Institut Jules Bordet - Jules Bordet Instituut


Home Page Site Map Looking for ? Contact News at Bordet! Medical Events!

Albert Claude
Stamp published (16/2/1987) on initiative of Prof. Frühling


Albert Claude (1899-1983)


"He was a very wise, noble, honourable man, and scientists appreciated him very much".
In 1971, G. Palade (his pupil) saluted him when he was awarded the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Rockefeller University, Albert Claude was probably the most original and versatile, the most demanding and surprising Belgian scientist over a period of 150 years.
He had a wider view of things, a convinced missionary spirit, he was the first in the world to half-open doors to molecular biology, which later became a flourishing and immeasurable field of exact sciences.

He was born on August 23rd , 1899, in Longlier. His family came from the Ardennes and was modest, he started primary school in Longlier and achieved it in Athus.
After he had spent some years as an apprentice in the Athus-Grivegnée premises, he joined up during the First World War the "British Intelligence Service". He had been twice sent to concentration camps, he had several distinctions and had been the subject of a mention in dispatches, signed by Winston Churchill "Minister of State for War".

He never had studied at university until he received an authorization from the Defense Ministry to enrol the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Liège in 1922 without having a diploma or to pass any exam, because he had joined up the Allies during the 1914-18 War.
Since he had been marqued by his mother's death (she died from a breast cancer) when he was young, he devoted his last years at university to fundamental research, namely to cancer.

Albert Claude and his first electronical microscope
Albert Claude and his first electronical microscope
Within six years, he graduated and became doctor in Medicine, he rapidly opted for a career in research. After he had spent a year in Berlin (where he studied the cell culture technique), he went to the Rockefeller Institute in New York, where he worked in Murphy's laboratory.
His first research allowed him to isolate and to characterize the agent of the Rous sarcoma, a mononucleosis virus.
At the end of his research, Albert Claude had the idea to perform the same separation and isolation technique on normal cells, he thought that this technique would be as promising and efficient as it had been for his previous experiences.

Later, during a prodigious period of 12 years, he assessed an analytical, morphological and biochemical analysis of cellular constituents, which are separated by differential centrifugation without being destroyed but after the "opening" of the cell.
Thank to his research, the normal cell cytoplasm revealed for the first time the nature, the chemical composition and the enzymatic function of these fundamental constituents.
Besides, Claude, who was the genius of the applied technique and had an exacting nature of real perfection, obtained the first negatives of the whole normal cell thanks to the electronical microscopy.

His research has been modestly summarized in two fundamental papers in 1945-46 that set the basis of molecular biology and largely justified the Nobel Prize he was awarded in 1974.

2ème microscope électronique d'Albert Claude
Albert Claude's second
electronical microscope

In 1949, Albert Claude agreed to become director of the Jules Bordet Institute, the Tumors Centre of the "Université Libre de Bruxelles", which he transformed within a few years in one the most important European institutions of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Professor at the " ULB ", he left the Institute in 1970. He had received many national and international scientific distinctions.

In 1974, he was awarded the Nobel Prize of Physiology and Medicine that he shared with his brilliant pupil, G. Palade from the Rockefeller University and with Professor Ch. de Duve from the "Université Catholique de Louvain", who had opted for a career of methodology and who had the same research spirit as Claude.

The next year, Albert Claude gradually withdrew from the scientific and public life.
During the Pentecost week-end in 1983, true to his personality and his life conception, on tiptoe and with an ironic smile on his lips, he died with simplicity.

Text kindly communicated by Prof. J. Frühling, Medical Director of the J. Bordet Institute from 11/1984 - 2/2002


Belgian Nobel Prices : see heading 'Jules Bordet'


©2005, Institut Jules Bordet - 121 Boulevard de Waterloo, 1000 Brussels - Belgium, telephone image+32 2 541 31 11