We pay tribute to Luc Montagnier, who has passed away at his home in Neuilly, at the age of 89. He is fondly remembered by his many friends and admirers from all around the world. We salute his memory and send our sincere condolences to his family.
Luc Montagnier (1932-2022)
Over the years it has sometimes happened that a top researcher, who has no previous track record in the field of homeopathy, accidentally makes an observation or has an idea that leads to a scientific result in support of this treatment. This seredipitous observation of an idea is an important moment, but to follow it through and open a new line of investigation in a publication is what makes it useful and demonstrates that the scientist is curious and open-minded.
Luc Montagnier investigated how to detect specific infections at an early stage via very small amounts of immunologic indicators (2009). As part of this work, he passed colonies of a micro-organism (Mycoplasma piri) through a filter that allowed only chemical compounds of around the size of amino acids to pass through. There is therefore no conceivable way for any complex information such as is carried by DNA or RNA to get through. And yet, when Montagnier inoculated a fresh Petri dish with this filtrate, a few weeks later full-blown colonies of Mycoplasma piri grew! This phenomenon could not be explained in material, local terms, and thus it supports the notion that homeopathic dilutions beyond Avogadro’s number can have biological and therefore also medically-beneficial effects. This experiment further supports what was formerly called the memory of water theory, originally postulated by Jacques Benveniste (1988). Currently, there is no generally-accepted explanation for these phenomena, but some have proposed that a transfer of biological information is taking place. Even more importantly, it is one of a series of experiments that mean it is no longer possible to state that homeopathy cannot work because there is nothing in it but water.
At that time, Montagnier was still active as a researcher and was dependent on financial support. Nevertheless, he had the courage to speak up about homeopathy (High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules.), risking support for his scientific work.
In 1988, Benveniste lost financial support for his pioneering work. Consequently, Montagnier regarded Benveniste as a modern-day Galileo. The publication of Montagnier’s results was met with utter disbelief and was attacked because of a lack of precision regarding the testing methods used, and because the peer review process of the journal, of which he was editor, was too short to be credible. It was curious to see how the scientific community was ready to support the attacks on Benveniste, accepting his defamation by a juggler, a fraud expert and a journalist – three non-scientific experts who would not normally be allowed anywhere near a laboratory containing the extremely sensitive instruments with which Benveniste measured his work. Montagnier was, of course, aware of the risk he was taking.
It is noteworthy that there is a complete absence of publications trying to replicate Montagnier’s experiments. This is strange, considering that conventional medicine clearly cannot claim to be able to cure all patients. It is not a fault that biomedicine does not have all the necessary tools to help in all cases, but a little more modesty would be appropriate, honourable and also scientific. We also know that homeopathic research proposals are acknowledged as sound but are nevertheless refused because researchers are afraid to lose their reputation by being associated with homeopathy. Maybe that other great French scientist was right to take Pasteur’s secret to his grave (Coulter, 1994).
We are grateful for Montagnier’s courage, because science, all too humanly, tends to become defensive when it is challenged out of its comfort zone.
Jean Pierre Jansen
President, European Committee for Homeopathy
- Coulter HL. The divided legacy. A history of the schism in medical thought, volume I-IV. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books; 1994
- Davenas E, Beauvais F, Amara J et al. Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE. Nature. 1988;333:816-818.
- Enserink M. French Nobelist Escapes ‘Intellectual Terror’ to Pursue Radical Ideas in China. Science. 2010
- Montagnier L, Aissa J, Ferris S, Montagnier JL, Lavallée C. Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences. Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci. 2009; 81-90.
- Montagnier L, Aissa J, del Giudice E, Lavallee C, Tedeschi A, Vitiello G. DNA waves and water. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. 2011;306:012007.
- Montagnier L, Del Giudice E, Aïssa J et al. Transduction of DNA information through water and electromagnetic waves. Electromagn Biol Med. 2015;34:106-112.