Jean-Claude Gautier, MD
Jean-Claude Gautier, MD, born on June 3, 1926, in the small village of Bérigny (Normandy, France), passed away peacefully at home in the same province at Torteval-Quesnay on June 14, 2013. We have lost a great neurologist, a pioneer of stroke neuropathology, who contributed much to the field of cerebrovascular research and treatment. His friends and colleagues will remember his clear rationality, engaging intellect, ready wit, and sense of humor. He demanded the highest standards for himself and expected no less from his colleagues. Although unable to detail all of his appealing qualities, we briefly describe his achievements and his landmark studies.
He began his training in 1953, continued further postresidency training from 1959 to 1962. As Assistant Professor between 1961 and 1963 at Paris Medical Faculty, he was in the company of neurologists and neuropsychologists (Profs T. Alajouanine, F. Lhermitte, and P. Castaigne), psychiatrists (Prof L. Michaud), internists (Prof L. Justin-Besançon), and cardiologists (Profs J. Lenègre and P. Maurice). Selected for 1 year of postresidency training in clinical and vascular neuropathology at National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London, where he was among others destined for major positions, he learned removal of the whole cerebral arterial tree from the heart to the brain, including the difficult intrabony segments. On return to Salpêtrière Hospital, he used these techniques to start the important collection of clinicopathological cases of cerebrovascular diseases in the then new neuropathology laboratory, directed by (and now named after) Prof R. Escourolle. Further training was obtained under Prof L. Van Bogaert (Bunge Institute, Antwert), including visits to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for further vascular neuropathology experience with Profs R.D. Adams and C.M. Fisher. The clinicopathological collection he developed was enlarged by all the members of the Raymond Escourolle Neuropathology under the encouragement of its successive directors and is now a major resource for modern studies under the direction of Prof P. Amarenco. He became Full Professor of Neurology in La-Pitié-Salpêtrière Faculty of Medicine in 1972.
After 10 years as assistant to Prof F. Lhermitte, he was appointed director of the Department of Neurology in Albert Chenevier Hospital in Créteil, a large chronic care facility near Paris. There he developed the concept of a service dedicated to stroke patients, with every needed facilities.
In 1982, he was called back to Salpêtrière to direct the new department for stroke diagnosis and management. There he furthered his management concepts and embarked on his remarkable career. He published more than 300 research papers, dealing mainly with brain vascular pathology, along with notable coauthors including Profs F. Lhermitte, P. Castaigne, T. Alajouanine, and W. Blackwood. A willing traveler, keen on ensuring a French stamp on neurovascular matters, he was a regular attendee at international meetings. Comments were often preceded in his special prosody, by “Well, IN France…,” and became well known for their insightful, witty, sometimes painfully direct quality (his accompanying picture shows a familiar facial expression). His trips to the Massachusetts General Hospital won him many admirers and friends; among the best of visitors, he relished the opportunity to rise above the challenges for participation in the daunting weekly brain-cutting conferences and microscopy sessions: “Visors up, but still tournament,” was a common remark, often followed later by a self-deprecating claim of status as a “ForEIGNner.” His references to French contributors led many to seek out this literature. During his 13 years as Editor in Chief of Revue Neurologique, he invited and encouraged publication in English for non-Francophones, while suppressing such efforts among the natives; publications in French were edited to minimize French idioms to widen the readership. With an American colleague, he even undertook coeditorship of a neurology text, one widely praised in reviews but with limited sales.
These many efforts made him an internationally known and widely respected vascular clinician and neuropathologist. He was a founding member of the French Club of Neuropathologie (nowadays, Société française de Neuropathologie), president of Société Française de Neurologie, member of the Académie Nationale de Médecine, corresponding member of the American Neurological Association, member of the Société Suisse de Neurologie, honorary member of the Société belge de Neurologie, member of the Sociedad Peruana de Neurologia, member of the Research Group on Cerebrovascular Diseases of the World Federation of Neurology, member of the editorial board of Stroke, International Angiology, Journal of Neurology, and invited professor and lecturer in London, Boston, New York, Winston-Salem, Houston, and Lima.
The many whose careers he influenced appreciated his clearsightedness, scientific scrupulousness, persistence in causes he considered important, eagerness to engage in debate, and impatience with laggards. A brilliant teacher and exigent mentor, faithful to his students and friends, even when retired to Normandy. (“They think I live in a castle.”) In one of the last conversations, a coauthor recalls his saying, “When I die, it will be with the comfort that some progress has been made in the field of stroke.”
- Received July 11, 2013.
- Accepted September 5, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.