John Templeton Foundation
Home Approach Program Committee Other Participants
Other Participants  

A professor at the Institut Universitaire de France and on the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris-Sud, the renowned neurobiologist Jean-Didier Vincent was for many years the director of the Alfred Fessard Institute of Neurobiology at France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Gif-sur-Yvette. He is a pioneer in the development of a new branch of biology that has come to be known as neuroendocrinology and is concerned with the interplay between glands and the nervous system. He was among the first to show how certain hormones act on the brain and on the neuronal mechanisms underlying functions such as hydromineral balance, hunger, thirst, reproduction, and sleep. A graduate of the University of Bordeaux II where he earned his medical degree and a Ph.D. in physiology in 1964, Dr. Vincent began teaching physiology at the University of Bordeaux in 1965 and was named a full professor in 1977. Four years earlier, he had become director of a CNRS laboratory, and in 1978, he created the Unit of Behavioral Neurobiology at INSERM, the French national medical research institute, which he directed until 1991 when he became director of the Fessard Institute, a position he held until 2004. A former president of the National Council of Programs in the Ministry of Education, he also has served as president of Scientific Council of the University of Paris-Sud and as a member of the Scientific Council of the University of Paris XI (Orsay). His many honors include election as an officier de l’Ordre de la Legion d’Honneur, chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite Agricole, and officier des Palmes Académiques. In addition to an honorary degree from the University of Bruselles and the Gold Medal of the University of Prague, he is the recipient of the Prix Lacaze de l’Académie des Sciences, the Prix Blaise Pascal, and the Prix Médecine et Culture. Dr. Vincent is a member of the French Académie des Sciences and Académie Nantionale de Médicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academia Europaea, and the Académie Royale de Belgique and an honorary member of the Académie Royale de Médicine de Belgique and the American Physiological Society. In addition to numerous scientific papers, essays in literary and philosophical journals, and chapters in volumes of collected works, he has written a dozen best-selling science books for general readers, including: The Biology of Passions (1986, 1994, 2002) in which he proposes a new theory of emotions preserving free will; Casanova: The Diseases of Pleasure (1990); (with philosopher Luc Ferry) What Is Man? (2001), a reflection on the position of human beings within the context of nature; (with chef Jean-Marie Amat) Towards a New Physiology of Taste (2001), a work in the tradition of Brillat Savarin that describes the chemical and neuronal mechanisms of taste as well as attitudes toward food in contemporary society; and, most recently, Les Coeur des autres: Biologie de la compassion, which was published in 2003 by Plon.