Even though Duchenne became a great neurologist by the end of his life, his beginnings were pretty humble and nondescript.
Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne was born in 1806 in the northern French town of Boulogne. While his family had been sailors for generations, Duchenne wanted to buck tradition and study medicine in Paris.
His father was incensed that he wanted to become a doctor. At that time, the late 1820's, modern medicine was in its infancy. Having a son go off to university to become a doctor seemed ridiculous to Duchenne's father, especially when he had a ready-made career there in Boulogne. Instead, he demanded that Duchenne become a sailor, just like the other men in the family.
In the end, though, Duchenne's love of science was greater than his family ties. He traveled to Paris and enrolled in the medical university and graduated a few years later in 1831.
Through his medical training, and later his own practice, Duchenne became interested in one the relatively new branches of science called "electropuncture".
Even the word sounds painful.
In treating patients who had facial palsy, he observed that when electricity was applied to certain parts of the face, it would make a specific part of the tissue jump and move. He was fascinated how muscles and nerves seemed to be connected.
In particular, he became interested with the facial muscles and their relationship to emotions. At the time, there was a belief that one's outward appearance reflected what was truly in the heart of a person. Duchenne wanted to see if he could replicate "true emotion" in a subject.
Call it an emotional lie detector test if you will.