Achille Urbain (1884-1957): ethology as a pretext. A Pasteur’s follower in the French Natural History Museum

by Thierry Borrel, Professeur Agrégé de Biochimie Génie-biologique

Achille Urbain (1884-1957) graduated from Lyon Veterinary School in 1906, but, as early as 1903, had joined the army which he was to leave in1931. While appointed to the military Laboratory for veterinary research (1920-1931), he carried out his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Pasteur Institute under the supervision of Alexandre Besredka. He became a
microbiologist acknowledged by his peers. Urbain entered the natural History national Museum in 1931, became the first Director of the Vincennes Zoo in 1933, and in 1934 the first holder of the chair of « Ethology of Wild Animals ». He was to take up the position as Director of the Museum from 1942 to 1949. We are going to demonstrate that the scientist was
essentially a Pastorian microbiologist, then we shall try to understand why he chose to hold a Chair of Ethology at the Museum, whereas it was very far from his scientific expectations.