Nebraska Academy of Sciences


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Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences- Volume VII, 1979. Copyright © 1979 Krush


Pierre P. Broca was born in a small town near Bordeaux, France, June 28, 1824, the son of a Huguenot physician. After graduation from a local college, he entered medical school at the University of Paris at the age of 17, was graduated in three years. Five years later he received the M.D. degree, having special interests in pathology, anatomy, and surgery. In 1853 he was appointed assistant professor at the Faculty of Medicine and surgeon of the "Central Bureau." Broca made significant scientific and clinical contributions in all of the above fields as well as in anthropology. He founded the Anthropological Society in France.

In 1866 Broca published an outstanding two-volume treatise entitled Traité des Tumeurs. Although he did not use the word "metastasis," Broca distinguished between primary and secondary cancers. He noted the disparity in the sites of these two kinds of cancer in humans. Using his wife's family as an example, Broca noted that a daughter may be born long before her mother and maternal grandmother develop breast cancer, the daughter to develop it, herself, many years later. This was his proof that cancer is hereditary, present in a latent state until it appears later in life and progresses in a "malignant" fashion.

Broca was a diligent worker and took on many responsibilities both in his field of medicine and in politics. He died of a heart attack on July 8, 1880, at the age of 56.

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