George Cuvier


May 19, 2022

Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier, who changed his name to Georges after his brother, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert Cuvier, but is known briefly as Georges Cuvier (Montbéliard, 23 August 1769 - Paris, 13 May 1832). .) French zoologist, geologist, founder of comparative anatomy, pioneer of paleontology and one of the greatest naturalists of his time. Pierre-Paul Royer-Collard called him Napoleon of Intelligence, while in France he was hailed by many as the early Aristotle. In zoological works, the abbreviation of its name is “Cuvier”. In the first half of the 19th century, it was a leading figure in natural science research on living animals and fossils, also known as fossils. He was able to reconstruct a whole organism from a few pieces of bone, from which he even drew conclusions about the animal's way of life. It was a great help to this that he recognized the principle of reciprocity of parts, the law of correlation, according to which a given part of an animal can define all other parts of the body. Cuvier’s work laid the foundation for vertebrate paleontology, extending Linnaeus’s system to the tribe he used to classify both living and fossil species. It is also known that he also based his scientific knowledge on the extinction of species, which was not yet an accepted view. In his work analyzing the history of the earth, Cuvier hypothesized that wildlife that had become extinct in one place as a result of disasters, such as a major flood, could be replaced by “re-created species”. As a result of these views, he became a major supporter of early 19th-century catastrophe. During the study of the geological strata of the Paris Basin, the foundations of biostratigraphy were laid together with Alexandre Brongniart. Among his other great achievements, Cuvier found that the elephant-like bone found in the United States, which had hitherto been called an Ohio animal from the place of its discovery, is in fact an extinct mammoth, and the large mammal skeleton excavated in Paraguay is the Megatherium. He named (though not officially recognized) the aquatic reptile, the mosaic, and one genus of the order of pterosaurs, Pterodactylus. He was among the first to find that in the prehistoric age, reptiles were not mammals but rather reptiles. It is also notable for opposing the evolutionary theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Having found no evidence of evolution, he thought that animal species would remain constant and not change during their life on earth. He explained the differences between fossils and existing living beings with catastrophe theory. He claimed that extinct animals and plants were destroyed by several local disasters, while living species evolved after the extinction. His best-known and one of his most significant works is the 15-volume Le Règne Animal (The Kingdom of Animals, 1817). His work in the natural sciences was recognized in his lifetime, and in 1819 he was awarded the title of nobleman, the pair of France (Pairie de France). He was henceforth called Baron Cuvier. Cuvier was elected one of the forty immortals of the French Academy of Sciences in 1818, and ranked eighth among 72 scientists on the list of names recorded in the Eiffel Tower. His work was continued by several people, perhaps his most notable followers being Swiss-born American Louis Agassiz and Englishman Richard Owen.


Cuvier was born in Montbéliard, near the Swiss border, in Doubs, now part of France. THE