Tintant, Henri

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(b. Dreux, France 10 June 1918;

d. Condrieu, France, 14 November 2003), invertebrate paleontology, evolutionary biology, jurassic stratigraphy, biostratigraphy.

Tintant was educated in Versailles where his father was a lawyer. In 1936 he took a degree course at La Sorbonne University in Paris where he graduated in botany, geology, and mineralogy. When war broke out, he served as artillery lieutenant from 1939 to 1941. In 1942 he obtained a Diplôme d’Études Supérieures on the Callovian of Southern Jura, a stratigraphic and paleontologic study. Tintant began his teaching career in 1942 as a geology assistant lecturer at the University of Montpellier. In 1944 he moved to Dijon University where, in 1968, he was appointed Chair of Paleontology. This position was specially created for him.

Tintant commented that his interest in geology came from looking at the pavement stones of the parade ground facing the palace of Versailles and from collecting shells from the Stampian Sands (Oligocene) along the banks of the Grand Canal in the palace park. Actually, it is through stratigraphy that he became interested in paleontology. These two disciplines remained his privileged fields of research for more than half a century.

Main Research: Ammonites. Tintant’s primary studies concerned ammonites (fossil Mollusca, Cephalopoda), first in Languedoc (southern France), then in the Jura Mountains, and finally on the Burgundy plateaux. His precise knowledge of fossils used as time markers provided him with the accurate data essential for relative dating and correlation of sedimentary series. Establishing reliable successions of fossils enabled him to develop his views on biological evolution by supporting them with concrete examples. In late 1940s France, invertebrate paleontology was considered a minor discipline, auxiliary to stratigraphy. Tintant was soon convinced of several things: first, that fossils are reliable tools for stratigraphy only if they are accurately identified by pure and fundamental paleontology; next, that such paleontology is possible with ammonites although only their fossil shells or prints are available; and finally, that invertebrate paleontology has its proper value.

Fossils: Living Organisms. According to Tintant, a fossil is not only a piece of rock in the shape of an animal, a sample to be described, classified, and labeled. It once was a living thing belonging to a population and representative of an animal species. This species lived during a limited time interval. It multiplied in a given environment over a geographical area that varied in both space and time. For him, it was necessary to give up the typological concept of the fossil and subsequently of the species to adopt a modern view of this taxon, taking into account the most recent data and concepts of zoology, biology, genetics, and a statistical approach to fossil populations. Tintant’s major contributions to paleontology essentially concerned the study of shells of fossil cephalopod populations, ammonites, and nautiloids. A modern concept of biological species involved sexual macroconch-microconch dimorphism, non-sexual, intraspecific polymorphism, and paleoecology (morphofunctional analysis in relation with environmental factors).

Quantifying the Variability. Tintant’s approach aimed at quantifying intra-population and intra-specific variability by applying statistical methods to biometry. Tintant insisted on close cooperation with biologists and zoologists since fossils should be considered organisms which lived in the past. He also took into account epistemiological contributions on concepts, theories, and modalities of evolution (phyletic gradualism, anagenesis, and cladogenesis) and stressed the importance of the notions of geologic time and irreversibility of biological evolution.

Owing to his great knowledge of ammonites gained by working on the paleontological collections of the University of Dijon, the National History Museum in Paris, several museums and universities in Western Europe, and his own findings, he was able to determine stratigraphic data for many Jurassic formations previously described and sometimes misdated.

He carried out his research in many areas in France, especially in Burgundy, and in the rest of Europe. He provided his students and many colleagues with the relative time framework indispensable for other geologic studies on sedimentology and paleogeography. He frequently participated in specific programs with stratigraphers and field geologists in France, Spain, and Portugal. However, Tintant’s stratigraphic investigations always went beyond the simple analysis of sedimentary series: He frequently discussed the biozone concept, trying to improve the precision and use of this outstanding biostratigraphic unit.

Stratigraphic Nomenclature. Tintant actively participated in working groups that discussed the foundations and uses of units of stratigraphic nomenclature, in the “Comité français de Stratigraphie” and with British and German colleagues at a European level. Early in his career he was appointed French member for the Jurassic in the International Stratigraphic Committee of the European Mesozoic.

For the Sinemurian, Tintant collaborated on the revision of the French stages and the selection of stratotypes with comments on the stage définition. Owing to his experience in stratigraphy and biostratigraphy, he was invited to participate in the Geologic Synthesis of the Paris Basin and in the Geologic Synthesis of the South-East Basin in France.

Tintant’s curiosity of mind led him to work in micropaleontology (evolutionary patterns in small benthic foraminifera), speleology (detrital sedimentation and stacking patterns in karstic cavities), and archeology (description of historic and prehistoric tomb furniture). This could give the impression that he did not focus on his main field of research, but he was a very hard worker with an outstanding memory and strong tenacity. He was therefore able to undertake several kinds of investigations at the same time in different domains. However, he took little care of administrative tasks, occasionally giving some anxiety to those who worked with him.

Evolution and Philosophy. Throughout his career, Tintant paid attention to the links between evolution and philosophy, more generally between science and philosophy. He particularly dealt with two topics. His first concern was the methodological foundations of evolutionary biology, and second, the inevitable metaphysical implications of all scientific investigations.

Because he was born in a Roman Catholic family environment, Tintant wanted to make his knowledge available to those interested in the relations between science and faith. He stressed the complementarity of respective approaches of science and faith. He personally witnessed the intellectual and spiritual enrichment which could be gained through these parallel approaches. Supported by remarkable friends, his considerations on “Creativity of Evolution” and “The Time of Evolution” bear evidence of the serenity and depth of mind his living faith brought to his teaching and scientific research career.



With R. Mouterde. “Le Sinémurien de Semur.” Colloque sur le Lias français, Chambéry 1960. C. R. Congrès Soc. Sav. Paris et Départ., Sect. Sci., Sous-sect. Géol. Mémoires du Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres. 4 (1961): 287–295.

With J. Sigal. Principes de classification et de nomenclature stratigraphiques. Paris: Comité Français de Stratigraphie, 1962.

“Les Kosmocératidés du Callovien inférieur et moyen d’Europe occidentale. Essai de Paléontologie quantitative.” PhD diss., University of Dijon, 1963.

“La notion d’espèce en paléontologie.” Mises à jour scientifiques, Gauthier-Villars édit. 1 (1965): 273–294.

“Principes et méthodes d’une paléontologie moderne.” Bulletin d’Information des Géologues du Bassin de Paris 7 (1966): 9–19.

“L’espèce et le temps. Point de vue du paléontologiste.” Bulletin de la Société Zoologique de France 94, no. 4 (1969a): 559–576.

“Les Nautiles à côtes du Jurassique.” Annales Paléont. Invertébré 55, no. 1 (1969b): 53–96.

With Elie Cariou, Serge Elmi, Charles Mangold, et al. “La succession des faunes dans le Callovien français. Essais de corrélation à l’échelle de la zone.” In Colloque du Jurassique, Luxembourg 1967. Mémoires du Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres 75 (1971): 665–695.

With Rene Mouterde, et al. “Les zones du Jurassique en France.”Compte rendue sommaire des. séances de la Société Géologique de France 6 (1971): 1–27.

With R. Laffitte, et al. “Essai d’accord international sur les problèmes essentiels de la Stratigraphie” [Some international agreement on essential problems of stratigraphy]. Compte rendue sommaire des séances de la Société Géologique de France 13 (1972): 36–45.

“La conception biologique de l’espèce et son application en biostratigraphie.” In Colloques sur les tendances et méthodes en Stratigraphie, vol. 1. Orsay, 1970. Also published in Mémoires du Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres 77 (1972): 77–87.

“Le polymorphisme intraspécifique en Paléontologie (exemples pris chez les Ammonites).” Haliotis 6 (1976): 49–69.

“L’évolution et le temps: les fossiles, chronomètre de l’histoire de la vie.” In Méthodologie comparée des Sciences. Évolution et histoire, Colloque de Dijon, Novembre 1977; Revue des questions scientifiques 149, no. 1 (1978): 27–54.

With René Mouterde. “Sinémurien.” In Les étages français et leurs stratotypes, 50–58. Mémoires du Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres 109 (1980).

“Problématique de l’espèce en Paléozoologie.” In T. III. Les problèmes de l’espèce dans le monde animal, edited by C. Bocquet et. al. Memoires Societe Zoologie Francais 40 (1980): 321–372.

With Didier Marchand and René Mouterde. “Relations entre les milieux marins et l’évolution des Ammonoïdés: les radiations adaptatives du Lias.” Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, 7th ser., 24, no. 5–6 (1982): 951–961.

“Cent ans après Darwin, continuité ou discontinuité dans l’Évolution.” In Modalités, rythmes et mécanismes de l’Evolution biologique, edited by J. Chaline. Paris: Colloques Internationaux du CNRS Dijon, 1983.

With René Mouterde. “Lias; Bordure Nord-Est du Massif Central.” In Synthèse géologique du Sud-Est de la France. Vol. I: Stratigraphie et Paléogéographie, edited by S. DebrandPassard. Mémoires du Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres 125 (1984).

L’évolution du concept d’espèce en biologie. Structure ou relation? Le même et l’autre. Recherche sur l’individualité dans les Sciences de la Vie. Paris: Editions CNRS, 1986a.

“La loi et l’événement. Deux aspects complémentaires des Sciences de la Terre.” Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, 8th ser., 10, no. 1(1986b): 185–190.

“La créativité de l’évolution.” Cahiers de l’Institut Catholique de Lyon, Série Sciences 18 (1987): 95–116.

“Temps et expérimentation dans l’évolution de la vie.” In Le Temps et l’Espace, 353–356. Actes 23ème Congrès de l’Association des Sociétés de Philosophie de Langue Française, Dijon, Août 1988. Paris: J. Vrin, 1990.

“Le temps de l’évolution.” In Temps du Monde, Temps de l’Homme, Temps de Dieu. Groupe interdisciplinaire de la Faculté des Sciences. Cahiers de l’Institut Catholique de Lyon 24 (1991): 61–81.

La stratigraphie à la recherche du temps. Geobios, Mém. Spéc. 17 (1994): 31–36.

With Charles Devillers. L’évolution: contingences et contraintes. Cahiers de l’Institut Catholique de Lyon, Sér. Sciences 8 (1996): 17.

With Charles Devillers. Questions sur la théorie de l’évolution. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1996.

Pierre Rat

Jacques Thierry

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