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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Georges Cuvier

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was born in Montbeliard, France on August 23, 1769 to Jean George Cuvier, a lieutenant in the Swiss Guards and Anne Clémence Chatel.

He was fascinated by natural history after he encountered at the age of 10 a copy of Gesner's Historiae Animalium.

While a student at the Carolinian Academy at Stuttgart, he read nearly all the scientific books in the library and learned how to dissect animals.

Cuvier was tutor with a family living in Normandy between 1788 and 1794. There he met the Abbe Tessier, a keen student of natural history, who urged the young man to go to Paris and seek greater opportunities.

From 1795 Cuvier taught in Paris, at the Museum of National History, then the largest scientific establishment in the world.

Georges Cuvier delivered his first paleontological lecture at École Centrale du Pantheon in Paris on April 4, 1796. His talk about living and fossil remains of elephants and related species, founded the science of Paleontology.

Cuvier was made assistant professor of comparative anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes in 1795 and full professor in 1802.

In 1811, working with Alexandre Brongniart on the Tertiary rocks of the Paris Basin, he became the first to classify fossil mammals and reptiles, thus founding vertebrate palaeontology.

Cuvier with a fish fossil. By Wikipedia Commons

In 1816 he issued his greatest book-- Règne animal distribué d'après son organisation (translated into English as The Animal Kingdom).

In 1819, he was created a peer for life in honor of his scientific contributions. Hereafter, he was known as Baron Cuvier.

Cuvier derided general theories. In long conflicts with Lamarck and E Geoffroy St-Hilaire (both precursors of Darwin) he attacked theories of evolution: he believed in catastrophes, with the Biblical flood as the most recent. After each catastrophe, life was created anew

He died in Paris on May 13, 1832, during an epidemic of cholera.

Source Encyclopedia of Britannica

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