Lives of the fellows

Jacques Chrétien

b.23 January 1922 d.3 August 2003
MD Paris(1961) FRCP(1992)

As a biologist and clinician, Jacques Chrétien was one of the most active promoters of modern pulmonary medicine in Europe and in the world. He was born in a village in the west of France, not far from La Rochelle, a few kilometres from the Atlantic. There was a strong medical tradition in the family. His father, Joseph, was a country doctor for 40 years, while his brother also became a doctor. His father’s great uncle, a friend of the anatomist Paul Broca, was the cofounder of the Museum of Anthropology in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, which became the Musée de l'Homme.

He began studying medicine at the University of Bordeaux at the beginning of the Second World War, but interrupted his studies, becoming a volunteer (for which he received the Croix de Guerre). He returned to his medical studies in 1941 at the University of Paris, where he became a hospital extern (1946) and then an intern (1949). He then became head of hospital clinics. He gained his MD in 1961. From 1970 to 1976 he was head of the department in the Creteil Hospital Centre (University of Paris-Val de Marne). In 1972 he became a professor and, from 1976, professor of the pulmonary diseases clinic and doctor at Laënnec Hospital (University of Paris V). He retired in October 1991.

Jacques Chrétien was both a clinician and a biologist: a qualified pathologist, he was, at the same time as his clinical activities, head of the laboratory, first for general and then pulmonary pathology. In 1978 he was appointed director of a research unit associated with the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and then, in 1982, director of the INSERM research unit 214 dedicated to the study of defence mechanisms of the lung. It was mainly after 1972 that he oriented his research towards infectious, toxic or sensitising environmental attacks on the lung and the nature of pulmonary response to these attacks. He worked in this capacity in collaboration with the toxicology section of the French Commission for Atomic Energy, and headed the medical group of the French Society of Nuclear Energy.

Chrétien first became known in France and abroad for the part he played in the pathological study of tuberculous broncho-pulmonary lesions and their evolution under prolonged treatment with antibiotics. Later, he was particularly known for his work on the immunology of the lung and was one of the promoters of clinical fibroscopic broncho-alveolar lavage, perfecting the technique, interpretation and clinical applications. Almost 5,000 broncho-alveolar lavages were practised in his department at Laënnec Hospital and analysed in his laboratory, particularly amongst patients with interstitial pathology, HIV infection and sarcoidosis.

He wrote more than 750 publications, treatises and works in French or English, some of which were translated into German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

In recognition for his work with bronchology and pulmonary immunopathology, Chrétien received a variety of French and foreign prizes and awards, in particular the Carlo Forlanini prize from the Italian Society of Respiratory Pathology and the Besredka prize from the Franco-German Foundation of Immunology. A laureate of the French Academy of Sciences, he was a member of the French National Academy of Medicine and an honorary member of the Belgian Society of Pneumology and the British Thoracic Society. He was invited to almost 40 universities as a visiting professor in Europe, North America and Japan, and was awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Coimbra, Portugal. A former president of the European Society of Pneumology, he was one of the promoters of the European Respiratory Society, created from the merger of the European Society of Pneumology and the Society of Clinical Respiratory Physiopathology. He was executive president and president of the council of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

He married Paule LeQuitte in 1945. They had five children (three sons and two daughters), the two eldest of whom are doctors.

Bryan Corrin

(Volume XII, page web)

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