Article published on 31 January 2024
last modification on 16 February 2024

The hazards in the careers of physicians and chemists of the Colonial Health Service and their individual competence cause many of them to be solicited for service in non-military organizations, national or international, and for work in universities. These solicitations increase after the Second World War with the intensification of cooperation in international health matters and the establishment of Overseas Faculties of Medicine and Chemistry. Depending on the period, a health official, detached from service, continues to belong to the Health Service or is obliged to hand in his resignation.


The World Health Organization (WHO), created by the United Nations in 1948, requests many colonial physicians and chemists, who are still on duty or have left the army, to work as experts in the organization. In that capacity, they become members of advisory committees and participate in missions all over the world.

When the WHO begins to function, the majority of French specialists in Tropical Medicine belong to the Colonial Health Service.

In Geneva, at the administrative headquarters, P. Dorolle* occupies the post of Deputy Managing Director of the institution from 1950 to 1973. Several members of the Colonial Health Service are appointed departmental heads or assistants in the following sections : viral diseases (Brès*), bacterial and venereal diseases (Causse* and Ridet*), leprosy (Sansarricq*) and entomology (Quelennec*). Others are appointed departmental heads in regional branches of the WHO : Choumara* for public health and environment in Copenhagen (European Branch), Lartigue* for transmissible diseases, Farrugia* for leprosy, in Manila (West Pacific Branch), Lapeyssonnie* for transmissible diseases in Alexandria (East Mediterranean Branch).

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), created by the United Nations in Rome in 1945, gives posts of divisional directors to successive colonial chemists - Autret*, Ganzin*, Périssé*, and Lunven*.

Among the Directors of The International Children’s Centre (CIE - Le Centre International de l’Enfance) in Paris there is a physician of the Colonial Health Service, Guignard*.

When speaking of work in international organizations, special mention must be made of Pales*, Deputy director of The Museum of Man (Le Musée de l’Homme) and of Brygoo*, who occupies the chair of Le Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.


Alexandre Le Dantec* is the first to occupy the chair of Tropical Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine in Bordeaux. Several colonial physicians and chemists follow the same route but in different ways. To begin with, they are appointed lecturers, particularly in Indochina. Their competency is recognized and used but their functions are temporary; they are not members of the French higher education staff. Others are officially admitted to the teaching staff of the faculty, on a temporary basis, during their period of service overseas. They are appointed "Associate Professors" or "Professors on Special duty" by the Ministry of Education.

Others again are given permanent professorial posts in the staff of the faculty of medicine. In Marseilles, the chair of Tropical Medicine, created in the 1940s, is granted successively to Heckenroth* and to Fr. Blanc*, both of them former professors at the Pharo.

The Faculty of Medicine in Dakar opens in 1950 and other Medical Faculties follow in Africa. Physicians and chemists of the Colonial Health Service who are already there are appointed lecturers and help to begin the functioning of these establishments. Some of them, after passing the highest competitive examinations (Agrégation de Médicine ou de Pharmacie), are appointed university professors. After their years of service overseas, having prepared native students who can take over, they pursue their professional careers in a French university. In this category, there are about thirty Professors of Medicine and three Professors of Chemistry who have been on duty mostly in Dakar but also in Abidjan, Yaoundé and Antananarivo. Among them there is a Rector of a university and four Deans of Faculties of Medicine.

It must be emphasized that the work of these lecturers and researchers is not confined to Tropical Medicine and Chemistry but is concerned with all the disciplines of the Faculties of Medicine and Chemistry.