Life sciences and literature have long been seen as disciplines at opposite ends of the spectrum of human creativity. However, even excluding science fiction, the former has often inspired or influenced the latter, and vice versa. One of the more interesting and controversial examples of this was the scientific activity of Claude Bernard (1813–1878) and the writings of Emile Zola (1840–1902). Here we suggest that, although Zola presumably harnessed the physiologist's prestige to lend scientific and topical dignity to his work, the reading of Bernard's work (particularly his Leçons de physiologie expérimentale appliquée à la médecine), in a historical period exceptionally favorable to science, may well have contributed to Zola's ideas and strengthened his genuine interest in science.
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