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Francis Maitland Balfour


1851 - 1882

Embryologist. Born in Edinburgh, the son of James Balfour, who died in his mid-thirties, and brother of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (1848 - 1930). Balfour was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. He began his research career at the Naples Zoological Station (1873), but returned to Cambridge as a lecturer (1876), where he stayed despite being offered various prestigious posts, including succeeding Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-82) at Edinburgh.

Balfour showed the evolutionary connection between vertebrates and certain invertebrates through comparative embryology and in 1880 published the fundamental work in the field, his Treatise on Comparative Embryology.

He was created a Fellow of the Royal Society (1878). A Chair in Animal Morphology was especially created for him at Cambridge in 1882, but he travelled to Switzerland to recover from typhoid fever, unfortunately while there he died in a fall while attempting to climb the unconquered Aiguille Blanche on Mont Blanc.

Balfour is remembered in the name of the Zoology library at Cambridge.


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