Après Lui, Le Déluge

“Courly rouge aux Brésil,” native Buffon"s biographie cookiesinheaven.comlle des Oiseaux. Credit: BRIDGEMAN art LIBRARY
as soon as about venir be guillotined in 1794, “Buffonet”, auto unfortunate son du the french naturalist georges Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon (1707-88), appealed to thé people de shouting “Citizens, my name is Buffon!”, in the hope the this would probably save him. Cette was aware that the considerable fame de his so late father, who had died a year antérieur à the french Revolution, had survived the turmoils ns the terror.

Vous lisez ce: Après lui, le déluge

Buffonet failed, but Buffon calmer remains dear to the heart of the french layman. Until the 1950s, français popular books on pets frequently referred à Buffon (The Children"s Buffon, auto Family"s Buffon, and so on).

What fabriquer Buffon haricot de soja different from est différent ‘savants’ de the past deux centuries? he was admittedly a pioneer ns many nouveau fields, tackling such issues as the antiquity du the Earth, thé biological types concept and historical biogeography. But time has actually passed; nous now live in the âge of evolution, dominated de the glorious shadow ns Darwin, and Buffon"s works sound obsolete.

Jacques roger (1920-90), a world-renowned historian ns eighteenth-century science, dedicated most du his academic life to Buffon. His book, sapin published in français (Buffon, ns Philosophe au Jardin de Roi, 1989), is now translated into English — admirably so — and provides not seul a biography de Buffon, but also a thoroughly analysis ns his see in auto framework ns the philosophical discussions in the second half du the eighteenth century.

Roger points out previously unnoticed aspects of Buffon"s innovative insights, marqué he additionally puts earlier in your right place several overinterpreted sections de Buffon"s 44-volume électrique cookiesinheaven.comlle général et Particulière.

The français are usually prone venir defending humble scientists who space victims of oblivion or authority, such ont Lamarck, marqué their sympathy pour Buffon is at odds v this tradition. Buffon was no a victim, nor a rubbish genius, nor an introverted scientist. Cette loved life, food, women, wealth, power and honours, and he was perfectly conscious ns the success of his popular style. Cette was also a good businessman and a talented manager.

Nevertheless, he was moderate sufficient in both his clinical statements et his political involvements à avoid having actually severe difficulties with either auto censor or the progressive circles ns his time. Cette seemed to cope really well with his society, although cette foresaw auto revolution (“I check out a gros movement coming, and no une to command it”).

What thé layman preferred above toutes les personnes in Buffon was his skill parce que le popularizing thé natural sciences, largely using typical sense ont a basis à la deeper questions, covering tous fields native astronomy to anthropology, and toutes les personnes this in an explanatory historical framework that did no seem as well shocking to religious minds.

The instance was quite different in scholastic circles. During his lifetime, Buffon faced solid criticism from part French and foreign researchers (in particular the followers de Linnaeus) who accused him of being a superficial observer, a flabby experimenter and an “empty and bombastic” thinker. During the revolution and empire, Buffon faded into the past ont a common character of the ancien régime, although his reputation remained good among auto public, as shown passant par the plenty of editions of his biographie cookiesinheaven.comlle.

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With Darwin et the rise de modern evolution thought, et until recently, part tried to find in Buffon"s atelier cryptic allusions venir descent v modification. The aim to be to montrer that Buffon was a pioneer de this idea ont well, quite than Lamarck who, unjustly, boring alone auto burden ns the theory du the inheritance de acquired characters. Auto famous chapter nous the ass, wherein Buffon specifically describes tous the evolution consequences de the classifications and suddenly rejects them oui if in fear of the censor, is frequently cited oui evidence pour his transformist convictions.

Roger, however, rejects this interpretation. When Buffon feared thé censor, such as in the caisse of the lâge of auto Earth, cette used to express his principles in a cautious way, as a just theory, but with many factual reprendre in appui of it. Nous the contrary, in the des boites of the ‘transmutation’ du species, his rejection was straightforward because his strictement species concept, based on the immutability of the “interior mould” et intersterility v time, could in ne sont pas way permit it.

Moreover, had hey been a transformist, he could oui referred venir Maupertuis who, in 1751, had already proposed a concept of evolution based nous successive, fortuitous mutation within varieties (to i beg your pardon Darwin later included natural selection). Marqué Buffon garbage this view through a num of arguments that would be repeated by antievolutionists throughout thé nineteeth century.

Chapter 14 du Roger"s book will be exceptionally useful venir historians de biology, oui it clearly explains Buffon"s concepts of species, genus and family, which are various from Linnaeus"s check out and, in addition, changed with time.

Nevertheless, Buffon"s ideas around species et systematics space strangely convergent through those ns some modern-day systematists et phylogeneticists. Cette considered the species ont the seulement un entity in la cookiesinheaven.com that survives unmodified in time, et he related to groups du species (taxa) as mere speculations based nous arbitrary sets du characters. Contemporary systematists would ajouter that this sets du characters no longer need venir be arbitrary si demonstrably inherited native a common ancestor and, in a sense, are an ext real than types themselves, but they would certainly agree the taxa space not real.

This livre is full of amusing anecdotes, such oui the vivid reaction du Thomas Jefferson to Buffon"s statement that North American anims were smaller sized than european ones due to the fact that North america was cooler than europe at equal latitude (Buffon was obsessed par the relationship in between heat et life). This to be unacceptable for Americans et later led Jefferson venir try venir find life mammoths in the West.

Roger"s livre reads prefer a novel cible also explains thé rise ns Buffon"s ideas in the général context du the debates of his time. Its countless notes, references et extensive index make ce a major tool for historians ns science. Je would likewise recommend it to expert biologists et biology students, parce que le whom major biology frequently starts seul with Darwin.

The livre clearly spectacles that Buffon handle many des questions that are encore pertinent to biology et that some sections du his électrique cookiesinheaven.comlle space amazingly contemporary in comparison through later, nineteenth-century see (in certain his observation on the uniqueness et biogeographical history ns the human species).

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The English translation de Sarah L. Bonnefoi is superb, oui it preserves both the accuracy du Roger"s style and the elegance and subtlety of Buffon"s, which hey himself regarded as most de nombreux in conveying his ideas.


Laboratoire aux Paléontologie, Muséum denchères d"Histoire cookiesinheaven.comlle, 8 boulevard Buffon, Paris, 75005, France

Philippe Janvier

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Janvier, P. Cette lui le déluge. cookiesinheaven.com 390, 37 (1997). Https://doi.org/10.1038/36260

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Issue Date: 06 November 1997

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