Francis Maitland Balfour

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Francis Maitland Balfour

Francis Maitland Balfour (born November 10, 1851 in Edinburgh , Scotland , † July 19, 1882 on Mont Blanc near Martigny , Switzerland (mountain accident)) was a Scottish zoologist .


Balfour was a son of James Maitland Balfour, landlord of Whittingehame in East Lothian, and his wife Lady Blanche Cecil, who was a daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury . He was the younger brother of the British politician Arthur Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour (1848-1930). He attended Harrow School where he was an average student. However, one of his teachers, George Griffith, helped him with the science subjects. He was particularly interested in geology.

He studied from 1870 at Trinity College in Cambridge, where he then became a lecturer in 1876, later in 1882 professor of embryology. He had a fatal accident during a mountain tour in the Alps on July 18 or 19, 1882. He had tried to climb Mont Blanc .

Scientific achievement

Balfour is considered to be one of the founders of modern embryology . In 1880 he made the proposal to unite all animal groups that develop a notochord during their individual development in the tribe Chordata .

In 1876, Francis Maitland Balfour (1851–1882), in his monograph on the development of sharks, described head segmentation (see also cephalization ) using a well-known scheme . He assigned a cranial nerve , a gill arch and a head somite to each segment . A total of eight main segments were defined.

In 1878 he was accepted as a fellow in the Royal Society , which awarded him the Royal Medal in 1881 .


  • FM Balfour: On the Development of Elasmobranch Fishes . Macmillan, London 1878.
  • FM Balfour: A treatise on comparative embryology . Macmillan and Co., London 1880-81.
  • M. Foster, FM Balfour, W. Heape, A. Sedgwick: The elements of embryology. Macmillan and Co., London 1883.


  • Entry to Balfour; Francis Maitland (1851-1882) in the Archives of the Royal Society , London
  • Brian K. Hall: Francis Maitland Balfour (1851-1882). A founder of evolutionary embryology. In: Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B. Molecular and Developmental Evolution. Volume 299B, Issue 1, pp. 3-8, October 15, 2003.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ FM Balfour: The development of the elasmobranchial fishes . In: Journal of Anatomy and Physiology . (1878) 11, 405-706.