Jean Behier was trained as an electrical engineer, but developed a passion for mineralogy and acquired professional qualifications in that field following an internship at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. He became a specialist in pegmatite mineralogy, and visited Madagascar in 1946 with the first mission of the French Atomic Energy Commission, remaining there until 1952. After returning to France he continued to work for the Commission, exploring possible French occurrences of radioactive minerals.
In 1953 Behier returned to Madagascar as a mineralogist with the Service Géologique, and helped develop the mining industry in that country. He wrote Contribution à la minéralogie de Madagascar, deuxième partie,
Service Géologique de Madagascar (1958), Contribution à la minéralogie de Madagascar (1960), Etude des minéralisations des plages de Madagascar (1954), Minerais de provincia de Moçambique (1957), Carte mineralogique de Madagascar (1963), and other important works on the mineralogy of the region. The new Madagascar mineral species behierite was named in his honor in 1961.
Behier, in collaboration with analytical laboratories in Madagascar,
France and Washington, discovered approximately 70 mineral species new to Madagascar, as well as the new mineral species hibonite. Until his death in 1965, he also worked at the organization and improvement of the Musée National de Géologie (National Museum of Geology) and the Laboratory of Mineralogy of
the Service Géologique. He was responsible for the compilation of the list of mineral species forbidden for exportation, listed in the Mining Law. This list was officially compiled to "protect" the rare minerals of Madagascar, but in reality Behier probably intended to protect his own side-business in mineral dealing, so that he could remain the only person legally allowed to export minerals to museums and mineral collectors outside of Madagascar.
Jean Behier was killed on May 11, 1965, in a plane crash in Madagascar while on an exploration trip. Much of his collection was acquired in 2001 by the French mineral dealer Alain Martaud.
RAZAFINIPARANY, M. A. (1965) In memoriam, Jean Behier, 1903-1954. Rapport annuel du Service geologique por 'Annee 1965. Frontispiece.
PEZZOTTA, F., and SIMMONS, W. B. (2001) Field Course on the Rare Element Pegmatites of Madagascar; Technical Program and Field Trip Guidebook.
MARTAUD, A. (2001) Jean Béhier 1903-1963. Le règne Minéral 39;
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Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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