Cuvier, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron

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Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert Cuvier, Baron (zhôrzh lāôpôld´ krātyăN´ frādārēk´ dägôbĕr´ bärôN´ küvyā´), 1769–1832, French naturalist, b. Montbéliard, studied at the academy of Stuttgart. From 1795 he taught in the Jardin des Plantes. He became permanent secretary (1803) of the Academy of Sciences and later was made chancellor of the Univ. of Paris. A pioneer in the science of comparative anatomy, he originated a system of zoological classification that comprised four phyla based on differences in structure of the skeleton and organs, and recognized that extinction of animal species had occurred in geologic history. His reconstruction of the soft parts of fossils deduced from their skeletal remains greatly advanced the science of paleontology. The flying reptile pterodactyl (see pterosaur) was identified and named by Cuvier. He rejected the theory of evolution as elaborated by Lamarck in favor of catastrophism. Cuvier held various high posts in the government and did much to develop higher education in France. Among his more important works are Tableau élémentaire de l'histoire naturelle des animaux (1798); Mémoires sur les espèces d'éléphants vivants et fossiles (1800); with A. M. C. Dumeril and G. L. Duvernoy, Leçons d'anatomie comparée (5 vol., 1801–5); Recherches sur les ossements fossiles des quadrupèdes (1812); and Le Règne animal destribué d'après son organisation (1817).

See study by W. Coleman (1964).