(b. Thaon-les-Vosges, France, 24 December 1881; d. Paris, France, 15 January 1946)
Fiessinger was descended from a family of Alsatian physicians. His great-grandfather served as field surgeon at Waterloo, and his father, Charles Fiessinger, was a celebrated cardiologist and author. Fiessinger was recognized early as a brilliant physician and a renowned biologist and biochemist. The highest responsibilities in the Paris hospitals were entrusted to him, particularly the great laboratory of the Hospital Beaujon and the chair of experimental medicine and the renowned chair of clinical medicine at the HotelDieu. He was prominent among those who brought about a major revolution in clinical thinking— that is, the idea that clinical medicine must be closely associated with biological research.
He elucidated the histogenesis of cirrhosis. This degenerative process of the liver cells is the same whatever the conditions, pathological or otherwise, which determine it (1908). Fiessinger demonstrated the existence of enzymes in the white cells of the blood. He showed that these cells, according to their type, contain either protease or lipase. The presence of protease accounts for the dissolution of internal blood clots or purulent collections, while lipase weakens the lipidic membrane of the Koch bacilli, thus permitting their attack by the protease-carrying white cells.
World War I turned Fiessinger’s efforts away from this pioneer work in biochemistry, He made major observations in the biology of war wounds, observations gathered under the precarious conditions in field hospitals, often under severe artillery fire.
After the war Fiessinger revealed himself to be an eminent physiologist. He was among the first to define the principles of functional exploration of an organ, which he applied most successfully to the liver, through such new tests as galactose and Bengal pink dye. Fiessinger’s achievements as a biologist are matched by his many contributions to clinical medicine, especially by his discovery of the Fiessinger Leroy-Retter disease, which up to that time was undefined. His influence as a renowned teacher was considerable, and numerous prominent physicians in many countries are his former students.
Fiessinger’s papers appeared in various medical journals, but all his essential contributions are included in the last editions of the his books, which were standard texts for the medical profession.
See Nouveaux procédés d’exploration fonctinnelle du foie (Paris, 1934), written with H. Walter: Syndromes et maladies(Paris, 1942); Diagnostics difficiles (Paris,1943); and Diagnostics biologiques(Paris, 1944), written H.R. Oliver and M. Herbain.
A. M. Monnier