Enrique Balech was born in Telén in the province of La Pampa, Argentina, on 17 August 1912. In 1937 he finished his studies at the Instituto Superior del Profesorado ‘‘J. V. Gonzalez’’ in Buenos Aires where he became a high school teacher of Natural Sciences.
At the beginning of his career he worked on freshwater protists at the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales ‘‘B. Rivadavia’’, first as an honorary associate and later as a chief of the Protistology Laboratory. During this period he worked on testate amoebae, ciliates and euglenoids. In the 1940s, he left Buenos Aires and moved to Necochea where he worked in marine sciences at the Estación Hidrobiológica de Puerto Quequén until 1947 when he was fired due to political reasons, three years after he was given an award by the Argentinean National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences. Then, Balech worked as a high school teacher and continued his scientific research while working at home.
He was recognized for his achievements at the Third International Conference on Toxic dinoflagellates held in St. Andrews in 1985 for his outstanding work on the taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. Etymology of the genus Balechina, Alexandrium balechii, Ceratium balechii, Dinophysis balechii.
Although he has worked with many plankton groups, his most important contributions were on thecate dinoflagellate taxonomy. In 1951, he spent two boreal summer months at the Station Biologique de Roscoff, France, thanks to a fellowship from the French Government. As a result, he published a pioneering paper on sand dwelling dinoflagellates. Later, he traveled to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, CA, USA, where he spent several months in 1957 and 1958 working on plankton of the Pacific Ocean funded by a grant of the Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. During that stage he described two new genera of dinoflagellates, Fragilidium and Scrippsiella. He returned to the United States in 1964 to work for a year at Texas A&M University. During this time he increased the number of known dinoflagellate species of the Gulf of Mexico from 76 to 262 and reported on their distribution. He developed great knowledge and understanding of dinoflagellate morphology by examining samples from very diverse origins, from cold waters like Antarctica, temperate waters like the SW Atlantic, California current or France to tropical waters like the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
He characterized the cingular and sulcal plates of many genera that were not known and considered that they were necessary for a modern diagnosis. Balech’s plate interpretations and modification of Kofoid’s plate tabulation system is widely accepted. Based on sulcal and cingular characters he moved all the marine species of the genus Peridinium to the new Protoperidinium. Balech revised many genera from different families (Podolampas, Goniodoma, Pyrodinium, Pyrophacus, Palaeophalacroma and Dinophysis). He was the first to recognize the heterogeneity of the genus Gonyaulax. Regarding harmful algae, in 1973 he warned about the possibility of an outbreak of PSP in Argentina and he identified the cause of some human fatality cases as well as the causative species and provided assessment. Using his own samples as well as others provided by colleagues from all over the world, he carried out an impressive study of the genus Alexandrium describing many of its species and redescribing the type species of the genus, A. minutum.. His important monograph on Alexandrium provided essential information on how to identify and differentiate species, some of which are toxic. Balech made important contributions to the taxonomy of many other harmful dinoflagellates in the genera Pyrodinium, Dinophysis, Prorocentrum and Ostreopsis.
As he did much of his work at home, when he retired as a teacher in 1982, he became a full time researcher, as he used to say. All those who have had the privilege of meeting him, appreciate his interesting and stimulating letters written on very thin paper or typed with a typewriter given to him by Matt Murphy of Sherkin Island, Ireland. Often his letters were accompanied by detailed drawings of some species. Enrique could talk with you about anything and the conversations went from science to cultural history, wars, and even languages. As a person he was warm, humorous, and giving. As a scientist he was detailed, observant and a pioneer.
Ruth Akselman, Santiago Fraga, Karen Steidinger.
10 Key publications
Balech, E. 1995. The genus Alexandrium Halim (Dinoflagellata). Publ. Sherkin Is. Mar. Station, Sherkin Island, Co. Cork, Ireland, 151 pp.
Balech, E. 1994. Three new species of the genus Alexandrium (Dinoflagellata). Trans. Am. Microsc. Soc. 113, 216–220.
Balech, E. 1990. Four new dinoflagellates. Helgolander Meeresunters. 44, 387–396.
Balech, E. 1989. Redescription of Alexandrium minutum Halim (Dinophyceae) type species of the genus Alexandrium. Phycologia 28, 206–211.
Balech, E., 1985. The genus Alexandrium or Gonyayulax of the tamarensis group. In: Anderson, D.M., White, A.W., Baden, D.G. (Eds.), Toxic Dinoflagellates. Elsevier Sci. Publ. Co., New York, pp. 33–38.
Balech, E., Tangen, K., 1985. Morphology and taxonomy of toxic species in the tamarensis group (Dinophyceae): Alexandrium excavatum (Braarud) comb. nov. and Alexandrium ostenfeldii(Paulsen) comb. nov. Sarsia 70, 333–343.
Balech, E., 1985. A revision of Pyrodinium bahamense Plate (Dinoflagellata). Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 45, 17–34.
Balech, E. 1980. On thecal morphology of dinoflagellates with special emphasis on cingular and sulcal plates. Anal. Centro Cs. Mar y Limnol., Univ. Nac. Auton. Mexico 7 (1), 57–68.
Balech, E. 1976. Sur quelques Protoperidinium (Dinoflagellata) du Golfe de Lion. Vie et Milieu, Ser. B 26 (1), 27–46.
Balech, E. 1976. Some norwegian Dinophysis species (Dinoflagellata).Sarsia 61, 75–94.
(Based on: R. Akselman, S.Fraga & K. Steidinger. 2008. Harmful Algae 7, 713–716)