Cuvier, Georges (-Léopold-Chrétien-Frédéric-Dagobert), Baron

Cuvier, Georges (-Léopold-Chrétien-Frédéric-Dagobert), Baron

biographical name

(born Aug. 23, 1769, Montbéliard [now in France]—died May 13, 1832, Paris, France) French zoologist and statesman who established the sciences of comparative anatomy and paleontology. As a staff member at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, he published Le Règne animal distribué d'après son organisation (1817), which described his “correlation of parts” theory, in which every animal organ is functionally related to all the other organs and that an animal's functions and habits determine its anatomic form. Cuvier's classification of all animals into four completely discrete groups was a significant advance over the system of Carolus Linnaeus. He applied his functional concept to the study of fossils, postulating that huge land upheavals and floods were the principal factor in the creation and destruction of species. Though the theory did not last, Cuvier's work put paleontology on a firm empirical foundation. As Napoleon's inspector of public instruction, he helped establish France's provincial universities, and he also served as chancellor of the University of Paris.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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