Joachim Barrande (1799-1883), Austrian geologist and palaeontologist, was born at Saugues, Haute Loire, on the 11th of August 1799, and educated in the école Polytechnique at Paris. Although he had received the training of an engineer, his first appointment was that of tutor to the duc de Bordeaux (afterwards known as the comte de Chambord), grandson of Charles X., and when the king abdicated in 1830, Barrande accompanied the royal exiles to England and Scotland, and afterwards to Prague. Settling in that city in 1831, he became occupied in engineering works, and his attention was then attracted to the fossils from the Lower Palaeozoic rocks of Bohemia. The publication in 1839 of Murchison's Silurian System incited Barrande to carry on systematic researches on the equivalent strata in Bohemia. For ten years (1840-1850) he made a detailed study of these rocks, engaging workmen specially to collect fossils, and in this way he obtained upwards of 3500 species of graptolites, brachiopoda, mollusca, crustacea (particularly trilobites) and fishes. The first volume of his great work, Système silurien du centre de la Bohême (dealing with trilobites), appeared in 1852; and from that date until 1881, he issued twenty-one quarto volumes of text and plates.
Two other volumes were issued after his death in 1887 and 1894. It is estimated that he spent nearly £10,000 on these works. In addition he published a large number of separate papers. In recognition of his important researches the Geological Society of London in 1855 awarded to him the Wollaston medal.
The term Silurian was employed by Barrande, after Murchison, in a more comprehensive sense than was justified by subsequent knowledge. Thus the Silurian rocks of Bohemia were divided into certain stages (A to H) - the two lowermost, A and B without fossils (Azoic), succeeded by the third stage, C, which included the primordial zone, since recognized as part of the Cambrian of Sedgwick. The fourth stage (étage D), the true lower Silurian, was described by Barrande as including isolated patches of strata with organic remains like those of the Upper Silurian. These assemblages of fossils were designated "Colonies," and regarded as evidence of the early introduction into the area of species from neighbouring districts, that became locally extinct, and reappeared in later stages. The interpretation of Barrande was questioned in 1854 by Edward Forbes, who pointed to the disturbances, overturns and crumplings in the older rocks as affording a more reasonable explanation of the occurrence of strata with newer fossils amid those containing older ones.
Other geologists subsequently questioned the doctrine of "Colonies." In 1880 Dr J. E. Marr, from a personal study in the field, brought forward evidence to show that the repetitions of the fossiliferous strata on which the "Colonies" were based were due to faults. The later stages of Barrande, F, G and H, have since been shown by Emanuel Friedrich Heinrich Kayser (b. 1845) to be Devonian.
Despite these modifications in the original groupings of the strata, it is recognized that Barrande "made Bohemia classic ground for the study of the oldest fossiliferous formations." He died at Frohsdorf on the 5th of October 1883.
See "Sketch of the Life of Joachim Barrande," Geol. Mag. (1883), p. 529 (with portrait).