About Giaja's scientific work

Giaja's credoGiaja published his first paper on amylolytic inactivation of the dialyzed pancreatic juice in 1906, at the age of 22, with H. Bierry and V. Henri. This paper was followed by a series of studies published in the journal of the Paris Biological Society (Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances et mémoires de la Société de biologie), and in the same year, his first paper was accepted by the journal of the Paris Academy of Sciences (Comptes rendus de l’Academie des sciences). Giaja continued to publish until the end of his life, keeping true to DaVinci’s proverb: “Nulla dies sine experimento”.

Giaja’s scientific carrier could be distinguished by three periods devoted to three main topics: enzymes, metabolism and hypothermia.

Giaja’s first papers were in the field of physiological chemistry with an emphasis on enzymology and comparative physiology. He focused on mammals and birds, as well as lower animals, particularly marine organisms.

The second period of his work actually started with his return to Belgrade after WWI and lasted over 20 years. In this period, his research interest became more focused on bioenergetics and the relationship between metabolism, temperature and asphyxia, and definitely led him to intense studies on hypothermia and its practical use. The work from this period was compiled in Giaja’s seminal two-volume monograph “Homeothermia and thermoregulation” (Giaja, 1938 — L’ HOMEOTHERMIE & LA THERMOREGULATION), in which he published his classical curve of thermoregulation. In 1935, Giaja began a detailed study of the metabolic influence of the partial pressure of oxygen. The study of bioenergetics in living beings was mainly based on the measurement of their gas exchange with an apparatus that Giaja designed himself while in confinement in Vienna during WWI.

The third, final and most important period of Giaja’s research was devoted to the problem of hypothermia. In 1955, in the paper on the spectrum of thermogenesis in a cooled organism (Giaja and Markovic-Giaja, 1955). As previously mentioned, Giaja’s firs foray into hypothermia research occurred in 1921. This inspiration continued until 1930, when he again explored the subject with Stefan Gelineo. In 1940, Giaja began to focus on hypothermia as a particular physiological state as his main research topic. The outbreak of WWII caused a substantial break in Giaja’s career, but his research resumed in 1946 and 1947. In spite of several wars (Balkan wars, WWI and WWII), Jean Giaja established an extraordinary carrier working in Yugoslavia for a total of 47 years.

Andjus PR, Stojilkovic SS, Cvijic G. Ivan Djaja (Jean Giaja) and the Belgrade School of Physiology. Physiol Res. 2011;60 Suppl 1:S1-13. Epub 2011 Jul 19. [link]