Cuvier's Model for Geohistory (1817–25)

in Worlds Before Adam

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780226731285
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226731308 | DOI:
Cuvier's Model for Geohistory (1817–25)

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This chapter describes the work of Georges Cuvier, naturalist and professor of comparative anatomy at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. In 1812 Cuvier produced four volumes of Researches on Fossil Bones, which reprinted the many specialized papers he published in his earlier years in the Muséum's in-house periodical, the Annales du Muséum. But it was prefaced by a new, long, and eloquent “Preliminary Discourse” that set out his ideas not only on fossil bones but, more broadly, on geology as a whole. It was in this celebrated essay that Cuvier suggested that geologists could and should aspire to “burst the limits of time” by reconstructing in reliable detail what he was convinced was a vast expanse of prehuman geohistory, dwarfing the totality of subsequent recorded human history. The main outlines of his ideas, as set out in his “Discourse” and substantiated in the rest of his Fossil Bones, are discussed.

Keywords: Georges Cuvier; Fossil Bones; geology; prehuman geohistory

Chapter.  7248 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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