He’s a 95-year-old man, we find him, guess where? In his Kremlin-Bicêtre laboratory: Etienne-Emile Baulieu goes there three times a week to challenge and question his researchers. He will never give up finding a drug to block Alzheimer’s. But the other big fight of his life is the morning after pill, a drug that still earns him vilification from anti-abortionists.
Last spring, in the United States, an elected Republican explained to the Kentucky House of Representatives that this molecule RU 486 had been invented by a Jew (which he is!) under the name of Xyglam B (as well as there was Ziklon B, which is completely false), and that it contains cyanide (again, this is false).
Faced with this ever-living hatred, Etienne-Emile Baulieu remains very calm: he knows that this fight will never be over. Its discovery dates back to 1989, fairly shortly after the Veil law on abortion and the legalization of the contraceptive pill. At the time, Cardinal Lustiger spoke of “human pesticide“. On a TV set, Professor Lejeune told him that he was breastfeeding”cause more deaths than Mao, Hitler and Stalin combined.“To say that to a resistant Jew, you had to dare all the same.
“It blocks pregnancy, that’s for surehe explains. At first it was not accepted. And I am in favor of progress for women, and in this case being able to control the date of their pregnancies. The molecule had been taken hostage for ideological reasons, women have asserted themselves since but the patriarchy has not disappeared, as you know.“
This early feminist was not born Etienne Baulieu. When he was born in 1926 in Strasbourg, his name was Emile Blum. His father, Léon Blum (a namesake of the socialist politician) dies when his eldest son is three years old. Emile in a thirteen when the Second World War broke out. In the Resistance, he takes the name of Etienne Baulieu. He carried weapons and joined the 1st Army in 1944, one of the main characteristics of the Liberation Army.
At the end of the war, he passed his baccalaureate and enrolled in medicine by combining his two first names: he therefore became Etienne-Emile Baulieu. He became an endocrinologist, and in 1989, when he was 63, he discovered RU489. This name comes from that of the laboratory which had hired him, the Roussel-Uclaf laboratory, of which it was the molecule n°36489.
The management of the laboratory had recruited him years earlier, amazed by this young man who had managed to be published by a scientific journal for his work on DHEA, a hormone renowned for its anti-aging effects, when he was not was only internal. But for this communist, idealistic researcher, working for a private laboratory earned him the treatment of a quitter on the left and a gaucho on the right. What does it matter!
In the United States, he meets the inventor of the contraceptive pill, Gregory Pincus. The latter offers him to perfect this pill, but Etienne-Emile Baulieu prefers to work on the end of the cycle of women, to block not the ovum upstream, but the pregnancy. He even had in mind that women took this pill every month, on the 28th day of the cycle, rather than a contraceptive pill every day.
This life, dedicated to science, the researcher has shared since 30 years with a television producer, Simone Harari (we owe her in particular one of the first French sitcoms, Maguy), whom he married religiously only a year ago. He also has three children from a previous marriage: the lawyer Frédérique Baulieu as well as a doctor son and a psychiatrist daughter.
Everyone says it with incredible curiosity. He still spends his evenings at openings. He is a great friend of Gérard Garouste who is exhibiting at the Center Pompidou at the moment, a former friend of Andy Warhol, whose painting sits in his office next to a heart by Nikki de Saint-Phalle. The conductor Herbert von Karajan had introduced him to Sophia Loren, with whom he will have an affair.
Today, at 95, the DHEA man is still in good shape. Among his secrets of longevity, he entrusts walking every day, having a regular sleep, and above all he treats himself to a glass of red wine daily.