Sabatier, Armand

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(b. Ganges, Hérault, France, 14 January 1834; d. Montpellier, Hérault, France, 22 December 1910)

comparative anatomy, philosophy.

Sabatier’s parents were dedicated Protestants. They closely supervised Armand’s early education in the schools of his native town. Later he was admitted to the study of medicine at the nearby University of Montpellier, where the Faculty of Medicine was one of the oldest in Europe. His early interest in anatomy continued throughout his life.

In 1855 Sabatier was appointed assistant in anatomy at Montpellier. In 1858 he obtained an internship in Lyons. He subsequently returned to Montpellier to present his doctoral thesis. He worked in the department of anatomy and in 1869 was made associate professor. During the Franco-Prussian war, he served with distinction in command of a field ambulance. In 1873 he was associate professor and in 1876 professor of zoology in the Faculty of Sciences at Montpellier.

Sabatier’s book on the heart and circulation in vertebrates (1873) immediately established his reputation as an anatomist. He made a detailed investigation of the cardiac morphology and physiology of amphibians and reptiles and from this research established the general laws that govern the functional evolution of the heart from fishes to mammals. He showed that these laws apply not only to the zoological series but also to the developing embryo. But he insisted that such parallelism between phylogenesis and ontogenesis should not be viewed too strictly. He did not intend the eventual deviation from this parallelism as evidence against the evolutionary doctrine.

Sabatier also compared the thoracic and pelvic girdles in the vertebrate series. He based this comparison on muscle insertions, which appear to be similar along the vertebrate series and to exhibit a certain similarity among bony structures. This work resolved several lengthy debates, including that on the significance in man of the coracoid process. He demonstrated that this structure is analogous to the pubis of the pelvic girdle.

Throughout his life Sabatier was interested in comparative osteology. He was also an excellent zoologist and cytologist. In such a commonplace mollusk as the mussel, he elucidated many unknown features of the circulatory system. He also investigated egg and sperm formations in various invertebrate groups and in the lower vertebrates. Although some of his conclusions have been challenged, many of his observations remain valid, and in some cases might (with modern techniques) be the starting point of fertile investigations.

In 1879 Sabatier founded one of the earliest marine laboratories—the Station Zoologique de Séte, which he installed for some years in the modest surroundings of a fisherman’s cabin. Public support of marine stations was difficult to obtain in those days, but Sabatier’s persistent efforts to win funds succeeded seventeen years later, when the station was finally given a well-equipped laboratory. But even when its facilities were modest, the laboratory was an active institution, and Sabatier trained many young marine biologists there.

Sabatier’s mind inclined toward philosophy. He was a Christian of firm beliefs and a biologist of equally firm adherence to evolutionary doctrines. In two important books he brilliantly defended the compatibility of these two positions. In his Philosophie de l’effort... he maintained that man’s striving toward a saintly or simply moral life furthers the survival of the species.


I. Original Works. Sabatier’s works include études sur le coeur et la circulation centrale dans la série des vertébrés. Anatomie, physiologie comparée, philosophie naturelle (Paris-Montpellier, 1873); “Sur quelques points de l’anatomie de la Moule commune,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires de séances de l’Académie des sciences.79 (1874), 581–584; “Sur les cils musculoïdes de la Mould commune,” ibid., 81 (1875), 1060–1063; “études sur la Moule commune (Mytilus edulis),” in Mémoires de l’Académie de Montpellier, section des sciences, 8 (1879), 413–506; “Comparaison des ceintures et des members antérieurs et postérieurs dans la série des vertébrés,” ibid., 9 (1878), 277–336, 9 (1879), 337–709; “Appareil respiratoire des ampullaires,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 88 (1879), 1325–1328; “Formation du blastoderme chez les aranéides,” ibid., 92 (1881), 200–204; “La spermatogenése chez les Annélides et les vertébrés,” ibid., 94 (1882), 172–175; “De la spermatogenése chez les plagiostomes et les amphibiens,” ibid., 94 (1882), 1097–1100; “De l’ovogenése chez les ascidiens,” ibid., 96 (1883), 799–802; “Sur les cellules du follicule de l’oeuf et sur la nature de la sexualité.” ibid., 96 (1883), 1804–1807; “Sur le noyau vitellin des aranéides,” ibid., 97 (1883), 1570–1573.

Later writings are “Sur la spermatogenèse des crustacés décapodes,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 100 (1885), “Sur la morphologie de l’ovaire chez les insectes,” ibid., 102 (1886), 61–64; “Recherches sur l’oeuf des ascidiens,” in Mémoires de l’Académie de Montpellier, section des sciences.10 (1885), 429–480; “Recueil de mémoires sur la sexualité,” in Travaux du laboratoire de zoologie de la Facultédes sciences de Montpellier et de la station zoologique de Séte, 5 (1886), 1–271: “Sur les formes de spermatozoïdes de l’elédone musquée,” in Comptes rendus hebdomudaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 106 (1888), 954–957: “Sur la station zoologique de Séte,” ibid., 109 (1889), 388–391; “La Spermatogenése chez les locustides,” ibid., 111 (1890), 797–800;and “Sur quelques points de la spermatogenése chez les sélaciens,” ibid., 120 (1895), 47–50.

See also “De la spermatogenése chez les poissons sélaciens,” in Mémoires de l’Académie de Montpellier, section des sciences, 2 (1896), 53–237; “Morphologie des membres des poissons osseux,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 122 (1896), 121–124; “Morphologie du sternum et des clavicules,” ibid., 124 (1897), 805–808; ibid., 932–935; “Sur la signification morphologique des os en chevrons des vertébres caudales,” ibid., 932–935, written with Ducamp and Petit; “Etude des huîtres de Séte au point de vue des microbes pathogénes,” ibid., 125 (1897), 685–688, written with Ducamp and Petit; “Sur la genése des épithéliums,” ibid., 127 (1898), 704–707, written with M. E. de Rouville; “Morphologie des ceintures et des membres pairs et impairs des sélaciens,” ibid., 928–932: “Morphologie de la ceinture pelvienne des amphibiens,” ibid., 130 (1900), 633–637; “Sur les mains scapulaires et pelviennes des poissons,” ibid., 137 91903), 893–894; “Sur les mains scapulaires et pelviennes chez les poissons chondroptérygiens,” ibid., 1216–1220; and “Sur les mains scapulaires et pelviennes des poissons holocéphales et dipneustes,” ibid., 138 (1904), 249–253.

Sabatier’ philosophical works are Essai sur l’immortalité au point du vue de naturalisme évolutionniste, (Paris, 1895); and Philosophie de l’effort. Essais philosophiques d’un naturaliste (Paris, 1903).

A. M. Monnier