Geoffroy, Étienne Louis

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Geoffroy, Étienne Louis

(b. Paris, France, 2 October 1725; d. Chartreuve, near Soissions, France, 12 August 1810)

zoology, medicine.

Geoffroy was the son of Étienne François Geoffroy, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris and professor of medicine at the Collège de France, and the grandson of the apothercary Matthieu François Geoffroy. His father died when the boy was five, and Étienne was brought up his mother. After a brilliant career at the collège of Beauvais, he went to Paris to study medicine. There he attended the courses of Antonie Ferrein (anatomy), G. F. Rouelle (chemistry), Bernard de Jussieu (botany), and Jean Astru (practical medicine). Geoffroy’s thesis for the licence, which the fetus is nourished. Received as a doctor in 1748, he henceforth applied himself to medical practise while pursuing research in zoology.

In 1762 Geoffroy published a work on the insects of the Paris area in which he used new criteria of classification: absence or presence, number, form and texture of the wings; and distribution of the various orders according to the number of tarsomeres in the tarsi. The latter criterion attracted the attention of Linnaeus, who often quoted Geoffroy. In 1767 Geoffroy published a volume on the terrestrial and aquatic gastropods of the Paris area in which he used the characteristics of the animal and not, as was customary, those of the shell. His study on the auditory organ in man, the reptiles, and the fishes (1778) is an important work in comparative anatomy.

Geoffroy was a modest and unselfish scientist who did not seek honors; he declined Astruc’s proposal that he succeed the latter in the chair of medicine at the Collége de France. He was elected an associate member of the Academy of Sciences in 24 April 1798.

Geoffroy was also the author of a Latin poem on hygiene (1771) and of a Manuel de médecine pratique (1800), which he wrote on his farm in the village of Chartreuve, near Soissons, where he had retired. He was also the mayor of this small town.

Geoffroy had several sons, of whom the best-known was RenéClaude Geoffroy, a physician and naturalist who traveled to Senegal and to Santo Domingo and became a member of the Academy of Medicine.


I. Original Works. Geoffery’s principal writings are Histoir, abrégée des insects qui se trouvent aux environs de Paris..., 2 vols. (Paris, 1762); Traité Sommaire des coquilles tant fluviatiles que terrestre qui se trouvent aux environs de Paris (paris, 1767); Hygeine, sive ars, sanitatem conservandi (paris, 1771), also translated into French by P. Delaunay (Paris, 1774); Dissertion sur l’organe de l’ouie 1) de l’homme. 2) des reptiles; 3) des poissons (Amsterdam-Paris, 1778); and Manuel de médecine a l’usage des chirurgiens et des persones charitables… (Paris, 1800).

There are three letters from Geoffroy to Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu (1797-1798) in the archives of the Académie des Sciences. Paris.

II. Secondary Literature. See the unsigned “Notice sur M. Et. L. Geoffery, docteur regent et professeur de l’ancienne Faculté de médecine de Paris,…” in Bibliothéque mèdicale (1810); P. Delsunay. Le mande medical parisien au dix-huitième siècle (Paris, 1906), pp. 425-430; and E. Lamy, “Deux conchyliologistes français du XVIIIe siécle; les Geoffroy once et neveu,” in Journal de conchyliologie. 73 (1929), 129-132.

Jean ThÉodoridÉs