Cuvier, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron

Cuvier, Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, 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 pterosaurpterosaur
[Gr., = winged lizard], extinct flying reptile (commonly called pterodactyl [Gr., = wing finger]) of the order Pterosauria, common in the late Triassic and Cretaceous periods, from approximately 228 to 65 million years ago.
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) was identified and named by Cuvier. He rejected the theory of evolutionevolution,
concept that embodies the belief that existing animals and plants developed by a process of gradual, continuous change from previously existing forms. This theory, also known as descent with modification, constitutes organic evolution.
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 as elaborated by LamarckLamarck, Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de
, 1744–1829, French naturalist. He is noted for his study and classification of invertebrates and for his introduction of evolutionary theories.
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 in favor of catastrophismcatastrophism
, in geology, the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population.
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. 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).

Bibliography

See study by W. Coleman (1964).

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