2007 INDUCTEE Félix d’Hérelle Infectious Disease, Allergy & Immunity

Born:

April 25, 1873

(Montréal, Québec)

Died:

February 22, 1949

Education:

Self-Taught

Awards & Honours:

1948: Prix Petit-d’Ormoy for Natural Sciences, French Academy of Sciences

1930: Honorary Degree, Université Laval

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Picture of Felix d'Herelle

Ushered in the era of molecular biology

Félix d'Hérelle

A pioneering scientist and a committed global investigator

Félix d’Hérelle applied a single-minded enthusiasm and scientific thoroughness to every new challenge. Records from his first assignment on behalf of the Government of Canada to explore the feasibility of fermenting and distilling maple syrup into “whiskey” were meticulous and reveal the qualities of a great scientist.

More significantly, Dr. d’Hérelle is credited for two brilliant discoveries that together signify a scientific revolution. Considered an “outsider” in science, this vagabond scholar set up a lab in his Montreal home at age 24 and went on to discover a biological control of pests and a cure for bacterial infections using bacteria-eating bacteriophages. Félix D’Hérelle’s work led to the founding of the “Phage Group” of scientists.

Key Facts

Bacteriophage proved useful against numerous bacteria including vibrio cholerae and, as a result, d’Herelle’s discovery was introduced into water supplies in high epidemic areas

Between 1917 and 1948, more than 6000 notes and memoirs on phage were published in scientific reviews

The establishment of the Phage Group laid the foundation of molecular biology and, in time, supported important discoveries about DNA

During his lifetime, d’Hérelle was nominated for the Nobel Prize at least thirty times and by eight different groups in 1926 alone

Bacteriophage was shown to be thousands of times more potent against bacteria than any other treatment at the time

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

When Félix d’Hérelle discovered bacteriophages, many saw phage treatment as a potential “magic bullet” to mitigate the ravages of infectious diseases. Phage treatment did in fact save countless lives. With the arrival of antibiotics, however, many scientists shifted their focus. Now, with the golden age of antibiotics almost over, phages are receiving renewed attention as a remarkable natural remedy for bacterial infections, in particular those caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens. In fact, Nobel Laureate Dr. Joshua Lederberg urged ‘a renaissance of study of bacteriophages.”

Picture of Felix d'Herelle

2007

  • Félix d'Hérelle posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    London, Ontario

  • The Félix d’Hérelle Reference Centre for bacterial viruses at the Université Laval was opened.

    Its mission is to “collect, conserve and distribute reference phages and information about them to foster research and education.”

  • Countries all over the world expressed interest in phage therapy.

    Over a period of two years, d’Hérelle established three phage production laboratories in Kiev, Kharkov and Tbilsi in the Soviet Union.

  • Félix D’Hérelle founded the Laboratoires du bactériophage in Paris

    Infectious Disease, Allergy & Immunity

    This laboratory became a centre of research excellence for the development and production of phage therapy.

  • Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

    Sinclair Lewis published, Arrowsmith, a novel based on the work that led to the discovery and use of bacteriophages.

    The novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

  • Pharmaceutical History

    Félix D’Hérelle discovered ‘bacteriophages’ and bacteriophage therapy

    Infectious Disease, Allergy & Immunity

    In typical Pastorian style, he moved from his laboratory findings to the field setting up phage-therapy trials around the world. *Also discovered independently from d'Hérelle by Frederick Twort

  • Félix D’Hérelle’s first paper on biological control of locusts with Coccobacilus bacteria was presented at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

    The publication of this paper was the beginning of his international fame. Dr. d’Hérelle remained in Paris for a number of years to continue his research.

  • At the age of 28, Dr. d’Hérelle was appointed the sole bacteriologist of Guatemala.

    Guatemala was the first country of at least fifteen where he would make a scientific contribution over the next five decades.

1904

He applied enthusiasm and thoroughness to every challenge.