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Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Étienne

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Étienne

(b. Etampes, France, 15 April 1772; d. Paris, France, 19 June 1844)


Geoffroy’s father, a procurator at the tribunal of Etampes, a small town near Paris, had little money and fourteen children. Etienne, they youngest, received as a child the surname Saint-Hilaire, which he later joined to his family name. His extraordinary career (professor at the Muséum at twenty-one) was furthered by priests who were captivated by his lively intelligence, his unusual imagination, and a sort of inner fire that added to his physical charm. Thanks to the cultivated grand seigneur the Abbé de Tressan, he became a canon at the age of fifteen with prospects for a splendid career in the church. He was introduced to natural history by the agronomist Abbè A. H. Tessier in Etampes and later by the ornithologist Brisson and Antoine de Jussieu at the Collége de Navarre in Paris where Geoffroy was on a scholarship. With the outbreak of the Revolution, ecclesiastical careers were jeopardized; obeying his father’s orders, he studied law, and then, pursuing his own desires, he began medical studies. In 1792 he was a pensionnaire libre at the College du Cardinal Lemoine in Paris, There he won the affection of that institution’s most illustrious member, Abbè Renè Just Haüy, one of the founders of crystallography. In Haüy’s simply furnished room he met all the famous scientists of the period. Consumed with enthusiasm for mineralogy, he became a student of the venerable Daubenton at the Collège de France.

While retaining a deep attachment to the priests who had supported his career, Geoffroy embraced revolutionary ideas. He frequented the clubs and committees and adopted a philosophical deism and a generous humanitarianism that he preserved for the rest of his life. At the beginning of the Terror (August 1792), Haüy was imprisoned because he was a priest; by actions as courageous as they were romantic, Geoffroy attempted to free him. Finally Haüy was liberated,; in recognition of Geoffroy’s efforts, Daubertton—a great friend of Haüy—had him named demonstrator in zoology at the Jardin des Plantes, replacing the count de Lacépéde, who had been forced to flee (March 1793).1n June 1793 the Jardin des Plantes became the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle; and it was then, owing to his patrons, that Geoffroy, barely twenty-one years old, was names, in the absence of Lacépéde, professor of quadrupeds, cetaceans, birds, reptiles, and fish. He became an intimate friend of Lamarck—his elder by almost thirty years—a botanist promoted to the study of insects, worms, and crustaceans. Each of them eagerly explored his new field.

At this period the Abbé Tessier, Geoffroy’s, former patron, recommended, to him a poor young man living in Normandy who was making excellent drawings of careful dissections or fish and invertebrates; he was Georges Cuvier, Geoffroy was extremely friendly to him upon his arrival in Paris, and for one year (1795) they lived and worked together. In a note on tarsiers they stated that these aniamals constitute a link between the ape and the bat in the great chain of being. Then, following Buffon, they envisioned the possibility of deriving all species from a single type. Cuvier later renounced these audacious ideas, especially after the return to religious beliefs marked by Napoleon’s coronation as emperor by the pope(1804). To the contrary, Geoffroy persisted on the “philosophical” road, which was also Lamarck’s. In 1796 he began to study, perhaps with the latter, modifications of species due to the environment.

When Bonaparte organized the famous Egyptian campaign, he requested the assistance of numerous scientists. Cuvier avoided leaving, but Geoffroy accepted enthusiastically, and from 1798 to 1801, in the midst of adventures in which he often risked his life, be made many scientific observations. He proceeded up the Nile as far as Aswan. The English allies of the Egyptians were Victorious but Geoffroy succeeded in rescuing from the English his important natural history collections. Cuvier in his absence, had become in everyone’s eyes France’s leading naturalist.

Returning to Paris, Geoffroy devoted himself from 1802 to 1806 to descriptive zoology and classification, despite his predilection for great theoretical views. He pursued the research on the marsupials that he bad begun in 1796. He also composed a large catalog of the mammal collections of the Muséum, the printing of which he stopped suddenly at page 212 in 1803, perhaps as a result of differences with Cuvier; the work remained unfinished. In 1807 he’s entered the Académie des Sciences, where Cuvier had dominated in natural history since 1796.

The study and publication of the rich material that he had gathered in Egypt proceeded very slowly in the sumptuous work Description de l’Egypte par la Commission des sciences (1808-1824). In the Egyptian tombs’ Geoffroy had found mummified animals more than three thousand years old. They were identical to existing species, and Cuvier saw in this fact the proof of the fixity of species. For Lamarck, on the other hand, this fixity was not demonstrable. In relation to geological ages, which Lamarck calculated in hundreds of millions of years in his Hydrogéologie (1802), three thousand years are but a moment; much too’ short a period for the evolution of creatures to be perceptible. Although Geoffroy does not Seem, to have accepted Lamarck’s views on the duration of geological epochs, he continued to believe in the nonfixity of species. In the following years it was by comparative anatomy, teratology, and then paleontology that he strove to prove that species are transformed in the course of time, the simpler ones engendering the more complex.

Since Aristotle, the unity of plan (that is, the unity of anatomical structure) of vertebrates as a whole had been recognized. Buffon had proclaimed it as early as 1753. Today it seems quite obvious, but it was contested in Geoffroy’s time, particularly by Cuvier. For the latter, the fish’s fin bore no relation to the mammal’s paw, each having been created separately by God. Fifteen years of work, beginning in 1806, enabled Geoffroy to establish two fundamental-principles of comparative anatomy: (I) the principle of anatomical connections, which allows one to trace an organ from species to species despite its transformations; and (2) the principle of balance (that is, of the equilibration of the organs), which manifests itself in a reduction in the size of organs when a neighboring organ hypertrophies. The unity of the vertebrate plan that Geoffroy proposed implies a sort of kinship among the vertebrate, the more complex having issued from the simpler — in other words, the mammals having descended from the fish. In order to demonstrate this relationship, Geoffroy turned to comparative embryology.

Haüy greatly admired Daubenton’s nephew, the anatomist Felix Vicq d’Azyr, with whose audacious ideas Geoffroy was undoubtedly acquainted. Vicq d’Azyr had observed in the human embryo the transitory appearance of the intermaxillary bone, which persists in the adult ape and is thus an indication of a kinship between man and ape. Furthermore, Cuvier bad certainly presented to Geoffroy the ideas ’of his former professor and friend Karl Kielmeyer of the University of Stuttgart. Kielmeyer had shown that vertebrates, in the course of their embryonic life, go through phases recalling their supposed ancestors; hence, the human embryo possesses the preliminary forms of branchial fissures typical of the fish. Geoffroy, in turn, following J. H. F. Autenrieth, a disciple of Kielmeyer. demonstrated that the, disposition of the centers of ossification of the fetal cranium conforms to the general plan of the vertebrate series, of which the prototype is found among the fish. Antoine Serres, a friend and disciple of Geoffroy, later developed this notion of the recapitulation by the embryo of certain characteristics of the supposed ancestors.

In the scientific language of the early nineteenth century, the Word evolution designated the sum of the transformations undergone by an embryo. Girou de Buzareingnes, taking up Kielmeyer’s Serres’s hypothesis of embryonic recapitulation, declared in 1828 that the embryological evolution of an individual follows the path of “the evolution of the animal kingdom itself.” In 1831 Geoffroy adopted this new meaning of evolution, which implies a transformation of the species in the course of geologic time. The term was then promulgated by an admirer of Geoffroy, Frédénc Gérard, in the dictionnarie universel d’histoire naturelle (see “Espéce,”V [1844];, and “Géographie zoologique,” VI [1845]), which was distributed throughout the world.

Geoffroy was confronted with the great problem of how the transition from the, plan, of (he invertebrates to that of the Vertebrates was accomplished. Carried away by his imagination, he supposed that the carapace of insects corresponds to the vertebra. This hypothesis, which contained only a small dement of truth, (the vertebrates and the insects are formed “by more or less condensed metameres), rendered Geoffroy slightly ridiculous. In 1829 two young researchers:, Laurencet and P.S. Meyranx, proposed an ingenious interpretation to account for a transition from cephalopods to fish. Geoffroy used it as an opportunity to attack Cuvier at the Academy. Thus there began the famous controversy of 1830 that so excited Goethe. (A full account of the controversy is in the article on Cuvier.)

It appears that Geoffroy, following the path of the botanists of the preceding century, saw in the study of monsters a means of explaining certain sudden transformations of species. From 1802 to 1840 he devoted more than fifty reports, to descriptive teratology. Moreover, his Essai de classification des monsters (1821) marks the debut of scientific teratology. Between 1832 and 1837 his son, Isidore regrouped and, completed his father’s publications under the latter’s direction to form the first scientific treatise on teratology. Geoffroy went even further. According to Cuvier, it would seem that Geoffroy sought, by intervening in the development of the chicken embryo; to maintain the fish stage or to obtain the transition to the mammalian stage. He failed, but his, attempts make him the founder of experimental embryology (l825-1826).

In 1824 a new way appeared for Geoffroy to demonstrate the transition from reptiles to mammals. In that year Cuvier introduced into the second edition of his Recherches sur les ossements fossils a study, donca little too hastily, of the remains of a “crocodile” discovered near the city of Caen. Geoffroy, who had studied the living Egyptian crocodile extensively, announced that the Caen animal was in reality very different from the crocodile; he named it Teleosaurus. It presented, he stated, characteristics intermediate between those of saurians and mammals (1825). Although modern studies have somewhat modified Geoffroy’s interpretation, it does nevertheless mark the starting point of evolutionary paleontology. Thereafter Geoffroy was obsessed by paleontological problems. In 1833 he studied the fossil mammals of the Pettier bed (old Pleistocene) in the Massif Central. He established that all the species of Perrier have disappeared from nature and that certain of them constitute “intermediate links” in the great “progressive” series of living beings. He also studied the form remains or the Oligocene deposit of St.-Gérand-le-Puy, near Vichy. The few lines that he wrote on each species demonstrate his profound knowledge of vertebrate osteology, and present-day science confirms the majority of his interpretations concerning St.-Gérand.

True to the hypotheses that had guided his researches in experimental embryology, he attributed the variations between species to physicochemical changes in the environment in the course of geologic ages, changes that, he presumed, had influenced not the adults, as Lamarck thought, but the embryos. It is regrettable that in paleontology Geoffroy never followed up his projects with detailed and illustrated memoirs in support of his theories, which after his death were, challenged by the hypothesis of multiple creations put forward by Alcide Dessalines d’Orbigny. Multiple creation conflicted little with the Bible and contributed greatly to the progress of geology by justifying the creation of periods defined by their respective faunas. It was not until the beginning of 1859, seven months before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, that the young Albert Gaudry was able to demonstrate, through the study of the fossil mammals of Greece, that Geoffroy’s “intermediate” species and “missing links” were tangible realities.

Starting around 1834, Geoffroy’s writings became increasingly theoretical and vague, infused with a kind of grandiose cosmic poetry born of the concept of a unitary universe. Thereafter, the Academy published only the titles or his communications. In July 1840 he became blind as the result of a cataract and by 1842 his mental powers bad begun to fail. The news of his death was received with sorrow by a great many Parisians who had loved his enthusiasm and his liberal ideas.

In France, and perhaps even more in English speaking countries, Geoffroy’s work is often ranked below that of Cuvier, his implacable adversary. Geoffroy’s awkward, style and sometimes bizarre ideas harmed him considerably; yet cuvier himself recognized that Geoffroy possessed a great talent for description and classification. Moreover, Geoffroy revitalized comparative anatomy in France and created scientific teratology, experimental embryology, and the concept of paleontological evolution. When Cuvier died in 1832, Geoffroy was only Sixty years old; he could have tried for one last time to make his ideas prevail among younger naturalist. But already the fire of his genius was dimming. He and his friend Lamarck lived too early to be completely understood, Indeed, Geoffroy used to say that innovators; like Christ, wear a crown of thorns.

Nevertheless, in judging Geoffroy only on the basis of his publications, one risks underestimating, his influence. His contemporaries assure us that he was bolder and clearer in his speech than in his writings. Much loved by, his students, he put form his ideas for forty-seven years in his courses at the Musèum and for thirty-two years in those at the Sorbonne. His home was frequented by the leading liberal thinkers of Paris. Balzac, who long esteemed Cuvier, ultimately concluded that Geoffroy was superior. Michelet admired Geoffroy and Lamarck equality each had taught that the natural sciences and the human sciences ought to be closely joined, since man, by his origins, remains tied to the animal world.

Like Haüy and Lamarck, Geoffroy pursued the great, it somewhat mystical, idea-of the fundamental unity of the universe, life, and human thought.


I. Original Works. T. Cahn (see below), gives a bibliography of 259 titles. Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (see below) classified 321 titles by subject maner and provided references to analyses and criticisms provoked by the works listed. Additional information may be found-in the Catalogue of Scientific Papers of the Royal Society, which lists 247 titles.

Geoffroy’s personal papers and MSS remained in the possession of his family until about 1950; Since then they have periodically appeared for sale in lots (on auction at the HöteI Drouot and Paristian autograph dealers); the library of the Museum has been able to purchase a few of them.

Geoffroy’s principal works are Catalogue des mammiferes du Museum (Paris, 1803), a very rare work, the printing of which was never completed and a copy of which possessed by the library of the Muséum; “Considerations sur les pieces de la téte osseuse des vértebrés.” in Annates au Muséum d’histoire naturelle. 10 (1807), 332-365; “Sur les deviations organiques provoquéet … les incubations artificialles, “in Memoires du Muséum d’histoire naturelle, 13 (l825). 289-296, in Archives générales de médecine, 13 (1826), 289, and in Journal complémantaire des sciences mÉdicales,24 (1826), 256; the article “Monstre” in Dictonnaire classique d’histoire naturelle, XI (Paris, 1827), 108-152, which bears the inexact signature “G.N.”; Principes de philosophie zoological discutés en mars 1830 l’Academie (Paris, 1830), of which there is an analysis by Goethe (see below); and Recherches sur les grands sauriens trouvés a l’état fossile (Paris, 1831), repr. in Mémoires de l’Académie dis sciences,12 (1833), 1-138.

II. Secondary Literature. On his life and work, See I. E. Amlinsky, Zhoffrua Sent-Iler i ego borbu protiv Kyuvier (“Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and His Struggle Against Cuvier”; Moscow, 1955): F. Bourdier, “Geoffroy Sainthilaire Versus Cuvier: The Campaign for Paleontological Evolution (1825-1838);” in C. J. Schneer, ed., Toward a History of Geology (Cambridge. Mass., 1969), pp.36-61; T. Cahn, La vie et l’oeuvre d’Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (Paris, 1962); Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Vie, trauaux et doctrine scientifique d’etiene Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (Paris, 1847): J.W. von Goethe, in Jahrbuch für wissen schaftlichen Kritik, nos. 52-53 (1830), and nos. 51-53 (1832); and Jean Rostand. .’E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire la tératogonése experimentale,” in Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications. 17 (1964), 41-50.

Regarding Geoffroy’s influence on historians and reformers, see R. van der Elst, Michelet naturalise (Paris, 1914), and the works of Geoffroy’s contemporaries, such as P. H. Buchez. Pierre Leroux, and Jean Raynaud.

Franck Bourdier

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"Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Étienne." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 23 Apr. 2017 <>.

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Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Étienne


(b. Etampes, France, 15 April 1772; d. Paris, France, 19 June 1844),

zoology. For the original article on Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire see DSB, vol. 11.

Geoffroy was a French zoologist who was appointed in 1793, at the age of twenty-one, professor of zoology in charge of Mammals and Birds at the National Museum of Natural History. Founder and director of the Menagerie of this establishment and member of the Academy of Science, he was also made the first professor of zoology at the Faculty of Science in Paris, after the reformation of the University by Napoleon in 1808. He is, with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who preceded him in this theory, one of the most important contributors to the development of the theory of transformism during the nineteenth century. He was the father of Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a prominent leader of the young naturalists who were to spread transformism in France during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Unity of Plan in the Animal World . While classifying the collections of mammals and birds under his management in the National Museum of Natural History, Geoffroy discovered that the same elements of the skeletons were constantly repetitive, “and in the same respective places,” as he claimed in the Principes de philosophie zoologique (1830, p. 84). It was from these observations that he developed his zoological classification, which he based on the “unity of plan” in the animal world, itself founded upon the principle of the stability of organic connections: The various parts of an organ can be modified, but they always remain in the same invariable order. For example, again in the Principes, Geoffroy remarks that for “the anterior part” of vertebrate animals, it is easy to recognize “four sections: the shoulder, the arm, the forearm, and a terminal section, forming the hand of a man, the claw of a cat, the wing of a bat” (p. 9).

Geoffroy knew he was introducing a new element into zoological science with his principle of connections, “a doctrine which was his own,” he assured in his Philosophie anatomique (1818, p. 405). “It was a conclusive and decisive fact, found in natural philosophy, that animals are the results of the same composition systems and the same connection of organic parts in the same invariable order.” There was, therefore, a self-imposed “law of Nature” (p. 19).

While limiting his comparative studies to vertebrates, the application of his principle of unity evoked little criticism. The criticism began when, in 1818–1820, he wrote a series of articles in his Philosophie anatomique in an attempt to show that molluscs and insects were formed on the same plan as vertebrates. According to his “Premier Mémoire,” each part of the insects corresponded “to each of the bones of a skeleton of the superior classes” (1819, p. 340).

“In detail,” he stated, “each part of the insects was also found in vertebrate animals” (p. 347). Also, “beings said and believed until then to be without vertebra would have to be classed, according to our natural series, amongst vertebrate animals” (“Troisième Mémoire,” 1820, p. 166).

These affirmations provoked fierce reaction from Georges Cuvier. “Your theory of the skeleton of insects is totally illogical from the beginning to the end,” he told his old friend (cited in the “Second Mémoire,” 1820, p. 34). This difference of opinion obviously raised fierce controversy, and it was the famous debate of 1830, at the Collège de France, that was to attract the attention of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Cuvier won his argument against Geoffroy by easily showing that “many animals had no trace whatsoever” of the organs Geoffroy wanted to be recognized.

Up to the end of his life, Geoffroy was to continue his profound interest in wide speculative theories, which has led certain commentators to portray him as a brilliant visionary! Even so, he eventually had to admit that his unity of plan, its basic principle of connections, were to lead the latter into deadlock and the former into a contradiction of facts. His intellectual interests were to lead him in a different direction and to show him a new path and another conception of nature: In 1821 he turned to embryology, teratology, and soon after, paleontology.

Embryology . After comparing the skulls of fishes and mammals, Geoffroy came to the conclusion that “the fishes, at their first age,” were “in the same conditions of development as mammal foetuses” (1807, p. 344). But, unaware of this work, the German anatomist Johann Friedrich Meckel began developing embryology; Geoffroy, rather exaggeratedly, claimed this work to be partly his own. Through the development of the field of embryology, the principle of the unity of plan received new confirmation: In an 1822 work, Geoffroy claimed that, for the degree of organization, “the animals of the lower ranks” correspond to divers ages of the fetus of high vertebrates (pp. 104–105). Reptiles and fishes make the “links.”

Geoffroy thus addressed an entirely new concept: the development from the simple to the complex according to a linear scale. In his Recherches sur de grands Sauriens(1831), he proposed a new explanation of the world: “try to find out about the succession of the differential facts of the evolution of a being which has gone through all its phases of life and you have shortened, in some way, the view of the evolution of the terrestrial globe, a succession of differential facts engendered from each other” (p. 81).

Geoffroy considered that to understand the animal world and its unity, it was no longer simply a question of the organs being always “the same, of the same number and with the same connections,” but “the succession of differential facts” in the development of a being. Geoffroy offered the same theory for the development of the individual and for the development of the animal series, consequently a “historical” development: each stage of the series “corresponds to one of the ages a bud must go through in order to produce its branch and its fruits as an entirety” (1830, p. 115).

Teratology . Embryology gave Geoffroy another opportunity to develop his explanation of the unity of the animal world. This science was to provide a certain number of deviant forms—“monstrosities”—and through them Geoffroy explained the diversity of the animal world. If “the formation of an organ is stopped, the afflux of the fluids feeding it benefits other organs,” and creates a totally different being. Hence, monstrosities become ordinary species, subjected to the same laws. His son, Isidore, was to develop this theory in more detail.

Paleontology . In 1825, with the Saurians of Normandy, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire became interested in fossils. These ancient beings confirmed the unity principles.

The new paleontologist was clever enough to foresee the real descendant links between these species of the past and the species of the present. He discovered that their “organic system” was “close to that of mammals, linking what was previously thought to be separate” (1825, p. 39). In shortening the distance between reptiles and mammals, in a progressive series, the fossil sequences explained how certain elements of higher living forms, those of his current world, were formed. This led him to affirm that after generations and without interruption, “the living animals of today originate from animals lost in the antediluvian world” (p. 74). Hence, it is possible to establish a direct link of descendants between “the crocodiles of today” and “the antediluvian species found in fossil forms on our territory” (1825, p. 159).

The evolution of the thought of Geoffroy became clear. It went from an ideal to a real link, following the connection between embryonic development and degrees of zoological classification, which introduced the idea of a progressive scale (something he had first refused to admit). In his “Considérations sur des Ossemens fossils” (1833a), Geoffroy acknowledged that the “scale of beings” of “higher and lower classes” showed the stages of life’s progression through a greater complexity of organization. This progressive series can be found in successive historic forms in the animal world. Although he knew that the sequences he proposed were far from perfect, he wanted to establish a law of the succession of beings: “a sort of chronology could be tried … certain degrees of organization could fix the ages of the antediluvian world” (1828, p. 215).

Transformism . The importance of paleontology is well understood, and through his work in this field Geoffroy is classed as a true transformist. It seemed more than obvious to him that “present races result from the same, continually successive and progressive, creation, and that they are descendants of a continual line of now lost, ancient races” (1833b, p. 220).

Man also has his role to play, as Geoffroy says in Fragments biographiques(1838): He taught his students that the monkey itself, the monkey type is, under the point of view of the organic structure, already very close to the human (Course of the natural history of the mammals, 7th lesson, p. 4). He goes further, affirming that the troglodyte presents the entrance to the human and the monkey another organic condition that forms a ring between these two terms.

Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire began with speculative transformism, and eventually reached veritable, truthful transformism.



“Considérations sur les pièces de la tête osseuse des animaux vertébrés, et particulièrement sur celle du crâne des oiseaux.” Annales du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, Vol. 10. Paris: Bailliere, 1807.

“Des organes respiratoires sous le rapport de la détermination et de l’identité de leurs pièces osseuses.” In Philosophie anatomique, Vol. 1. Paris: Bailliere, 1818.

“Mémoires sur l’Organisation des Insectes, Premier Mémoire.” Journal complémentaire du Dictionnaire des Sciences médicales 5 (1819): 340–351.

“Second Mémoire.” Journal complémentaire du Dictionnaire des Sciences médicales 6 (1820): 31–35.

“Troisième Mémoire.” Journal complémentaire du Dictionnaire des Sciences médicales 6 (1820): 138–168.

“Considérations générales sur la Vertèbre.” In Mémoires du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, Vol. 9. Paris: Bailliere, 1822.

“Des monstruosités humaines.” In Philosophie anatomique, Vol. 2. Paris: Bailliere, 1822.

“Recherches sur l’organisation des Gavials.” In Mémoires du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, Vol. 12. Paris: Bailliere, 1825.

“Mémoire où l’on se propose de rechercher dans quels rapports de structure organique et de parenté sont entre eux les animaux des âges historiques et vivant actuellement, et les espèces antédiluviennes et perdues.” In Mémoires du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, Vol. 17. Paris: Bailliere, 1828.

Cours de l’histoire naturelle des Mammifères. Paris: Didier, 1829.

Principes de philosophie zoologique. Paris: Pichon et Didier, 1830.

Recherches sur de grands Sauriens: trouvés à l’état fossile. Paris: Firmin Didier, 1831.

“Considérations sur des Ossemens fossiles la plupart inconnus, trouvés et observés dans les bassins de l’Auvergne.” Revue encyclopédique 59 (1833a): 75–95.

“Rapport lu à l’Académie des Sciences sur le livre de M. Buchez: Introduction à la Science de l’Histoire.” Revue encyclopédique 59 (1833b): 210–221.

Fragments biographiques, précédés d’études sur la vie, les ouvrages et la doctrine de Buffon, 1838.


Appel, Toby B. The Cuvier Geoffroy Debate: French Biology in the Decades before Darwin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Cahn, Theophile. La Vie et l’Oeuvre d’Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1962.

“Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.” Histoire et Nature 3 (1973). Special edition of journal; includes “Catalogue des manuscrits d’Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire conservés aux Archives de l’Académie des sciences de l’Institut de France.”

Fischer, Jean-Louis. “Le concept expérimental dans l’œuvre tératologique d’Etienne Geoffroy Saint- Hilaire.” Revue d’histoire des sciences 25 (4, 1972): 347–364.

——. “Etienne Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844) face au déterminisme du sexe.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences (1, 1979): 261–283.

——. “L’anatomie transcendante et le concept de ‘récapitulation’ chez Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.” In Histoire du concept de récapitulation, edited by Paul Mengal. Paris: Masson, 1993.

——. “Les manuscrits égyptiens d’Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.” In L’expédition d’Egypte, une entreprise des Lumières, 1798–1801, edited by Patrice Bret. Paris: Académie des Sciences, éditions TEC et DOC, 1999.

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore. Vie, Travaux et Doctrine scientifique d’Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Paris: Bertrand, 1847.

Le Guyader, Hervé. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire: A Visionary Naturalist. Translated by Marjorie Grene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Originally published as Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire: Un naturaliste visionnaire. Paris: Belin, 1998.

Goulven Laurent

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Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Étienne

Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (ātyĕn´ zhôfrwä´ săNtēlĕr´), 1772–1844, French zoologist. He was professor at the Museum of Natural History (1793–1840) and also at the Faculty of Sciences (from 1809), both in Paris, and was a member (1798–1801) of Napoleon's scientific staff in Egypt. He expressed in his Philosophie anatomique (2 vol., 1818–22) and in other works the theory that all animals conform to a single plan of structure. This attracted many supporters but was strongly opposed by Cuvier, who had been his friend, and in 1830 a widely publicized debate between the two took place. Some of Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire's ideas have been confirmed by modern developmental biologists. His son, Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1805–61, also a zoologist, was an authority on deviation from normal structure. He succeeded to his father's professorships.

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Saint-Hilaire, Étienne Geoffroy

Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire: see Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Étienne.

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"Saint-Hilaire, Étienne Geoffroy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 23 Apr. 2017 <>.

"Saint-Hilaire, Étienne Geoffroy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (April 23, 2017).

"Saint-Hilaire, Étienne Geoffroy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from