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Désiré-Magloire Bourneville

Born  1840
Died  1909

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French neurologist, born October 20, 1840, Garencières, département Eure, Normandy, died May 28, 1909, Paris.

Biography of Désiré-Magloire Bourneville

Désiré-Magloire Bourneville was the son of a small Normandy landowner in the little village of Garaecières. He studied in Paris and became interne des hôpitaux at the Bicêtre, the Salpêtrière, the Hôpital St. Louis and the Pitié. During a severe cholera epidemic in Amiens in 1866 he volunteered his services and worked so tirelessly that at the end of the siege he was presented with a gold watch which bore an inscription expressing the city's gratitude.

During the Franco-Prussian War he was surgeon to the 160th Battalion of the Garde Nationale. Later he became assistant medical officer at the field hospital of the Jardin des Plantes. Finally, even though he was a well-established physician, he resumed his internship at the Pitié, which was then covered by fire from German artillery. During the Paris Commune in 1871, when the violent revolutionaries wanted to execute their wounded political enemies, Bourneville personally intervened and saved several of his patients.

He received his doctorate in 1870 in Paris. He was physician at the pediatric service at Bicêtre with the title of Médecin des services d'alienés from 1879 to 1905, and upon his retirement still held the directorship of the Foundation Vallée at the Bicêtre.

In 1873 Bourneville founded the journal Progrés Médical; in 1880 the Archives de neurologie; he also established the Revue photographique des hôpitaux de Paris. Besides his own works he arranged for the publication of an edition of the works of Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893). He was the founder of the first school for mentally retarded children. In addition to his description of tuberous sclerosis, which was described separately by Hartdegen, he made observations on myxoedema, cretinism, and mongolism.

He retired as physician at the Bicêtre in 1905, and then was entrusted the directorship of the Fondation Vallée, concentrating his efforts on the treatment of mentally retarded children. He founded the first day school for special instruction of defective children in Paris, a movement that later took hold in many cvountries. On Saturdays he held open-house at the Bicêtre in which his charges perfromed axercises and dances to the accompaniment of a band composed of idiots, epileptics, and spastics; the thrombonist had wooden legs.

From 1876 he was a member of the Paris city council and in 1873 became a member of parliament, both positions an enthusiastic advocate of reforms of the health system. Paris owes him for the expansion of its hospitals. He championed the worldliness of the care of the sick and created public school for the education of nurses, he founded isolatory departments for contagious diseases, special wards for sick children.


  • Études du thermométrie clinique dans l'hémorrhagie cérébrale. Doctoral thesis.
  • Recherches cliniques et thérapeutiques sur l'épilepsie, l'hysterie et l'idiotie.
  • Études cliniques et thermométriques sur les maladies du système nerveux. 1873.
  • Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière. Service de M. Charcot.
    With Paul-Marie-Léon Regnard (1850-1927).
    3 volumes, Paris, Bureaux du Progrés Médical; V. Adrien Delahaye & Cie.
    Volume III: V. Adrien Delahaye et Lecroisnier. 1876-1880.
    A photographic atlas devoted to cases of hysteria and epilepsy, with case histories. The third volume includes discussions of hypnotism, somnambulism and magnetism. Bourneville was Charcot's assistant at the Salpêtrière from 1870 to 1879.
  • Contribution à l'étude de l'idiotie. Archives de neurologie, Paris, 1: 69-91.
  • Manuel des injections sous-cutanées.
    With P. Bricon. Paris, 1883; 2nd edition, 1885; translated into English.
  • Manuel de technique des autopsies. Paris, 1885.
  • Assistance, traitement et éducation des enfants idiots et dégénérés. Paris, 1895.

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