Who is Étienne-Émile Baulieu, researcher and resistance fighter who was awarded the highest distinction of the Legion of Honor?

French doctor and biochemist Etienne-Emile Baulieu is pictured in the National Institute for Medical Research (Inserm) unit of the Kremlin Bicetre hospital, October 2, 2008, near Paris.
BERTRAND GUAY / AFP French doctor and biochemist Etienne-Emile Baulieu is pictured in the National Institute for Medical Research (Inserm) unit of the Kremlin Bicetre hospital, October 2, 2008, near Paris.

BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

The biologist Étienne-Émile Baulieu is the only one to be elevated to the dignity of Grand Cross this Sunday, January 1, the highest distinction, for his career as a doctor and researcher. (Photo: French doctor and biochemist Etienne-Emile Baulieu is pictured in the National Institute for Medical Research (Inserm) unit of the Kremlin Bicetre hospital, October 2, 2008, near Paris.)

SCIENCE – “I am a doctor who does science. » It is with this phrase that the media regularly presents himself biologist Étienne-Émile Baulieu, the only man to be elevated this Sunday, January 1 to the dignity of Grand Cross among the traditional promotion of the Legion of Honour revealed on this New Year’s Day. A summary that is far too modest to describe the journey of a brilliant doctor, known worldwide for his invention of ” pill the next day”.

When he was born in 1926 in Strasbourg, he was named Émile Blum. He grew up in a Jewish family of doctors. His father, Professor Léon Blum (a namesake of the socialist politician) is a nephrologist and diabetologist, and dies when his son is only three years old, says France Info. It was only during the Second World War, when he entered the Resistance in 1942 in Grenoble within the Front Patriotique de la Jeunesse, which he took the name of Étienne Baulieu after a year of fighting against the occupier.

In December 1944, when the War was coming to an end, he enrolled at the Faculty of Sciences and then at the Faculty of Medicine, under the name of Étienne-Émile Baulieu, reports the online biography of the Professor Baulieu Institute. His scientific career was then launched, he successively became a doctor of medicine in 1955 then of science in 1963. He was also a long-time research director at Inserm and taught biochemistry at the University of Paris 11 for twenty years.

A pill that divides French society

What really marked his career and made him known to the general public was his research on contraception. In 1982, shortly after the Veil law on abortion and the legalization of the birth control pill, he develops the pill RU486 “which will deeply divide French society”he explained at the microphone of French Culture in 2017.

The one we now call the ” morning after pill has indeed revolutionized the lives of millions of women, but will provoke the ire of anti-abortionists. This pill that avoids invasive surgery for women”as the Professor Baulieu Institute explains, indeed aroused strong religious and political opposition in the late 1980s.

In 1989, Cardinal Lustiger, prelate of the Catholic Church, nicknamed her, for example, the ” human pesticide, still relate FranceInfo. While Professor Lejeune declares on a television set the same year that this invention will “more deaths than Mao, Hitler and Stalin combined”.

Fight against aging and Alzheimer’s disease

The Professor Baulieu Institute also recalls that it took the intervention of the Minister of Health at the time, Claude Évin, for the pill to be marketed. He then stated that “ The UK is the moral property of women “. ” The molecule had been taken hostage for ideological reasons. Women have asserted themselves since, but the patriarchy has not disappeared, you know that”, commented again in September 2022, still on France Info, Étienne-Émile Baulieu.

This fight is not the only one he will have carried, nor the last of his life. His work is now focusing on the fight against aging. In this case, his research object is DHEA, a hormone naturally present in the body which is used for the synthesis of sex hormones, considered as a ” anti aging star since the 2000s. In addition, with his Inserm team, he works “on an original approach to better understand, prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and other senile dementias”details his institute.

At 95, Étienne-Émile Baulieu is in great shape. He entrusted to France Info his miracle and natural remedy to prevent old age: a walk every day, regular sleep and a glass of red wine daily.

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Who is Étienne-Émile Baulieu, researcher and resistance fighter who was awarded the highest distinction of the Legion of Honor?


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