(b. Philippeville [now Skikda], Algeria, 23 March 1876; d. Andilly-en-Bassigny, France, 20 August 1969)
The son of a French career soldier stationed in North Africa, Sergent studied medicine at Algiers. In 1900 he began to study under Émile Roux, assistant director of the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Shortly before, Grassi had demonstrated the role of mosquitoes in the propagation of malaria season in Algeria and the rest of the year in Paris. In 1912 he became director of the Institut Pasteur at Algiers, a post he held until 12 April 1963, when he was suddenly removed from office for political reasons. He left his native country and spent the rest of his life in France.
Sergent produced an extensive body of scientific work. He often collabrated with other researchers, notably his brother Étienne. A large portion of this research dealt with malaria. For more than forty-five years, both in the laboratory and in the field, the Sergent brothers tirelessly studied the factors involved in the spread of the disease: the protozoan (pathogenic agent), the Anopheles (vector), and man (reservoir of the parasite). This work culminated in 1926 in the creation, near Algiers, of an experimental station known as Maraisdes Ouled Mendil. Henceforth men were able to live where previously the presence of malaria had precluded settlement.
Sergent demonstrated that malaria is not the only disease in which an insect acts as the vector of the pathogenic agent. He was able to show this by studying the mode of transmission of various diseases including relapsing fever (spread by lice), bouton d’Orient (sandflies of the genus Phlebotomus), and various types of babesioses (ticks). Sergent also devised the concept of “premunition,” according to which an organism’s immunity to certain infections (including malaria and tuberculosis) can be assured only if it permanently carries the pathogenic agent in an attenuated state.
Sergent had great administrative ability and was placed in charge of many missions. He was known for his warmth and kindness, qualities most memorably displayed in his filial relationship with Roux. Sergent belonged to many scientific societies and received number of honors, including the coveted Manson Medal (1962).
I. Ooriginal Works. With his brother Étienne, Sergent wrote Vingt-cinq années d’étude et de prophyklaxie du paludisme en Algérie (Algeirs, 1947). Alone he wrote Les travaux scientifiques de l’Institut Pasteur en Algérie de 1900 à 1962 (Paris, 1964). Many of his works can be found in Archives de l’Insitut Pasteur d’Algérie.
II. Secondary Literature. See Albert Delaunay, L’Institut Pasteur des origins à aujourd’hui(Paris,1962); and “Edmond Sergent (1876–1969),” inAnnales de l’Institut Pasteur, 118 (May 1970), 593.