Biography of Edouard-Gérard Balbiani
Édouard-Gérard Balbiani Balbiani was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but went to school in Frankfurt am Main and studied natural sciences at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, under the zoologist and comparative anatomist Henri-Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777-1850). He became licencié ès sciences naturelles in 1845 and docteur de médecine on 30 August 1854. He then devoted himself entirely to microscopic studies.
His work concerned protozoa, which at the time were subject to various interpretations, and the sexual reproduction in the ciliata. His most important research, however, was on the formation of the sexual organs of the Chironomus. He demonstrated that the sexual cells derive directly from the egg and are differentiated before the blastoderm appears - and that consequently they precede the individual itself. This essential fact was later observed in other species and eventually was responsible for the general theory of the autonomy of the germ cell.
In 1867, Claude Bernard (1813-1878) asked him to direct the histological research at the laboratory of general physiology at the Muséum. On 13 February 1874 he became professor of embryogeny at the Collège de France, a post he held for the rest of his life.
In 1894 his daughter Laure married the psychologist Alfred Binet (1857-1911) who then worked in Balbiani's laboratory.
With Louis Antoine Ranvier (1835-1922), Balbiani founded Archives d'anatomie microscopique.