The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate

The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate : French Biology in the Decades Before Darwin

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For scientists, no event better represents the contest between form and function as the chief organizing principle of life as the debate between Georges Cuvier and Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. This book presents the first comprehensive study of the celebrated French scientific controversy that focused the attention of naturalists in the first decades of the nineteenth century on the conflicting claims of teleology, morphology, and evolution, which ultimately contributed to the making of Darwin's theory. This history describes not only the scientific dimensions of the controversy and its impact on individuals and institutions, but also examines the meaning of the debate for culture and society in the years before Darwin.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 306 pages
  • 161.5 x 243.8 x 21.8mm | 701.68g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195041380
  • 9780195041385
  • 1,756,492

Review quote

'this is a fascinating, clearly told and meticulously documented ... This is a fine work of scholarship, deserving to be read by all who are interested in the history of biology and palaeontology. Ignore the drab dust jacket and do not be deterred by the lack of enlivening illustration; buy it, read it, and learn much!'
William A.S. Sarjeant, University of Saskatchewan, Modern Geology, 1992, Vol. 16 'Long-awaited and exhilarating study... the definitive modern account... Historians are only now coming to realize how prevalent and important morphological theories were in the pre-Darwinian period. The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate contributes substantially to this changing historical perspective. Toby Appel's masterly study is destined to become a landmark.' Nature 'Appel has illuminated brilliantly the French intellectual scene in the 19th century...Under consideration are not only biological aspects of the debate, but also its religious, social and polical backgrounds, and its later influence on evolutionary theory and other modalities of culture and intellect....This beautifully organized, elegantly written book, based on sound research, is recommended strongly to readers interested in the forms and functions of the organism
that is science.' The Scientist
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Back cover copy

Few issues have been more fundamental to biology than the contest between form and function as the chief organizing principle of life, and no event better represents that contest than the debate between Georges Cuvier and Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.
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Table of contents

A classic confrontation and its interpretations; Cuvier and Geoffroy: Collaborators on a new science; "Le legislateur de la science" Cuvier and functionalist anatomy; Geoffroy and the emergence of philosophical anatomy; The battle lines are drawn: 1820-1829; The debate before the academie; Beyond the academie: The many uses of the debate; Teleology, morphology, and evolution: The debate and the future of zoology.
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Rating details

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