Daniel Bovet Biography

Daniel Bovet, a Swiss-born Italian pharmacologist, is renowned for his groundbreaking discoveries in the field of chemotherapeutic agents. His notable achievements include the discovery of antihistamines in 1937, which revolutionized allergy medication by blocking the neurotransmitter histamine. In 1947, Bovet’s research led to the development of gallamine and succinylcholine, affordable alternatives to the expensive and unpredictable drug curare, commonly used for muscle relaxation during surgery. Throughout his career, Bovet held various academic positions, including Chief of the Laboratory of Therapeutic Chemistry and professor of pharmacology at prestigious institutions. His contributions to the field of pharmacology earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1957.

Quick Facts

  • Italian Celebrities Born In March
  • Died At Age: 85
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Filomena Nitti
    • Father: Pierre Bovet
    • Mother: Amy Babut
  • Pharmacologists
  • Italian Men
  • Died on: April 8, 1992
  • Place of death: Rome, Italy
  • Awards: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1957)

Childhood & Early Life

Daniel Bovet was born on March 23, 1907 at Neuchâtel, Switzerland to Pierre Bovet and Amy Babut. His father was a Professor of Pedagogy in the University of Geneva. Young Bovet completed his preliminary education at Geneva. After completing his early studies, he enrolled at the University of Geneva. He graduated from the same in the year 1927.


Following his education, Bovet started his career as an assistant in physiology to Professor F Batelli. Following this, he worked with Professor Guyenot. The latter also helped him prepare the thesis on zoology and comparative anatomy which gained him a PhD in the year 1929.

From 1929, Bovet worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris under the guidance of Professor E Roux. Bovet’s first position at the institute was that of an assistant. Regularly, Bovet came into contact with his department’s director, Professor Ernest Fourneau. Fourneau cast an important influence over Bovet’s future researches.

In 1937, Bovet discovered the first antihistamine substance, which was effective in treating allergic reactions. The substance counter attacked the effect of histamine. The discovery led to its application and further research on the substance. Meanwhile in 1939, after ten years of serving at the Institute, Bovet became head of the therapeutic chemistry laboratory.

In 1942, the first antihistamine drug for human usage was successfully discovered. Two years later, in 1944, Bovet’s own discovery of pyrilamine was produced as a drug.

In 1947, Bovet accepted the invitation by Professor Domenico Marotta, Director of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, to organize a Laboratory of Therapeutic Chemistry. He ended his association with the Pasteur Institute and instead moved to Rome. Therein, he became the Chief of the Laboratory of Therapeutic Chemistry of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome. He also took up Italian citizenship.

Bovet turned his attention to curare, a drug for relaxing muscles during surgery. Since curare was expensive and unpredictable in nature, he started looking for its alternative, one that would cost less and have an assured effect. Eventually, Bovet produced hundreds of synthetic alternatives, two of which gallamine and succinylcholine came into widespread use.

In 1964, Bovet took up the position of professor of pharmacology at the University of Sassari in Italy. Later, from 1969 to 1971, he served as the head of the psychobiology and psychopharmacology laboratory at the National Research Council in Rome before stepping down to become a professor of psychobiology at the University of Rome La Sapienza. He served in this position from 1971 to 1982. He retired in 1982.

Major Works

Bovet’s most important contribution came at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He discovered drugs that blocked the actions of specific neurotransmitters. In 1937, he discovered antihistamines that blocked the neurotransmitter histamine. The discovery was used in allergy medication.

In 1947, while in Rome, Bovet researched on a cost-effective dependable variant of curare, an expensive drug that was used to relax muscles during surgery. Through his research, he produced hundreds of synthetic alternatives, two of which gallamine and succinylcholine were variedly used.

Awards & Achievements

Bovet won several awards in his lifetime including Plantamour Prize of the Faculty of Science from the University of Geneva in 1934, Martin Damourette Prize of the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of France in 1936 and General Muteau Prize of the Italian Academy of Science in 1941.

In 1946, he was elected a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour of France.

In 1949, he won the Cameron Prize of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Bürgi Prize of the Faculty of Medicine, Berne, Switzerland and E. Paterno Prize.

In 1951, he won the Scientific Illustration Prize of the Italian National Research Council, jointly with his wife. In 1952, he was bestowed the Addingham Gold Medal by the University of Leeds.

In 1957, Bovet was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of drugs that block the actions of specific neurotransmitters. The drug inhibits the action on the vascular system and skeletal muscle.

In 1959, Bovet received Grand Official of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

In his lifetime, Bovet received honorary degrees from the universities of Palermo, Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, Montpellier, Paris, Nancy, Prague and Strasbourg.

He was a member of several learned societies in Italy, France, Great Britain, the USA, Brazil, Argentine, and India.

Personal Life & Legacy

Bovet was married to Filomena Nitti. She was the sister of the bacteriologist F. Nitti. Excepting for this, not much is known about Bovet’s personal life.

Bovet breathed his last on April 8, 1992 in Rome, Italy.

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