- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Ernest Henri Besnier

Born  1831
Died  1909

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French dermatologist, born April 21, 1831, Honfleur, département Calvados, Basse-Normandie; died May 15, 1909, Paris.

Biography of Ernest Henri Besnier

Ernest Henri Besnier was born in Honfleur, Calvados, the son of a French custom official who moved from Givet to Marseille and then to Orléans. After a conspicuously successful study in Paris under Jean Baptiste Barth (1806-1877) and Pierre Antoine Ernest Bazin (1807-1878) he received his doctorate in 1857.

Besnier became médecin des hôpitaux in 1863 and subsequently held positions at several Paris hospitals; in 1873 he succeeded Bazin as dermatologist at the Hôpital St. Louis, of which he became director the same year.

In 1881 he was elected member of the Academy of Medicine as hygienist because of his contributions to epidemiology.

In his special field, dermatology, Besnier tried to balance the differences between the French school and the Vienna school. With Pierre Adolphe Adrien Doyon (1827-1907) he founded the journal Annales de dermatologie et de syphiligraphie.

Besnier published a French translation of Moriz Kaposi's book Lessons on the Abnormalities of the Skin in 1881. Himself he wrote on the laws that governed epidemics and the adulteration of foodstuffs as well as looking into parasitic infections and their management. He originated the term biopsy for tissue samples. Besides dermatology Besnier also concerned himself with other fields, as proved by a publication on rheumatics.

Besnier was nominated for a chair at the Collège de Medecin, but a sudden change in the ministry resulted in it being unsuccessful. Besnier did not protest and continued to teach at St. Louis Hospital for some years.

He built histopathology and parasitology laboratories at the St. Louis hospital, and we owe to him the term and technique of biopsy.

Besnier introduced the term lupus pernio as "une variété de lupus érythémateux à forme d'érythème pernio ou d'asphyx locale".


  • Traité des étranglements internes de l'intestin.
    1 volume in 8, Paris, 1860.
  • Rapports sur les maladies régnates à Paris.
    2 volumes in 8, 1861-1880.
  • Rhumatisme.
    Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences médicales, Paris, 1876; 4rd series; 1: 3-25.
  • Rapport sur le prurigo. Congrès de Londres.
  • Rapport sur la lèpre. Berlin.
  • La traitement de l'eczéma et le traitement du psoriasis.
    In: Traité de thérapeutique appliquée. Published under the supervision of Albert Robin. Besnier published a large number of articles in Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences médicales.

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