Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 10, 1887, one of the eight children of Dr. Albert and Clara (née Laffont) Houssay, who had come to Argentina from France. His father was a barrister.
His early education was at a private school, the Colegio Británico. He then entered the School of Pharmacy of the University of Buenos Aires at the exceptionally early age of 14, graduating in 1904.
He had already begun studying medicine and, in 1907, before completing his studies, he took up a post in the Department of Physiology. In 1910 he was appointed Professor of Physiology in the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
During this time he had been doing hospital practice and, in 1913, became Chief Physician at the Alvear Hospital. In addition to this he was also in charge of the Laboratory of Experimental Physiology and Pathology in the National Department of Hygiene from 1915 to 1919.
In 1919 he became Professor of Physiology in the Medical School at Buenos Aires University. He also organized the Institute of Physiology at the Medical School, making it a centre with an international reputation. He remained Professor and Director of the Institute until 1943.
In this year the Government then in power deprived him of his post, as a result of his voicing his opinion that there should be effective democracy in the country. Although receiving many invitations from abroad, he continued his work in an institute which he organized with the support of funds contributed by the Sauberan Foundation and other bodies.
In 1921, three individuals discovered the importance of insulin for a body that suffers diabetes. They were Charles Best and Frederick Banting who were Canadians and John Macleod, a Scottish physiologist.
Their research and the results they gained from it became part of the foundation of Houssay’s own studies. There were a lot of uprisings during that period and Houssay was among those who petitioned for the Argentine government to be changed into a democratic one.
Because of this, Peron dismissed Houssay, along with around 150 other academics from the university. This was not a reason for Houssay to lose his resolve however, and continued with his research. Houssay’s dismissal was considered void shortly after and in 1944, he founded the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine. He was then asked to retire in 1946.
Looking at Houssay’s entire career, he was in part an important factor that held Argentina’s scientific growth together. He was responsible for founding and assisting in building almost all of the major scientific organizations all over the country and was assigned as a head in most of them at one point.
He also earned honorary doctorates granted to him by over 25 universities all over the world, not to mention being invited and elected as a member of different prestigious scientific societies in France, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and the United States.
All these were ways by which the world’s scientific community honored the importance of Houssay’s discoveries and the impact that these discoveries had in the further growth and advancement of science.