With What Other Idea of His Time Was Cuvier’s Theory of Catastrophism Most in Conflict??

I’d like you to meet an important scientist named Georges Cuvier. As a zoologist and naturalist, he helped establish our current understanding of the history of Earth. Cuvier formed the basic methods of biostratigraphy by studying sedimentary rock layers and fossil succession. He began the popular field of comparative anatomy by studying the bones of modern elephants and ancient mammoths. He named the first flying reptile, the pterodactyl, and he even has five living animals named after him.

Combined with his impressions of the violent natural disasters recounted in the Bible, Cuvier’s observations made him believe that most of Earth’s history was characterized by geologic catastrophe. Cuvier and other scientists believed that most major features of the land we see today were established a very long time ago by very dramatic events.

He thought that most of the features on the surface of the Earth were formed by slow, ongoing geologic processes, not by sudden catastrophic events. He called it uniformitarianism : the theory that Earth’s features are mostly accounted for by gradual, small-scale processes that occurred over long periods of time. Hutton’s principle of uniformitarianism gave geology a real boost that helped it grow into the highly-detailed, functional discipline that it is today.

They know that there were some pretty big geologic events in the past, like asteroid impacts and massive volcanic eruptions that changed our planet in significant ways. But now biologists embrace the idea of ‘punctuated equilibrium,’ which theorizes species remain stable for long periods of time and only change during short bursts of evolution. Catastrophism was proposed by Georges Cuvier , who was influenced by biblical interpretations and believed that all major geologic events are now finished.

James Hutton was the founder of uniformitarianism, which is based heavily on scientific observation and assumes that all major geologic processes are still happening today.

What was Cuvier attempting to explain his idea of catastrophism?

Catastrophism is doctrine that explains the differences in fossil forms encountered in successive stratigraphic levels as being the product of repeated cataclysmic occurrences and repeated new creations. This doctrine generally is associated with the great French naturalist Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832).

What was Cuvier's attempt to explain?

One 20th-century expansion on Cuvier’s views, in effect, a neocatastrophic school, attempts to explain geologic history as a sequence of rhythms or pulsations of mountain building, transgression and regression of the seas, and evolution and extinction of living organisms.

Which of the following is the most accurate summary of Cuvier's consideration of fossils found in the vicinity of Paris?

Which of the following is the most accurate summary of Cuvier’s consideration of fossils found in the vicinity of Paris? Lamarck. a mechanism for evolution that was supported by evidence. Which of these conditions should completely prevent the occurrence of natural selection in a population over time?

How did Cuvier contribute to the theory of evolution?

He was the first to demonstrate that the different strata of rock in the Paris basin each had its own mammal fauna. Furthermore, he showed that the lower a stratum was, the more different its fossil animals were from species living in the present. Yet Cuvier rejected the idea of organic evolution.

|Known for||Le Rgne Animal; establishing the fields of stratigraphy and comparative anatomy, and the principle of faunal succession in the fossil record; making extinction an accepted scientific phenomenon; opposing theories of evolution; popularizing catastrophism|

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. Among his other accomplishments, Cuvier established that elephant-like bones found in the USA belonged to an extinct animal he later would name as a mastodon , and that a large skeleton dug up in Paraguay was of Megatherium , a giant, prehistoric ground sloth.

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. [6] Cuvier subjected Sarah Baartman to examinations alongside other French naturalists during a period in which she was held captive in a state of neglect. Jean Lopold Nicolas Frdric Cuvier was born in Montbliard , where his Protestant ancestors had lived since the time of the Reformation.

His mother was Anne Clmence Chatel; his father, Jean George Cuvier, was a lieutenant in the Swiss Guards and a bourgeois of the town of Montbliard. 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 ‘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 .

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. Cuvier regularly attended meetings held at the nearby town of Valmont for the discussion of agricultural topics. [14] 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 .

Arriving in the spring of 1795, at the age of 26, he soon became the assistant of Jean-Claude Mertrud (17281802), who had been appointed to the chair of Animal Anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes . In this paper, he analyzed skeletal remains of Indian and African elephants , as well as mammothfossils , and a fossil skeleton known at that time as the ‘Ohio animal’. He further stated that the ‘Ohio animal’ represented a distinct and extinct species that was even more different from living elephants than mammoths were.

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 , as well. 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.

Cuvier then devoted himself more especially to three lines of inquiry: (i) the structure and classification of the Mollusca ; (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. Cuvier was by birth, education, and conviction a devout Lutheran , [20] 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 . 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. 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.

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.” Cuvier with a fish fossilHe also observed that Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt had retrieved animals mummified thousands of years previously that seemed no different from their modern counterparts. 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 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 .

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, [34] 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. [36] 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”.

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. [39] His primary evidence for his identifications of mammoths and mastodons as separate, extinct species was the structure of their jaws and teeth. Cuvier wrote of his paleontological method that “the form of the tooth leads to the form of the condyle , that of the scapula 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.”

[43] 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. 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.

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 . [46] 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.

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. 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 causes. 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. Cuvier’s own explanation for such a catastrophic event is derived from two different sources, including those from Jean-Andr Deluc and Dodat de Dolomieu .

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. After Cuvier’s death, the catastrophic school of geological thought lost ground to uniformitarianism , as championed by Charles Lyell 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. 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 .

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, [52] which he named the Ptero-Dactyle in 1809, [53] (later Latinized as Pterodactylus antiquus )the first known member of the diverse order of pterosaurs . 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. 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.

Applications[ edit ] 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. 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. In addition to helping anatomists reconstruct fossilized remains, Cuvier believed that his principle held enormous predictive power as well.

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. [59] 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, [55] In his anatomical studies, Cuvier believed function played a bigger role than form in the field of taxonomy.

These findings were published in his scientific readings, including Leons d’anatomie compare ( Lessons on Comparative Anatomy ) between 1800 and 1805, [a] 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. For instance, he proposed that the invertebrates could be segmented into three individual categories, including Mollusca , Radiata , and Articulata .

He reasoned that organisms cannot acquire or change their physical traits over time and still retain optimal survival. In 1798, Cuvier published his first independent work, the Tableau lmentaire de l’histoire naturelle des animaux , which was an abridgment of his course of lectures at the cole du Pantheon and may be regarded as the foundation and first statement of his natural classification of the animal kingdom. 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.

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 quadrupdes (Paris, 1812; later editions in 1821 and 1825); and Discours sur les revolutions de la surface du globe (Paris, 1825). In this classic work, Cuvier presented the results of his life’s research into the structure of living and fossil animals. It was translated into English many times, often with substantial notes and supplementary material updating the book in accordance with the expansion of knowledge.

Cuvier was a Protestant and a believer in monogenism , who held that all men descended from the biblical Adam, although his position usually was confused as polygenist . 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.

Following Baartman’s death, Cuvier sought out and received permission to dissect her body, focusing on her genitalia, buttocks and skull shape. Thus, in 1808 he was placed by Napoleon 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 and the Rhine that had been annexed to France, and to report upon the means by which these could be affiliated with the central university. 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 .

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 , superintended the faculty of Protestant theology. (text in French) Histoire des progrs des sciences naturelles depuis 1789 jusqu’ ce jour (5 volumes, 18261836) Histoire naturelle des poissons (11 volumes, 18281848), continued by Achille Valenciennes Histoire des sciences naturelles depuis leur origine jusqu’ nos jours, chez tous les peuples connus, professe au Collge de France (5 volumes, 18411845), edited, annotated, and published by Magdeleine de Saint-Agit Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences: twenty-four lessons from Antiquity to the Renaissance [edited and annotated by Theodore W. Pietsch, translated by Abby S. Simpson, foreword by Philippe Taquet], Paris: Publications scientifiques du Musum national d’Histoire naturelle, 2012, 734 p. (coll. Archives; 16) ISBN 978-2-85653-684-1 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 rvolutions de la surface du Globe 1825, containing the Determination of the birds called ibis by the ancient Egyptians [72]

Georges Cuvier, fossil bones, and geological catastrophes : new translations & interpretations of the primary texts ([Pbk. CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list ( link ) ^ Waggoner 1996 ^ Curtis, Caitlin; Millar, Craig; Lambert, David (27 September 2018). “Note on the skeleton of a very large species of quadruped, hitherto unknown, found in Paraguay and deposited in the Cabinet of Natural History in Madrid”.

Georges Cuvier, fossil bones, and geological catastrophes : new translations & interpretations of the primary texts ([Pbk. CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list ( link ) ^ De Wever, Patrick; Baudin, F.; Pereira, D.; Corne, A.; Egoroff, G.; Page, K. (2010). “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 rvolutions de la surface du Globe 1825, containing the Determination of the birds called ibis by the ancient Egyptian” .

Georges Cuvier

Cuvier’s work is considered the foundation of vertebrate paleontology, and he expanded Linnaean taxonomy by grouping classes into phyla and incorporating both fossils and living species into the classification.Among his other accomplishments, Cuvier established that elephant-like bones found in the USA belonged to an extinct animal he later would name as a mastodon, and that a large skeleton dug up in Paraguay was ofCuvier 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, 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 also conducted racial studies which provided part of the foundation for scientific racism, and published work on the supposed differences between racial groups’ physical properties and mental abilities.Cuvier’s most famous work is

Biography[edit]

At the age of 10, soon after entering the gymnasium, he encountered a copy of Conrad Gessner’sCuvier spent an additional four years at the Caroline Academy in Stuttgart, 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 theTessier 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.”The Institut de France was founded in the same year, and he was elected a member of its Academy of Sciences. 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 titleCuvier’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. 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, which he would nameTogether, 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, 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.In 1799, he succeeded Daubenton as professor of natural history in theCuvier then devoted himself more especially to three lines of inquiry: (i) the structure and classification of theIn 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 in 1842.During his lifetime, Cuvier served as an imperial councilor under Napoleon, 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,

Extinction[edit]

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.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.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.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 theCuvier’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,Many writers have unjustly accused Cuvier of obstinately maintaining that fossil human beings could never be found. In hisThe 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 published

Stratigraphy[edit]

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:Contrary to many natural scientists’ beliefs at the time, Cuvier believed that animal extinction was not a product of anthropogenic 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, 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,Cuvier’s own explanation for such a catastrophic event is derived from two different sources, including those from Jean-André Deluc 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,After Cuvier’s death, the catastrophic school of geological thought lost ground to uniformitarianism, as championed by Charles Lyell 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 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.

Age of reptiles[edit]

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,Cuvier speculated correctly that there had been a time when reptiles rather than mammals had been the dominant fauna.

Applications[edit]

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: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.

Scientific work[edit]

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 toThe principle of correlation of parts was also Cuvier’s way of understanding function in a non-evolutionary context, without invoking a divine creator.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.

Comparative anatomy and classification[edit]

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. 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,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, includingUltimately, 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, includingIn 1798, Cuvier published his first independent work, the

Mollusks[edit]

Cuvier categorized snails, cockles, and cuttlefish into one category he called molluscs (Cuvier began his intensive studies of molluscs during his time in Normandy – the first time he had ever seen the sea – and his papers on the so-called

Fish[edit]

Cuvier’s researches on fish, begun in 1801, finally culminated in the publication of the

Palaeontology and osteology[edit]

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 theHe produced an even larger body of work on fossils, dealing with the extinct mammals of the Eocene beds of Montmartre and other localities near Paris, such as the Buttes Chaumont,The results of Cuvier’s principal palaeontological and geological investigations ultimately were given to the world in the form of two separate works:Cuvier’s most admired work was his

Racial studies[edit]

Cuvier was a Protestant 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. Cuvier believed there were three distinct races: the Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow), and the Ethiopian (black). Cuvier claimed that Adam and Eve were Caucasian, the original race of mankind. The other two races originated by survivors escaping in different directions after a major catastrophe 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[edit]

Alongside other French naturalists, Cuvier subjected Sarah Baartman, a South African Khokhoi woman exhibited in European freak shows 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 [sic] treated like an animal.”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.

Official and public work[edit]

Apart from his own original investigations in zoology and paleontology 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 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 and the Rhine 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 ofPrior 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. 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, 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; he subsequently was appointed president of the council of state. He served as a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres from 1830 to his death. A member of the Doctrinaires, he was nominated to the ministry of the interior in the beginning of 1832.

References[edit]

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, andThe fishThere also are some extinct animals named after Cuvier, such as the South American giant slothCuvier 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 make the character Stephen Maturin “an advocate of the neo-classical paradigm articulated .. by Georges Cuvier.”Cuvier is referenced in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story