It took time for the brilliance and wisdom of Bernard's Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine to be acknowledged; and then mainly by the literary world rather than by physicians and scientists. Although this puzzled him, he had reason to be flattered, because he was invited to apply for the vacant seat in the Académie Française: the panel of forty 'immortals' charged with guardianship over the French language. Fauteuil 24 at the Académie had just become vacant because of the death of the eminent physiologist, Pierre Flourens.
In that year Bernard was also asked by the Revue des Deux Mondes to write a review on 'the physiology of the heart' for the general public. He accepted the commission with pleasure167, and was followed some years later by a similar review on the function of the brain197. In these articles, he achieved a clarity which was rarely found in his lectures: rather rambling presentations despite their fascinating content. Pasteur subsequently wrote a newspaper article praising Bernard's science, and his writing. He highlighted his friend's abysmal working conditions which had surely prompted the abdominal episode which had compelled Bernard to again retreat to St JulienDAB27. On reading that article, Louis Napoleon sent Bernard a telegram wishing him a rapid recovery - and subsequently a request to write a Report on Progress and Achievements of General Physiology in France'.
When Bernard finally completed it some months later170,177, it raised some eyebrows: he had rather unwisely omitted any mention of Pierre Flourens. In that document, Bernard had also criticized France's poor laboratory facilities, pointing out provocatively that as a result, "....so much better work was now being done in Germany and Russia than in France". It had the desired result however: the Natural History Museum offered him the late Flourens' chair of general physiology, together with large and substantially redesigned laboratories. There he would work on his new passion; the comparison of animal and plant kingdoms. The Sorbonne post, which he never enjoyed, would be taken over by Paul Bert.
During the late 60's Bernard returned to the subject of sugars: puzzling over the role of glucose in nurturing body tissues. Using fine catheter tubes, he sampled blood from the arteries and veins of the limbs, and showed that glucose levels were lower in the veins leaving the limbs than in the corresponding arteries supplying them209,TMB47p220. These findings suggested to him that glucose was the fuel responsible for generating body heat. Studies one century later would confirm that this was indeed the case. In 1867 he also expanded on his concept of the milieu intérieur165,196 and proposed that: ".... the blood constitutes an actual organic environment, an intermediary between the external environment and the (internal) living molecules, which cannot safely be brought into contact with their external environment ..." With this came the principle of constancy and stability of blood components, without which the body cannot be adequately nurtured.TMB29
That year was a bad one. His mother died from what was popularly considered to be shame - following Bernard's declaration to her that he had decided to leave Fanny. Even though she had never seen eye-to-eye with her daughter-in-law, she had evidently felt disgraced by what her son was doing to his family. In the same year, both Rayer and Pelouze also died, almost as if they too did not wish to see the miserable consequences of the marriage that they had arranged!
Bernard moved away from his family, now in a smaller apartment in the rue de Luxembourg. He diverted himself from his domestic traumas by immersing himself in his work, and by joining dining circles such as the Brébant. Here he would regularly exchange ideas with the philosopher Ernest Renan (who became one of his closest friends) and a bevy of artists and writers. Their discussions were meticulously documented by the Goncourt brothers for their Journal. Princess Mathilde invited him a little more often to the rue de Courcelles for her salons, and it was she who informed him that he had been elevated to the rank of Commander of the Légion d'Honneur. Bernard began to spend more time with his friend, Davaine. Following the death of Rayer, his friend had lost his source of research support. Bernard now offered him laboratory space, since Davaine was on the point of discovering the bacillus which caused Anthrax: well ahead of Pasteur, too. Davaine was the real discoverer of the germ theory of disease.
When in 1868 Bernard was indeed elected to fauteuil 24 at the Académie Française, his reception speech was almost a catastrophe. Journalists from le Figaro and le Journal des Débats damned him with faint praise, since he spoke without conviction. His eulogy to Pierre Flourens was also weak185, probably because his predecessor had always given credit to the Englishman Charles Bell rather than to Bernard's patron, Magendie for the important spinal nerve root discoveries. The only reasonably kind comment that Bernard made - and then perhaps out of envy - concerned Flourens' widow, who had given her husband so much help with his research!
In 1869, his legal separation from Fanny became effective. Fanny and his daughters moved to a house on the far side of the Luxembourg gardens, while he stayed on briefly in the rue de Luxembourg. He took on a maid, Mariette Rey, who turned out to be a benevolent tyrant. They later moved to another apartment, very conveniently situated opposite the Collège de France at 40, rue des Écoles. This was as close as he could get to the 'German model': Bernard was always impressed how universities in Germany provided their scientists with residences immediately above their laboratories!
Following one of his lectures, he was approached by a woman looking for medical advice. Both attractive and intelligent, Madame Marie Raffalovich and Bernard eventually became good friends, and he became a regular guest at the family home. Mme Raffalovich was Russian, spoke German and was a journalist for a newspaper in St Petersburg.
Initially there may have been an element of opportunism in Bernard's approaches to her: she translated for him many articles from foreign journals, since he was not gifted in languages. She also undertook to write letters to his counterparts in Germany and Russia; contacts who greatly enriched his professional life. A warm correspondence soon developed between them: he wrote some 500 letters to Mme Raffalovich over the following ten years. Most have been publishedTMB61,TMB62, and show little evidence of any romance: only a keeness to communicate about his work and the world in a way that he had never been able to do before. Her letters to Bernard, probably equally numerous, have been destroyed.
Bernard's appointment to the Senate of the Second Empire of Louis Napoleon in 1869 was a further confirmation of his fine standing in the community, and resulted in a substantial additional annual salary of 60,000 francs. His new responsibility provided more interest than actual work, since senators mainly 'rubber-stamped' the autocratic intentions of the Emperor. Bernard also probably did less research in '69 than in any previous year: yet his mind was not stagnant, as he progressed his concept of the milieu intérieur. He also did more studies on carbon monoxide poisoning: looking in some detail at the interaction of this gas both with oxygen and carbon dioxide193, while he left Paul Bert to proceed with his own ideas on hyperbaric oxygen: its biological effects and possible clinical usage. Once settled into his Sorbonne post, those studies would gain Bert international recognition.
Other elements of Bernard's life flourished in the latter part of the year. Both Mme Raffalovich's daughter and sister-in-law became involved with his translations (in English and Italian respectively), while for his diversion, the Raffalovich box at the Comédie Française provided him with marvellous theatrical experiences. He was particularly pleased that at the 'dictionary day' at the Académie Française (while sitting opposite the same Saint-Marc Girardin who had condemned his play, Arthur de Bretagne 35 years earlier) he had been able to contribute to the debate on the meaning of 'disillusionment' and 'deception'. On top of everything, his lectures at the Collège on two of his favourite research areas, asphyxia and anesthesia187,188,189,TMB41 were very well received.
War and peace........