Eugène Aujaleu was born at Négrepelisse in the southwest of France (Tarn and Garonne) where his father was a physician. He graduated in medicine from the University of Toulouse where he was a brilliant scholar and won the gold medal for his year. He then went on to a medical career in the French Army and following posts in various military hospitals he was appointed professor at the prestigious military hospital, Val-de-Grâce, Paris, in 1936, and subsequently director of the tuberculosis service.
In 1942, during the second world war, he became chief of the public health services in the provisional French Government in Algiers under General Charles de Gaulle. On cessation of hostilities, he was appointed director of social hygiene and in 1956 became director-general of public health, a post he held until 1964.
During these years governments and ministers succeeded one another at an alarming pace, while Eugène Aujaleu concentrated on the task of rebuilding the French health system. When the combination of General de Gaulle, the prime minister Michael Debré and his father Robert, created the famous reform of the French University hospital system, of the full time staff positions and the teaching hospital centres, it was Eugène Aujaleu who was the chief architect.
A tenacious and decisive man, he helped force the reforms against powerful opposition. Not surprisingly, he made many enemies and he lost his post as virtual minister of health. He was, however, offered another important mission: from 1964-69 he created and directed the Institut national de la Santé et de la Recherche médicale (INSERM) in replacement of the National Institute of Hygiene. He became its first director-general and once again demonstrated his many talents: rapid analysis and decision, absolute inflexibility in respect to pressure groups, and an acute sense of organization and efficiency. He held this post until he retired in 1970.
Eugène Aujaleu represented France in the World Health Organization and in the Council of Europe. He was a member of numerous scientific societies both at home and abroad, including I'Académie royal de Médecine de Belgique. He received several honours, among them Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, and from Belgium the Commandeur de l'Ordre de la Couronne. One could say that nothing which concerned the development of the health system and medical research in France following the second world war did not concern him; the final testimony of his adversaries was to thrice refuse him admission to the Academy of Medicine.
In 1937 he married Nadine Blanche Dumas, whose father was a doctor in the French Navy. There were two daughters of the marriage, one of whom predeceased her father.
J P Bader
* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."
[Bullet Mem.de l'Académie roy.de Méd.de Belgique,1990,vol.145,8-9,329; Int.Who's Who, 1990-91,54th ed.,69]