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Cuvier, Georges (Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert), Baron

stuttgart comparative vertebrate theories

[küvyay] (1769–1832) French zoologist and anatomist: pioneer of comparative anatomy and vertebrate palaeontology.

Son of a Swiss soldier, Cuvier was educated in Stuttgart. He was a brilliant student and from early childhood had been fascinated by natural history. From Stuttgart he went as tutor to a family in Normandy and from 1785 taught in Paris, at the Museum of National History, then the largest scientific establishment in the world.

He did much to establish the modern classification of animals, extending that of by adding another broader level, the phylum. Thus he divided the invertebrates into three phyla. His work on molluscs and fish was particularly notable. In 1811, working with on the Tertiary rocks of the Paris Basin, he became the first to classify fossil mammals and reptiles, thus founding vertebrate palaeontology.

Before this, he had developed comparative anatomy and the technique of showing, from a few bones, a probable reconstruction of the entire animal of an extinct species. His emphasis was always on the facts and he derided general theories. In long conflicts with and E Geoffroy StHilaire (1772–1844) (both precursors of he attacked theories of evolution: he believed in catastrophes, with the Biblical flood as the most recent. After each catastrophe, life was created anew. Cuvier became the world’s most eminent biologist in his lifetime, with an authority akin to that of in chemistry.

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