Marie, Pierre

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(b. Paris, France, 9 September 1853; d. Normandy, France, 13 April 1940)


Marie, the son of an upper-middle-class French family, studied law before deciding to enter medicine. After completing medical school, he was named interne des hôpitaux in 1878 and began his work in neurology under the tutelage of J.-M. Charcot at the Salpêtrière and Bicêtre. He soon became one of Charcot’s most outstanding students and served as his laboratory and clinic chief and speical assistant. promoted to médecin des hôpitaux in Paris (1888), he was appointed agrégé at the Paris Faculty of Medicine (1889). As part of his work for this position, he presented to the faculty a series of lectures on diseases of the spinal cord, which were published in 1892.

From 1897 to 1907, Marie worked at the Bicêtre, where he created a neurological service that gained worldwide repute. In 1907 he successfully applied for the vacant chair of pathological anatomy in the Faculty of Medicine, and during his ten years there dedicated himself to that profession. With the aid of Gustave Roussy, his successor, Marie completely modernized the teaching of pathological anatomy in medical schools.

Marie resumed his work in clinical neurology in 1918 when he was named to the chair of clinical neurology at the Salpêtrieère upon Dejerine’s death. During the war, Marie and his colleagues in “Charcot’s clinic” devoted most of their time to the study and treatment of neurological traumas in the wounded.

A brilliant clinician in the tradition of Charcot, Marie was an outstanding, demanding teacher. Between 1885 and 1910, the most productive period of his career, he wrote numerous articles and books and developed an international school of neurology which was to produce many distinguished pupils. He possessed a keen intuition which was sharpened by a rigorous approach to the study and practice of neurology. Capable of making shrewd clinical judgments, Marie successfully identified and described a series of disorders with which his name is linked. In one of his earliest and most significant works (1886–1891), he provided the first description and study of acromegaly. Marie’s analysis of this pituitary gland disorder was a fundamental contribution to the nascent field of endocrinology. He also was the first to define muscular atrophy type Charcot-Marie (1886); pulmonary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (1890); cerebellar heredoataxia (1893); cleidocranial dysostosis (1897); and rhizomelic spondylosis (1898).

During this early period of the neurosciences, Marie’s views sometimes involved him in great controversy. After a ten-year study, his three papers on aphasia appeared in Semaine médicale (1906). They generated much discussion, and three special sessions of the Société Française de Neurologie de Paris convened in 1908 to compare Marie’s views on language disorders, which differed from Broca’s widely accepted doctrine that aphasia is caused by a lesion in the cerebral hemisphere’s “speech center.”

Marie led a quiet, private life with his wife and only child, André, who also became a physician. He received few visitors and avoided public appearances although he was awarded numerous honors. His abiding interests were art, the Revue, neurologique, which he and E. Brissaud founded in 1893, and the Société Française de Neurologie, which he served as its first general secretary.

Maire resigned from his chair at the Salpêtrière and retired at the age of seventy-two, first to the Côte d’Azur and then to Normandy. Grieved by the death of his wife and son, he lived as a virtual recluse there and was increasingly troubled by ill health until his death.


I. Original Works. Marie’s writings include Essays on Acromegaly, with bibliography and appendix of cases by other authors (London, 1891); Exposé des titres et travaux scientifiques (Paris, n.d.); Leçons sur les maladies de la moelle épinière (Paris, 1892); Leçons de clinique médicale (Hôtel Dieu 1894–1895) (Paris, 1896); Lectures on Diseaese of the Spinal Cord, trans. by M. Lubbock (London, 1895); Neurologie, 2 vols. (Paris, 1923); and Travaux et mémoires (Paris, 1926).

II. Secondary Lierature. See Georges Guillain, “Nécrologie, Pierre Marie (1853–1940),” in Bulletin de l’Acadé de médecine,123 (1940), 524–535; “Pierre Marie (1853–1940)”, in Revue neurologique,72 (1940), 533–543; and Gustave Roussy, “Pierre Marie (1853–1940), Nécrologie,” in Presse médecale,48 (1940), 481–483.

Judith P. Swazey

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