Cuvier, Ceorges

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Cuvier, Ceorges

(b. Montbéliard, Württemberg, 23 August 1769; d. Paris, France,13 May 1832)

zoology, paleontology, history of science.

Cuvier was born into a poor—but still bourgeois—family; his father, a soldier who had become an officer in the service of France, was married late in life to a woman twenty years his junior and had already retired when the future naturalist was born. Very weak at birth, Cuvier remained in delicate health for a long time. During his childhood he enjoyed drawing and gave evidence of a very precocious intellectual and emotional development. Gifted with an astonishing memory, he mastered the entire works of Buffoon. At the age of twelve he began his natural history collections and in the manner of an adolescent prodigy founded a scientific society with some friends.

Montbéliard, geographically French, had been detached form Burgundy in 1397 and rendered subject to the duke of Württemberg; during the sixteenth century its inhabitants adopted Luther’s doctrines, while keeping the French language. Cuvier’s parents intended for him to become a Lutheran minister like his uncle; but his teachers preferred not to grant him a scholarship to the school of theology at Tübingen. Fortunately for his career, the wife of the governor of Montbéliard recommended him to her brother-in-law, the reigning duke, who was seeking out bright young people to attend the Caroline University (Hohen Karlsschule), which he had founded near Stuttgart.

Cuvier entered that institution in 1784, at the age of fifteen. After two years of general studies, during which he learned German, he decided to specialize in administrative, juridical, and economic sciences. Which included a significant portion of natural history. As early as his second year at the university, Cuvier had discovered near Stuttgart some plants that were new to the region. At that time twenty-year-old Karl Friedrich Kielmeyer was the lecturer in zoology. Exceptionally gifted, he became one of the founders of the German school of Naturphilosophie. It was Kielmeyer who taught Cuvier the art of dissection and probably comparative anatomy as well. This science was then taught in Tübingen by J. F. Blumenbach, whom Kielmeyer joined in 1786, after having pledge Cuvier eternal friendship in the emotional style of late eighteenth–century Germany.

In 1787 Cuvier received the golden cross of the chevaliers, which allowed him to live with children of noble birth and sometimes with the duke himself. Thus this young man with bright blue eyes, thick red hair, heavy features, and disheveled clothing began his education as a select member of the court. With a few friends he founded a natural history society that awarded decorations to its most active members. Cuvier completed his studies in 1788. There being no vacant positions in the ducal government for this penniless yond commoner, he was forced to accept a position as a private tutor in Normandy, with a noble and affluent protestant family named d’Héricy.

Cuvier traveled through France by stagecoach. The luxury of Paris dazzled him. Revolutionary unrest was beginning, but during the six years he spent in Normandy, Cuvier led a life somewhat outside these dramatic events. His duties as tutor were not very engrossing. During the fall and winter he lived in Cane, where he had rich libraries and a botanical garden at his disposal. In the spring and summer he accompanied the d’Héricy family to the north of Normandy, to the château de Fiquainville, near the sea and the fishing port of Fécamp. This gave him the opportunity to dissect numerous marine organisms and shorebirds. When he was in Stuttgart. Cuvier had begun making notes almost every day and sketching in large notebooks which he called, in the style of Linneus, his Diarium zoologicum and Diarium botanicum; in Normandy he added to them beautiful drawings of fish and of anatomy, accompanied by detailed descriptions.

However, Cuvier missed the Caroline University, where he had left his closest disciple, Christian Heinrich Pfaff. They maintained a correspondence, which kept Cuvier in touch with his university and with the ducal administration(which had knowledge of his letters and the political intelligence they contained). Since he ran the risk that letters would be opened by the French police, Cuvier was forced to feign sympathy to revolutionary ideas. After the Revolution however, he often expressed his disapproval of this regime—in which, he said,"the populace made the law.” He dreaded the “populace” throughout his life.

For the historian of science the Cuvier–Pfaff letters are of importance. They show that between the ages of nineteen and twenty–three, Cuvier acquired the basic ideas that he developed between 1804 and his death in 1832. These letters also allow one to envisage an influence that Cuvier may have exerted on Lamarck in favor of tae theory of the “chain of being.” At first Cuvier was hostile toward theories. whether scientific, philosophical, or social. He wrote to Pfaff in 1788: “I wish everything that experience shows us to be carefully disassociated from hypotheses… science should be based upon facts, despite systems.” In 1791 he explained to his friend that the structure of an animal is, of necessity, in harmony with its mode of life.

Cuvier believed in divine providence and considered himself to be close in spirit to Bernardin de saint–Pierre. Around 1791 Kielmeyer returned to the Caroline University, and Pfaff sent Kielmeyer’s unpublished courses to Cuvier. Pfaff then recalled, in one of his letters, Bonnet’s famous theory to the effect that all existing things from the crystal to the man form gradually more complex systems linked through imperceptible transitions, and thus form a continuous chain. Cuvier objected that as many chains must be supposed as there were systems of organs, because in the groups of living beings it was not the same systems of organs that exhibit increasing complexity. Pfaff seems to have replied that this chain might lead in different directions and might be branched like a family tree, for Cuvier replied in 1792: “I believe, I see that aquatic animals were created for the water and the others for the air. But whether it is a question of branches or roots, or even different parts of a single trunk, I say again this is what I am unable to comprehend.”

Cuvier seems to have reached soon after a sort of intellectual turning point: in the same year he published in the Journal d’histoire naturelle his first work devoted to wood lice. There he suddenly appears to be a proponent of the chain of being: “Here, as elsewhere, nature makes no jumps… therefore, the descent is by degrees from crayfish to Squilla, from Squilla to Asellidae, then to wood lice, to Armadilladiidae and to galley worms. All of these genera must be related to single natural class.”

Cuvier, who had become a French citizen upon the annexation of the territory of Montbéliard in 1793, sought recognition in the scientific world of Paris. He wrote to Lacépède and Haüy; and at the suggestion of the agronomist H. A. Tessier he sent a selection of his unpublished works to Étienne Geoffroy SaintHilaire, who had been appointed professor at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle when only twenty–one. Geoffory, full of youthful enthusiasm, encouraged Cuvier to come to Paris; he did so at the beginning of 1795. Shortly after his arrival, he took advantage of the numerous dissections that he had performed in Normandy and presented a paper that marked a new stage in the study of invertebrates. “Before me,” he wrote in 1829, “modern naturalists divided all nonvertebrate animals into two classes, insects and worms. I was the first… to offer another division… in which I pointed out the characteristics and limits of mollusks, crustaceans, insects, worms, echinoderms, and zoophytes.”

Lamarck, in the introduction to his course of 1796, acknowledged that he was going “to follow to a very great extent [the classification] devised by the learned naturalist Cuvier.” Geoffroy had invited Cuvier to work with him, and their collaboration lasted a year. Geoffroy, like his patron Daubenton, was hostile to the idea of the chain of being but changed his mind, probably under the influence of his new friend. In their paper on tarsiers Cuvier and Geoffroy felt that “this genus could be considered as the link uniting quadrumana to Chiroptera or bats.” In a paper on orangutans they audaciously proposed the idea of the origin of species from a single type. Lamarck claimed that he owed his theory of the transformation of species to J. J. Barthélemy, who in 1788 had revived the ideas of the Greeks on this subject. Lamarck was very close to Geoffroy, however; and he was certainly influenced in 1795 by Geoffrou’s conversion to the theory of the chain of being, a theory that Cuvier may well have borrowed from Kielmeyer through Pfaff.

The rapidity and brilliance of Curvier’s career was the consequence both of the importance of his scientific work and of his ability as a teacher; after only a few minutes of preparation he was able to deliver a logically constructed lecture he illustrated his ideas by means of quick blackboard drawings that were as clear as they were accurate. In Paris, where there was a shortage of zoologists, it was only natural that shortly after his arrival he should be appointed professor of zoology at the Écoles centrales (which replaced the former universities for a few years) and assistant professor of animal anatomy at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. Because of his position at the museum, Cuvier was given quarters in the Jardin des Plantes, near the menagerie. He lived there until his death.

In April 1796, Cuvier became a member of the Class of Physical Sciences at the Institute de France. He was only twenty–six at the time. He succeeded Daubenton as a professor at the Collège de France in 1800 and was given the responsibility for organizing the lycées in Bordeaux, Nice and Marseilles. In 1803 he assumed the remunerative duties of permanent secretary of physical sciences at the Institute. The following year the Empire replaced the Consulate. In 1808 Napoleon appointed Cuvier university counselor. He contributed enormously to the organization of the new Sorbonne in Paris. Next he was sent on a mission to Italy, the Netherlands, and southern Germany to reorganize higher education there (1809–1813). As payment for his services he received an endownment and the title of chevalier in 1811.

The restored monarchy succeeded the Empire in 1814 and Cuvier—whose political ideal, it was said, had been enlightened depotism—became the devoted servant of the kings. Stendhal wrote: “What servility and baseness had not been shown toward those in power by M. Cuvier!” And indeed, in order to placate those in power, he did not hesitate to contradict his past by associating himself with the adversaries of that liberalism which was so dear to Protestants. On the other hand, he did support the exercise and even the development of Protestantism at a time when the ultraroyalists were hostile to it. He was the director of Protestant universities and, for a while, was also director of non-Catholic religions. E. Trouessart, professor of zoology at the Muséum, believed that the support given by Cuvier to his own coreligionists was as important, in its way, as the work of the zoologist.

Cuvier became councillor of state in 1814, and from 1819 until his death actually presided over the Interior Department of the Coucil of State. Every day, starting at eleven o’clock, he attended to business of the council of state or the council of public instruction; Monday afternoon was set aside for the Institute. He became a member of the Académie Française in 1818 and was made a baron in 1819, a grand officier of the Legion of Honor in 1824, and was nominated peer of France in 1831. Cuvier took advantage of his great influence in higher education by trying to develope the teaching of relegion, modern languages, and natural sciences. He obtained positions for his friends and relatives. Numerous applicants wrote to him or visited him, knowing full well that he would accept, with pleasure, the grossest flattery. Cuvier was always in a hurry, easily irritated, and very authoritarian. His loyal associate, C.–L. Laurillard, accused him, above all, of never having told his associated his scientific ideas or goals. He was a very secretive man, and it is not certain whether his writings reflect his true opinions. Nevertheless, he was kind to aspiring young persons, assisting and advising them.

Cuvier was short and during the Resolution he was very thin; he became stouter during the Empire; and he grew enormously fat after the Restoration. He had to walk slowly and did not dare to bend over for fear of apoplexy. His health and his appetite remained excellent, however. Nicknamed “Mammoth” and posing as a kind of bishop of science, he did have a certain majesty when he donned his long, decoration stubbed university gown of purple velvet with ermine borders—which, it is said, he himself had designed.

In February 1804, Cuvier married Mme. Davaucelle, a widow and a very devout Protestant, who was kind, outspoken, and energetic. Already the mother of four children, she bore him four more. She saw to everything, and the naturalist’s favorite Montbéliard chitterling sausages were never missing from the table. Cuvier had three or four large sources of income, any one of which would have enabled him to enjoy a comfortable life. He had a carriage and servants, visited the Paris salons, and himself received at home on Saturday evenings in the great hall of his library, which contained busts of famous men. His colleagues did not come often; instead, most of his visitors were naturalists from the provinces, foreigners, and even the two great writers, stendhal and Prosper Mérimée, drawn there by the charms of his daughters and step daughters. Although he was laden with honors and money, Cuvier’s happiness was clouded by the death of his four children; he was overcome in 1827 by the death of his twenty-two-year-old daughter Clémentine, and he appears to have tried to forget this sorrow by working unceasingly.

One evening in May 1832, Cuvier experienced a slight paralysis and contraction of the esophagus. He grew weaker over the next few days and died on 13 May. Following this rather mysterious illness (it was said to be acute myelitis), the physicians performed a dissection. His brain was found to be exceptional in the bulging configuration of the lobes and to be unusually heavy (1,860 grams). If one believes his widow, he left a fortune insignificant in relation to his enormous income. It was claimed that this reputedly selfish man made large charitable contributions. Was it through the intermediary of his daughter Clémentine, who was known for her generosity? Or did he perhaps have a secret life?

Cuvier’s scientific and administrative work was immense, and as he grew older it became greater. This increasing activity may be explained by the power of his memory. His library, arranged according to subject matter, was open to all. At the end of his life it contained 19,000 volumes and thousands of pamphlets. Cuvier had committed almost all of their contents to memory, from which within a few seconds, he could retrieve the information he needed—whether it was in history, law, natural science, or it heraldry. This enormous amount of information seems to have been an obstacle to his ability to synthesize. An opponent of theories, he said, “We know how to limit ourselves to describing.” Cuvier sought to do the most possible within the shortest possible period of time, and therefore he rarely sought perfection in form or thought. In order to gain time he surrounded himself with collaborators who lacked his intellectual vigor and would not dare criticize him; thus, the numerous works published under his name contain some weak portions.

In zoology Cuvier’s work was, in great part, a result of his dominant position at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, which at the time was the world’s largest establishment dedicated to scientific research. The government organized expeditions to distant lands, and all of the collections brought back enriched the museum with prodigious rapidity. Upon his arrival at the museum, Cuvier rearranged the comparative anatomy collections that had been made at the end of the seventeenth century by Claude Perrault and Georges Duverney and at the middle of the eighteenth century by Daubenton; the entire collection consisted of a few hundred skeletons and a few dozen anatomical preparations. In 1804 these collections Comprised 3,000 items; and the number had risen to 13,000 by 1832. Cuvier classified the birds and fish in the galleries according to his own system. The huge museum menagerie, founded and directed by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, furnished Cuvier with invaluable specimens for dissection and anatomical preparations of mammals and birds. As for fossils and fish, amateurs throughout the world sent him material. Since all the materials for his work were so easily available, Cuvier traveled little for scientific purposes. He took advantage of an administrative mission to Marseilles in 1803 to study marine fauna of the Mediterranean, and he made a few geological excursions in the Paris region with Alexandre Brongniart, starting in 1804. In 1817 he went to England to study fossil remains, but his duties at the Institute and at the Council of State usually prevented him from leaving Paris, even in the summer.

Cuvier published three works of general Zoology: Tableau élémentaire de l’histoire naturelle des animaux (1797); Leçons d’anatomie comparée, in collaboration with C. Duméril (1800) and G. Duverney (1805); and Le règne animal, arranged according to his system of classification, in collaboration with Pierre Latreille on insects (1817). Although often a bit hasty and conservative, his classifications, except for fish, did not have the solidity of Lamarck’s, Latreille’s or Geoffroy Saint–Hilaire’s. His Historie naturelle des poissons, begun in Normandy and gradually improved, was published in collaboration with Achille valenciennes. The first volume appeared in 1828, and the ninth had been edited at the time of his death. Valenciennes stopped with the twenty–second volume in 1849, just short of completing this great work, which constitutes the basis of modern ichthyology;most of the fish families created by Cuvier were so soundly based that they have become orders or suborders in present classification. Before Cuvier collectors freely described shells of mollusks but often ignored the creatures within; Cuvier dealt with their anatomy, and twenty–three of his papers on this subject were collected in one volume in 1817. Seeking to produce one great Anatomie Comparée, he spent his life gathering some 13,000 items for the museum’s public gallery and collecting drawings and documents; 336 plates made according to his drawings and those of Laurillard appeared between 1849 and 1856, with the title Anatomie comparée, Recueil de planches de myologie

In the history of science Cuvier’s work is vast. As permanent secretary of the Academy he had to deliver periodic reports on the progress of research. These reports were bound in four volumes in 1828 and in five volumes in 1833. He also had the responsibility of composing éloges, essays on the careers of deceased members of the Academy; these éloges, often well documented, make good reading. For Michaud’s Biographie universelle he wrote articles on Aristotle, Buffon, Daubenton, Linnaeus, Pliny, and Vicq d’Azyr, among others. The first volume of his Histoire des poissons traces the development of ichthyology; it contains a great many facts, but they are presented somewhat dryly. This aridity is found again in his last courses at the Collège de France, published as Histoire des sciences naturelles depuis leur origine; based on notes taken at his lectures, this was the first great work on this vast subject.

Cuvier was considered by the public to be a bit of a wizard, a man who had brought to life animals that had long since become extinct and of which Buffon, well before him, had understood the scientific importance. But Cuvier knew how to make great strides in studying these creatures and could endow this study with new accuracy. His famous paleontological reconstructions had the living being as their point of departure, a sort of eddy that organized constantly renewed matter (in the manner of Buffon’s “organic mold”). This living being “overcomes” physical and chemical laws, Cuvier said, and constitutes “a unique and closed system, all parts of which mutually correspond and concur in the same definitive action through a kind of reciprocal reaction. None of these parts can change without the others changing as well; and consequently each of them taken separately indicates and shows the nature of all the others.” Thus a carnivore should have intestines organized for digesting meat, powerful jaws, sharp teeth, and claws. In order to seize prey, these claws should be at the ends of easily moved toes; with musculature appropriate to the osseous structure. Consequently, Cuvier said, every time we have a well–preserved piece of bone, we can determine the class, order, genus, and even the species from which it came as precisely as if we had the entire animal. This method, he states, verified on real skeletons, had been proved infallible. Actually, Cuvier made a great many errors, but he also had spectacular successes. Before witnesses he removed from a stone block the marsupial bones of a small opossum fossil, bones whose existence he had surmised on the basis of the conformation of the visible part of the Skeleton. As early as 1804 Cuvier had the idea of reconstructing the musculature of extinct animals from imprints left by the muscles on the bones; then he merely had to imagine the skin over the muscles and the animal was practically brought back to life.

Cuvier conceived the notion of the balance of nature, which was not developed until long after his ture, which was not developed until long after his time. He conceived of living nature as an “immense network” in which the species depended on each other. At first he believed that this network had remained fixed since the six days of Creation, just as the species themselves had remained fixed. But his own paleontological discoveries forced him, as early as 1812, to admit that creation had taken place in several stages. Reptiles, he said were found on land long before mammals; the species that had become extinct were the first to have appeared; and it is only on the most recent portions of earth that fauna was almost identical to that found there today. Primates, the last beings created, would never have existed in the fossil state, he asserts.

In 1812 Cuvier had brought together his first memories on paleontology in his Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles des quadrupèdes. The Discours préliminaire to the work, printed separately under the title Discours sur les révolutions du globe, was in the style of Buffon’s Époques de la nature, but written less in philosophical spirit than as a defense of biblical chronology. This essay, often reprinted and translated into many languages, drew its inspiration from the geological concepts of Alexandre Brongniart.

In 1804, wanting to place the Montmartre bed of fossil formations in time, Cuvier, with Brongniart, began research that led to Géographie minéralogique des environs de Paris (1808, 1811), which was rewritten and greatly expanded as Description géologique des environs de Paris (1822, 1835). In this work, a landmark in the history of geology, Cuvier played the lesser role. Brongniart did the necessary field work, drawing his inspiration from the works of Buffon, Soulavie, Ramond, Palassou, and especially Lamarck; the latter had described the fossil invertebrates of the Paris region and, in his Hydrogéologie (1802), had set forth the bases of the theory of “current causes,” later developed by Constant Prévost. Cuvier, respecting the short chronology of the Bible, was forced to assume, in addition to “current causes,” which act very slowly, rapid catastrophes and global upheavals which had no basis in fact.

Since he considered the theory of the variability of species to be contrary to moral law, to the Bible, and to the progress of natural science itself, Cuvier undertook a battle, which is still famous, against the ideas of his former friends Lamarck and Geoffory Saint–Hilaire—a battle that was often fought in secret and in which he tested his own political power. Geoffroy Saint–Hilaire, and probably Lamarck, became the object of investigation at a time when religious beliefs were obligatory for all civil servants. In 1792 Cuvier, as we have seen, first disputed and then accepted the theory of the chain of being. Starting in 1802–1804, it appears, he once again rejected this theory for scientific, polotical, and religious reasons.

Geoffroy Saint–Hilaire had brought back from the Egyptian expedition some 3,000-year–old mummified animals that, when examined in 1802, proved to be similar to present species. For Lamarck this fact merely proved that the transformation of species is so slow as to be imperceptible over a 3,000-year period. To Cuvier such reasoning was absurd; if, over a period of 3,000 years, he said, there is zero modification, one may multiply 3,000 by zero as much as desired, and although that would increase the age of the earth, the modification of species would always remain zero. Political events reinforced Cuvier in his position; in December 1804 Napoleon had himself crowned emperor and restored the official recognition of religion to his won advantage. Thereupon Cuvier in his courses, and much to the astonishment of his audience, attacked Lamarck’s materialistic ideas and passed himself off as a defender of the Bible. This return to strict religious orthodoxy was perhaps also connected with his marriage in February 1804, which seems to have reestablished his bonds with Protestant circles in Paris.

On the other hand, Geoffroy Saint–Hilaire remained faithful to the ideas of his aged frient Lamarck and demonstrated that all vertebrates had the same type of body structure, which similarly constituted an argument in favor of their common origin. In 1820 he even claimed to have discovered this unity of structure in invertebrates; Cuvier criticized him with good reason; and Geoffroy, very displeased, sought revenge. In 1824 Cuvier, who worked too quickly, had classified in the crocodile group a reptile of the Jurassic period that was very far removed; Geoffroy was quick to announce the error and claimed that the reptile in question, which he called the Teleosaurus because of its anatomical peculiarities, was a predecessor of mammals of the Tertiary. He thus showed that paleontology, Cuvier’s main field, could bring arguments to bear in favor of the chain of being. Geoffroy then developed that part of paleontology whose purpose was to discover the “missing links.”

Two of Geoffroy’s disciples, Lauerncet and Meyranx, through an audacious hypothesis that is still worthy of attention, attempted in 1829 to establish a structural analogy between fish and cephalopods, which made it possible to conceive of a transition between invertebrates and vertebrates. Cuvier sought to prevent an examination of this work by the Academy, and Geoffroy reproached him publicly; Cuvier replied angrily. From 15 February to 5 April 1830, the controversy grew progressively sharper. Cuvier accused Geoffroy and his disciples of being pantheists, a very serious accusation under the reign of Charles X. The press gave this affair extensive coverage, and Presented it in different ways, each paper according to its political views. In the July Revolution of 1830 Charles X fled; after a few apprehensive days Cuvier won the favor of the new government. He was then able to resume his attacks against Lamarck and Geoffroy at the Collège de France. In his last lecture, six days before his death, after having pronounced an anathema upon useless scientific theories and upon the pantheism of Kielmeyer, Lamarck, and Geoffroy, he rendered solemn homage to Drive Intelligence, the Creator of all things, before an audience overcome by emotion.

Cuvier’s life was one of compensation. Born into a poor family and not a member of the nobility, he became rich and acquired the title of baron. Not particularly handsome, he found consolation in being admired for his intelligence and gave himself a commanding appearance by wearing elaborate attire. His vanity was boundless, as was his hunger for honors and praise, characteristics that dominated his entire career. He had a somewhat Germanic mentality and envisaged society as a sort of organism in which subordination was the rule. Although he was very pliant toward his “superiors,” he was authoritarian toward those he deemed his “inferiors"; and he left only second–rate disciples.

In Cuvier’s work one must consider separately his still little–known role of support for the Protestant community, a role that would perhaps justify some of his servility toward those in power. His activities on behalf of reorganization of education, often successful, were inspired by some novel ideas that had been popular at the Caroline University when he attended it. His great erudition could have made him the first great historian of natural science if he had had a more precise concept of the role played by theories in scientific research; throughout his life he took great pains to discredit theoretical ideas in favor of what he called positive facts. This proved to be his great error and for a long time was an obstacle to the development of natural science, particularly in France, where the line of “those limited to description” persists to this day.

It is likely that fear of a new revolution played a significant part on the religious revival that Cuvier manifested beginning in 1804; he must not be called to task for this, for thousands of Frenchmen at the time underwent a similar political–religious evolution. Cuvier undoubtedly rediscovered his faith sincerely each time a new period of mourning cast gloom on his existence. But his respect for biblical chronology prevented him from participating in a new form of thought, one that viewed phenomena in four dimensions, the fourth being that of time: time of short duration for physical phenomena, time that was measured in millions or billions of years for the creation of the universe or for that of living species. In this area Curvier’s thought was backward in relation to that of his first teacher, Buffon. His interpretation of the balance of parts of living creatures and the balance of creatures in nature was much too static—even Laplace reproached him for this—but then, by an irony of fate, paleontology, which he advanced in great measure, contributed decisive arguments in favor of the variability of species. When Darwin made the idea of evolution triumphant in 1859, and Christians no longer sought to harmonize the Bible with geology, Cuvier’s glofy diminished. Nevertheless, for the historian of science as well as for the psychologist who studies the conditions of scientific thought, Curver’s role, his extraordinary memory, and even his failings remain rich sources of information.


I. Original Works. There is no complete bibliography of Cuvier’s works; one that included all the reprints and translations would probably run to 300 titles. The Catalogue of Scientific Papers of the Royal Society. II, VII, IX, XIV, lists works published after 1800 in scientific journals (243 titles); for papers published before 1800 see H. Daudin, Cuvier et Lamarck (Paris, 1926), II, 285–286. Basic individual works published in French can be found in the catalog of the Bibliothèque Nationale; translations are listed in catalogs of the larger foreign libraries.

Most of Curvier’s papers are at the library of the Intitutde France (very fine analytical catalogs have been published by H. Dehérain) and at the library of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (mediocre catalog). The archives of the Council of State have disappeared, but those of the ministries probably contain many documents (not cataloged) concerning Curvier’s political and administrative activities. Curvier’s correspondence has not been collected systematically. His library, purchased by the state, was divided between the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (works on natural sciences) and the École Normale Supérieure (other works).

II. Secondary Literature. Three of Cuvier’s closest associates left behind biographies of him: G. L. Durverney, Notice historique sur les ouvrages et la vie de M. le Baron Curvier(Paris, 1833), chronological bibliography of 213 titles and interesting information on Cuvier’s childhood; C. L. Laurillard, Éloge de M. le Baron Cuvier (Paris, 1833), reprinted in Cuvier’s Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles des quadrupèdes, I (1834), 3–78, and in Michaud’s Biographie universelle, 2nd ed.; and Blainville, Cuvier et Geoffroy Saint–Hilaire (Paris, 1890). Cuvier’s correspondence with Pfaff is presented in Georges Cuvier’s Briefe an C. H. Pfaff aus den Jahren 1788 bis 1792 (Kiel, 1845), translated by Louis Marchant as Lettres de Georges Curvier à C. H. Pfaff… (Paris, 1858). There are no adequate works on Cuvier’s thought. However the work by Daudin (Cuvier et Lamarck) is of some value, as is W. Coleman, Georges Cuvier Zoologist (Cambridge, Mass., 1964). See also G. Petit and J. Théodoridès, in La biologie médicale, spec. no.(Mar.1961). On Cuvier’s family see John Viénot, Georges Cuvier (Paris, 1932). An iconographic collection by L. Bultigaire is in Archives du Musuém d’historie naturelle, 6th ser., 9 (1932). The biography by Mrs. Lee is an exaggerated and uncritical eulogy. Pierre Flourens’s publications on Cuvier’s works often substitute the author’s personal ideas for those of Cuvier without warning. Other recent publications include Bicentenaire de la naissance de Georges Cuvier (Montbéliard, 1969); and Dujarric de La Rivière, Cuvier, sa vie, son oeuvre. Pages choisies(Paris, 1969). See also the series in Réalités(1969), nos,280–285, which presents several iconographic documents but otherwise sheds little new light. More interesting is the exposition catalogue Cuvier and Württemberg(Stuttgart, 1969), which includes accounts of the documents and contains introductions by Robert Uhland and R. D. Adam.

Franck Bourdier

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