Robert Debré, a French vocation A very great physician, a great scientist, a model for the French
Patrice Debré is professor of immunology at the Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie-Paris-VI. He has been the department head, director of a research institute at the hospital la Pitié-Salpêtrière, and a French ambassador responsible for the fight against AIDS and transmissible illnesses. After a monumental biography of Louis Pasteur, he has notably published Vie et mort des épidémies as well as, more recently, the best-selling L’Homme microbiotique.
This book, a magnificent fresco, recounts the extraordinary story of the Debré family, which made its mark both in politics and in science in the twentieth century. In an atmosphere that recalls Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, Patrice Debré does more than just recount the exceptional story of his family: he brings a whole part of French history back to life.
Among the members of the family we are most familiar with Michel Debré, who contributed to shaping the Ve République, by writing its Constitution. A steadfast Gaullist, he participated in the restoration of France in the aftermath of the war, as well as in the resolution of the Algerian crisis. As for Robert Debré, considered to be the father of French pediatrics, he collaborated in perfecting treatments for infantile illnesses, notably meningitis and poliomyelitis. He was instrumental in important early hospital reforms, which ended in the creation of the Centres hospitaliers universitaires (CHU), the future INSERM [Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale -- French National Institute of Health and Medical Research], as well as the Centre international de l’enfance.