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Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric, Baron Cuvier (; 23 August 1769 – 13 May 1832), known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist, sometimes referred to as the "founding father of paleontology". Cuvier was a major figure in natural sciences research in the early 19th century and was instrumental in establishing the fields of comparative
anatomy Anatomy () is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Anatomy is a branch of natural science that deals with the structural organization of living things. It is an old science, having its ...
and
paleontology Paleontology (), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes the study of foss ...
through his work in comparing living animals with fossils. Cuvier's work is considered the foundation of
vertebrate paleontology Vertebrate paleontology is the subfield of paleontology that seeks to discover, through the study of fossilized remains, the behavior, reproduction and appearance of extinct animals with vertebrae or a notochord. It also tries to connect, by ...
, and he expanded Linnaean taxonomy by grouping classes into phyla and incorporating both fossils and living species into the classification. Cuvier is also known for establishing
extinction Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed an ...
as a fact—at the time, extinction was considered by many of Cuvier's contemporaries to be merely controversial speculation. In his ''Essay on the Theory of the Earth'' (1813) Cuvier proposed that now-extinct species had been wiped out by periodic catastrophic flooding events. In this way, Cuvier became the most influential proponent of
catastrophism In geology, catastrophism theorises that the Earth has largely been shaped by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope. This contrasts with uniformitarianism (sometimes called gradualism), according to which slow increm ...
in
geology Geology () is a branch of natural science concerned with Earth and other astronomical objects, the features or rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other Ear ...
in the early 19th century. His study of the
strata In geology and related fields, a stratum ( : strata) is a layer of rock or sediment characterized by certain lithologic properties or attributes that distinguish it from adjacent layers from which it is separated by visible surfaces known as ...
of the Paris basin with Alexandre Brongniart established the basic principles of
biostratigraphy Biostratigraphy is the branch of stratigraphy which focuses on correlating and assigning relative ages of rock strata by using the fossil assemblages contained within them.Hine, Robert. “Biostratigraphy.” ''Oxford Reference: Dictionary of Bi ...
. Among his other accomplishments, Cuvier established that elephant-like bones found in North America belonged to an extinct animal he later would name as a mastodon, and that a large skeleton dug up in present-day
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country in the southern half of South America. Argentina covers an area of , making it the second-largest country in South America after Brazil, th ...
was of '' Megatherium'', a giant, prehistoric ground sloth. He named the pterosaur ''
Pterodactylus ''Pterodactylus'' (from Greek () meaning 'winged finger') is an extinct genus of pterosaurs. It is thought to contain only a single species, ''Pterodactylus antiquus'', which was the first pterosaur to be named and identified as a flying rep ...
'', described (but did not discover or name) the aquatic reptile ''
Mosasaurus ''Mosasaurus'' (; "lizard of the Meuse (river), Meuse River") is the type genus (defining example) of the mosasaurs, an extinct group of aquatic Squamata, squamate reptiles. It lived from about 82 to 66 million years ago during the Campanian an ...
'', and was one of the first people to suggest the earth had been dominated by reptiles, rather than mammals, in prehistoric times. Cuvier is also remembered for strongly opposing theories of evolution, which at the time (before Darwin's theory) were mainly proposed by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Cuvier believed there was no evidence for
evolution Evolution is change in the heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions of genes, which are passed on from parent to ...
, but rather evidence for cyclical creations and destructions of life forms by global extinction events such as deluges. In 1830, Cuvier and Geoffroy engaged in a famous debate, which is said to exemplify the two major deviations in biological thinking at the time – whether animal structure was due to function or (evolutionary) morphology. Cuvier supported function and rejected Lamarck's thinking. Cuvier also conducted racial studies which provided part of the foundation for
scientific racism Scientific racism, sometimes termed biological racism, is the pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism (racial discrimination), racial inferiority, or racial superiority.. "Few tragedies can be more e ...
, and published work on the supposed differences between racial groups' physical properties and mental abilities. Cuvier subjected Sarah Baartman to examinations alongside other French naturalists during a period in which she was held captive in a state of neglect. Cuvier examined Baartman shortly before her death, and conducted an autopsy following her death that disparagingly compared her physical features to those of monkeys. Cuvier's most famous work is '' Le Règne Animal'' (1817; English: ''The Animal Kingdom''). In 1819, he was created a peer for life in honor of his scientific contributions. Thereafter, he was known as Baron Cuvier. He died in Paris during an epidemic of
cholera Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium '' Vibrio cholerae''. Symptoms may range from none, to mild, to severe. The classic symptom is large amounts of watery diarrhea that lasts a few days. Vomiting a ...
. Some of Cuvier's most influential followers were
Louis Agassiz Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz ( ; ) FRS (For) FRSE (May 28, 1807 – December 14, 1873) was a Swiss-born American biologist and geologist who is recognized as a scholar of Earth's natural history. Spending his early life in Switzerland, he re ...
on the continent and in the United States, and
Richard Owen Sir Richard Owen (20 July 1804 – 18 December 1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist. Owen is generally considered to have been an outstanding naturalist with a remarkable gift for interpreting fossils. ...
in Britain. His name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.


Biography

Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier was born in
Montbéliard Montbéliard (; traditional ) is a town in the Doubs department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in eastern France, about from the border with Switzerland. It is one of the two subprefectures of the department. History Montbéliard is ...
, where his Protestant ancestors had lived since the time of the Reformation. His mother was Anne Clémence Chatel; his father, Jean George Cuvier, was a lieutenant in the Swiss Guards and a bourgeois of the town of Montbéliard. At the time, the town, which would be annexed to France on 10 October 1793, belonged to the Duchy of Württemberg. His mother, who was much younger than his father, tutored him diligently throughout his early years, so he easily surpassed the other children at school. During his gymnasium years, he had little trouble acquiring Latin and Greek, and was always at the head of his class in mathematics, history, and geography. According to Lee, "The history of mankind was, from the earliest period of his life, a subject of the most indefatigable application; and long lists of sovereigns, princes, and the driest chronological facts, once arranged in his memory, were never forgotten." At the age of 10, soon after entering the gymnasium, he encountered a copy of
Conrad Gessner Conrad Gessner (; la, Conradus Gesnerus 26 March 1516 – 13 December 1565) was a Swiss physician, naturalist, bibliographer, and philologist. Born into a poor family in Zürich, Switzerland, his father and teachers quickly realised his tal ...
's ''Historiae Animalium'', the work that first sparked his interest in natural history. He then began frequent visits to the home of a relative, where he could borrow volumes of the Comte de Buffon's massive ''
Histoire Naturelle The ''Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi'' (; en, Natural History, General and Particular, with a Description of the King's Cabinet, italic=yes) is an encyclopaedic collection of 36 large (qu ...
.'' All of these he read and reread, retaining so much of the information, that by the age of 12, "he was as familiar with quadrupeds and birds as a first-rate naturalist." He remained at the gymnasium for four years. Cuvier spent an additional four years at the Caroline Academy in
Stuttgart Stuttgart (; Swabian: ; ) is the capital and largest city of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It is located on the Neckar river in a fertile valley known as the ''Stuttgarter Kessel'' (Stuttgart Cauldron) and lies an hour from the S ...
, where he excelled in all of his coursework. Although he knew no German on his arrival, after only nine months of study, he managed to win the school prize for that language. Cuvier's German education exposed him to the work of the geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750 - 1817), whose Neptunism and emphasis on the importance of rigorous, direct observation of three-dimensional, structural relationships of rock formations to geological understanding provided models for Cuvier's scientific theories and methods. Upon graduation, he had no money on which to live as he awaited appointment to an academic office. So in July 1788, he took a job at Fiquainville chateau in Normandy as tutor to the only son of the Comte d'Héricy, a Protestant noble. There, during the early 1790s, he began his comparisons of fossils with extant forms. Cuvier regularly attended meetings held at the nearby town of Valmont for the discussion of agricultural topics. There, he became acquainted with Henri Alexandre Tessier (1741–1837), who had assumed a false identity. Previously, he had been a physician and well-known agronomist, who had fled the Terror in Paris. After hearing Tessier speak on agricultural matters, Cuvier recognized him as the author of certain articles on agriculture in the '' Encyclopédie Méthodique'' and addressed him as M. Tessier. Tessier replied in dismay, "I am known, then, and consequently lost."—"Lost!" replied M. Cuvier, "no; you are henceforth the object of our most anxious care." They soon became intimate and Tessier introduced Cuvier to his colleagues in Paris—"I have just found a pearl in the dunghill of Normandy", he wrote his friend Antoine-Augustin Parmentier. As a result, Cuvier entered into correspondence with several leading naturalists of the day, and was invited to Paris. Arriving in the spring of 1795, at the age of 26, he soon became the assistant of Jean-Claude Mertrud (1728–1802), who had been appointed to the chair of
Animal Anatomy Anatomy () is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Anatomy is a branch of natural science that deals with the structural organization of living things. It is an old science, having its ...
at the Jardin des Plantes. When Mertrud died in 1802, Cuvier replaced him in office and the Chair changed its name to Chair of
Comparative Anatomy Comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of different species. It is closely related to evolutionary biology and phylogeny (the evolution of species). The science began in the classical era, continuing in ...
. The
Institut de France The (; ) is a French learned society, grouping five , including the Académie Française. It was established in 1795 at the direction of the National Convention. Located on the Quai de Conti in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, the institut ...
was founded in the same year, and he was elected a member of its
Academy of Sciences An academy of sciences is a type of learned society or academy (as special scientific institution) dedicated to sciences that may or may not be state funded. Some state funded academies are tuned into national or royal (in case of the Unite ...
. On 4 April 1796 he began to lecture at the École Centrale du Pantheon and, at the opening of the National Institute in April, he read his first paleontological paper, which subsequently was published in 1800 under the title ''Mémoires sur les espèces d'éléphants vivants et fossiles''. In this paper, he analyzed skeletal remains of Indian and African
elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species are currently recognised: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. They are the only surviving members of the family Elephantidae ...
s, as well as
mammoth A mammoth is any species of the extinct elephantid genus ''Mammuthus'', one of the many genera that make up the order of trunked mammals called proboscideans. The various species of mammoth were commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, ...
fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin , ) is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved ...
s, and a fossil skeleton known at that time as the 'Ohio animal'. Cuvier's analysis established, for the first time, the fact that African and Indian elephants were different species and that mammoths were not the same species as either African or Indian elephants, so must be
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and ...
. He further stated that the 'Ohio animal' represented a distinct and extinct species that was even more different from living elephants than mammoths were. Years later, in 1806, he would return to the 'Ohio animal' in another paper and give it the name, " mastodon". In his second paper in 1796, he described and analyzed a large skeleton found in
Paraguay Paraguay (; ), officially the Republic of Paraguay ( es, República del Paraguay, links=no; gn, Tavakuairetã Paraguái, links=si), is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to th ...
, which he would name '' Megatherium''. He concluded this skeleton represented yet another extinct animal and, by comparing its skull with living species of tree-dwelling sloths, that it was a kind of ground-dwelling giant sloth. Together, these two 1796 papers were a seminal or landmark event, becoming a turning point in the history of paleontology, and in the development of
comparative anatomy Comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of different species. It is closely related to evolutionary biology and phylogeny (the evolution of species). The science began in the classical era, continuing in ...
, as well. They also greatly enhanced Cuvier's personal reputation and they essentially ended what had been a long-running debate about the reality of
extinction Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed an ...
. In 1799, he succeeded Daubenton as professor of natural history in the ''
Collège de France The Collège de France (), formerly known as the ''Collège Royal'' or as the ''Collège impérial'' founded in 1530 by François I, is a higher education and research establishment ('' grand établissement'') in France. It is located in Paris ...
''. In 1802, he became titular professor at the '' Jardin des Plantes''; and in the same year, he was appointed commissary of the institute to accompany the inspectors general of public instruction. In this latter capacity, he visited the south of France, but in the early part of 1803, he was chosen permanent secretary of the department of physical sciences of the Academy, and he consequently abandoned the earlier appointment and returned to Paris. In 1806, he became a foreign member of the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, re ...
, and in 1812, a foreign member of the
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences ( sv, Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien) is one of the royal academies of Sweden. Founded on 2 June 1739, it is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization that takes special responsibility for prom ...
. In 1812 he became a correspondent for the Royal Institute of the Netherlands, and became member in 1827. Cuvier was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (abbreviation: AAA&S) is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. It was founded in 1780 during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin, Andrew Oliver, ...
in 1822. Cuvier then devoted himself more especially to three lines of inquiry: (i) the structure and classification of the ''
Mollusca Mollusca is the second-largest phylum of invertebrate animals after the Arthropoda, the members of which are known as molluscs or mollusks (). Around 85,000  extant species of molluscs are recognized. The number of fossil species is est ...
''; (ii) the comparative anatomy and systematic arrangement of the fishes; (iii) fossil mammals and reptiles and, secondarily, the osteology of living forms belonging to the same groups. In 1812, Cuvier made what the cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans called his "Rash dictum": he remarked that it was unlikely that any large animal remained undiscovered. Ten years after his death, the word "dinosaur" would be coined by
Richard Owen Sir Richard Owen (20 July 1804 – 18 December 1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and paleontologist. Owen is generally considered to have been an outstanding naturalist with a remarkable gift for interpreting fossils. ...
in 1842. During his lifetime, Cuvier served as an imperial councilor under
Napoleon Napoleon Bonaparte ; it, Napoleone Bonaparte, ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), later known by his regnal name Napoleon I, was a French military commander and political leader wh ...
, president of the Council of Public Instruction and chancellor of the university under the restored Bourbons, Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, a Peer of France, Minister of the Interior, and president of the Council of State under Louis Philippe. He was eminent in all these capacities, and yet the dignity given by such high administrative positions was as nothing compared to his leadership in natural science. Cuvier was by birth, education, and conviction a devout
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism, identifying primarily with the theology of Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Cathol ...
, and remained Protestant throughout his life while regularly attending church services. Despite this, he regarded his personal faith as a private matter; he evidently identified himself with his confessional minority group when he supervised governmental educational programs for
Protestants Protestantism is a Christian denomination, branch of Christianity that follows the theological tenets of the Reformation, Protestant Reformation, a movement that began seeking to reform the Catholic Church from within in the 16th century agai ...
. He also was very active in founding the Parisian Biblical Society in 1818, where he later served as a vice president. From 1822 until his death in 1832, Cuvier was Grand Master of the Protestant Faculties of Theology of the French University.


Scientific ideas and their impact


Opposition to evolution

Cuvier was critical of theories of evolution, in particular those proposed by his contemporaries Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, which involved the gradual transmutation of one form into another. He repeatedly emphasized that his extensive experience with fossil material indicated one fossil form does not, as a rule, gradually change into a succeeding, distinct fossil form. A deep-rooted source of his opposition to the gradual transformation of species was his goal of creating an accurate taxonomy based on principles of comparative anatomy. Such a project would become impossible if species were mutable, with no clear boundaries between them. According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, "Cuvier did not believe in organic evolution, for any change in an organism's anatomy would have rendered it unable to survive. He studied the mummified cats and ibises that Geoffroy had brought back from Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, and showed they were no different from their living counterparts; Cuvier used this to support his claim that life forms did not evolve over time." He also observed that Napoleon's expedition to Egypt had retrieved animals mummified thousands of years previously that seemed no different from their modern counterparts. "Certainly", Cuvier wrote, "one cannot detect any greater difference between these creatures and those we see, than between the human mummies and the skeletons of present-day men." Lamarck dismissed this conclusion, arguing that evolution happened much too slowly to be observed over just a few thousand years. Cuvier, however, in turn criticized how Lamarck and other naturalists conveniently introduced hundreds of thousands of years "with a stroke of a pen" to uphold their theory. Instead, he argued that one may judge what a long time would produce only by multiplying what a lesser time produces. Since a lesser time produced no organic changes, neither, he argued, would a much longer time. Moreover, his commitment to the principle of the correlation of parts caused him to doubt that any mechanism could ever gradually modify any part of an animal in isolation from all the other parts (in the way Lamarck proposed), without rendering the animal unable to survive. In his ''Éloge de M. de Lamarck'' (''Praise for M. de Lamarck''), Cuvier wrote that Lamarck's theory of evolution Instead, he said, the typical form makes an abrupt appearance in the fossil record, and persists unchanged to the time of its extinction. Cuvier attempted to explain this paleontological phenomenon he envisioned (which would be readdressed more than a century later by " punctuated equilibrium") and to harmonize it with the ''Bible''. He attributed the different time periods he was aware of as intervals between major catastrophes, the last of which is found in ''Genesis''. Cuvier's claim that new fossil forms appear abruptly in the geological record and then continue without alteration in overlying strata was used by later critics of evolution to support creationism, to whom the abruptness seemed consistent with special divine creation (although Cuvier's finding that different types made their paleontological debuts in different geological strata clearly did not). The lack of change was consistent with the supposed sacred immutability of "species", but, again, the idea of extinction, of which Cuvier was the great proponent, obviously was not. Many writers have unjustly accused Cuvier of obstinately maintaining that fossil human beings could never be found. In his ''Essay on the Theory of the Earth'', he did say, "no human bones have yet been found among fossil remains", but he made it clear exactly what he meant: "When I assert that human bones have not been hitherto found among extraneous fossils, I must be understood to speak of fossils, or petrifactions, properly so called". Petrified bones, which have had time to mineralize and turn to stone, are typically far older than bones found to that date. Cuvier's point was that all human bones found that he knew of, were of relatively recent age because they had not been petrified and had been found only in superficial strata. He was not dogmatic in this claim, however; when new evidence came to light, he included in a later edition an appendix describing a skeleton that he freely admitted was an "instance of a fossil human petrifaction". The harshness of his criticism and the strength of his reputation, however, continued to discourage naturalists from speculating about the gradual transmutation of species, until
Charles Darwin Charles Robert Darwin ( ; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, widely known for his contributions to evolutionary biology. His proposition that all species of life have descended f ...
published ''
On the Origin of Species ''On the Origin of Species'' (or, more completely, ''On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life''),The book's full original title was ''On the Origin of Species by Me ...
'' more than two decades after Cuvier's death.


Extinction

Early in his tenure at the National Museum in Paris, Cuvier published studies of fossil bones in which he argued that they belonged to large, extinct quadrupeds. His first two such publications were those identifying mammoth and mastodon fossils as belonging to extinct species rather than modern elephants and the study in which he identified the ''Megatherium'' as a giant, extinct species of sloth. His primary evidence for his identifications of mammoths and mastodons as separate, extinct species was the structure of their jaws and teeth. His primary evidence that the ''Megatherium'' fossil had belonged to a massive sloth came from his comparison of its skull with those of extant sloth species. Cuvier wrote of his paleontological method that "the form of the tooth leads to the form of the
condyle A condyle (;Entry "condyle"
in
scapula The scapula (plural scapulae or scapulas), also known as the shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the humerus (upper arm bone) with the clavicle (collar bone). Like their connected bones, the scapulae are paired, with each scapula on eithe ...
to that of the nails, just as an equation of a curve implies all of its properties; and, just as in taking each property separately as the basis of a special equation we are able to return to the original equation and other associated properties, similarly, the nails, the scapula, the condyle, the femur, each separately revel the tooth or each other; and by beginning from each of them the thoughtful professor of the laws of organic economy can reconstruct the entire animal." However, Cuvier's actual method was heavily dependent on the comparison of fossil specimens with the anatomy of extant species in the necessary context of his vast knowledge of animal anatomy and access to unparallelled natural history collections in Paris. This reality, however, did not prevent the rise of a popular legend that Cuvier could reconstruct the entire bodily structures of extinct animals given only a few fragments of bone. At the time Cuvier presented his 1796 paper on living and fossil elephants, it was still widely believed that no species of animal had ever become extinct. Authorities such as Buffon had claimed that fossils found in Europe of animals such as the woolly rhinoceros and the mammoth were remains of animals still living in the tropics (i.e.
rhinoceros A rhinoceros (; ; ), commonly abbreviated to rhino, is a member of any of the five extant species (or numerous extinct species) of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. (It can also refer to a member of any of the extinct species ...
and
elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species are currently recognised: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. They are the only surviving members of the family Elephantidae ...
s), which had shifted out of Europe and Asia as the earth became cooler. Thereafter, Cuvier performed a pioneering research study on some elephant fossils excavated around Paris. The bones he studied, however, were remarkably different from the bones of elephants currently thriving in India and Africa. This discovery led Cuvier to denounce the idea that fossils came from those that are currently living. The idea that these bones belonged to elephants living – but hiding – somewhere on Earth seemed ridiculous to Cuvier, because it would be nearly impossible to miss them due to their enormous size. The ''Megatherium'' provided another compelling datapoint for this argument. Ultimately, his repeated identification of fossils as belonging to species unknown to man, combined with mineralogical evidence from his stratigraphical studies in Paris, drove Cuvier to the proposition that the abrupt changes the Earth underwent over a long period of time caused some species to go extinct. Cuvier's theory on extinction has met opposition from other notable natural scientists like Darwin and
Charles Lyell Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, (14 November 1797 – 22 February 1875) was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining the earth's history. He is best known as the author of ''Principles of Geolo ...
. Unlike Cuvier, they didn't believe that extinction was a sudden process; they believed that like the Earth, animals collectively undergo gradual change as a species. This differed widely from Cuvier's theory, which seemed to propose that animal extinction was catastrophic. However, Cuvier's theory of extinction is still justified in the case of mass extinctions that occurred in the last 600 million years, when approximately half of all living species went completely extinct within a short geological span of two million years, due in part by volcanic eruptions, asteroids, and rapid fluctuations in sea level. At this time, new species rose and others fell, precipitating the arrival of human beings. Cuvier's early work demonstrated conclusively that extinction was indeed a credible natural global process. Cuvier's thinking on extinctions was influenced by his extensive readings in Greek and Latin literature; he gathered every ancient report known in his day relating to discoveries of petrified bones of remarkable size in the Mediterranean region. Influence on Cuvier's theory of extinction was his collection of specimens from the New World, many of them obtained from Native Americans. He also maintained an archive of Native American observations, legends, and interpretations of immense fossilized skeletal remains, sent to him by informants and friends in the Americas. He was impressed that most of the Native American accounts identified the enormous bones, teeth, and tusks as animals of the deep past that had been destroyed by catastrophe.


Catastrophism

Cuvier came to believe that most, if not all, the animal fossils he examined were remains of species that had become extinct. Near the end of his 1796 paper on living and fossil elephants, he said: :''All of these facts, consistent among themselves, and not opposed by any report, seem to me to prove the existence of a world previous to ours, destroyed by some kind of catastrophe.'' Contrary to many natural scientists' beliefs at the time, Cuvier believed that animal extinction was not a product of
anthropogenic Anthropogenic ("human" + "generating") is an adjective that may refer to: * Anthropogeny, the study of the origins of humanity Counterintuitively, anthropogenic may also refer to things that have been generated by humans, as follows: * Human im ...
causes. Instead, he proposed that humans were around long enough to indirectly maintain the fossilized records of ancient Earth. He also attempted to verify the water catastrophe by analyzing records of various cultural backgrounds. Though he found many accounts of the water catastrophe unclear, he did believe that such an event occurred at the brink of human history nonetheless. This led Cuvier to become an active proponent of the geological school of thought called
catastrophism In geology, catastrophism theorises that the Earth has largely been shaped by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope. This contrasts with uniformitarianism (sometimes called gradualism), according to which slow increm ...
, which maintained that many of the geological features of the earth and the history of life could be explained by catastrophic events that had caused the extinction of many species of animals. Over the course of his career, Cuvier came to believe there had not been a single catastrophe, but several, resulting in a succession of different faunas. He wrote about these ideas many times, in particular he discussed them in great detail in the preliminary discourse (an introduction) to a collection of his papers, ''Recherches sur les ossements fossiles de quadrupèdes'' (''Researches on quadruped fossil bones''), on quadruped fossils published in 1812. Cuvier's own explanation for such a catastrophic event is derived from two different sources, including those from
Jean-André Deluc Jean-André Deluc or de Luc (8 February 1727 – 7 November 1817) was a Swiss geologist, natural philosopher and meteorologist. He also devised measuring instruments. Biography Jean-André Deluc was born in Geneva. His family had come to th ...
and Déodat de Dolomieu. The former proposed that the continents existing ten millennia ago collapsed, allowing the ocean floors to rise higher than the continental plates and become the continents that now exist today. The latter proposed that a massive tsunami hit the globe, leading to mass extinction. Whatever the case was, he believed that the deluge happened quite recently in human history. In fact, he believed that Earth's existence was limited and not as extended as many natural scientists, like Lamarck, believed it to be. Much of the evidence he used to support his catastrophist theories have been taken from his fossil records. He strongly suggested that the fossils he found were evidence of the world's first reptiles, followed chronologically by mammals and humans. Cuvier didn't wish to delve much into the causation of all the extinction and introduction of new animal species but rather focused on the sequential aspects of animal history on Earth. In a way, his chronological dating of Earth history somewhat reflected Lamarck's transformationist theories. Cuvier also worked alongside Alexandre Brongniart in analyzing the Parisian rock cycle. Using stratigraphical methods, they were both able to extrapolate key information regarding Earth history from studying these rocks. These rocks contained remnants of mollusks, bones of mammals, and shells. From these findings, Cuvier and Brongniart concluded that many environmental changes occurred in quick catastrophes, though Earth itself was often placid for extended periods of time in between sudden disturbances. The 'Preliminary Discourse' became very well known and, unauthorized translations were made into English, German, and Italian (and in the case of those in English, not entirely accurately). In 1826, Cuvier would publish a revised version under the name, ''Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du globe'' (''Discourse on the upheavals of the surface of the globe''). After Cuvier's death, the catastrophic school of geological thought lost ground to
uniformitarianism Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity or the Uniformitarian Principle, is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in ...
, as championed by
Charles Lyell Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, (14 November 1797 – 22 February 1875) was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining the earth's history. He is best known as the author of ''Principles of Geolo ...
and others, which claimed that the geological features of the earth were best explained by currently observable forces, such as erosion and volcanism, acting gradually over an extended period of time. The increasing interest in the topic of
mass extinction An extinction event (also known as a mass extinction or biotic crisis) is a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth. Such an event is identified by a sharp change in the diversity and abundance of multicellular organisms. I ...
starting in the late twentieth century, however, has led to a resurgence of interest among historians of science and other scholars in this aspect of Cuvier's work.


Stratigraphy

Cuvier collaborated for several years with Alexandre Brongniart, an instructor at the Paris mining school, to produce a monograph on the geology of the region around Paris. They published a preliminary version in 1808 and the final version was published in 1811. In this monograph they identified characteristic fossils of different rock layers that they used to analyze the geological column, the ordered layers of sedimentary rock, of the Paris basin. They concluded that the layers had been laid down over an extended period during which there clearly had been
faunal succession The principle of faunal succession, also known as the law of faunal succession, is based on the observation that sedimentary rock strata contain fossilized flora and fauna, and that these fossils succeed each other vertically in a specific, re ...
and that the area had been submerged under sea water at times and at other times under fresh water. Along with William Smith's work during the same period on a geological map of England, which also used characteristic fossils and the principle of faunal succession to correlate layers of sedimentary rock, the monograph helped establish the scientific discipline of
stratigraphy Stratigraphy is a branch of geology concerned with the study of rock layers (strata) and layering (stratification). It is primarily used in the study of sedimentary and layered volcanic rocks. Stratigraphy has three related subfields: lithostra ...
. It was a major development in the history of paleontology and the
history of geology The history of geology is concerned with the development of the natural science of geology. Geology is the scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of Earth. Antiquity Some of the first geological thoughts were about the o ...
.


Age of reptiles

In 1800 and working only from a drawing, Cuvier was the first to correctly identify in print, a fossil found in Bavaria as a small flying reptile, which he named the ''Ptero-Dactyle'' in 1809, (later Latinized as ''
Pterodactylus ''Pterodactylus'' (from Greek () meaning 'winged finger') is an extinct genus of pterosaurs. It is thought to contain only a single species, ''Pterodactylus antiquus'', which was the first pterosaur to be named and identified as a flying rep ...
antiquus'')—the first known member of the diverse order of
pterosaur Pterosaurs (; from Greek ''pteron'' and ''sauros'', meaning "wing lizard") is an extinct clade of flying reptiles in the order, Pterosauria. They existed during most of the Mesozoic: from the Late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (228 ...
s. In 1808 Cuvier identified a fossil found in Maastricht as a giant marine lizard, the first known
mosasaur Mosasaurs (from Latin ''Mosa'' meaning the ' Meuse', and Greek ' meaning 'lizard') comprise a group of extinct, large marine reptiles from the Late Cretaceous. Their first fossil remains were discovered in a limestone quarry at Maastricht o ...
. Cuvier speculated correctly that there had been a time when
reptile Reptiles, as most commonly defined are the animals in the class Reptilia ( ), a paraphyletic grouping comprising all sauropsids except birds. Living reptiles comprise turtles, crocodilians, squamates ( lizards and snakes) and rhynchoce ...
s rather than
mammal Mammals () are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia (), characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex (a region of the brain), fu ...
s had been the dominant fauna. This speculation was confirmed over the two decades following his death by a series of spectacular finds, mostly by English geologists and fossil collectors such as
Mary Anning Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was an English fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for the discoveries she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channe ...
, William Conybeare, William Buckland, and Gideon Mantell, who found and described the first
ichthyosaur Ichthyosaurs (Ancient Greek for "fish lizard" – and ) are large extinct marine reptiles. Ichthyosaurs belong to the order known as Ichthyosauria or Ichthyopterygia ('fish flippers' – a designation introduced by Sir Richard Owen in 1842, alth ...
s,
plesiosaur The Plesiosauria (; Ancient Greek, Greek: πλησίος, ''plesios'', meaning "near to" and Sauria, ''sauros'', meaning "lizard") or plesiosaurs are an Order (biology), order or clade of extinct Mesozoic marine reptiles, belonging to the Sauro ...
s, and
dinosaur Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles of the clade Dinosauria. They first appeared during the Triassic period, between 243 and 233.23  million years ago (mya), although the exact origin and timing of the evolution of dinosaurs is ...
s.


Principle of the correlation of parts

In a 1798 paper on the fossil remains of an animal found in some plaster quarries near Paris, Cuvier states what is known as the principle of the correlation of parts. He writes: :''If an animal's teeth are such as they must be, in order for it to nourish itself with flesh, we can be sure without further examination that the whole system of its digestive organs is appropriate for that kind of food, and that its whole skeleton and locomotive organs, and even its sense organs, are arranged in such a way as to make it skillful at pursuing and catching its prey. For these relations are the necessary conditions of existence of the animal; if things were not so, it would not be able to subsist.'' This idea is referred to as Cuvier's principle of correlation of parts, which states that all organs in an animal's body are deeply interdependent. Species' existence relies on the way in which these organs interact. For example, a species whose digestive tract is best suited to digesting flesh but whose body is best suited to foraging for plants cannot survive. Thus in all species, the functional significance of each body part must be correlated to the others, else the species cannot sustain itself.


Applications

Cuvier believed that the power of his principle came in part from its ability to aid in the reconstruction of fossils. In most cases, fossils of quadrupeds were not found as complete, assembled skeletons, but rather as scattered pieces that needed to be put together by anatomists. To make matters worse, deposits often contained the fossilized remains of several species of animals mixed together. Anatomists reassembling these skeletons ran the risk of combining remains of different species, producing imaginary composite species. However, by examining the functional purpose of each bone and applying the principle of correlation of parts, Cuvier believed that this problem could be avoided. This principle's ability to aid in reconstruction of fossils was also helpful to Cuvier's work in providing evidence in favor extinction. The strongest evidence Cuvier could provide in favor of extinction would be to prove that the fossilized remains of an animal belonged to a species that no longer existed. By applying Cuvier's principle of correlation of parts, it would be easier to verify that a fossilized skeleton had been authentically reconstructed, thus validating any observations drawn from comparing it to skeletons of existing species. In addition to helping anatomists reconstruct fossilized remains, Cuvier believed that his principle held enormous predictive power as well. For example, when he discovered a fossil that resembled a marsupial in the gypsum quarries of Montmartre, he correctly predicted that the fossil would contain bones commonly found in marsupials in its pelvis as well.


Impact

Cuvier hoped that his principles of anatomy would provide the law-based framework that would elevate natural history to the truly scientific level occupied by physics and chemistry thanks to the laws established by Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) and Antoine Lavoisier (1743 - 1794), respectively. He expressed confidence in the introduction to '' Le Règne Animal'' that some day anatomy would be expressed as laws as simple, mathematical, and predictive as Newton's laws of physics, and he viewed his principle as an important step in that direction. To him, the predictive capabilities of his principles demonstrated in his prediction of the existence of marsupial pelvic bones in the gypsum quarries of Montmartre demonstrated that these goals were not only in reach, but imminent. The principle of correlation of parts was also Cuvier's way of understanding function in a non-evolutionary context, without invoking a divine creator. In the same 1798 paper on the fossil remains of an animal found in plaster quarries near Paris, Cuvier emphasizes the predictive power of his principle, writing,
Today comparative anatomy has reached such a point of perfection that, after inspecting a single bone, one can often determine the class, and sometimes even the genus of the animal to which it belonged, above all if that bone belonged to the head or the limbs ... This is because the number, direction, and shape of the bones that compose each part of an animal's body are always in a necessary relation to all the other parts, in such a way that—up to a point—one can infer the whole from any one of them and vice versa.
Though Cuvier believed that his principle's major contribution was that it was a rational, mathematical way to reconstruct fossils and make predictions, in reality it was difficult for Cuvier to use his principle. The functional significance of many body parts were still unknown at the time, and so relating those body parts to other body parts using Cuvier's principle was impossible. Though Cuvier was able to make accurate predictions about fossil finds, in practice the accuracy of his predictions came not from application of his principle, but rather from his vast knowledge of comparative anatomy. However, despite Cuvier's exaggerations of the power of his principle, the basic concept is central to comparative anatomy and paleontology.


Scientific work


Comparative anatomy and classification

At the Paris Museum, Cuvier furthered his studies on the anatomical classification of animals. He believed that classification should be based on how organs collectively function, a concept he called
functional integration Functional integration is a collection of results in mathematics and physics where the domain of an integral is no longer a region of space, but a space of functions. Functional integrals arise in probability, in the study of partial differe ...
. Cuvier reinforced the idea of subordinating less vital body parts to more critical organ systems as part of anatomical classification. He included these ideas in his 1817 book, '' The Animal Kingdom''. In his anatomical studies, Cuvier believed function played a bigger role than form in the field of taxonomy. His scientific beliefs rested in the idea of the principles of the correlation of parts and of the conditions of existence. The former principle accounts for the connection between organ function and its practical use for an organism to survive. The latter principle emphasizes the animal's physiological function in relation to its surrounding environment. These findings were published in his scientific readings, including ''Leçons d'anatomie comparée'' (''Lessons on Comparative Anatomy'') between 1800 and 1805, and ''The Animal Kingdom'' in 1817. Ultimately, Cuvier developed four embranchements, or branches, through which he classified animals based on his taxonomical and anatomical studies. He later performed groundbreaking work in classifying animals in vertebrate and invertebrate groups by subdividing each category. For instance, he proposed that the invertebrates could be segmented into three individual categories, including ''Mollusca'', ''Radiata'', and ''Articulata''. He also articulated that species cannot move across these categories, a theory called transmutation. He reasoned that organisms cannot acquire or change their physical traits over time and still retain optimal survival. As a result, he often conflicted with Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's theories of transmutation. In 1798, Cuvier published his first independent work, the ''Tableau élémentaire de l'histoire naturelle des animaux'', which was an abridgment of his course of lectures at the École du Pantheon and may be regarded as the foundation and first statement of his natural classification of the animal kingdom.


Mollusks

Cuvier categorized snails, cockles, and cuttlefish into one category he called molluscs (''
Mollusca Mollusca is the second-largest phylum of invertebrate animals after the Arthropoda, the members of which are known as molluscs or mollusks (). Around 85,000  extant species of molluscs are recognized. The number of fossil species is est ...
''), an embranchment. Though he noted how all three of these animals were outwardly different in terms of shell shape and diet, he saw a noticeable pattern pertaining to their overall physical appearance. Cuvier began his intensive studies of molluscs during his time in
Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie, Nouormandie ; from Old French , plural of ''Normant'', originally from the word for "northman" in several Scandinavian languages) is a geographical and cultural region in Northwestern ...
– the first time he had ever seen the sea – and his papers on the so-called ''Mollusca'' began appearing as early as 1792. However, most of his memoirs on this branch were published in the ''Annales du museum'' between 1802 and 1815; they were subsequently collected as ''Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire et à l'anatomie des mollusques'', published in one volume at Paris in 1817.


Fish

Cuvier's researches on
fish Fish are aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish as well as various extinct related groups. Approximately 95% of liv ...
, begun in 1801, finally culminated in the publication of the ''Histoire naturelle des poissons'', which contained descriptions of 5,000 species of fishes, and was a joint production with
Achille Valenciennes Achille Valenciennes (9 August 1794 – 13 April 1865) was a French zoologist. Valenciennes was born in Paris, and studied under Georges Cuvier. His study of parasitic worms in humans made an important contribution to the study of parasitology. ...
. Cuvier's work on this project extended over the years 1828–1831.


Palaeontology and osteology

In palaeontology, Cuvier published a long list of memoirs, partly relating to the bones of extinct animals, and partly detailing the results of observations on the skeletons of living animals, specially examined with a view toward throwing light upon the structure and affinities of the fossil forms. Among living forms he published papers relating to the osteology of the ''
Rhinoceros A rhinoceros (; ; ), commonly abbreviated to rhino, is a member of any of the five extant species (or numerous extinct species) of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. (It can also refer to a member of any of the extinct species ...
Indicus'', the tapir, ''
Hyrax Hyraxes (), also called dassies, are small, thickset, herbivorous mammals in the order Hyracoidea. Hyraxes are well-furred, rotund animals with short tails. Typically, they measure between long and weigh between . They are superficially simi ...
capensis'', the
hippopotamus The hippopotamus ( ; : hippopotamuses or hippopotami; ''Hippopotamus amphibius''), also called the hippo, common hippopotamus, or river hippopotamus, is a large semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two exta ...
, the sloths, the
manatee Manatees ( family Trichechidae, genus ''Trichechus'') are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing three of the four living spec ...
, etc. He produced an even larger body of work on fossils, dealing with the extinct mammals of the
Eocene The Eocene ( ) Epoch is a geological epoch that lasted from about 56 to 33.9 million years ago (mya). It is the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the modern Cenozoic Era. The name ''Eocene'' comes from the Ancient Greek (''ēṓs'', "da ...
beds of Montmartre and other localities near
Paris Paris () is the capital and most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of more than 105 km² (41 sq mi), making it the 30th most densely populated city in the world in 2020. S ...
, such as the Buttes Chaumont, the fossil species of
hippopotamus The hippopotamus ( ; : hippopotamuses or hippopotami; ''Hippopotamus amphibius''), also called the hippo, common hippopotamus, or river hippopotamus, is a large semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two exta ...
, '' Palaeotherium'', a
marsupial Marsupials are any members of the mammalian infraclass Marsupialia. All extant marsupials are endemic to Australasia, Wallacea and the Americas. A distinctive characteristic common to most of these species is that the young are carried in a p ...
(which he called ''Didelphys gypsorum''), the '' Megalonyx'', the '' Megatherium'', the cave-hyena, the
pterodactyl Pterosaurs (; from Greek ''pteron'' and ''sauros'', meaning "wing lizard") is an extinct clade of flying reptiles in the order, Pterosauria. They existed during most of the Mesozoic: from the Late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (228 ...
, the extinct species of
rhinoceros A rhinoceros (; ; ), commonly abbreviated to rhino, is a member of any of the five extant species (or numerous extinct species) of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. (It can also refer to a member of any of the extinct species ...
, the cave bear, the mastodon, the extinct species of
elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species are currently recognised: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. They are the only surviving members of the family Elephantidae ...
,
fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin , ) is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved ...
species of manatee and seals, fossil forms of crocodilians, chelonians, fish, birds, etc. If his identification of fossil animals was dependent upon comparison with the osteology of extant animals whose anatomy was poorly known, Cuvier would often publish a thorough documentation of the relevant extant species' anatomy before publishing his analyses of the fossil specimens. The department of palaeontology dealing with the
Mammal Mammals () are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia (), characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex (a region of the brain), fu ...
ia may be said to have been essentially created and established by Cuvier. The results of Cuvier's principal palaeontological and geological investigations ultimately were given to the world in the form of two separate works: ''Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrupèdes'' (Paris, 1812; later editions in 1821 and 1825); and ''Discours sur les revolutions de la surface du globe'' (Paris, 1825). In this latter work he expounded a scientific theory of
Catastrophism In geology, catastrophism theorises that the Earth has largely been shaped by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope. This contrasts with uniformitarianism (sometimes called gradualism), according to which slow increm ...
.


''The Animal Kingdom'' (''Le Règne Animal'')

Cuvier's most admired work was his '' Le Règne Animal''. It appeared in four octavo volumes in 1817; a second edition in five volumes was brought out in 1829–1830. In this classic work, Cuvier presented the results of his life's research into the structure of living and fossil animals. With the exception of the section on
insect Insects (from Latin ') are pancrustacean Hexapoda, hexapod invertebrates of the class (biology), class Insecta. They are the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Insects have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, Thorax (ins ...
s, in which he was assisted by his friend Latreille, the whole of the work was his own. It was translated into English many times, often with substantial notes and supplementary material updating the book in accordance with the expansion of knowledge.


Racial studies

Cuvier was a
Protestant Protestantism is a Christian denomination, branch of Christianity that follows the theological tenets of the Reformation, Protestant Reformation, a movement that began seeking to reform the Catholic Church from within in the 16th century agai ...
and a believer in monogenism, who held that all men descended from the biblical Adam, although his position usually was confused as polygenist. Some writers who have studied his racial work have dubbed his position as "quasi-polygenist", and most of his racial studies have influenced
scientific racism Scientific racism, sometimes termed biological racism, is the pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism (racial discrimination), racial inferiority, or racial superiority.. "Few tragedies can be more e ...
. Cuvier believed there were three distinct races: the Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow), and the
Ethiopia Ethiopia, , om, Itiyoophiyaa, so, Itoobiya, ti, ኢትዮጵያ, Ítiyop'iya, aa, Itiyoppiya officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the Er ...
n (black). Cuvier claimed that
Adam and Eve Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. ...
were Caucasian, the original race of mankind. The other two races originated by survivors escaping in different directions after a major
catastrophe Catastrophe or catastrophic comes from the Greek κατά (''kata'') = down; στροφή (''strophē'') = turning ( el, καταστροφή). It may refer to: A general or specific event * Disaster, a devastating event * The Asia Minor Catastro ...
hit the earth 5,000 years ago, with those survivors then living in complete isolation from each other. Cuvier categorized these divisions he identified into races according to his perception of the beauty or ugliness of their skulls and the quality of their civilizations. Cuvier's racial studies held the supposed features of polygenism, namely fixity of species; limits on environmental influence; unchanging underlying type; anatomical and cranial measurement differences in races; physical and mental differences between distinct races.


Sarah Baartman

Alongside other French naturalists, Cuvier subjected Sarah Baartman, a South African Khokhoi woman exhibited in European
freak show A freak show, also known as a creep show, is an exhibition of biological rarities, referred to in popular culture as "freaks of nature". Typical features would be physically unusual humans, such as those uncommonly large or small, those with ...
s as the "Hottentot Venus", to examinations. At the time that Cuvier interacted with Baartman, Baartman's "existence was really quite miserable and extraordinarily poor. Sara was literally ictreated like an animal." In 1815, while Baartman was very ill, Cuvier commissioned a nude painting of her. She died shortly afterward, aged 26. Following Baartman's death, Cuvier sought out and received permission to dissect her body, focusing on her genitalia, buttocks and skull shape. In his examination, Cuvier concluded that many of Baartman's features more closely resembled the anatomy of a monkey than a human. Her remains were displayed in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris until 1970, then were put into storage. Her remains were returned to South Africa in 2002.


Official and public work

Apart from his own original investigations in zoology and
paleontology Paleontology (), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes the study of foss ...
Cuvier carried out a vast amount of work as perpetual secretary of the National Institute, and as an official connected with public education generally; and much of this work appeared ultimately in a published form. Thus, in 1808 he was placed by
Napoleon Napoleon Bonaparte ; it, Napoleone Bonaparte, ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), later known by his regnal name Napoleon I, was a French military commander and political leader wh ...
upon the council of the Imperial University, and in this capacity he presided (in the years 1809, 1811, and 1813) over commissions charged to examine the state of the higher educational establishments in the districts beyond the
Alps The Alps () ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps ; sl, Alpe . are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately across seven Alpine countries (from west to east): France, Swi ...
and the
Rhine ), Surselva, Graubünden, Switzerland , source1_coordinates= , source1_elevation = , source2 = Rein Posteriur/Hinterrhein , source2_location = Paradies Glacier, Graubünden, Switzerland , source2_coordinates= , sour ...
that had been annexed to France, and to report upon the means by which these could be affiliated with the central university. He published three separate reports on this subject. In his capacity, again, of perpetual secretary of the Institute, he not only prepared a number of '' éloges historiques'' on deceased members of the Academy of Sciences, but was also the author of a number of reports on the history of the physical and natural sciences, the most important of these being the ''Rapport historique sur le progrès des sciences physiques depuis 1789'', published in 1810. Prior to the fall of Napoleon (1814) he had been admitted to the council of state, and his position remained unaffected by the restoration of the
Bourbons The House of Bourbon (, also ; ) is a European dynasty of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty, the royal House of France. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish ...
. He was elected chancellor of the university, in which capacity he acted as interim president of the council of public instruction, whilst he also, as a
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism, identifying primarily with the theology of Martin Luther, the 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Cathol ...
, superintended the faculty of Protestant theology. In 1819 he was appointed president of the committee of the interior, an office he retained until his death. In 1826 he was made grand officer of the
Legion of Honour The National Order of the Legion of Honour (french: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour ('), is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Established in 1802 by Napoleon ...
; he subsequently was appointed president of the council of state. He served as a member of the
Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres The Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres () is a French learned society devoted to history, founded in February 1663 as one of the five academies of the Institut de France. The academy's scope was the study of ancient inscriptions ( e ...
from 1830 to his death. A member of the Doctrinaires, he was nominated to the ministry of the interior in the beginning of 1832.


Commemorations

Cuvier is commemorated in the naming of several animals; they include Cuvier's beaked whale (which he first thought to be extinct), Cuvier's gazelle, Cuvier's toucan, Cuvier's bichir, Cuvier's dwarf caiman, and ''Galeocerdo cuvier'' ( tiger shark). Cuvier is commemorated in the
scientific name In taxonomy, binomial nomenclature ("two-term naming system"), also called nomenclature ("two-name naming system") or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, bo ...
of the following reptiles: '' Anolis cuvieri'' (a lizard from Puerto Rico), ''Bachia cuvieri'' (a synonym of '' Bachia alleni)'', and '' Oplurus cuvieri''. The fish ''Hepsetus cuvieri'', sometimes known as the African pike or Kafue pike characin, which is a predatory freshwater fish found in southern Africa was named after him. There also are some extinct animals named after Cuvier, such as the South American giant sloth ''Catonyx cuvieri''. Cuvier Island in New Zealand was named after Cuvier by D'Urville. The professor of English Wayne Glausser argues at length that the Aubrey-Maturin series of 21 novels (1970–2004) by
Patrick O'Brian Patrick O'Brian, CBE (12 December 1914 – 2 January 2000), born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of sea novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, and c ...
make the character
Stephen Maturin Stephen Maturin () is a fictional character in the Aubrey–Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian. The series portrays his career as a physician, naturalist and spy in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, and the long pursuit of h ...
"an advocate of the neo-classical paradigm articulated .. by Georges Cuvier." Cuvier is referenced in Edgar Allan Poe's short story '' The Murders in the Rue Morgue'' as having written a description of the
orangutan Orangutans are great apes native to the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. They are now found only in parts of Borneo and Sumatra, but during the Pleistocene they ranged throughout Southeast Asia and South China. Classified in the ...
.
Arthur Conan Doyle Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a British writer and physician. He created the character Sherlock Holmes in 1887 for ''A Study in Scarlet'', the first of four novels and fifty-six short stories about Hol ...
also refers to Cuvier in '' The Five Orange Pips'', in which
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes () is a fictional detective created by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a " consulting detective" in the stories, Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, deduction, forensic science and ...
compares Cuvier's methods to his own.


Works

*''Tableau élémentaire de l'histoire naturelle des animaux'' (1797–1798) *''Leçons d'anatomie comparée'' (5 volumes, 1800–1805) *''Essais sur la géographie minéralogique des environs de Paris, avec une carte géognostique et des coupes de terrain'', with Alexandre Brongniart (1811) *'' Le Règne animal distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée'' (4 volumes, 1817) *''Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrupèdes, où l'on rétablit les caractères de plusieurs espèces d'animaux que les révolutions du globe paroissent avoir détruites'' (4 volumes, 1812
(text in French) 234
*''Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire et à l'anatomie des mollusques'' (1817) *''Éloges historiques des membres de l'Académie royale des sciences, lus dans les séances de l'Institut royal de France par M. Cuvier'' (3 volumes, 1819–1827
Vol. 1Vol. 2
an
Vol. 3
*''Théorie de la terre'' (1821) ::--- ''Essay on the theory of the earth''
1813

1815
trans. Robert Kerr.
''Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles''
1821–1823 (5 vols). *''Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du globe et sur les changements qu'elles ont produits dans le règne animal'' (1822). New edition: Christian Bourgeois, Paris, 1985
(text in French)
*''Histoire des progrès des sciences naturelles depuis 1789 jusqu'à ce jour'' (5 volumes, 1826–1836) *''Histoire naturelle des poissons'' (11 volumes, 1828–1848), continued by
Achille Valenciennes Achille Valenciennes (9 August 1794 – 13 April 1865) was a French zoologist. Valenciennes was born in Paris, and studied under Georges Cuvier. His study of parasitic worms in humans made an important contribution to the study of parasitology. ...
*''Histoire des sciences naturelles depuis leur origine jusqu'à nos jours, chez tous les peuples connus, professée au Collège de France'' (5 volumes, 1841–1845), edited, annotated, and published by Magdeleine de Saint-Agit *''Cuvier's History of the Natural Sciences: twenty-four lessons from Antiquity to the Renaissance'' dited and annotated by Theodore W. Pietsch, translated by Abby S. Simpson, foreword by Philippe Taquet Paris: Publications scientifiques du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 2012, 734 p. (coll. Archives; 16) *''Variorum of the works of Georges Cuvier: Preliminary Discourse of the Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles 1812, containing the Memory on the ibis of the ancient Egyptians, and the Discours sur les révolutions de la surface du Globe 1825, containing the Determination of the birds called ibis by the ancient Egyptians'' Cuvier also collaborated on the ''Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles'' (61 volumes, 1816–1845) and on the '' Biographie universelle'' (45 volumes, 1843-18??)


See also

* Saartjie Baartman, the "Hottentot Venus" whose body Cuvier examined * Frédéric Cuvier, also a naturalist, was Georges Cuvier's younger brother. * History of paleontology for more on the impact of Cuvier's scientific ideas * List of works by James Pradier


References


Footnotes


Citations


Sources

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Further reading

* * * Published as an introduction to the ''Éloges historiques'' of Cuvier. * Kolbert, Elizabeth. (16 December 2013). "Annals of Extinction Part One: The Lost World." ''The New Yorker.'' p. 28

Profile of Cuvier and his work on extinction and taxonomy. * * * *


External links

* *
Victorian Web Bio

Infoscience






{{DEFAULTSORT:Cuvier, Georges French naturalists 19th-century French geologists French paleontologists 1769 births 1832 deaths French anthropologists French ichthyologists French malacologists French ornithologists French science writers French taxonomists Paleozoologists Teuthologists Barons of France Catastrophism Critics of Lamarckism Grand Officiers of the Légion d'honneur Members of the French Academy of Sciences Members of the Académie Française Members of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres Chancellors of the University of Paris Collège de France faculty Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Members of the Royal Society Honorary members of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences Members of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Members of the Chamber of Peers of the July Monarchy French Lutherans Scientists from Montbéliard Infectious disease deaths in France Deaths from cholera Burials at Père Lachaise Cemetery French male non-fiction writers 18th-century French writers 18th-century French male writers 18th-century non-fiction writers 19th-century French non-fiction writers 18th-century French zoologists 19th-century French zoologists National Museum of Natural History (France) people People educated at the Karlsschule Stuttgart