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Henri Jules Louis Marie Rendu

Born 1844
Died 1902

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French physician, born July 24, 1844, Paris; died April 16, 1902.

Biography of Henri Jules Louis Marie Rendu

b>Henri Jules Louis Marie Rendu was born to an ancient family of the high French bourgeoisie in an old house, 12 rue de l’Abbaye in Saint-Germain-des Prés. Among his many prominent ancestors was Louis Rendu, a famous naturalist and the first to describe the laws of movement of glaciers. His mother was the daughter of a prominent painter, his father, Victor Rendu, an inspector of agriculture.

Rendu passed his baccalauréat at the age of 16 and first intended to study for a degree in natural history. It was thus in the family tradition when his early scientific training was at the Agronomic School at Rennes, where he spent two years. It was here he collected the material for his first important work: Research on the tertiary layers around Rennes. Although never published, this treatise later earned him a doctorate in geology.

In October 1865, on the advice of his father, Rendu registered in the School of Medicine in Paris. First in his class, he became externe in 1867, and in 1868 interne at the Hôpital Saint-Antoine in the department of Jules Guyot (1828-1905), also working under Adolphe-Marie Gubler (1821-1879), Ernest Henri Besnier (1831-1909), Henri Louis Roger (1809-1891), and Pierre Charles Édouard Potain (1825-1901), with whom he became closely associated.

In 1870, after the declaration of the Franco-Prussian war, he was appointed as surgeon to the army. He did not accept the principle of evacuation of patients upon whom he had operated, taking a great risk, and asked the help of locals to keep them with him. Coming back to Paris, he held a junior appointment at the Hôpital Saint-Louis where he became involved in dermatology, then spent some time in the care of infants and children. In 1873 he was awarded the Médaille d’Or of internship and spent a year at the Hôpital Necker in the department of professor Pierre Charles Édouard Potain (1825-1901), one of France’s leading clinicians. In 1874 he produced his thesis on the “Paralyses related to tuberculous meningitis in children” for which he received the Médaille d’Argent. At this time he also started a private practice.

In 1877 Rendu received the degree of hospital physician – médecin des hôpitaux – and then married Marie Labric, whose father was a physician at the Hôpital des Enfants. In 1878 he finally achieved professeur agrégé with a thesis on “Comparative study of chronic nephritis”. His first, and unsuccessful attempt of this had been in 1875, with the thesis Des anesthésies spontanées. Paris, 1875.

He then began his career in the Hôpital Tenon, and in 1885 moved to a senior post as Head of the Department of Medicine at the Hôpital Necker, where he spent the remainder of his career.

Rendu published more than 100 medical articles and his academic activities were rewarded in 1878 by elevation to the status of professor agrégé of the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris. In 1897 he received the ultimate accolade of election to membership of Academy of Medicine. He had a large private practice, and even though he was offered the chair of pathology after the death of Victor Charles Hanot (1844-1896) he preferred to remain an active clinician.

Rendu was an unassuming man, extremely tolerant and with strong religious convictions. He had a strict sense of duty and was universally respected for his strength of character and extensive medical knowledge. Rendu had a brilliant, enquiring mind and a prodigious memory.

His early education and his father's influence engendered a lifelong interest in natural history. His special interests were in botany, mathematics and geology. He spent his spare time travelling throughout France seeking specimens for the botanical collection which had been started by his grandfather, and which he made one of the finest collections of plants in France. He was also a great lover of the belle arts.

Rendu published many of his articles in Bulletin de la Société anatomique de Paris and was its editor 1873-1874. He was a contributor to Dictionnaire enyclopédique des sciences médicales.

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