Georges Cuvier, Anatomist

Born today was the famed anatomist, Baron Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert Cuvier (August 23, 1769–May 13, 1832) He was a French naturalist and zoologist. He was the elder brother of Frédéric Cuvier (1773–1838), also a naturalist. He was a major figure in scientific circles in Paris during the early 19th century, and was instrumental in establishing the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology by comparing living animals with fossils. He is well known for establishing that extinction was a fact, being the most influential proponent of catastrophism in geology in the early 19th century, and opposing early evolutionary theories. His most famous work is the Règne animal distribué d’après son organisation (1817; translated into English as The Animal Kingdom). He died in Paris of cholera.

“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.”

This idea is sometimes referred to as ‘Cuvier’s principle of correlation of parts’, and while Cuvier’s description may somewhat exaggerate its power, the basic concept is central to comparative anatomy and paleontology.

(All above from Wikipedia)

More on the Correlation of Parts

Another biography from Berkely.

A translation of his work, Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals on the Surface of the Earth, by Ian Johnston, Liberal Studies Department, Malaspina University College, Nanaimo, British Columbia.

An excellent flip book of an English translation of, The Animal Kingdom, arranged according to its organization, serving as a foundation for the natural history of animals : and an introduction to comparative anatomy. (1834)

(From the Internet Archive which also features many of his other works.)

For a bit on Cuvier’s influence on Darwin from The TalkOrigins Archive.

And finally, the Museum where Cuvier once worked.


About these ads
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 554 other followers

%d bloggers like this: