Birth of French Naturalist Georges Cuvier, Founder of Functional Anatomy Hot

Birth of French Naturalist Georges Cuvier, Founder of Functional Anatomy

Georges Cuvier, 1800

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History of Science

French naturalist Georges Cuvier is born in Montbéliard, France, to a Protestant family.

The founder of functional anatomy, Georges Cuvier will come to be regarded as the first Enlightenment-era naturalist who is forced to come to terms with the fact that the fossil record being unearthed all over the globe simply does not support the traditional belief that the planet and life on it were of recent lineage.

Cuvier thus comes to the conclusion that life has existed for much, much longer than a literal reading of the creation story in Genesis allows for. He even surmises that many species which had once existed must have become extinct during the long stretches of time.

Although Cuvier's research paves the way for Charles Darwin's ideas about evolution, Cuvier himself never concludes that life must have evolved. Instead, from observing the way in which sudden breaks appeared in the fossil record where one group of species was replaced by another group, Cuvier will argue that great catastrophes such as floods periodically wipe out all life, allowing it to be replaced in new acts of creation.

Cuvier's ideas will be widely accepted by scientists and intellectuals of his time, though many Christians will resist the same ideas because they conflict with literal readings of the Bible.


Georges Cuvier

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