Louis Néel was from Norman stock by his father and from Lyon by his mother. He could trace his ancestors to the middle of the eighteenth century. They were leading citizens of small boroughs, his great grandfather a secondary school teacher. His grandfather, a chemist, showed him how to make pills by pressing powders in moulds; he had many coloured jars in his shop windows, one with a colony of leeches! Two of the chemist's sons worked in the colonies, one as administrator and the other as an army physician. Louis's father, a civil servant in the Ministry of Finances, also applied after a while for a post abroad, south of Tunisia, where he met his future wife, a niece of the local French representative. They married in 1903.