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Monday, 14 December 2015

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

Jean-Baptiste de Monet Lamarck was born on Aug. 1, 1744, in in Bazentin, Picardy, northern France, as the eleventh child in an impoverished aristocratic family.

                                                 EARLY LIFE, MILITARY AND MEDICAL CAREER

His parents wanted him to become a priest and yielding to their wishes, Lamarck enrolled in a Jesuit college in Amiens in the late 1750s.

After the death of his father in 1760, Lamarck bought himself a horse, and rode across the country to join the French army, which was in Germany at the time. Lamarck served in the army from 1761 to 1768.

He fought in the Pomeranian War (1757–62) with Prussia, and was awarded a commission for bravery on the battlefield.

While posted in Monaco, Lamarck became interested in botany and the classification of plants after coming across Traité des plantes usuelles, a book by James Francis Chomel.

Lamarck retired from the army in 1768 after getting injured. With a pension of only 400 francs a year, Lamarck needed to pursue a profession. He decided to study medicine, and supported himself by working in a bank office.


After  four years, Lamarck gave up his medical studies as a result of his elder brother's persuasion. Instead he became a botany student under Bernard de Jussieu, a notable French naturalist. Under Jussieu, Lamarck spent ten years studying French flora.

After finishing his studies, in 1778, Lamarck published a three-volume work on the plants of France, entitled Flore françoise.

After the publication of his book, Lamarck worked mainly in zoology, especially on the invertebrates (a term he introduced).

When the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (Museum of Natural History) was founded in Paris in 1793, Lamarck was placed in charge of the invertebrate animals at the museum. From his work there, he was able to revise the classification of lower animals that had been unfinished by the Swedish biologist Carolus Linnaeus.

Lamarck's continued study of invertebrates led to the publication of his major work, Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertebres (The Natural History of Invertebrate Animals, published in 1815-22).

In an 1802 publication, Lamarck became one of the first to use the term biology in its modern sense.

In hi 1809 publication Philosophie Zoologique, Lamarck expounded a comprehensive evolutionary synthesis, an early, perhaps the first, theory of evolution. It was based on the notion that characteristics an organism develops during its lifetime in response to its environment are inherited by, or passed on to, its offspring.. Larmack's most quoted example is the giraffe's long neck which he suggested was a result, over generations, of the animal reaching up for food.

His theory attracted ridicule and was largely abandoned after Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, published 30 years after Lamarck's death, disagreed with Lamarck's conclusions.

Lamarck's search for the unities that underlie the natural world led to his increasing isolation from other scientists. He died lonely, blind and in poverty in Paris on December 18, 1829.

At Lamarck's passing, his family was so poor they had to apply to the Academie for financial assistance. Lamarck's books and the contents of his home were sold at auction, and he was buried in a temporary lime-pit.

Lamarck, late in life

Although Lamarck's theories on evolution were discarded, he succeeded in establishing procedures of inquiry for the study of invertebrates that were useful long after his death.

Sources Comptons Encyclopedia, Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.

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