Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes: New Translations & Interpretations of the Primary Texts

Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes: New Translations & Interpretations of the Primary Texts

Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes: New Translations & Interpretations of the Primary Texts

Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes: New Translations & Interpretations of the Primary Texts

Synopsis

French zoologist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) helped form and bring credibility to geology and paleontology. Here Martin J. S. Rudwick provides the first modern translation of Cuvier's essential writings on fossils and catastrophes and links these translated texts together with his own insightful narrative and interpretive commentary. "Martin Rudwick has done English-speaking science a considerable service by translating and commenting on Cuvier's work. . . . He guides us through Cuvier's most important writings, especially those which demonstrate his new technique of comparative anatomy."--Douglas Palmer, New Scientist

Excerpt

Most of the fossils that Cuvier mentioned in his paper on living and fossil elephants had already been described and discussed by others; but one of them, as he noted, was a recent discovery. Cuvier made this the subject of a separate paper, which he read at the Institut National not long after his first. It greatly increased his personal stake in the field of fossil anatomy.

Fossil bones are usually found scattered and disarticulated. However, one almost complete assemblage of bones, clearly derived from a single individual of some large animal, had been found in 1789 near Buenos Aires in what was then Spanish South America. Shipped back to Madrid, these bones were assembled at the Gabinete Real (Royal Museum) by Juan-Bautista Bru (1740-99), a conservator there. the most important separate bones and Bru's mounted reconstruction of the whole skeleton were drawn and engraved for him in preparation for a paper he planned to write about it. in 1796 a French official who was visiting Madrid saw the skeleton and obtained a set of Bru's unpublished plates. These were sent to the Institut in Paris, and Cuvier was asked to report on them. in . . .

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