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Chabry, Laurent

Chabry, Laurent

(b. Roanne, France, 19 February 1855; d. Paris, France, 23 December 1893),

physiology, embryology.

The son of a master tinsmith, Chabry showed remarkable aptitude at a very early age and quickly finished his secondary studies. In order to continue his education he went, despite meager resources, to St. Petersburg in 1876.

Upon returning home Chabry became an ardent participant in the socialist movement and collaborated on the weekly publication L’égalité; he was also involved in the events stemming from the International Socialist Congress of 1878.

His passion for politics did not prevent Chabry from pursuing his medical studies. Drawn toward mechanical physiology as a result of attending classes given at the Collège de France by the great physiologist Marey, he presented and defended a doctoral thesis in medicine (1881) on the movement of the ribs and sternum. Chabry worked at the Sorbonne under the guidance of Lacaze-Duthiers and then with G. Pouchet, professor of zoology at the Muséum d’His-toire Naturelle. Later he was at the maritime laboratory of Concarneau. In 1887 he defended his thesis, on the embryology of Ascidiacea, for the doctorate in science at the Sorbonne. He was appointed lecturer in zoology and embryology at Lyons in 1888. Two years later he left science to practice medicine. He was soon disappointed and, returning to science, studied bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute.

Chabry’s work on ascidians, more or less summarized in his doctoral thesis, assured him an eminent place in the history of embryology. Examining the spontaneous monstrosities of ascidians, he showed that each of the primary cells of the embryo has a predetermined fate independent of any subsequent circumstances of development. Furthermore, he succeeded in experimentally producing half-embryos by destroying, through piqûre, one of the two primary cells. In order to perform this very delicate operation, he constructed a simple and precise micromanipulator.

E. G. Conklin noted in 1905 the importance and originality of this work with piqûre: Chabry had shown himself to be both a master and a creator.

With G. Pouchet, Chabry published some interesting experimental research on the embryology of sea urchins. Between 1881 and 1886 he collaborated with Pouchet and Charles Robin in microscopic anatomical research on the teeth and the embryology of cetaceans. He also published a series of articles on animal mechanics, jumping, balance, the swimming of fish, and insect wings, and contributed articles on these subjects to Robin’s Dictionnaire de médecine.

In bacteriology Chabry’s later research, which remained incomplete, led him—as he himself stated—“to discoveries that created hope.”

Despite his short career, Chabry left work that clearly makes him one of the founders of experimental embryology; he was the first to perform experimental operations on such a small fertilized egg (the ascidian egg measures .10–.20 mm.).


I. Original Works. Chabry’s writings include Contribution à l’étuide du mouvement des côtes et du sternum (Paris, 1881), his M.D. thesis; “Contribution à l’embryologienormale et tératologique des Ascidies simples,” in Journal de l’anatomie et de la physiologie n ormales et pathologiques de l’homme et des animaux, 23 (1887), 167–316; “L’eau de mer artificielle comme agent tératologique,” ibid., 25 (1889), 298–307, written with Pouchet; and “De la production des larves monstrueuses d’oursin par privation de chaux,” in Camptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, Paris, 108 (1889), 196–198, written with Pouchet.

II. Secondary Literature. A biographical sketch with a list of publications was published by Pouchet in Journal de l’anatomie et de la physiologie normales et pathologiques de l’homme et des animaux. 29 (1893), 735– 739. E. G. Conklin gave a flattering commentary on Chabry’s work in “Mosaic Development in Ascidian Eggs,” in Journal of Experimental Zoology, 2 (1905), 145–223 (see 197–198). A biographical article by Maurice Caullery is in Revue scientifique, 78 (1940), 230–232.

AndrÉe TÉtry

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