Jean Octave Edmond Perrier was a French zoologist who lived through the tumult of British Darwinism and Lyellism, and reminds us in this revealing account that French scientists had much to contribute to such perennial topics as evolution, catastrophism and creationism. While very much a product of the Third Republic, Perrier's account also aimed to outline timeless issues and permanent advances in taxonomic and developmental biology since classical Greece and Rome. In this aim he succeeds with surprisingly modern perspectives for a book first published in 1884.
Perrier was born May 9, 1844 at Tulle, the son of the principal of a school which now bears his name, Lycee Edmond Perrier. In 1864 he was accepted to the Ecole Normale Superieure, where he was strongly influenced by Louis Pasteur and Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers. After working for three years at a high school in Agen, he obtained a post of naturalist-aid at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (1868), advancing in that institution to Chair of Natural History of Molluscs, Worms and Corals (1876-1903) and then Director of the museum (1900-1919) and Chair of Comparative Anatomy (1903-1921). Previous directors of the museum included many of the scientists he discusses in The Philosophy of Zoology Before Darwin: George Cuvier (1822-1823, 1826-1827, 1830-1831), Isidore Geoffrey St Hilaire (1860- 1861), and Alphonse Milne-Edwards (1891-1900). Perrier's own research on echinoderms and earthworms took him on several expeditions in 1880-1885, mostly to Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, but also to the Caribbean.
Foreword by Gregory Retallack
Translator's Preface by Alexander McBirney
Chapter I Introduction
Chapter III The Roman Period Lucretius
Chapter IV The Middle Ages And Renaissance
Chapter V Evolution Of The Concept Of Species
Chapter VI Philosophers Of The Xviiith Century
Chapter VII Buffon
Chapter VIII Lamarck
Chapter IX Etienne Geoffroy Saint-hilaire
Chapter X Georges Cuvier
Chapter XI Debate Between Cuvier And Geoffroy Saint-hilaire
Chapter XII Goethe
Chapter XIII Duges
Chapter XIV The Philosophers Of Nature
Chapter XV The Theory Of The Organic Types And Its Consequences
Chapter XVI Louis Agassiz
Chapter XVII The Lower Animals
Chapter XVIII The Cellular Theory And The Constitution Of The Indivual
Chapter XIX Embryology
Chapter XX Species And Their Modifications
Glossary by Stanton A. Cook
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Alex McBirney, a retired professor of Geology at the University of Oregon is the author of several books on the history of science, as well as his many studies on volcanology and igneous petrology. He developed an interest in Darwin while working in the Galapagos Islands and learned about Perrier's long-overlooked book through his friend, Philippe Janvier, at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. He saw that it was a very scholarly book of broad interest, but after reading few pages he realized why it had been almost totally ignored. Much of the text is very convoluted and almost incomprehensible, even to native French speakers. Enlisting the help of two colleagues, Gregory Retallack, a paleontologist, and Stanton Cook, a biologist, he undertook the task of translating it into a more readable form, so that it would be available to wide audience. The text has been annotated to take into account more recent work, and an extensive Glossary and Biographical Index have been added to provide a ready reference to the technical terms and persons cited in the text.