Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cuvier, George, was born at Montbeliard, near Besancon, in 1769, and educated at the academy of Stuttgart. He became tutor in the family of the Comte d'Hericy, near Caen, in Normandy, where the Channel afforded him means of studying fish and mollusks. Here the Abbe Tessier discovered him and introduced him to the naturalists of Paris. He received in succession various professorial appointments, working with Lamarck and Geoffrey St. Hilaire, and astonishing his colleagues by the clearness of his lectures on comparative anatomy and his masterly use of the pencil. In 1796 Cuvier was one of the founders of the National Institute, of which in 1803 he was chosen a secretary. While issuing numerous separate anatomical memoirs on almost every group of the animal kingdom, Cuvier issued no separate work before 1812. In 1800 his pupil Dumeril issued two volumes of notes of his lectures as Lessons on Comparative Anatomy, which were supplemented by three others by Duvernoy in 1805. In 1812 appeared the first edition of the Researches on the Fossil Bones of Quadrupeds, a work based largely on the Eocene fossils from the gypsum beds of Montmartre, which may be said to have laid the foundations of vertebrate palaeontology. In 1817 many scattered memoirs were collected as Contributions to the History and Anatomy of Mollusks, and in the same year appeared the first edition of his most popular work, The Animal Kingdom. This was in four volumes, and was all his own work except the insects, in which he was assisted by Latreille. It contains the details of his classification of animals into Vertebrata, Mollusca, Articulata, and Radiata. In 1825 appeared the Discourse on the Changes of the Earth's Surface, Cuvier's chief contribution to general geology, and between 1828 and 1831 his Natural History of Fishes, produced in conjunction with Valenciennes. Cuvier, who had been entrusted with many important duties in educational administration by Napoleon, retained his position under the Bourbons, and in 1831 was made a peer of France by Louis Philippe. In 1832 he died. Besides innumerable contributions to descriptive and comparative anatomy, Cuvier introduced three main principles: - First, that of "correlation of growth," by which he first demonstrated the possibility of "reconstructing" fossil animals from mere fragments; second, that classification must be based not on external or physiological but on anatomical characters; and third, the substitution of a natural classification of animals for the artificial system of Linnaeus. He thus did for zoology what the Jussieus and De Candolle did for botanical science.