The scientific tourist #57 — Buffon in bronze

This week’s image comes to you from Paris, France — it’s a bronze statue of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon:

Buffon in Bronze

Buffon was an 18th century French naturalist and author who helped pave the way for the scientific study of evolution, ecology, and even geology. Buffon is best known for his work Histoire naturelle (1749 – 1788), a 44 volume description of everything known about the natural world up to that date.

In Buffon’s day, the world was thought to be young (created in 4004 BC according to Bishop Ussher), and all species of plants and animals separately created in their present form. Among other things, Buffon’s Histoire naturelle noted the similarities between humans and apes, positing a common ancestry for both — helping break ground for Darwin, who would explain the mechanisms behind this ancestry nearly 100 years later. Meanwhile, in Les Epoques de la Nature (1788), Buffon tackled geology — suggesting that the world was far more than 6,000 years old, and earning himself condemnation from the Catholic hierarchy in France.

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3 Responses to The scientific tourist #57 — Buffon in bronze

  1. M Buchanan says:

    I’m sure a thousand other people have mentioned this, but you should change the date of birth from 1749 to 1707. See statue inscription, wikepedia, and more than one old fashioned, hard bound encyclopedia.

  2. M Buchanan says:

    sorry, my mistake. It doesn’t actually say that’s when he was born. (but it does seem to imply it.)

  3. Sam Wise says:

    FWIW, you were the first to send me a note about the dates. Do you feel lucky?

    Actually, 1749 is when the first volume of Histoire naturelle was published — they were released piecemeal from then until shortly after his death. I’ll move the dates up closer to the books’ name, just to avoid any more confusion.

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