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Pierre Mollaret

Born  1898
Died  1987

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French physician, born July 10, 1898, Auxerre, département Yonne; died December 3, 1987, Paris.

Biography of Pierre Mollaret

Pierre Mollaret began his studies in medicine and sciences in 1916. Like so many men of his generations, he had his studies interrupted by World War I. During 1917 and 1918 he served as an assistant physician and was decorated with the Croix de Guerre when the war ended. In 1919 he was with a voluntary with a Polish group of light infantry and received the order of the Campagne de Pologne.

When he resumed his medical studies in 1920, one of his teachers was Professor Georges Charles Guillain (1876-1961), with whom Mollaret worked for many years. He received his degree in science in 1926. During the years 1928 to 1946 he was in charge of the conferences of the diseases of the nervous system at the Salpêtrière.

In 1929 he submitted his thesis for the medical doctorate and subsequently, 1929 to 1931, he was chef de clinique at the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, where he was in charge of the centre for malaria therapy from 1930.

1932-1935 Mollaret worked as an assistant in the service of Auguste Pettit (1869-1939), later in that of René Dujarric de la Rivière (1885-1969), at the Pasteur Institute. From 1935 he was médecin des Hôpitaux de Paris, and from 1935 to 1941 he headed the laboratory at the Pasteur Institute. He was professeur agrégé from 1936.

During March and April 1938 Mollaret was active with conferences in Greece, on the request of the Pasteur Institute, the Ministry of national education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

1939-1940 he was mobilised as a chief medical officer with an army laboratory. At Brest he embarked for Africa, and on June 18, 1940 he was working in the malaria department of the military hospital in Casablanca. Mollaret was chef de service at the Pasteur Institute 1941-1946.

1943-1944 Mollaret participated in the medical commission and the commission for education of the Comité de l'Empire Français, later becoming a member of the Comité d'épidémiologie de l'Institut national d'hygiène, and was appointed expert to the Ministry of Health for the control of medications. In 1945 he was elected member of the trypanosomiasis commission of the colonial ministry.

In 1947 succeeded André-Alfred Lemierre (1875-1956), becoming professor, Chair of Infectious Diseases at the Claude Bernard Hospital in Paris.

During the years 1948 to 1984 he participated in many conferences on medical history and attended the meetings of the Société française d'histoire de la médecine of which he was a member.

In the early and mid 1950s the Scandinavian countries experienced a severe polio epidemic. Expecting the worst, the French health authorities braced themselves. Dr. Pierre Lépine (1901-1989), a polio specialist at the Pasteur Institute, asked Mollaret to take steps to prepare to care for the most seriously affected patients. Mollaret, together with Jean-Jacques Pocidalo and others, spent the winter of 1953-1954 drawing up plans for a medical centre equipped to care for a large number of polio victims suffering from respiratory paralysis. This resulted in ultramodern wards equipped with brand new Engström Respirators imported from Denmark and Sweden. An oxygen distribution unit was set up in the basement of the centre.

When the expected epidemic hit France in September 1954, the well-trained teams were ready to receive patients for treatment at the centre, now known as the Pasteur-Lassen Centre. Their preparations had not been in vain. There were 2,000 polio victims in France in 1954, but mortality rates were not as high as those in northern Europe.


    General information was found on a website of the Pasteur Institute, Paris. Information about the work to combat poliomyelitis was found on the website for the Polio Eradication programme supported by sanofi pasteur. Excerpts taken from the book Histoire de l'éradication de la poliomyélite, les maladies meurent aussi , Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, January 2004.
  • A. Lemaire:
    Pierre Mollaret (1898-1987). La Presse Médicale, 05/03/1988, 17,
  • Pierre Mollaret:
    Titres et Travaux Scientifiques du Dr Pierre Mollaret.
    Paris, Masson, 1946, 85 pages.
  • Jean Théodoridès:
    Le professeur Pierre Mollaret (1898-1987). Histoire des Sciences Médicales, Organe officiel de la Société française d'histoire de la médecine, 1989, 23 (1).

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