Contents Index

Baron Cuvier

Georges Léopole Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron Cuvier, 1769-1832, French naturalist.

Cuvier, after extensive study of marine life, was named chair of comparative anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes in 1795, succeeding Lamarck. Cuvier was impressed with a sense of the orderliness of life, a "correlation of parts" between the various species. Following in the tradition of Charles Bonnet, he used anatomy to classify the animal species by skeletal structures, inagurating the science of comparative anatomy in his Tableau élémentaire de l'histoire naturelle des animaux (1798). Leçons d'anatomie comparée (1800-1805) systematically describes his early findings.

Cuvier refined the taxonomic system of Linnaeus by employing the term phylum, which allows for the similarities between apparently dissimilar species. His Récherches sur les ossemens fossiles (1812) developed the insights of John Ray and established the science of paleontology. Unlike Lamarck and Charles Darwin, however, Cuvier disbelieved in evolution, maintaining instead that all species were created at once, but that some had since suffered extinction.