Chauveau, Jean-Baptiste Auguste

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Chauveau, Jean-Baptiste Auguste

(b. Yonne, France 21 November 1827; d. Paris, France, 4 January 1917),

Physiology, veterinary medicine.

Chauveau was the son of a blacksmith. After preparation in public schools, he entered Alford, the well-known veterinary school near Paris in 1844. He graduated first in his class in 1848 and was then appointed chef de travaux in anatomy and physiology at the veterinary school in Lyons.

The first part of his scientific career was devoted to the comparative anatomical studies of animals. These studies culminated in his highly regarded text on the anatomy of domestic animals, which went through several editions. At this time he also made experimental observations. Operating on a limited budget, he used decrepit horses for physiological studies in the morning and for dissection in the afternoon. He did cardiovascular experiments, including cardiac catheterization, to make observations on intracardiac pressures and the correlation of the heart sounds with cardiac (especially valvular) events. Like most good experimentalists he was clever at the design of equipment, and had a special talent for designing apparatus for graphic recording.

In 1863 Chauveau succeeded Lecoq in the chair of anatomy and physiology at Lyons. In 1876, when the department was split into two, Chauveau opted for the physiology chair; his friend and protégé, Arloing, became professor of anatomy. Meanwhile Chauveau’s interest in bacteriology had been stimulated by the pioneering work of Pasteur.

In 1886 Chauveau left Lyons for Paris to succeed Henri Bouley as inspector general of the veterinary schools. He also succeeded Bouley in the Academy of Sciences and at the Museum of Natural History in the chair of comparative pathology. The remainder of his scientific career was devoted to a study of the sources and transformations of energy during the work of muscles.

Chauveau was president of the Academy of Sciences in 1907 and of the Academy of Medicine in 1913. The degree of doctor of medicine honoris causa had been conferred on him at Lyons in 1877.

Chauveau was a large and muscular man (he was an ardent mountain climber). Tall and majestic in bearing, with a massive head set on a strongly built body, he was a striking figure at public events. Chauveau was noted for the catholicity of his outlook, which is reflected in the breadth of his investigations, and for his encouragement of young scientists.

Chauveau’s scientific career can be divided into three broad phases, which encompass his cardiovascular, microbiologic, and bioenergetic studies. During the first, or cardiovascular, phase he performed some of the earliest cardiac catheterizations on horses, rendering the subject motionless by transection of the upper spinal cord. He showed that the heart beat palpated on the surface of the chest occurs with ventricular systole, not diastole as previously thought. In experiments in which he inserted his finger into the beating heart, he demonstrated the relationship between closure of the atrioventricular valve and the first heart sound. He also directed his attention to the origin of heart murmurs and the vesicular breath sounds (respiratory murmur). Much of this work was in collaboration with Joseph Faivre and later with Marey.

Chauveau infected cattle with the human tuberculosis organism, and on the basis of this implemented the inspection of slaughterhouses. The guiding concept in Chauveau’s work on infectious diseases was the possibility of a vaccine against each, either a naturally attenuated microorganism after Jenner’s method or an artificially attenuated one after Pasteur’s.

Chauveau’s work in the field of energy metabolism in relation to muscle effort was productive of several important discoveries. He showed that there is an arteriovenous glucose difference across muscle, indicating that muscle metabolizes glucose and not protein. Across the lung, he found no arteriovenous glucose difference. These findings were a refutation of Claude Bernard’s view that glucose was metabolized in the lung but not in muscle. In his study of muscle contraction, he measured heat production during muscle contraction and showed an increase in the metabolism of glucose. He showed that the metabolism of protein requires energy. In dogs fed a rich ration of meat he demonstrated heat production and referred to it as the specific dynamic action of protein.


On Chauveau and his work, see E. Gley. “A. Chauveau (1827–1917),” in Journal de physiologic et de pathologie générale, 17 (1917), 1–2; F. Maignon, Éloge de Jean-Baptiste Auguste Chauveau (Paris, 1927); and the unsigned obituary in Lancet (1917), 1 121–122.

Victor A. Mckusick