Published on 29 June 2018
Here, for the first time in English, is Georges Cuvier’s extraordinary “History of the Natural Sciences from Its Origin to the Present Day.” Based on a series of public lectures presented by Cuvier from 1829 to 1832, this third of a five-volume series, translated from the original French and heavily annotated with commentary, is a detailed chronological survey of the natural sciences spanning roughly fifty years, from the close of the seventeenth century to approximately 1750. It is truly astonishing in its detail and scope. Cuvier was fluent in many languages, English, German, Spanish, and certainly Latin, in addition to French. He was therefore well prepared to investigate and interpret firsthand the scientific literature of Europe as a whole. The work is an affirmation of Cuvier’s vast encyclopedic knowledge, his complete command of the scientific and historical literature, and his incomparable memory. This history is remarkable also for providing in one place a large set of useful references to a vast ancient literature that is not easily found anywhere else. This huge body of information provides us furthermore with unique insight into Cuvier’s concept of the natural sciences, and to the vast breadth and progress of this human endeavor. With this work, Cuvier fills an important gap in philosophical thought between the time of Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin.
Theodore W. Pietsch is Professor Emeritus in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, and Curator Emeritus of Fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington. His primary interests are in ichthyology, focusing on the evolutionary history, functional morphology, and reproductive biology of marine fishes, but also in the history of ichthyology and the history of science in general. He is the author of more than a twenty books, including The Curious Death of Peter Artedi: A Mystery in the History of Science, Tropical Fishes of the East Indies, Oceanic Anglerfishes: Extraordinary Diversity in the Deep-Sea, and Charles Plumier (1646-1704) and His Drawings of French and Caribbean Fishes.
Pietsch (Theodore W.) (ed.), Cuvier's History of the Natural Sciences: twenty lessons from the first half of the Eighteenth Century / L'histoire des sciences naturelles de Cuvier : vingt leçons sur la première moitié du dix-huitième siècle, Paris : Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 2018, 576 p. (Archives ; 26).