Giard, Alfred

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Giard, Alfred

(b. Valenciennes, France, 8 August 1846; d. Paris, France, 8 August 1908)

botany, zoology, embryogeny, general biology.

Giard was an extraordinarily gifted child who, by the age of fifteen, had already acquired, under the influence of his father, an extensive knowledge of insects and plants. Following secondary studies at the lycée in Valenciennes, he entered the École at Normale Supérieure (1867), where he was named préparateur in 1871. He defended his doctoral thesis on the compound ascidians in 1872, then was successively professor at the Faculté des Sciences of Lille (1875), lecturer at the École Normale Supérieure (1887), and professor at the Faculté des Sciences of Paris, holding the chair of evolution of living organisms from 1888 until his death following a short illness. From 1882 to 1885 he sat in the Chamber of Deputies as the member from Valenciennes; but, failing to win reelection in 1885, he gave up politics. He was elected to the Académie des Sciences in 1900.

Giard was a morphologist, a phylogenist, an ethologist—a complete naturalist who was endowed with a remarkable memory and possessed prodigious factual knowledge. Moreover, he had the ability to rank facts and coordinate them to bring out the ideas of general biology.

In 1874, with his own funds, he founded the biological station at Wimereux in order to introduce his students to marine and terrestrial flora and fauna. He was a great laboratory director, and he rapidly formed a brilliant school of zoology in Lille.

Giard was the opposite of a specialist. He was a remarkable observer and the variety of his observations stimulated him to study diverse animals. He discovered the Orthonectida (parasites of the Ophiurida) in 1877, and a member of the Turbellaria (Fecampia), a parasite of the higher crustaceans; with J. Bonnier he carried out research on the crustaceans, notably on the Epicaridea (parasitic isopods) and on the Bopyridae.

Giard investigated several problems of general biology: regeneration (hypotypic regeneration), metamorphosis, sexuality, experimental parthenogenesis, merogenesis, hybridization, autotomy, convergence, mimetism, and anhydrobiosis. He defined poecilogony (in the same species animals will develop differently, according to their environment) and parasitic castration (all the morphological or physiological phenomena involved in the organization of a living being are a result of the presence of a parasite acting indirectly or directly on the genital function of the host).

Never an advocate of technique—be it injections or histological sections or preparations—Giard considered the examination of living creatures in their environment to be superior to that of materials that were preserved or cut in pieces. One ought always to begin with examination.

Giard was rapidly able to free himself from the tenor of instruction he had received, especially from J. H. Lacaze-Duthiers, who for a long time opposed his nomination to Paris. He became a convinced follower of transformism, a doctrine opposed by his contemporaries, and his courses were filled with new ideas already widespread abroad. The transformist hypotheses overturned the general classification of animals. Giard was among the first to bring together the mollusks and the Annelida, Brachiopoda, Bryozoa, abd Gephyrea; in 1876 he united them under the name Gymnotoca—the name was forgotten, but the grouping was recognized by Emil Hatschek, who termed its members the Trochozoa.

In accepting transformism as fact and interpreting nature accordingly, Giard was under the influence of Ernst Haeckel. He thought that Lamarckism and Darwinism complemented each other. The primordial cause of variation resided in the actions of external agents, which constituted the primary factors of evolution (a Lamarckian idea); natural selection intervened only as a secondary factor of great power (a Darwinian idea). Yet Giard preferred Lamarckism to Darwinism and strove to glorify Lamarck. Heredity, sexual selection, and physiological selection were also secondary factors. He did not accept particulate theories of heredity, and he rejected all theories based on unverifiable internal tendencies, such as the orthogenesis conceived by Teodor Einmer.

Giard created new biological terms, some of which became classic. He was also greatly interested in scientific societies and attempted to guide their activity. In 1878 he became editor of the Bulletin scientifique du Nord,’ ten years later this local journal became the Bulletin scientifique de la France et de la Belgique.


I. Original Works. Giard’s writings include “Étude critique des travaux d’embryogénie relatifs à la parenté des Vertébrés et des Tuniciers,” in Archives de zoologie expérimentale, 1 (1872), 233–288; “Deuxiéme étude critique des travaux d’embryogénie relatifs à la parenté des Vertébrés et des Tuniciers’ recherches nouvelles du professeur Kuppfer,” ibid, 307–428; “Recherches sur les Ascidies composées ou Synascidies,” ibid., 501–704, his doctoral thesis; “Principes généraux de biologic,” the introduction to T. H. Huzley’s Éléments d’anatomie comparée des Invertébrés (1876); “Sur I’organisation et la classification des Orthonectidea,” in Bulletin scientifique du Nord, 11 (1879), 338–341; “Nouvelles remarques sur les Entonisciens,” in Comptes rendus hebdonzadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 102 (1886), 1173–1176, written with J. Bonnier; “Sur un Rhadocoele nouveau, parasite et nidulant (Fecampia erythrocephata),” ibid., 103 (1886), 499–501; “La castration parasitaire et son influence sur les caractères extérieurs du sexe mâle chez les Crustacés décapodes,” in Bulletin scientifique du Nord, 18 (1887), 1–28; “Contribution á l’étude des Bopyriens,” in Travaux de l’Institut de zoologie de Lille et du laboratorie de zoologie maritime de Wirnereux5 (1887), written with J. Bonnier; “leçon d’ouverture des cours d’évolutiondes étres organisés,” in Bulletin scientifique, 20 (1889), 1–26; “Sur la signification des globules polaires,” ibid., 95–103; and “Les factures de l’évolution leçon d’ouverture du cours d’évoultion des êtres organisés, 2ème année,” in Revue scientifique, 44 (1889), 641–648.

Later works are “Prodrome d’une monographie des Epicarides du golfe de Naples,” in Bulletin scientifique du Nord, 22 (1890), 367–391, written with J. Bonnier; “Le Principe de Lamarck et l’hérédité des modifications somatiques, loçon d’ouverture du cours d’évolution des êtres organiseés, in Revue scientifique, 46 (1890), 705–713; “L’anhydrobiose ou ralentissement des phénomènes vitaux sous l’influence de la déshydratation progressive,” in Comptes rendus de la Société de biologie, 66 (1894), 497–500; “La direction des recherches biologiques en France et la conversion de M. Yves Delage,” in Bulletin scietifique du Nord, 27 (1896), 432–458; Titres et travaux scientifiques (Paris, 1896); “Coup d’oeil sur la faune et note sur la flore du Boulonnais,” in Boulogne et le Boulonnais (Paris, 1899); “Parthénogenèse de la macrogramète et de la microgamète des organismes pluricellulaires,” in Volume cinquantenaire de la Société biologique (Paris, 1899), pp. 654–667; “Les faux hybrides de Millardet et leur interprétation,” in Comptees rendus de la Société de biologie, 55 (1903), 779–782; “Les tedances actuelles de la morphologie et ses rapporrts avea les autrers sciences,” in Bulletin scientifque du Nord, 39 (1905), 455–486; “La poecilogonie,” ibid., 41 (1907), 427–458; and “L’éducation du morphologiste,” in La méthode dans les sciences: Morphologie (Paris, 1908), pp. 149–175.

II. Secondary Literature. There is a notice on Giard’s life and works, with complete bibliography, by F. Le Dantec and M. Caullery in Bulleitn scientijique de la France et de la Belgique, 42 (1909), i-lxxiii. Obituaries include those by H. Piéron, in Scientia, 5 (1909), 1–4; P. Pelseneer, in Annales de la Société royale zoologique et malacologique de Belgique, 43 (1908), 220–227; E. Rabaud, in Bibliographie anatomique, 18 (1909), 285–290; H. Fischer, in Journal de conchyliologie56 (1909), 294–301; and M. Caullery, in Revute du mois, 6 (1908), 385–399.

AndrÉe TÉtry