Daniel Bovet was born at Neuchâtel, Switzerland, on March 23, 1907. He was the son of Pierre Bovet, Professor of Pedagogy in the University of Geneva and his wife Amy Babut.
After completing his secondary education at Geneva, Bovet graduated at the University of Geneva in 1927. He then spent some years as Assistant in Physiology to Professor F. Batelli. He then worked under Professor Guyenot, preparing a thesis on zoology and comparative anatomy for which he was awarded the degree of D.Sc. in 1929.
From 1929 until 1947 he worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris then under the direction of Professor E. Roux. Here he worked first as assistant and later as Chief of the Laboratory of Therapeutic Chemistry. This Department was directed by Professor Ernest Fourneau and daily contact with him determined the course of Bovet’s future researches.
In 1947 he accepted the invitation of Professor Domenico Marotta, Director of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, to go to Italy and to organize a Laboratory of Therapeutic Chemistry. He then became Chief of the Laboratory of Therapeutic Chemistry of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome.
Bovet has published more than 300 papers on biology, general pharmacology, chemotherapy, the sulphonamide drugs, the pharmacology of the sympathetic nervous system, the therapy of allergic conditions, the synthesis of antihistamines, on curare and curare-like drugs and the use of curare as an adjuvant to anaesthesia, on various modifications of hormonal equilibrium, and on various aspects of the pharmacology of the central nervous system (drugs used for the treatment of Parkinsonism, strychnine and tranquillizers). Important aspects of these researches are embodied in a book by Bovet and his wife, published in 1948 and entitled Structure chimique et activité pharmacodynamique des médicaments du système nerveux végétatif (The chemical structure and pharmacodynamic activity of drugs of the vegetative nervous system), and in the book by Bovet, his wife, and G. B. Marini-Bettòlo, published in 1959 and entitled Curare and Curare-like Agents. In 1957 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery relating to synthetic compounds for the blocking of the effects of certain substances occurring in the body, especially in its blood vessels and skeletal muscles.
Bovet has received honorary degrees of the Universities of Palermo, Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, Montpellier, Paris, Nancy, Prague and Strasbourg.
In 1946, he was elected a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour of France, and in 1959 a Grand Official of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
Apart from the Nobel Prize in 1957, Bovet has received the following awards: Plantamour Prize of the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (1934), Martin Damourette Prize of the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of France (1936), General Muteau Prize of the Italian Academy of Science (1941), Cameron Prize of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (1949), Bürgi Prize of the Faculty of Medicine, Berne, Switzerland (1949), «E. Paterno» Prize, jointly with his wife, F. Bovet-Nitti (1949), the Scientific Illustration Prize of the Italian National Research Council, jointly with his wife (1951), and the Addingham Gold Medal, University of Leeds (1952). He is a member of several learned societies in Italy, France, Great Britain, the USA, Brazil, Argentine, and India.
Bovet married Filomena Nitti, sister of the bacteriologist F. Nitti, who has closely and continuously collaborated with him in his work.
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
Daniel Bovet died on April 8, 1992.