Bernardo Houssay: Biography, Quotes & Discoveries

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over the life, education, and work of Dr. Bernardo Houssay. He was a Nobel Prize-winning physiologist credited with making important discoveries in endocrinology.

Bernardo Houssay: An Overview

Much is made about diabetes nowadays, a condition that is characterized by high blood sugar. One man very important to our understanding of the physiology of diabetes and the regulation of blood sugar in general, is an Argentine physiologist by the name of Bernardo Houssay.

In this lesson, you're going to learn more about him, his work, as well as some of his quotations.

Personal Life & Education

Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born on April 10, 1887 in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. He was born to Alberto Houssay, a French lawyer, and Clara Laffont. This couple had eight children and Houssay was one of the four boys.

Houssay was a very good student. He graduated with honors from the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires when he was only 13. He started his graduate university education at the young age of 14 at the University of Buenos Aires. Just three years later, when he was 17, he graduated from this university's pharmacy school at the very top of his class.

But he wasn't done yet. He wanted to become a doctor, so he studied for his medical degree while he worked as a pharmacist in order to make ends meet. While studying for his medical degree, he conducted research related to endocrinology as this was his main field of interest. By the time he was 23, he was not only a pharmacist but an M.D. as well.

On December 22, 1920, Houssay married Maria Angelica Catan, a chemist. They had three sons and remained married until Maria's passing in 1962.

Dr. Bernardo Houssay
Bernardo Houssay

Work & Discoveries

By 1913 Houssay was the Chief Physician at Alvear Hospital. A couple of years later, he led the Laboratory of Experimental Physiology and Pathology in the National Department of Hygiene until 1919. In 1919, Houssay was made Professor of Physiology at Buenos Aires University's medical school. Within a short while, he founded an internationally renowned medical research center known as the Institute of Physiology, where scores of graduate students worked. He remained a professor at the school and a director of the institute until 1943.

When the President of Argentina, Juan Peron, took office in 1943, he fired 150 Argentine educators from the university as a result of their support for democratic principles and opposition to Mr. Peron's education policies. Houssay was among the fired, but in 1955, the newly-formed government reinstated Dr. Houssay to his post as director of the Institute of Physiology.

Houssay conducted a lot of research and accomplished much during his career but his most notable work involved his discoveries related to endocrinology, particularly the regulation of blood sugar. Houssay conducted research on dogs who were purposefully made diabetic. He found through his experimentation that removing a portion of the pituitary gland (located in the brain) helped relieve the signs and symptoms of diabetes and made the animals sensitive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps lower blood sugar. In short, Houssay helped elucidate a very important part of the way our body regulates blood sugar.

For his work, Bernardo Houssay received one half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947, the first for a South American scientist. The other half was received by researchers Drs. Carl and Gerty T. Cori. During Dr. Houssay's career, he wrote over 500 scientific papers, held honorary degrees, was a member of several scientific organizations and was awarded several honors from the National Academy of Sciences in Buenos Aires, among other organizations.

In 1951, Houssay wrote his most famous work, Human Physiology. He passed away on Sept. 21, 1971 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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