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Professor Arlette Nougarède

7 May 1930

Arlette Nougarède is a French cytologist interested in the study of plants. In 1961 she set up a laboratory where her studies pioneered the way to modern approaches and understanding of plant development.

Nougarède was born in the south of France in 1930, moving to Paris at the age of 18 to attend university. She passed her undergraduate degree and went on to become a researcher and gain a doctorate at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, the highest ranking university in Paris.

The main area of interest for Nougarède has been the plant sciences and especially cytology – the study of cells. Her attention has focused on the development and growth factors of plants. In 1961 Nougarède became a Professor at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris where she created her own Laboratory of Experimental Cytology and Plant Morphogenesis to further her research.

Nougarède focused the majority of her work on plant morphogenesis – process through which an organism develops its shape.  As such, she often studied the meristem of plants. The meristem is the stem part of the plant and contains undifferentiated cells that can go on to form many different parts of the plant and keep it growing.

Nougarède developed new methods for studying plant cells, and was the first in France to use a method called 'histoautoradiography'. This used X-rays to create images of microscopic organelles like cells. She was also the first to study the light absorbance and reflective property of tiny samples of plant tissue smaller than a micrometre across.

These methods allowed Nougarède to precisely measure the activity and processes occurring within plant cells. The methods have also helped to develop the wider scientific community's understanding of the various stages of cells in the plant meristem which have in later years been confirmed through genetic studies of such cells.

After retiring in 1991 Nougarède became a recipient of many honours and distinctions, including the French Legion of Honour medal and Order of Academic Palms.

When we, her students, were younger, we felt sometimes rather intimidated by Arlette, but her professional rigor was always compensated for by her readiness to lend support and a helping hand to all.

Former student of Arlette Nougarède