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Jean Bernard

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 08 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1395

Pioneering haematologist who gave his name to a hereditary bleeding disorder

Professor Jean Bernard was France's leading haematological oncologist and one of the country's intellectual elite. He pioneered the effective treatment of childhood leukaemia and was the first to recognise a hereditary bleeding disorder that bears his name. Bernard was also a member of the Académie française, a former hero of the French resistance, and an acclaimed poet and philosopher of medicine. He diagnosed the shah of Iran's fatal macrogloblinaemia, which triggered a chain of events that led to the 14 month siege of the US embassy in Tehran. A prolific writer and thinker, he was the first president of the French national ethics committee for medicine and life sciences.

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In 1950 Bernard described the first chemically induced leukaemia in industrial workers. Then, having observed that tar was a carcinogen when applied repeatedly to human skin, he injected it into the bone marrow of rats, and found that it invariably caused leukaemia. From then on, leukaemia was viewed as a disease of haematopoietic tissue, rather than of …

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