with his championing the discipline of physiology in France, made him the leading medical scientist of his period. His Introduction to the study of experimental medicine (1865) remained a classic text of methodology in the life sciences.

Keywords: 19th‐century Paris medicine; determinism; experimental physiology; internal environment; vivisection

Further Reading

Bernard C (1966) Introduction à l’étude de la medicine expérimentale. Paris: Garnier Flammarion. Translated into English by H. C. Greene (1957). New York: Dover.

Gillispie CC (ed.) (1970–1980) Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Holmes FL (1974) Claude Bernard and Animal Chemistry: The Emergence of a Scientist. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Olmsted JMD and Olmsted EH (1952) Claude Bernard and The Experimental Method in Medicine. New York: H. Schuman.

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Gelfand, Toby(Mar 2008) Claude Bernard. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002364]