[Art_beyond_sight_educators] Jacques Le Magnen

fnugg at online.no fnugg at online.no
Mon Dec 29 10:15:29 UTC 2014


Read about Jacques Le Magnen in Gary Taube's Good Calories, Bad 
Calories. In anycase if you are not familiar with this scientist am 
sending a link. He became blind at the age of 13.

One of the pioneers in research on olfaction and taste, and on the 
regulation of water and food intake left us on Thursday, May 23, 2002, 
at the age of 85. Jacques Le Magnen was a disciple of the famous French 
physiologist Henri Piéron at the Collège de France, and from 1949 till 
1989 developed his own laboratory of sensory and behavioral 
neurophysiology in this same renowned institution.

His early work was dedicated to the study of olfaction, and more 
especially (but not only!) to the influence of hormonal status and 
particularly sex hormones on variations in olfactory sensitivity. The 
originality of his approach and the precision of his experiments, 
executed with very primitive olfactometry, immediately assured him a 
position as one of the leading personalities in the field of olfaction. 
He always retained a keen interest in olfaction and was a mentor to many 
young scientists, both in and outside his laboratory, who wanted to 
study olfactory phenomena, even when the main orientation of his work 
shifted towards the study of the regulation of food and water intake. To 
this latter field of research he made a number of invaluable contributions.

Beginning in 1950, Jacques Le Magnen put forward a series of 
revolutionary concepts. His ideas have inspired and still inspire 
generations of scientists. He was the first to develop instruments that 
made it possible to register food and water intake in the rat across the 
whole 24 h day, and to show how the behavior and its determinants change 
under the influence of circadian cycles. During the phase of activity 
(the night in the rat), intake permits the build up ofbodily reserves 
which will be used in the resting phase, during which consumption is 
reduced to a minimum. This day/night alternation is one of the 
cornerstones of energetic and hydromineral regulation. During the daily 
active period, meals alternate with fasting in response to metabolic 
signals that are generated by the acquisition of the ingesta and by the 
composition of bodily reserves. In all this, the role of the sensory 
characteristics of food, olfactory of course, but also gustatory and 
visual, was not forgotten. In what he called `learning of palatability', 
Jacques Le Magnen showed how the sensory characteristics of food 
transform themselves into a complex conditioned stimulus that guides 
behavior, permits the formation of food preferences and aversions, and 
determines the size of a meal depending on the anticipated metabolic 
consequences of ingestion. Furthermore, his laboratory confirmed that 
the same sensory and metabolic factors also function in humans.

Finally, he was also interested in problems concerning human alcohol 
consumption, and in order to study them he created an animal model that 
was addicted to ethanol which he used during 30 years of research.

Jacques Le Magnen continued to publish scientific work right to the end 
of his life. His bibliography can be found in his last invited 
publication in an international journal, entitled `My scientific life: 
40 years at the Collège de France' (2001, /Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev./, 
25: 375--394). Thus, the richness of his ideas and his enormous 
knowledge of the fields that were important to him are readily available.

Jacques Le Magnen also played an important role in the organization of 
research. As a Research Director of the Centre National de Recherche 
Scientifique and of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, he played an 
important role in the evaluation of research and scientific development 
in France. As co-founder and first president of the European 
Chemoreception Research Organization, he had a lasting impact on the 
development of the coordination of chemo-sensory research in the world.

But above all, his students and all those who have known him will 
remember him by his exceptional courage and dedication to science. At 
the age of 13 he contracted an encephalitis, as a result of which he 
lost his eyesight. His blindness, however, did not stop him from 
pursuing a scientific career characterized by brilliant ideas and 
experiments. He was an indefatigable worker, a true scholar and a lover 
of refined music. His intellectual activity did not end with his 
retirement from the Collège de France in 1989 and he continued to write 
to the last.

His students and his friends were always struck by his phenomenal 
scientific and encyclopedic memory. Jacques Le Magnen knew everything: 
who had demonstrated what, by what means and under what circumstances. 
The most astonishing feats of this memory were his lively and very 
visual descriptions of cities he had visited, but of course had never 
seen directly. He saw these cities through the eyes of Madame Le Magnen, 
his admirable and devoted companion, who was always at his side wherever 
he traveled.

Jacques Le Magnen was Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and Doctor 
Honoris Causa of the Universties of Lausanne and Utrecht.


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