[Victor Despeignes (1866-1937): how a hygienist became the first radiation oncologist]

Cancer Radiother. 2013 Jun;17(3):244-54. doi: 10.1016/j.canrad.2013.01.012. Epub 2013 Mar 21.
[Article in French]


Between the 4th and 23rd July 1896, Victor Despeignes has performed the first anticancer radiotherapy that has been validated by undeniable publications and practical facts. However, the events and the intellectual approach that led him to perform this unique treatment are misknown. This unpublished biography endeavours to better understand the work of Victor Despeignes who was, first of all, an hygienist physician. The conjunction of Pasteur's ideas, the discovery of X-rays and a probable technical help of the Lumière brothers led him to irradiate a cancerous tumour. The life of Victor Despeignes can be divided in three parts; the Lyon period (1866-1894) during which he became physician and researcher in parasitology, working on the quality of tap water and tuberculosis; the period spent between 1894 and 1907 in Buis-les-Baronnies (Drôme) and thereafter in Les Échelles (Savoie) during which he was a simple district physician and performed the first radiotherapy; the Chambery period (1907-1937) during which he was the Director of the Town Hygiene and provided a major action for public health.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • France
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Parasitology / history
  • Radiation Oncology / history*
  • Radiotherapy / history

Personal name as subject

  • Victor Despeignes