Charles Jules Henri Nicolle (1866-1936) trained as a physician at the École des Sciences et des Arts at Rouen, followed by doctoral studdies at the Pasteur Institute in Paris where Émile Roux supervised his's 1893 doctoral thesis. Drawing on the work of Metchnikoff, Nicolle's thesis explored the etiology and pathology of the soft chancre, a venereal disease caused by Ducrey’s bacillus.

Returning to Rouen, Nicolle joined the municipal hospital staff and accepted a position as assistant lecturer at the medical school. He also ran a bacteriology laboratory where he continued his work on Ducrey's bacillus and developed better ways to make anti-diphtheria serum. Despite these accomplishments, Nicolle struggled to advance in Rouen's medical research community. In 1902, he left Rouen to become director of the Pasteur Institute at Tunis, an institute in name only which he created more or less whole-cloth upon his arrival.

Nicolle received the Nobel Prize in 1928 for his experiment proof of the role of lice in the transmission of exanthematous typhus. He also examined most of the germs and many of the parasites causing infectious diseases around the Mediterranean, including leishmaniasis and toxoplasmosis. He further demonstrated the viral nature of influenza and elaborated the concept of unaparent infection, showing that organisms sometimes exhibit no clinical symptoms of disease despite being infected. This was an important epidemiological insight.

After being named chair of experimental medicine at the Collège de France in 1932, Nicolle lectured annually at the Collège until 1935 while retaining his post in Tunis.


Grmek, M. D. "Nicolle, Charles Jules Henri" Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 15, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008. 453-455.

Last modified 27 January 2017