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Altruïstisch ambtenaar of heroïsch genie? Het gepropageerde beeld van provinciale en academische directeurs van bacteriologische laboratoria in België (ca. 1900-1940)

Author(s): Sofie Onghena

Journal: Studium : Tijdschrift voor Wetenschaps- en Universiteits-Geschiedenis
ISSN 1876-9055

Volume: 2;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 191;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Bacteriology | Belgium | Laboratory | Directors

Altruistic public servant or heroic genius? The propagated image of provincial and academic directors of bacteriological laboratories in Belgium (ca. 1900-1940) At the end of the nineteenth century provincial bacteriological institutes were established in Belgium – in Liège, Mons, Namur and Brussels – in order to combat epidemics, to promote preventive medicine and to pursue the successful research of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. Similar laboratories existed at the universities of Ghent, Louvain and Brussels. The image building played an important role for both kinds of institutes, as bacteriology in pioneering phase had to be publicly confirmed as a new, valuable discipline. However, the directors of provincial and academic institutes – with the same academic training though – were awarded with different qualities at their jubilees, fitting with the purposes and the self-image of their respective institutions, either provincial authorities or universities. The image of academic directors was guided by academic decorum: Emile van Ermengem, Edmond Destrée and Joseph Denys were represented as savants, solely devoted to pure science and paternally educating young researchers, notwithstanding the fact that their laboratories had humanitarian merits as well. On the other hand, the discourse on the first provincial directors – Ernest Malvoz, Martin Herman, Achille Haibe – emphasized their altruistic commitment and their solid work for the provincial government. Jules Bordet, internationally rewarded scientist, professor and provincial director of the Pasteur Institute in Brussels, was celebrated with both sorts of discourses.
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