Lives of the fellows

Jean-Pierre Benhamou

b.13 July 1927 d.17 September 2008
MD Paris FRCP(1992)

Jean-Pierre Benhamou was the father of modern hepatology in Europe – a highly successful scientist and an outstanding clinician. He was born in Algiers, Algeria, where his father was dean of the faculty of medicine. He was educated at the Lycée Bugeaud in Algiers, and then went on to study medicine in Algiers and then in Paris.

Benhamou held junior posts in Paris and, by the early 1960s, was a lecturer at the faculty of medicine in Paris. From 1971 and 1985 he was director of the liver pathophysiology research unit at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), the national French biomedical and public health research institution. In 1972 he became professor at the faculty of medicine Xavier-Bichat, and in 1974 chief of the liver unit at Beaujon Hospital, Clichy, Paris. He retired in 1993.

Under his direction, the unit at Beaujon developed an outstanding reputation for the clinical and scientific study of the liver. Over the years, Benhamou attracted co-workers whom he directed toward every important aspect of the discipline: bile secretion, bile acids and transport, drug metabolism and drug-induced hepatitis, liver morphology and ultrastructure, liver circulation and portal hypertension, fulminant hepatic failure and intensive care, viral hepatitis and vascular disorders of the liver. With constant encouragement and support, the researchers at the unit made internationally-recognised contributions in all these fields.

Benhamou was an inspiring and charismatic teacher, and many of his former students have gone on to highly successful careers.

Benhamou’s prolific research work resulted in many publications, including original articles, lectures and chapters, as well as reviews, editorials and books. Between 1990 and 1994 he was editor of the Journal of Hepatology, the official journal of the European Association for the Study of the Liver. With other editors, he worked on the second edition of the influential Oxford textbook of clinical hepatology (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999), the most complete resource for every hepatologist, clinician and scientist.

He was a founder member L’Association Française pour l’Étude du Foie – the French Association for the Study of the Liver. He was secretary (from 1967 to 1970) and then president (in 1993) of the European Association for the Study of the Liver. He was secretary of the International Association for the Study of the Liver between 1975 and 1979.

He was honoured with the award of the chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.

Outside medicine, he loved music and painting, and made sure he never missed an important art exhibition. He had an irresistible sense of humour, and could defuse even the most tense situation with a laugh.

Jean-Pierre Benhamou died at his home in Paris. He was survived by his wife, Françoise, and their three children – Anne-Françoise, Mathieu and Laurence.

Serge Erlinger

[Hepatology. 2009 Mar;49(3):709-10]

(Volume XII, page web)

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