Georges Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788). 1858 illustration of the French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist and encyclopedic author Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon epitomizes the revolutionary changes that the Enlightenment brought to the study of nature. 100 years before Darwin, Buffon published his 'Histoire Naturelle' (Natural History), a 44 volume encyclopedia describing everything known about the natural world. He wrestled with the similarities of humans and apes and even talked about a common ancestry of Man and apes, but ultimately rejected the possibility of a common descent. His works influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Georges Cuvier. He brought the idea of evolution into the realm of science and developed a concept of the 'unity of type', a precursor of comparative anatomy. More than anyone else, he was responsible for the acceptance of a long-time scale for the history of the earth.
October 2nd, 2018
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