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Claude Bernard: primer of the second biomedical revolution


Claude Bernard, the son of a Beaujolais winegrower, moved to Paris to pursue his literary ambitions and went on to become one of the fathers of modern life sciences. What did Bernard do to earn universal renown? And are his teachings relevant to modern science?

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Figure 1: Claude Bernard during an experiment with his collaborators in the laboratory of the Collège de France.


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I am grateful to G. Corbellini (Roma) and P. Mazzarello (Pavia) for critically reviewing the manuscript; and to G. Danieli (Ancona), P. d'Ascanio (Pisa), S. Irrera (Ancona), T. Manzoni (Ancona) and S. Modena (Ancona) for help and support.

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Musée Claude Bernard

Bibliothèque Nationale de France



In philosophy, a theory for which natural, psychological (including the act of will) and social phenomena are causally determined by preceeding events or natural laws.


From Mediaeval Latin metaphysica; in turn from the Greek μɛτα (after; over or beyond) τα φνσικα (physics). Although Aristotle gave several definitions of what was later called metaphysics, this term is most commonly used to indicate the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the ultimate nature (essence) of things — the 'absolute reality'.


A philosophical system recognizing only non-metaphysical facts and observable phenomena, and rejecting metaphysics and theism.


From the Greek ψνχη related to ψνχω (to blow, to breathe), which means blowing, and recalls 'the breath of life'. It corresponds to the Latin anima and animus (the soul), and it generally refers to what is immaterial, moral or spiritual. As a modern term, it can be equated to 'mind' or 'higher brain functions'.


From the Greek τɛλoζ or τɛλoζ (purpose, end) and λoγια (study). In philosophy, teleology is the study of the purpose(s) of things or events. In biology and medicine, it is the use of 'designs' or 'ultimate purposes' for explaining physiological phenomena.

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Conti, F. Claude Bernard: primer of the second biomedical revolution. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 2, 703–708 (2001).

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