Bert began studying at the École polytechnique to become an engineer with the target. However, he soon switched to the study of law, and finally under the influence of Louis Pierre Gratiolet to physiology. He was a student of Claude Bernard. In 1863 he became a Doctor of Medicine with the title of his dissertation De la greffe animale. In 1866 he earned a doctorate in science, the subject of this thesis was Recherches pour servir à l' histoire experimentales de la vitalité propre of tissus animaux. He was appointed to Bordeaux and 1869 in Paris in 1866 as professor of physiology. From 1882 he was a member of the Académie des sciences.
After the collapse of the Second Empire 1870 Bert operated and politically partisan Léon Gambetta. In his cabinet he was 1881/82 Minister of Education. Bert applies in addition to Jules Ferry as the founder of free compulsory state school. As a staunch opponent of clericalism, he fought against the teaching of religion in schools. Science and religion were incompatible for him. Early 1886 he was in Annam and Tonkin government officials, where he died the same year.
By Bert originate significant findings on the effects of air pressure on the human body. In particular, he determined first the important role of nitrogen in the decompression sickness and demonstrated that one can reduce the occurrence of problems during decompression, when the pressure is gradually lowered. In his decompression chamber but he also studied the effect of decreased air pressure on the animal and human organism. He noted that less of the low air pressure rather than a low oxygen partial pressure ( below 35 mm Hg) inevitably leads to death. He concluded that one can counteract altitude sickness by increasing the oxygen concentration of the air we breathe. This was an important finding for the nascent Aerology. With the help of entrained oxygen scientific ballooning could be carried to greater heights. Joseph Croce - Spinelli and Théodore Rivel, who had consulted with Bert, reached in 1874, taking with oxygen from a height of 7,300 m. In a second trip in 1875 (together with Gaston Tissandier ) they even reached 8,600 m, but were killed because they had risen despite warnings Berts with an inadequate supply of oxygen.
Paul Bert also conducted research in the field of anesthesia, in particular, he examined the anesthesia by nitrous oxide. According to him, the Paul Bert effect is named.
- La Pression barométrique (1878 )
- L' Instruction à l' école civique (1882 )
- De la greffe animale. (1863 )
- Recherches pour servir à l' histoire experimentales de la vitalité propre of tissus animaux. Paris, Impr E. Martinet (1866 )