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Noël Fiessinger

Born 1881
Died 1946

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French anatomist, born December 24, 1881, Thaon-les-Vosges; died January 15, 1946, Paris.

Biography of Noël Fiessinger

Noël Fiessinger was descended from a family of Alsatian physicians. His father was the physician Charles Albert Fiessinger, his mother was Marie Joséphine Jacques. He studied at Lyon and Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1908. He became Chef de clinique in Beaujon in 1910, 1920 Médecin des Hôpitaux and professeur agrégé.

The highest responsibilities in the Paris hospitals were entrusted to him. He was in charge of the great laboratory of the Hôpital Beaujon, and in 1931 he was appointed to the chair of experimental pathology, succeeding Francis Rathéry (1877-1941), and in 1939 to the renowned chair of clinical medicine at the Hôtel-Dieu, succeeding Lazare Carnot (1869-1957).

In 1908 Fiessinger elucidated the histogenesis of cirrhosis. This degenerative process of the liver cells is the same whatever the conditions, pathological or otherwise, which determine it. He demonstrated the existence of enzymes in the white cells of the blood, and showed that these cells, according to their type, contain either protease or lipase. The presence of protease accounts for the dissolution of internal blood clots or purulent collections, while lipase weakens the lipidic membrane of the Koch bacilli, thus permitting their attack by the protease-carrying white cells.

In 1912 he married Frédérique Mathilde Finck. The couple had three children: Marguerite Marie (*1913), who married the engineer Maurice Charles Trémolières, Jeanne Armande, who married the physician Louis Charles Eugène Gougerot (1881-1955), son of the dermatologist Eugène Gougerot and Charles Noël (*1917)

World War I turned Fiessinger’s efforts away from this pioneer work in biochemistry. He made major observations in the biology of war wounds, observations gathered under the precarious conditions in the field hospitals, often after severe artillery fire.

After the war Fiessinger revealed himself to be an eminent physiologist. He was among the first to define the principles of functional exploration of an organ, which he applied most successfully to the liver, through such new tests as galactose and Bengal pink dye. Fiessinger’s achievements as a biologist are matched by his many contributions to clinical medicine, especially by his discovery of the Fiessinger-Leroy-Reiter disease, which up to that time was undefined. His influence as a renowned teacher was considerable, and numerous prominent physicians in many countries are his former students.

We thank Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland, for information submitted.

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