- Yersin was born on September 22, 1863 in the village of Lavaux, Vaud state, Switzerland. His life and career were associated with Vietnam and he chose Nha Trang as his second hometown. Khanh Hoa in particular and Vietnam in general has many landmarks associated with A. Yersin’s career, including the relic complex which was ranked as national relic, namely:
- A.Yersin library at Pasteur Institute, no. 8 Tran Phu Street, Nha Trang City;
- Linh Son Pagoda in Suoi Cat Commune, Cam Lam District;
- A. Yersin’s grave in Suoi Cat Commune, Cam Lam District.
- A. Yersin’s life and carrer
At the age of 20, A. Yersin attended medical school in Lausanne, Switzerland. Due to family’s condition, he could not graduate from a University in Switzerland. He had to go to Germany to study in Marburg, but he did not succeed in his studies. After that, he went to France to pursue his unfinished university dream. In Paris, he met the famous scientist Louis Pasteur. A. Yersin applied to work as a technician at Pasteur’s microbiology laboratory in Paris in 1886. Assigned to help Dr. Roux, Pasteur’s effective collaborator, he both worked as a technician and applied to conduct a scientific research “Research on the development of experimental TB”. This was also his medical university graduation thesis. In 1888, he graduated as a medical doctor and naturalized French, becoming a French citizen.
During his stay in France, he and Dr. Roux studied the toxin of diphtheria bacteria, the first work to study the toxin of bacteria, laying the foundation for later researchers. In September 1890, he went to the Far East and worked as a practicing doctor on the Aridan ship, which sailed from Cochinchina to the Philippines from October 1890 to April 1891. After that, he switched to the ship for the Saigon - Hai Phong route.
On March 29, 1892, he went on his first expedition to understand the area between the East Sea and the Mekong River in central Vietnam. After the first successful expedition, Governor-General of Lanescan again assigned him the task of researching the plan to make a road from Saigon to the mountains, researching resources, livestock production, forest products, and minerals. In 1893, he had his third expedition along the Truong Son mountain from Bien Hoa, Da Lat to Dak Lak.
In May 1894, in Hong Kong, there was a great plague, A. Yersin went to Hong Kong to study the cause of the plague. After three weeks, he discovered the plague germ, which was named after him: Yersinia Pestis.
In 1895, he set up a laboratory in Nha Trang, currently known as the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang. This is the second laboratory in Vietnam, after the Saigon Pasteur Institute founded by Albert Calmette in 1890. Then, to serve the production of serum on horses, A. Yersin established a horse breeding farm in Dien Khanh District (10km from Nha Trang). In 1896, he established the Experimental Camp in Suoi Dau. This was the place where they produced serum and vaccine which were used in China and India to treat the plague, saving thousands of lives.
Not long after, the Pasteur Institute in Paris mass-produced serum, he stopped producing serum in Suoi Dau, and turned to cattle disease research. From 1899 onwards, his laboratory in Nha Trang was famous as a center for researching animal diseases and training veterinary staff throughout Indochina.
In 1902, he was assigned the task of researching the establishment of the Hanoi Medical School, led by him as the Rector, currently known as Hanoi Medical University. In 1904, he returned to Nha Trang and proposed the French Government to merge the Pasteur Institute in Saigon and in Nha Trang into the Indochina Pasteur Institute; A. Yersin was appointed as Director. After that, he established more branches of Pasteur Institute in Hanoi in 1926 and Pasteur Institute in Da Lat in 1936.
In 1914, he stepped up the activities of the experimental livestock farm in Suoi Dau and conducted a survey of Hon Ba, put a number of industrial plants into experimental cultivation and succeeded with the medicinal plant quinquina, a rubber tree variety - a strategically important plants in industry.
In 1920, he worked as Inspector General of Pasteur Institutes throughout Indochina and spent time experimentally growing tropical plants in Suoi Dau, Hon Ba, Nha Trang, Don Duong, Di Linh, etc. such as coffee trees, tobacco, cocoa, palm oil, coconut, areca, rubber ... In addition to the above work, A. Yersin also learned about Nha Trang sea level, was passionate about astronomical observations, research and practice on radio industry.
- Yersin lived very close to the people of Xom Con, Nha Trang, and was called with the affectionate name, Mr. Tu, Mr. Nam. He used a camcorder to make movies for the people of Xom Con to watch right in the corridor of his house, helping them with medicication. In particular, he paid great attention to children. Every day children often came to his house to play, read books and see pictures in his bookcase.
When he was 77 years old, seeing that his health had declined, he returned to France for the last time to visit France, the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and friends. From 1941 to 1942, his health deteriorated and he left a will to be buried in a simple way at Suoi Dau, near Nha Trang, where there were many attatchments to his career.
On the morning of March 1, 1943, A. Yersin breathed his last breath amidst the sincere love of the fishermen of Xom Con and the people of Nha Trang. When he died, the fishermen of Xom Con mourned him and many ethnic minorities also came to pay their respects and send him off to his final resting place.
After 57 years of scientific activities (1886 - 1943) Yersin devoted to mankind many valuable research works. Currently, many cities have named their streets after him, such as Hanoi, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh City, etc.
- A. Yersin relic complex
* A. Yersin library
The A. Yersin Library now becomes the Yersin Gallery of the Nha Trang Pasteur Institute (which is called the Yersin Museum). The room is displayed in the form of a souvenir house of the Institute, keeping many remembrances, scientific documents, machinery and equipment, research works, books of A. Yersin in France and in 50 years of living and working in Nha Trang. In addition, the gallery also simulates Yersin’s reading and resting room, including a bookcase, a typewriter, a bed, a rattan chair and a cupboard for living utensils.
* Linh Son Pagoda
Linh Son Pagoda was originally A. Yersin’s working and resting house in Suoi Dau. After his death, this place was under the management of Suoi Dau rubber company. In 1958, the Buddhist Sangha of Khanh Hoa province applied to use it and later it became a pagoda. In 2017, the pagoda inaugurated the main hall next to A. Yersin’s office.
* A. Yersin’s grave
This is the resting place of A. Yersin, showing the respect and gratitude of Khanh Hoa people for the eminent scientist and fulfilling his will before he died.
At first, the tomb was built in the form of a coffin, with a cross placed on it. But through time and war, the tomb was damaged. After 1975, the people of Khanh Hoa rebuilt the tomb as it is today. The grave is designed in a rectangular shape, which is a floating block that is not high compared to the ground. To the left of the tomb, there is a small shrine.
The A. Yersin relic complex was recognized as the national historical - cultural relic in 1990.
In 2013, the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam posthumously awarded A. Yersin as an honorary citizen of Vietnam.