Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution - His Life and Work
by Alpheus Spring Packard
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse







Professor of Zooelogy and Geology in Brown University; author of "Guide to the Study of Insects," "Text-book of Entomology," etc., etc.

"La posterite vous honorera!" —Mlle. Cornelie de Lamarck



All rights reserved

Press of J. J. Little & Co. Astor Place, New York


Although it is now a century since Lamarck published the germs of his theory, it is perhaps only within the past fifty years that the scientific world and the general public have become familiar with the name of Lamarck and of Lamarckism.

The rise and rehabilitation of the Lamarckian theory of organic evolution, so that it has become a rival of Darwinism; the prevalence of these views in the United States, Germany, England, and especially in France, where its author is justly regarded as the real founder of organic evolution, has invested his name with a new interest, and led to a desire to learn some of the details of his life and work, and of his theory as he unfolded it in 1800 and subsequent years, and finally expounded it in 1809. The time seems ripe, therefore, for a more extended sketch of Lamarck and his theory, as well as of his work as a philosophical biologist, than has yet appeared.

But the seeker after the details of his life is baffled by the general ignorance about the man—his antecedents, his parentage, the date of his birth, his early training and education, his work as a professor in the Jardin des Plantes, the house he lived in, the place of his burial, and his relations to his scientific contemporaries.

Except the eloges of Geoffroy St. Hilaire and Cuvier, and the brief notices of Martins, Duval, Bourguignat, and Bourguin, there is no special biography, however brief, except a brochure of thirty-one pages, reprinted from a few scattered articles by the distinguished anthropologist, M. Gabriel de Mortillet, in the fourth and last volume of a little-known journal, l'Homme, entitled Lamarck. Par un Groupe de Transformistes, ses Disciples, Paris, 1887. This exceedingly rare pamphlet was written by the late M. Gabriel de Mortillet, with the assistance of Philippe Salmon and Dr. A. Mondiere, who with others, under the leadership of Paul Nicole, met in 1884 and formed a Reunion Lamarck and a Diner Lamarck, to maintain and perpetuate the memory of the great French transformist. Owing to their efforts, the exact date of Lamarck's birth, the house in which he lived during his lifetime at Paris, and all that we shall ever know of his place of burial have been established. It is a lasting shame that his remains were not laid in a grave, but were allowed to be put into a trench, with no headstone to mark the site, on one side of a row of graves of others better cared for, from which trench his bones, with those of others unknown and neglected, were exhumed and thrown into the catacombs of Paris. Lamarck left behind him no letters or manuscripts; nothing could be ascertained regarding the dates of his marriages, the names of his wives or of all his children. Of his descendants but one is known to be living, an officer in the army. But his aims in life, his undying love of science, his noble character and generous disposition are constantly revealed in his writings.

The name of Lamarck has been familiar to me from my youth up. When a boy, I used to arrange my collection of shells by the Lamarckian system, which had replaced the old Linnean classification. For over thirty years the Lamarckian factors of evolution have seemed to me to afford the foundation on which natural selection rests, to be the primary and efficient causes of organic change, and thus to account for the origin of variations, which Darwin himself assumed as the starting point or basis of his selection theory. It is not lessening the value of Darwin's labors, to recognize the originality of Lamarck's views, the vigor with which he asserted their truth, and the heroic manner in which, against adverse and contemptuous criticism, to his dying day he clung to them.

During a residence in Paris in the spring and summer of 1899, I spent my leisure hours in gathering material for this biography. I visited the place of his birth—the little hamlet of Bazentin, near Amiens—and, thanks to the kindness of the schoolmaster of that village, M. Duval, was shown the house where Lamarck was born, the records in the old parish register at the mairie of the birth of the father of Lamarck and of Lamarck himself. The Jesuit Seminary at Amiens was also visited, in order to obtain traces of his student life there, though the search was unsuccessful.

My thanks are due to Professor A. Giard of Paris for kind assistance in the loan of rare books, for copies of his own essays, especially his Lecon d'Ouverture des Cours de l'Evolution des Etres organises, 1888, and in facilitating the work of collecting data. Introduced by him to Professor Hamy, the learned anthropologist and archivist of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, I was given by him the freest access to the archives in the Maison de Buffon, which, among other papers, contained the MS. Archives du Museum; i.e., the Proces verbaux des Seances tenues par les Officiers du Jardin des Plantes, from 1790 to 1830, bound in vellum, in thirty-four volumes. These were all looked through, though found to contain but little of biographical interest relating to Lamarck, beyond proving that he lived in that ancient edifice from 1793 until his death in 1829. Dr. Hamy's elaborate history of the last years of the Royal Garden and of the foundation of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, in the volume commemorating the centennial of the foundation of the Museum, has been of essential service.

My warmest thanks are due to M. Adrien de Mortillet, formerly secretary of the Society of Anthropology of Paris, for most essential aid. He kindly gave me a copy of a very rare pamphlet, entitled Lamarck. Par un Groupe de Transformistes, ses Disciples. He also referred me to notices bearing on the genealogy of Lamarck and his family in the Revue de Gascogne for 1876. To him also I am indebted for the privilege of having electrotypes made of the five illustrations in the Lamarck, for copies of the composite portrait of Lamarck by Dr. Gachet, and also for a photograph of the Acte de Naissance reproduced by the late M. Salmon.

I have also to acknowledge the kindness shown me by Dr. J. Deniker, the librarian of the Bibliotheque du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle.

I had begun in the museum library, which contains nearly if not every one of Lamarck's publications, to prepare a bibliography of all of Lamarck's writings, when, to my surprise and pleasure, I was presented with a very full and elaborate one by the assistant-librarian, M. Godefroy Malloisel.

To Professor Edmond Perrier I am indebted for a copy of his valuable Lamarck et le Transformisme Actuel, reprinted from the noble volume commemorative of the centennial of the foundation of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, which has proved of much use.

Other sources from which biographical details have been taken are Cuvier's eloge, and the notice of Lamarck, with a list of many of his writings, in the Revue biographique de la Societe malacologique de France, 1886. This notice, which is illustrated by three portraits of Lamarck, one of which has been reproduced, I was informed by M. Paul Kleinsieck was prepared by the late J. R. Bourguignat, the eminent malacologist and anthropologist. The notices by Professor Mathias Duval and by L. A. Bourguin have been of essential service.

As regards the account of Lamarck's speculative and theoretical views, I have, so far as possible, preferred, by abstracts and translations, to let him tell his own story, rather than to comment at much length myself on points about which the ablest thinkers and students differ so much.

It is hoped that Lamarck's writings referring to the evolution theory may, at no distant date, be reprinted in the original, as they are not bulky and could be comprised in a single volume.

This life is offered with much diffidence, though the pleasure of collecting the materials and of putting them together has been very great.








































The life of Lamarck is the old, old story of a man of genius who lived far in advance of his age, and who died comparatively unappreciated and neglected. But his original and philosophic views, based as they were on broad conceptions of nature, and touching on the burning questions of our day, have, after the lapse of a hundred years, gained fresh interest and appreciation, and give promise of permanent acceptance.

The author of the Flore Francaise will never be forgotten by his countrymen, who called him the French Linne; and he who wrote the Animaux sans Vertebres at once took the highest rank as the leading zooelogist of his period. But Lamarck was more than a systematic biologist of the first order. Besides rare experience and judgment in the classification of plants and of animals, he had an unusually active, inquiring, and philosophical mind, with an originality and boldness in speculation, and soundness in reasoning and in dealing with such biological facts as were known in his time, which have caused his views as to the method of organic evolution to again come to the front.

As a zooelogical philosopher no one of his time approached Lamarck. The period, however, in which he lived was not ripe for the hearty and general adoption of the theory of descent. As in the organic world we behold here and there prophetic types, anticipating, in their generalized synthetic nature, the incoming, ages after, of more specialized types, so Lamarck anticipated by more than half a century the principles underlying the present evolutionary theories.

So numerous are now the adherents, in some form, of Lamarck's views, that at the present time evolutionists are divided into Darwinians and Lamarckians or Neolamarckians. The factors of organic evolution as stated by Lamarck, it is now claimed by many, really comprise the primary or foundation principles or initiative causes of the origin of life-forms. Hence not only do many of the leading biologists of his native country, but some of those of Germany, of the United States, and of England, justly regard him as the founder of the theory of organic evolution.

Besides this, Lamarck lived in a transition period. He prepared the way for the scientific renascence in France. Moreover, his simple, unselfish character was a rare one. He led a retired life. His youth was tinged with romance, and during the last decade of his life he was blind. He manfully and patiently bore adverse criticisms, ridicule, forgetfulness, and inappreciation, while, so far from renouncing his theoretical views, he tenaciously clung to them to his dying day.

The biography of such a character is replete with interest, and the memory of his unselfish and fruitful devotion to science should be forever cherished. His life was also notable for the fact that after his fiftieth year he took up and mastered a new science; and at a period when many students of literature and science cease to be productive and rest from their labors, he accomplished the best work of his life—work which has given him lasting fame as a systematist and as a philosophic biologist. Moreover, Lamarckism comprises the fundamental principles of evolution, and will always have to be taken into consideration in accounting for the origin, not only of species, but especially of the higher groups, such as orders, classes, and phyla.

This striking personage in the history of biological science, who has made such an ineffaceable impression on the philosophy of biology, certainly demands more than a brief eloge to keep alive his memory.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jean-Baptiste-Pierre-Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, was born August 1, 1744, at Bazentin-le-Petit. This little village is situated in Picardy, or what is now the Department of the Somme, in the Arrondissement de Peronne, Canton d'Albert, a little more than four miles from Albert, between this town and Bapaume, and near Longueval, the nearest post-office to Bazentin. The village of Bazentin-le-Grand, composed of a few more houses than its sister hamlet, is seen half a mile to the southeast, shaded by the little forest such as borders nearly every town and village in this region. The two hamlets are pleasantly situated in a richly cultivated country, on the chalk uplands or downs of Picardy, amid broad acres of wheat and barley variegated with poppies and the purple cornflower, and with roadsides shaded by tall poplars.

The peasants to the number of 251 compose the diminishing population. There were 356 in 1880, or about that date. The silence of the single little street, with its one-storied, thatched or tiled cottages, is at infrequent intervals broken by an elderly dame in her sabots, or by a creaking, rickety village cart driven by a farmer-boy in blouse and hob-nailed shoes. The largest inhabited building is the mairie, a modern structure, at one end of which is the village school, where fifteen or twenty urchins enjoy the instructions of the worthy teacher. A stone church, built in 1774, and somewhat larger than the needs of the hamlet at present require, raises its tower over the quiet scene.

Our pilgrimage to Bazentin had for its object the discovery of the birthplace of Lamarck, of which we could obtain no information in Paris. Our guide from Albert took us to the mairie, and it was with no little satisfaction that we learned from the excellent village teacher, M. Duval, that the house in which the great naturalist was born was still standing, and but a few steps away, in the rear of the church and of the mairie. With much kindness he left his duties in the schoolroom, and accompanied us to the ancient structure.

The modest chateau stands a few rods to the westward of the little village, and was evidently the seat of the leading family of the place. It faces east and is a two-storied house of the shape seen everywhere in France, with its high, incurved roof; the walls, nearly a foot and a half thick, built of brick; the corners and windows of blocks of white limestone. It is about fifty feet long and twenty-five feet wide. Above the roof formerly rose a small tower. There is no porch over the front door. Within, a rather narrow hall passes through the centre, and opens into a large room on each side. What was evidently the drawing-room or salon was a spacious apartment with a low white wainscot and a heavy cornice. Over the large, roomy fireplace is a painting on the wood panel, representing a rural scene, in which a shepherdess and her lover are engaged in other occupations than the care of the flock of sheep visible in the distance. Over the doorway is a smaller but quaint painting of the same description. The house is uninhabited, and perhaps uninhabitable—indeed almost a ruin—and is used as a storeroom for wood and rubbish by the peasants in the adjoining house to the left, on the south.

The ground in front was cultivated with vegetables, not laid down to a lawn, and the land stretched back for perhaps three hundred to four hundred feet between the old garden walls.

Here, amid these rural scenes, even now so beautiful and tranquil, the subject of our sketch was born and lived through his infancy and early boyhood.[1]

If his parents did not possess an ample fortune, they were blessed with a numerous progeny, for Lamarck was the eleventh and youngest child, and seems to have survived all the others. Biographers have differed as to the date of the birth of Lamarck.[2] Happily the exact date had been ascertained through the researches of M. Philippe Salmon; and M. Duval kindly showed us in the thin volume of records, with its tattered and torn leaves, the register of the Acte de Naissance, and made a copy of it, as follows:

Extrait du Registre aux Actes de Bapteme de la Commune de Bazentin, pour l'Annee 1744.

L'an mil sept cent quarante-quatre, le premier aout est ne en legitime mariage et le lendemain a ete baptise par moy cure soussigne Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine, fils de Messire Jacques Philippe de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck, seigneur des Bazentin grand et petit et de haute et puissante Dame Marie Francoise de Fontaine demeurant en leur chateau de Bazentin le petit, son parrain a ete Messire Jean Baptiste de Fosse, pretre-chanoine de l'eglise collegiale de St. Farcy de Peronne, y demeurant, sa marraine Dame Antoinette Francoise de Bucy, niece de Messire Louis Joseph Michelet, chevalier, ancien commissaire de l'artillerie de France demeurante au chateau de Guillemont, qui ont signe avec mon dit sieur de Bazentin et nous.

Ont signe: De Fosse, De Bucy Michelet, Bazentin. Cozette, cure.

Of Lamarck's parentage and ancestry there are fortunately some traces. In the Registre aux Actes de Bapteme pour l'Annee 1702, still preserved in the mairie of Bazentin-le-Petit, the record shows that his father was born in February, 1702, at Bazentin. The infant was baptised February 16, 1702, the permission to the cure by Henry, Bishop of Amiens, having been signed February 3, 1702. Lamarck's grandparents were, according to this certificate of baptism, Messire Philippe de Monet de Lamarck, Ecuyer, Seigneur des Bazentin, and Dame Magdeleine de Lyonne.

The family of Lamarck, as stated by H. Masson,[3] notwithstanding his northern and almost Germanic name of Chevalier de Lamarck, originated in the southwest of France. Though born at Bazentin, in old Picardy, it is not less true that he descended on the paternal side from an ancient house of Bearn, whose patrimony was very modest. This house was that of Monet.

Another genealogist, Baron C. de Cauna,[4] tells us that there is no doubt that the family of Monet in Bigorre[5] was divided. One of its representatives formed a branch in Picardy in the reign of Louis XIV. or later.

Lamarck's grandfather, Philippe de Monet, "seigneur de Bazentin et autres lieux," was also "chevalier de l'ordre royal et militaire de Saint-Louis, commandant pour le roi en la ville et chateau de Dinan, pensionnaire de sa majeste."

The descendants of Philippe de Lamarck were, adds de Cauna, thus thrown into two branches, or at least two offshoots or stems (brisures), near Peronne. But the actual posterity of the Monet of Picardy was reduced to a single family, claiming back, with good reason, to a southern origin. One of its scions in the maternal line was a brilliant officer of the military marine and also son-in-law of a very distinguished naval officer.

The family of Monet was represented among the French nobility of 1789 by Messires de Monet de Caixon and de Monet de Saint-Martin. By marriage their grandson was connected with an honorable family of Montant, near Saint-Sever-Cap.

Another authority, the Abbe J. Dulac, has thrown additional light on the genealogy of the de Lamarck family, which, it may be seen, was for at least three centuries a military one.[6] The family of Monet, Seigneur de Saint-Martin et de Sombran, was maintained as a noble one by order of the Royal Council of State of June 20, 1678. He descended (I) from Bernard de Monet, esquire, captain of the chateau of Lourdes, who had as a son (II) Etienne de Monet, esquire, who, by contract dated August 15, 1543, married Marguerite de Sacaze. He was the father of (III) Pierre de Monet, esquire, "Seigneur d'Ast, en Bearn, guidon des gendarmes de la compagnie du roi de Navarre." From him descended (IV) Etienne de Monet, esquire, second of the name, "Seigneur d'Ast et Lamarque, de Julos." He was a captain by rank, and bought the estate of Saint-Martin in 1592. He married, in 1612, Jeanne de Lamarque, daughter of William de Lamarck, "Seigneur de Lamarque et de Bretaigne." They had three children, the third of whom was Philippe, "chevalier de Saint-Louis, commandant du chateau de Dinan, Seigneur de Bazentin, en Picardy," who, as we have already seen, was the father of the naturalist Lamarck, who lived from 1744 to 1829. The abbe relates that Philippe, the father of the naturalist, was born at Saint-Martin, in the midst of Bigorre, "in pleine Bigorre," and he very neatly adds that "the Bigorrais have the right to claim for their land of flowers one of the glories of botany."[7]

The name was at first variously spelled de Lamarque, de la Marck, or de Lamarck. He himself signed his name, when acting as secretary of the Assembly of Professors-administrative of the Museum of Natural History during the years of the First Republic, as plain Lamarck.

The inquiry arises how, being the eleventh child, he acquired the title of chevalier, which would naturally have become extinct with the death of the oldest son. The Abbe Dulac suggests that the ten older of the children had died, or that by some family arrangement he was allowed to add the domanial name to the patronymic one. Certainly he never tarnished the family name, which, had it not been for him, would have remained in obscurity.

As to his father's tastes and disposition, what influence his mother had in shaping his character, his home environment, as the youngest of eleven children, the nature of his education in infancy and boyhood, there are no sources of information. But several of his brothers entered the army, and the domestic atmosphere was apparently a military one.

Philippe de Lamarck, with his large family, had endowed his first-born son so that he could maintain the family name and title, and had found situations for several of the others in the army. Jean Lamarck did not manifest any taste for the clerical profession. He lived in a martial atmosphere. For centuries his ancestors had borne arms. His eldest brother had been killed in the breach at the siege of Berg-op-Zoom; two others were still in the service, and in the troublous times at the beginning of the war in 1756, a young man of high spirit and courage would naturally not like to relinquish the prospect of renown and promotion. But, yielding to the wishes of his father, he entered as a student at the college of the Jesuits at Amiens.[8]

His father dying in 1760, nothing could induce the incipient abbe, then seventeen years of age, to longer wear his bands. Immediately on returning home he bought himself a wretched horse, for want of means to buy a better one, and, accompanied by a poor lad of his village, he rode across the country to join the French army, then campaigning in Germany.

He carried with him a letter of recommendation from one of his neighbors on an adjoining estate in the country, Madame de Lameth, to M. de Lastic, colonel of the regiment of Beaujolais.[9]

"We can imagine [says Cuvier] the feelings of this officer on thus finding himself hampered with a boy whose puny appearance made him seem still younger than he was. However, he sent him to his quarters, and then busied himself with his duties. The period indeed was a critical one. It was the 16th of July, 1761. The Marshal de Broglie had just united his army with that of the Prince de Soubise, and the next day was to attack the allied army commanded by the Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick. At the break of day M. de Lastic rode along the front of his corps, and the first man that met his gaze was the new recruit, who, without saying anything to him, had placed himself in the front rank of a company of grenadiers, and nothing could induce him to quit his post.

"It is a matter of history that this battle, which bears the name of the little village of Fissingshausen, between Ham and Lippstadt, in Westphalia, was lost by the French, and that the two generals, mutually accusing each other of this defeat, immediately separated, and abandoned the campaign.

"During the movement of the battle, de Lamarck's company was stationed in a position exposed to the direct fire of the enemy's artillery. In the confusion of the retreat he was forgotten. Already all the officers and non-commissioned officers had been killed; there remained only fourteen men, when the oldest grenadier, seeing that there were no more of the French troops in sight, proposed to the young volunteer, become so promptly commander, to withdraw his little troop. 'But we are assigned to this post,' said the boy, 'and we should not withdraw from it until we are relieved.' And he made them remain there until the colonel, seeing that the squad did not rally, sent him an orderly, who crept by all sorts of covered ways to reach him. This bold stand having been reported to the marshal, he promoted him on the field to the rank of an officer, although his order had prescribed that he should be very chary of these kinds of promotions."

His physical courage shown at this age was paralleled by his moral courage in later years. The staying power he showed in immovably adhering to his views on evolution through many years, and under the direct and raking fire of harsh and unrelenting criticism and ridicule from friend and foe, affords a striking contrast to the moral timidity shown by Buffon when questioned by the Sorbonne. We can see that Lamarck was the stuff martyrs are made of, and that had he been tried for heresy he would have been another Tycho Brahe.

Soon after, de Lamarck was nominated to a lieutenancy; but so glorious a beginning of his military career was most unexpectedly checked. A sudden accident forced him to leave the service and entirely change his course of life. His regiment had been, during peace, sent into garrison, first at Toulon and then at Monaco. While there a comrade in play lifted him by the head; this gave rise to an inflammation of the lymphatic glands of the neck, which, not receiving the necessary attention on the spot, obliged him to go to Paris for better treatment.

"The united efforts [says Cuvier] of several surgeons met with no better success, and danger had become very imminent, when our confrere, the late M. Tenon, with his usual sagacity, recognized the trouble, and put an end to it by a complicated operation, of which M. de Lamarck preserved deep scars. This treatment lasted for a year, and, during this time, the extreme scantiness of his resources confined him to a solitary life, when he had the leisure to devote himself to meditations."


[1] In the little chapel next the church lies buried, we were told by M. Duval, a Protestant of the family of de Guillebon, the purchaser (acquereur) of the chateau. Whether the estate is now in the hands of his heirs we did not ascertain.

[2] As stated by G. de Mortillet, the date of his birth is variously given. Michaud's Dictionnaire Biographique gives the date April 1; other authors, April 11; others, the correct one, August 1, 1744. (Lamarck. Par un Groupe de Transformistes, ses Disciples. L'Homme, iv. p. 289, 1887.)

[3] "Sur la maison de Viella—les Mortiers-brevise et les Montalembert en Gascogne—et sur le naturaliste Lamarck." Par Hippolyte Masson. (Revue de Gascogne, xvii., pp. 141-143, 1876.)

[4] Ibid., p. 194.

[5] A small town in southwestern France, near Lourdes and Pau; it is about eight miles north of Tarbes, in Gascony.

[6] Revue de Gascogne, pp. 264-269, 1876.

[7] The abbe attempts to answer the question as to what place gave origin to the name of Lamarck, and says:

"The author of the history of Bearn considered the cradle of the race to have been the freehold of Marca, parish of Gou (Basses-Pyrenees). A branch of the family established in le Magnoac changed its name of Marca to that of La Marque." It was M. d'Ossat who gave rise to this change by addressing his letters to M. de Marca (at the time when he was preceptor of his nephew), sometimes under the name of M. Marca, sometimes M. la Marqua, or of M. de la Marca, but more often still under that of M. de la Marque, "with the object, no doubt, of making him a Frenchman" ("dans la vue sans doute de le franciser"). (Vie du Cardinal d'Ossat, tome i., p. 319.)

"To recall their origin, the branch of Magnoac to-day write their name Marque-Marca. If the Marca of the historian belongs to Bearn, the Lamarque of the naturalist, an orthographic name in principle, proceeds from Bigorre, actually chosen (designee) by Lamarcq, Pontacq, or Lamarque pres Bearn. That the Lamarque of the botanist of the royal cabinet distinguished himself from all the Lamarques of Bearn or of Bigorre, which it bears (qu'il gise) to this day in the Hautes-Pyrenees, Canton d'Ossun, we have many proofs: Aast at some distance, Bourcat and Couet all near l'Abbaye Laique, etc. The village so determined is called in turn Marca, La Marque, Lamarque; names predestined to several destinations; judge then to the mercy of a botanist, Lamarck, La Marck, Delamarque, De Lamarck, who shall determine their number? As to the last, I only explain it by a fantasy of the man who would de-Bigorrize himself in order to Germanize himself in the hope, apparently, that at the first utterance of the name people would believe that he was from the outre Rhin rather than from the borders of Gave or of Adour. Consequently a hundred times more learned and a hundred times more worthy of a professorship in the Museum, where Monet would seem (entrevait) much less than Lamarque."

It may be added that Bearn was an ancient province of southern France nearly corresponding to the present Department of Basses-Pyrenees. Its capital was Pau.

[8] We have been unable to ascertain the date when young Lamarck entered the seminary. On making inquiries in June, 1899, at the Jesuits' Seminary in Amiens, one of the faculty, after consultation with the Father Superior, kindly gave us in writing the following information as to the exact date: "The registers of the great seminary were carried away during the French Revolution, and we do not know whither they have been transported, and whether they still exist to-day. Besides, it is very doubtful whether Lamarck resided here, because only ecclesiastics preparing for receiving orders were received in the seminary. Do you not confound the seminary with the ancient college of Rue Poste de Paris, college now destroyed?"

[9] We are following the Eloge of Cuvier almost verbatim, also reproduced in the biographical notice in the Revue biographique de la Societe Malacologique de France, said to have been prepared by J. R. Bourguignat.



The profession of arms had not led Lamarck to forget the principles of physical science which he had received at college. During his sojourn at Monaco the singular vegetation of that rocky country had attracted his attention, and Chomel's Traite des Plantes usuelles accidentally falling into his hands had given him some smattering of botany.

Lodged at Paris, as he has himself said, in a room much higher up than he could have wished, the clouds, almost the only objects to be seen from his windows, interested him by their ever-changing shapes, and inspired in him his first ideas of meteorology. There were not wanting other objects to excite interest in a mind which had always been remarkably active and original. He then realized, to quote from his biographer, Cuvier, what Voltaire said of Condorcet, that solid enduring discoveries can shed a lustre quite different from that of a commander of a company of infantry. He resolved to study some profession. This last resolution was but little less courageous than the first. Reduced to a pension (pension alimentaire) of only 400 francs a year, he attempted to study medicine, and while waiting until he had the time to give to the necessary studies, he worked in the dreary office of a bank.

The meditations, the thoughts and aspirations of a contemplative nature like his, in his hours of work or leisure, in some degree consoled the budding philosopher during this period of uncongenial labor, and when he did have an opportunity of communicating his ideas to his friends, of discussing them, of defending them against objection, the hardships of his workaday life were for the time forgotten. In his ardor for science all the uncongenial experiences of his life as a bank clerk vanished. Like many another rising genius in art, literature, or science, his zeal for knowledge and investigation in those days of grinding poverty fed the fires of his genius, and this was the light which throughout his long poverty-stricken life shed a golden lustre on his toilsome existence. He did not then know that the great Linne, the father of the science he was to illuminate and so greatly to expand, also began life in extreme poverty, and eked out his scanty livelihood by mending over again for his own use the cast-off shoes of his fellow-students. (Cuvier.)

Bourguin[10] tells us that Lamarck's medical course lasted four years, and this period of severe study—for he must have made it such—evidently laid the best possible foundation that Paris could then afford for his after studies. He seems, however, to have wavered in his intentions of making medicine his life work, for he possessed a decided taste for music. His eldest brother, the Chevalier de Bazentin, strongly opposed, and induced him to abandon this project, though not without difficulty.

At about this time the two brothers lived in a quiet village[11] near Paris, and there for a year they studied together science and history. And now happened an event which proved to be the turning point, or rather gave a new and lasting impetus to Lamarck's career and decided his vocation in life. In one of their walks they met the philosopher and sentimentalist, Jean Jacques Rousseau. We know little about Lamarck's acquaintance with this genius, for all the details of his life, both in his early and later years, are pitifully scanty. Lamarck, however, had attended at the Jardin du Roi a botanical course, and now, having by good fortune met Rousseau, he probably improved the acquaintance, and, found by Rousseau to be a congenial spirit, he was soon invited to accompany him in his herborizations.

Still more recently Professor Giard[12] has unearthed from the works of Rousseau the following statement by him regarding species: "Est-ce qu'a proprement parler il n'existerait point d'especes dans la nature, mais seulement des individus?"[13] In his Discours sur l'Inegalite parmi les Hommes is the following passage, which shows, as Giard says, that Rousseau perfectly understood the influence of the milieu and of wants on the organism; and this brilliant writer seems to have been the first to suggest natural selection, though only in the case of man, when he says that the weaker in Sparta were eliminated in order that the superior and stronger of the race might survive and be maintained.

"Accustomed from infancy to the severity of the weather and the rigors of the seasons, trained to undergo fatigue, and obliged to defend naked and without arms their life and their prey against ferocious beasts, or to escape them by flight, the men acquired an almost invariably robust temperament; the infants, bringing into the world the strong constitution of their fathers, and strengthening themselves by the same kind of exercise as produced it, have thus acquired all the vigor of which the human species is capable. Nature uses them precisely as did the law of Sparta the children of her citizens. She rendered strong and robust those with a good constitution, and destroyed all the others. Our societies differ in this respect, where the state, in rendering the children burdensome to the father, indirectly kills them before birth."[14]

Soon Lamarck abandoned not only a military career, but also music, medicine, and the bank, and devoted himself exclusively to science. He was now twenty-four years old, and, becoming a student of botany under Bernard de Jussieu, for ten years gave unremitting attention to this science, and especially to a study of the French flora.

Cuvier states that the Flore Francaise appeared after "six months of unremitting labor." However this may be, the results of over nine preceding years of study, gathered together, written, and printed within the brief period of half a year, was no hasty tour de force, but a well-matured, solid work which for many years remained a standard one.

It brought him immediate fame. It appeared at a fortunate epoch. The example of Rousseau and the general enthusiasm he inspired had made the study of flowers very popular—"une science a la mode," as Cuvier says—even among many ladies and in the world of fashion, so that the new work of Lamarck, though published in three octavo volumes, had a rapid success.

The preface was written by Daubenton.[15] Buffon also took much interest in the work, opposing as it did the artificial system of Linne, for whom he had, for other reasons, no great degree of affection. He obtained the privilege of having the work published at the royal printing office at the expense of the government, and the total proceeds of the sale of the volumes were given to the author. This elaborate work at once placed young Lamarck in the front rank of botanists, and now the first and greatest honor of his life came to him. The young lieutenant, disappointed in a military advancement, won his spurs in the field of science. A place in botany had become vacant at the Academy of Sciences, and M. de Lamarck having been presented in the second rank (en seconde ligne), the ministry, a thing almost unexampled, caused him to be given by the king, in 1779, the preference over M. Descemet, whose name was presented before his, in the first rank, and who since then, and during a long life, never could recover the place which he unjustly lost.[16] "In a word, the poor officer, so neglected since the peace, obtained at one stroke the good fortune, always very rare, and especially so at that time, of being both the recipient of the favor of the Court and of the public."[17]

The interest and affection felt for him by Buffon were of advantage to him in another way. Desiring to have his son, whom he had planned to be his successor as Intendant of the Royal Garden, and who had just finished his studies, enjoy the advantage of travel in foreign lands, Buffon proposed to Lamarck to go with him as a guide and friend; and, not wishing him to appear as a mere teacher, he procured for him, in 1781, a commission as Royal Botanist, charged with visiting the foreign botanical gardens and museums, and of placing them in communication with those of Paris. His travels extended through portions of the years 1781 and 1782.

According to his own statement,[18] in pursuit of this object he collected not only rare and interesting plants which were wanting in the Royal Garden, but also minerals and other objects of natural history new to the Museum. He went to Holland, Germany, Hungary, etc., visiting universities, botanical gardens, and museums of natural history. He examined the mines of the Hartz in Hanover, of Freyburg in Saxony, of Chemnitz and of Cremnitz in Hungary, making there numerous observations which he incorporated in his work on physics, and sent collections of ores, minerals, and seeds to Paris. He also made the acquaintance of the botanists Gleditsch at Berlin, Jacquin at Vienna, and Murray at Goettingen. He obtained some idea of the magnificent establishments in these countries devoted to botany, "and which," he says, "ours do not yet approach, in spite of all that had been done for them during the last thirty years."[19]

On his return, as he writes, he devoted all his energies and time to research and to carrying out his great enterprises in botany; as he stated: "Indeed, for the last ten years my works have obliged me to keep in constant activity a great number of artists, such as draughtsmen, engravers, and printers."[20]

But the favor of Buffon, powerful as his influence was,[21] together with the aid of the minister, did not avail to give Lamarck a permanent salaried position. Soon after his return from his travels, however, M. d'Angiviller, the successor of Buffon as Intendant of the Royal Garden, who was related to Lamarck's family, created for him the position of keeper of the herbarium of the Royal Garden, with the paltry salary of 1,000 francs.

According to the same Etat, Lamarck had now been attached to the Royal Garden five years. In 1789 he received as salary only 1,000 livres or francs; in 1792 it was raised to the sum of 1,800 livres.


[10] Les Grand Naturalists Francais au Commencement du XIX Siecle.

[11] Was this quiet place in the region just out of Paris possibly near Mont Valerien? He must have been about twenty-two years old when he met Rousseau and began to study botany seriously. His Flore Francaise appeared in 1778, when he was thirty-four years old. Rousseau, at the end of his checkered life, from 1770 to 1778, lived in Paris. He often botanized in the suburbs; and Mr. Morley, in his Rousseau, says that "one of his greatest delights was to watch Mont Valerien in the sunset" (p. 436). Rousseau died in Paris in 1778. That Rousseau expressed himself vaguely in favor of evolution is stated by Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire, who quotes a "Phrase, malheureusement un peu ambigue, qui semble montrer, dans se grand ecrivain, un partisan de plus de la variabilite du type." (Resume des Vues sur l'espece organique, p. 18, Paris, 1889.) The passage is quoted in Geoffroy's Histoire Naturelle Generale des Regnes organiques, ii., ch. I., p. 271. I have been unable to verify this quotation.

[12] Lecon d'Ouverture du Cours de l'Evolution des Etres organises. Paris, 1888.

[13] Dictionnaire des Termes de la Botanique. Art. APHRODITE.

[14] Discours sur l'Origine et les Fondements de l'Inegalite parmi les Hommes. 1754.

[15] Since 1742, the keeper and demonstrator of the Cabinet, who shared with Thouin, the chief gardener, the care of the Royal Gardens. Daubenton was at that time the leading anatomist of France, and after Buffon's death he gathered around him all the scientific men who demanded the transformation of the superannuated and incomplete Jardin du Roi, and perhaps initiated the movement which resulted five years later in the creation of the present Museum of Natural History. (Hamy, l. c., p. 12.)

[16] De Mortillet (Lamarck. Par un Groupe de Transformistes, p. 11) states that Lamarck was elected to the Academy at the age of thirty; but as he was born in 1744, and the election took place in 1779, he must have been thirty-five years of age.

[17] Cuvier's Eloge, p. viii.; also Revue biographique de la Societe Malacologique, p. 67.

[18] See letters to the Committee of Public Instruction.

[19] Cuvier's Eloge, p. viii; also Bourguignat in Revue biog. Soc. Malacologique, p. 67.

[20] He received no remuneration for this service. As was afterwards stated in the National Archives, Etat des personnes attachees au Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle a l'epoque du messidor an II de la Republique, he "sent to this establishment seeds of rare plants, interesting minerals, and observations made during his travels in Holland, Germany, and in France. He did not receive any compensation for this service."

[21] "The illustrious Intendant of the Royal Garden and Cabinet had concentrated in his hands the most varied and extensive powers. Not only did he hold, like his predecessors, the personnel of the establishment entirely at his discretion, but he used the appropriations which were voted to him with a very great independence. Thanks to the universal renown which he had acquired both in science and in literature, Buffon maintained with the men who succeeded one another in office relations which enabled him to do almost anything he liked at the Royal Garden." His manner to public men, as Condorcet said, was conciliatory and tactful, and to his subordinates he was modest and unpretending. (Professor G. T. Hamy, Les Derniers Jours du Jardin du Roi, etc., p. 3.) Buffon, after nearly fifty years of service as Intendant, died April 16, 1788.



Even in his humble position as keeper of the herbarium, with its pitiable compensation, Lamarck, now an eminent botanist, with a European reputation, was by no means appreciated or secure in his position. He was subjected to many worries, and, already married and with several children, suffered from a grinding poverty. His friend and supporter, La Billarderie, was a courtier, with much influence at the Tuileries, but as Intendant of the Royal Garden without the least claim to scientific fitness for the position; and in 1790 he was on the point of discharging Lamarck.[22] On the 20th of August the Finance Committee reduced the expenses of the Royal Garden and Cabinet, and, while raising the salary of the professor of botany, to make good the deficiency thus ensuing suppressed the position of keeper of the herbarium, filled by Lamarck. Lamarck, on learning of this, acted promptly, and though in this cavalier way stricken off from the rolls of the Royal Garden, he at once prepared, printed, and distributed among the members of the National Assembly an energetic claim for restoration to his office.[23] His defence formed two brochures; in one he gave an account of his life, travels, and works, and in the other he showed that the place which he filled was a pressing necessity, and could not be conveniently or usefully added to that of the professor of botany, who was already overworked.

This manly and able plea in his own defence also comprised a broad, comprehensive plan for the organization and development of a great national museum, combining both vast collections and adequate means of public instruction. The paper briefly stated, in courteous language, what he wished to say to public men, in general animated with good intentions, but little versed in the study of the sciences and the knowledge of their application. It praised, in fit terms, the work of the National Assembly, and gave, without too much emphasis, the assurance of an entire devotion to the public business. Then in a very clear and comprehensive way were given all the kinds of service which an establishment like the Royal Garden should render to the sciences and arts, and especially to agriculture, medicine, commerce, etc. Museums, galleries, and botanical gardens; public lectures and demonstrations in the museum and school of botany; an office for giving information, the distribution of seeds, etc.—all the resources already so varied, as well as the facilities for work at the Jardin, passed successively in review before the representatives of the country, and the address ended in a modest request to the Assembly that its author be allowed a few days to offer some observations regarding the future organization of this great institution.

The Assembly, adopting the wise views announced in the manifest which had been presented by the officers of the Jardin and Cabinet, sent the address to the Committee, and gave a month's time to the petitioners to prepare and present a plan and regulations which should establish the organization of their establishment.[24]

It was in 1790 that the decisive step was taken by the officers of the Royal Garden[25] and Cabinet of Natural History which led to the organization of the present Museum of Natural History as it is to-day. Throughout the proceedings, Lamarck, as at the outset, took a prominent part, his address having led the Assembly to invite the officers of the double establishment to draw up rules for its government.

The officers met together August 23d, and their distrust and hostility against the Intendant were shown by their nomination of Daubenton, the Nestor of the French savants, to the presidency, although La Billarderie, as representing the royal authority, was present at the meeting. At the second meeting (August 24th) he took no part in the proceedings, and absented himself from the third, held on August 27, 1790. It will be seen that even while the office of Intendant lasted, that official took no active part in the meetings or in the work of the institution, and from that day to this it has been solely under the management of a director and scientific corps of professors, all of them original investigators as well as teachers. Certainly the most practical and efficient sort of organization for such an establishment.[26]

Lamarck, though holding a place subordinate to the other officers, was present, as the records of the proceedings of the officers of the Jardin des Plantes at this meeting show.

During the middle of 1791, the Intendant, La Billarderie, after "four years of incapacity," placed his resignation in the hands of the king. The Minister of the Interior, instead of nominating Daubenton as Intendant, reserved the place for a protege, and, July 1, 1791, sent in the name of Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, the distinguished author of Paul et Virginie and of Etudes sur la Nature. The new Intendant was literary in his tastes, fond of nature, but not a practical naturalist. M. Hamy wittily states that "Bernardin Saint-Pierre contemplated and dreamed, and in his solitary meditations had imagined a system of the world which had nothing in common with that which was to be seen in the Faubourg Saint Victor, and one can readily imagine the welcome that the officers of the Jardin gave to the singular naturalist the Tuileries had sent them."[27]

Lamarck suffered an indignity from the intermeddling of this second Intendant of the Jardin. In his budget of expenses[28] sent to the Minister of the Interior, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre took occasion to refer to Lamarck in a disingenuous and blundering way, which may have both amused and disgusted him.

But the last days of the Jardin du Roi were drawing to a close, and a new era in French natural science, signalized by the reorganization of the Jardin and Cabinet under the name of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, was dawning. On the 6th of February, 1793, the National Convention, at the request of Lakanal,[29] ordered the Committees of Public Instruction and of Finances to at once make a report on the new organization of the administration of the Jardin des Plantes.

Lakanal consulted with Daubenton, and inquired into the condition and needs of the establishment; Daubenton placed in his hands the brochure of 1790, written by Lamarck. The next day Lakanal, after a short conference with his colleagues of the Committee of Public Instruction, read in the tribune a short report and a decree which the Committee adopted without discussion.

Their minds were elsewhere, for grave news had come in from all quarters. The Austrians were bombarding Valenciennes, the Prussians had invested Mayence, the Spanish were menacing Perpignan, and bands of Vendeans had seized Saumur after a bloody battle; while at Caen, at Evreux, at Bordeaux, at Marseilles, and elsewhere, muttered the thunders of the outbreaks provoked by the proscription of the Girondins. So that under these alarming conditions the decree of the 10th of June, in spite of its importance to science and higher learning in France, was passed without discussion.

In his Lamarck De Mortillet states explicitly that Lamarck, in his address of 1790, changed the name of the Jardin du Roi to Jardin des Plantes.[30] As the article states, "Entirely devoted to his studies, Lamarck entered into no intrigue under the falling monarchy, so he always remained in a position straitened and inferior to his merits." It was owing to this and his retired mode of life that the single-minded student of nature was not disturbed in his studies and meditations by the Revolution. And when the name of the Jardin du Roi threatened to be fatal to this establishment, it was he who presented a memoir to transform it, under the name of Jardin des Plantes, into an institution of higher instruction, with six professors. In 1793, Lakanal adopted Lamarck's plan, and, enlarging upon it, created twelve chairs for the teaching of the natural sciences.

Bourguin thus puts the matter:

"In June, 1793, Lakanal, having learned that 'the Vandals' (that is his expression) had demanded of the tribune of the Convention the suppression of the Royal Garden, as being an annex of the king's palace, recurred to the memoirs of Lamarck presented in 1790 and gave his plan of organization. He inspired himself with Lamarck's ideas, but enlarged upon them. Instead of six positions of professors-administrative, which Lamarck asked for, Lakanal established twelve chairs for the teaching of different branches of natural science."[31]


[22] Another intended victim of La Billarderie, whose own salary had been at the same time reduced, was Faujas de Saint-Fond, one of the founders of geology. But his useful discoveries in economic geology having brought him distinction, the king had generously pensioned him, and he was retained in office on the printed Etat distributed by the Committee of Finance. (Hamy, l. c., p. 29.)

[23] Hamy, l. c., p. 29. This brochure, of which I possess a copy, is a small quarto pamphlet of fifteen pages, signed, on the last page, "J. B. Lamarck, ancien Officier au Regiment de Beaujolais, de l'Academie des Sciences de Paris, Botaniste attache au Cabinet d'Histoire Naturelle du Jardin des Plantes."

[24] Hamy, l. c., p. 31; also Pieces Justificatives, Nos. 11 et 12, pp. 97-101. The Intendant of the Garden was completely ignored, and his unpopularity and inefficiency led to his resignation. But meanwhile, in his letter to Condorcet, the perpetual Secretary of the Institute of France, remonstrating against the proposed suppression by the Assembly of the place of Intendant, he partially retracted his action against Lamarck, saying that Lamarck's work, "peut etre utile, mais n'est pas absolutement necessaire." The Intendant, as Hamy adds, knew well the value of the services rendered by Lamarck at the Royal Garden, and that, as a partial recompense, he had been appointed botanist to the museum. He also equally well knew that the author of the Flore Francaise was in a most precarious situation and supported on his paltry salary a family of seven persons, as he was already at this time married and had five children. "But his own place was in peril, and he did not hesitate to sacrifice the poor savant whom he had himself installed as keeper of the herbarium." (Hamy, l. c., pp. 34, 35.)

[25] The first idea of the foundation of the Jardin dates from 1626, but the actual carrying out of the conception was in 1635. The first act of installation took place in 1640. Gui de la Brosse, in order to please his high protectors, the first physicians of the king, named his establishment Jardin des Plantes Medicinales. It was renovated by Fagon, who was born in the Jardin, and whose mother was the niece of Gui de la Brosse. By his disinterestedness, activity, and great scientific capacity, he regenerated the garden, and under his administration flourished the great professors, Duverney, Tournefort, Geoffroy the chemist, and others (Perrier, l. c., p. 59). Fagon was succeeded by Buffon, "the new legislator and second founder." His Intendancy lasted from 1739 to 1788.

[26] Three days after, August 30th, the report was ready, the discussion began, and the foundations of the new organization were definitely laid. "No longer any Jardin or Cabinets, but a Museum of Natural History, whose aim was clearly defined. No officers with unequal functions; all are professors and all will give instruction. They elect themselves and present to the king a candidate for each vacant place. Finally, the general administration of the Museum will be confided to the officers of the establishment, this implying the suppression of the Intendancy." (Hamy, l. c., p. 37.)

[27] Hamy, l. c., p. 37. The Faubourg Saint Victor was a part of the Quartier Latin, and included the Jardin des Plantes.

[28] Devis de la Depense du Jardin National des Plantes et du Cabinet d'Histoire Naturelle pour l'Annee 1793, presented to the National Convention by Citoyen Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. In it appeared a note relative to Lamarck, which, after stating that, though full of zeal and of knowledge of botany, his time was not entirely occupied; that for two months he had written him in regard to the duties of his position; referred to the statements of two of his seniors, who repeated the old gossip as to the claim of La Billarderie that his place was useless, and also found fault with him for not recognizing the artificial system of Linne in the arrangement of the herbarium, added: "However, desirous of retaining M. La Marck, father of six children, in the position which he needs, and not wishing to let his talents be useless, after several conversations with the older officers of the Jardin, I have believed that, M. Desfontaines being charged with the botanical lectures in the school, and M. Jussieu in the neighborhood of Paris, it would be well to send M. La Marck to herborize in some parts of the kingdom, in order to complete the French flora, as this will be to his taste, and at the same time very useful to the progress of botany; thus everybody will be employed and satisfied."—Perrier, Lamarck et le Transformisme Actuel, pp. 13, 14. (Copied from the National Archives.) "The life of Bernardin de St. Pierre (1737-1814) was nearly as irregular as that of his friend and master [Rousseau]. But his character was essentially crafty and selfish, like that of many other sentimentalists of the first order." (Morley's Rousseau, p. 437, footnote.)

[29] Joseph Lakanal was born in 1762, and died in 1845. He was a professor of philosophy in a college of the Oratory, and doctor of the faculty at Angers, when in 1792 he was sent as a representative (depute) to the National Convention, and being versed in educational questions he was placed on the Committee of Public Instruction and elected its president. He was the means, as Hamy states, of saving from a lamentable destruction, by rejuvenizing them, the scientific institutions of ancient France. During the Revolution he voted for the death of Louis XVI.

Lakanal also presented a plan of organization of a National Institute, what is now the Institut de France, and was charged with designating the first forty-eight members, who should elect all the others. He was by the first forty-eight thus elected. Proscribed as a regicide at the second restoration, he sailed for the United States, where he was warmly welcomed by Jefferson. The United States Congress voted him five hundred acres of land. The government of Louisiana offered him the presidency of its university, which, however, he did not accept. In 1825 he went to live on the shores of Mobile Bay on land which he purchased from the proceeds of the sale of the land given him by Congress. Here he became a pioneer and planter.

In 1830 he manifested a desire to return to his native country, and offered his services to the new government, but received no answer and was completely ignored. But two years later, thanks to the initiative of Geoffroy St. Hilaire, who was the means of his reelection to the French Academy, he decided to return, and did so in 1837. He lived in retirement in Paris, where he occupied himself until his death in 1845 in writing a book entitled Sejour d'un Membre de l'Institut de France aux Etats-Unis pendant vingt-deux ans. The manuscript mysteriously disappeared, no trace of it ever having been found. (Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire Universel, Art. LAKANAL.) His bust now occupies a prominent place among those of other great men in the French Academy of Sciences.

[30] This is seen to be the case by the title of the pamphlet: Memoire sur les Cabinets d'Histoire Naturelle, et particulierement sur celui du Jardin des Plantes.

[31] Bourguin also adds that "on one point Lamarck, with more foresight, went farther than Lakanal. He had insisted on the necessity of the appointment of four demonstrators for zooelogy. In the decree of June 10, 1793, they were even reduced to two. Afterwards they saw that this number was insufficient, and to-day (1863) the department of zooelogy is administered at the museum by four professors, in conformity with the division indicated by Lamarck."



Lamarck's career as a botanist comprised about twenty-five years. We now come to the third stage of his life—Lamarck the zooelogist and evolutionist. He was in his fiftieth year when he assumed the duties of his professorship of the zooelogy of the invertebrate animals; and at a period when many men desire rest and freedom from responsibility, with the vigor of an intellectual giant Lamarck took upon his shoulders new labors in an untrodden field both in pure science and philosophic thought.

It was now the summer of 1793, and on the eve of the Reign of Terror, when Paris, from early in October until the end of the year, was in the deadliest throes of revolution. The dull thud of the guillotine, placed in front of the Tuileries, in the Place de la Revolution, which is now the Place de la Concorde, a little to the east of where the obelisk of Luxor now stands, could almost be heard by the quiet workers in the Museum, for sansculottism in its most aggressive and hideous forms raged not far from the Jardin des Plantes, then just on the border of the densest part of the Paris of the first Revolution. Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, was guillotined some months later. The Abbe Hauey, the founder of crystallography, had been, the year previous, rescued from prison by young Geoffroy St. Hilaire, his neck being barely saved from the gleaming axe. Roland, the friend of science and letters, had been so hunted down that at Rouen, in a moment of despair, on hearing of his wife's death, he thrust his sword-cane through his heart. Madame Roland had been beheaded, as also a cousin of her husband, and we can well imagine that these fateful summer and autumn days were scarcely favorable to scientific enterprises.[32] Still, however, amid the loud alarums of this social tempest, the Museum underwent a new birth which proved not to be untimely. The Minister of the Interior (Garat) invited the professors of the Museum to constitute an assembly to nominate a director and a treasurer, and he begged them to present extracts of their deliberations for him to send to the executive council, "under the supervision of which the National Museum is for the future placed;" though in general the assembly only reported to the Minister matters relating to the expenses, the first annual grant of the Museum being 100,000 livres.

Four days after, June 14th, the assembly met and adopted the name of the establishment in the following terms: Museum d'Histoire Naturelle decrete par la Convention Nationale le 10 Juin, 1793; and at a meeting held on the 9th of July the assembly definitely organized the first bureau, with Daubenton as director, Thouin treasurer, and Desfontaines secretary. Lamarck, as the records show, was present at all these meetings, and at the first one, June 14th, Lamarck and Fourcroy were designated as commissioners for the formation of the Museum library.

All this was done without the aid or presence of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, the Intendant. The Minister of the Interior, meanwhile, had communicated to him the decision of the National Convention, and invited him to continue his duties up to the moment when the new organization should be established. After remaining in his office until July 9th, he retired from the Museum August 7th following, and finally withdrew to the country at Essones.

The organization of the Museum is the same now as in 1793, having for over a century been the chief biological centre of France, and with its magnificent collections was never more useful in the advancement of science than at this moment.

Let us now look at the composition of the assembly of professors, which formed the Board of Administration of the Museum at the time of his appointment.

The associates of Lamarck and Geoffroy St. Hilaire, who had already been connected with the Royal Garden and Cabinet, were Daubenton, Thouin, Desfontaines, Portal, and Mertrude. The Nestor of the faculty was Daubenton, who was born in 1716. He was the collaborator of Buffon in the first part of his Histoire Naturelle, and the author of treatises on the mammals and of papers on the bats and other mammals, also on reptiles, together with embryological and anatomical essays. Thouin, the professor of horticulture, was the veteran gardener and architect of the Jardin des Plantes, and withal a most useful man. He was affable, modest, genial, greatly beloved by his students, a man of high character, and possessing much executive ability. A street near the Jardin was named after him. He was succeeded by Bosc. Desfontaines had the chair of botany, but his attainments as a botanist were mediocre, and his lectures were said to have been tame and uninteresting. Portal taught human anatomy, while Mertrude lectured on vertebrate anatomy; his chair was filled by Cuvier in 1795.

Of this group Lamarck was facile princeps, as he combined great sagacity and experience as a systematist with rare intellectual and philosophic traits. For this reason his fame has perhaps outlasted that of his young contemporary, Geoffroy St. Hilaire.

The necessities of the Museum led to the division of the chair of zooelogy, botany being taught by Desfontaines. And now began a new era in the life of Lamarck. After twenty-five years spent in botanical research he was compelled, as there seemed nothing else for him to undertake, to assume charge of the collection of invertebrate animals, and to him was assigned that enormous, chaotic mass of forms then known as molluscs, insects, worms, and microscopic animals. Had he continued to teach botany, we might never have had the Lamarck of biology and biological philosophy. But turned adrift in a world almost unexplored, he faced the task with his old-time bravery and dogged persistence, and at once showed the skill of a master mind in systematic work.

The two new professorships in zooelogy were filled, one by Lamarck, previously known as a botanist, and the other by the young Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire, then twenty-two years old, who was at that time a student of Hauey, and in charge of the minerals, besides teaching mineralogy with especial reference to crystallography.

To Geoffroy was assigned the four classes of vertebrates, but in reality he only occupied himself with the mammals and birds. Afterwards Lacepede[33] took charge of the reptiles and fishes. On the other hand, Lamarck's field comprised more than nine-tenths of the animal kingdom. Already the collections of insects, crustacea, worms, molluscs, echinoderms, corals, etc., at the Museum were enormous. At this time France began to send out those exploring expeditions to all parts of the globe which were so numerous and fruitful during the first third of the nineteenth century. The task of arranging and classifying single-handed this enormous mass of material was enough to make a young man quail, and it is a proof of the vigor, innate ability, and breadth of view of the man that in this pioneer work he not only reduced to some order this vast horde of forms, but showed such insight and brought about such radical reforms in zooelogical classification, especially in the foundation and limitation of certain classes, an insight no one before him had evinced. To him and to Latreille much of the value of the Regne Animal of Cuvier, as regards invertebrate classes, is due.

The exact title of the chair held by Lamarck is given in the Etat of persons attached to the National Museum of Natural History at the date of the 1er messidor, an II. of the Republic (1794), where he is mentioned as follows: "LAMARCK—fifty years old; married for the second time; wife enceinte; six children; professor of zooelogy, of insects, of worms, and microscopic animals." His salary, like that of the other professors, was put at 2,868 livres, 6 sous, 8 deniers.[34]

Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire[35] has related how the professorship was given to Lamarck.

"The law of 1793 had prescribed that all parts of the natural sciences should be equally taught. The insects, shells, and an infinity of organisms—a portion of creation still almost unknown—remained to be treated in such a course. A desire to comply with the wishes of his colleagues, members of the administration, and without doubt, also, the consciousness of his powers as an investigator, determined M. de Lamarck: this task, so great, and which would tend to lead him into numberless researches; this friendless, unthankful task he accepted—courageous resolution, which has resulted in giving us immense undertakings and great and important works, among which posterity will distinguish and honor forever the work which, entirely finished and collected into seven volumes, is known under the name of Animaux sans Vertebres."

Before his appointment to this chair Lamarck had devoted considerable attention to the study of conchology, and already possessed a rather large collection of shells. His last botanical paper appeared in 1800, but practically his botanical studies were over by 1793.

During the early years of the Revolution, namely, from 1789 to and including 1791, Lamarck published nothing. Whether this was naturally due to the social convulsions and turmoil which raged around the Jardin des Plantes, or to other causes, is not known. In 1792, however, Lamarck and his friends and colleagues, Bruguiere, Olivier, and the Abbe Hauey, founded the Journal d'Histoire Naturelle, which contains nineteen botanical articles, two on shells, besides one on physics, by Lamarck. These, with many articles by other men of science, illustrated by plates, indicate that during the years of social unrest and upheaval in Paris, and though France was also engaged in foreign wars, the philosophers preserved in some degree, at least, the traditional calm of their profession, and passed their days and nights in absorption in matters biological and physical. In 1801 appeared his Systeme des Animaux sans Vertebres, preceded by the opening discourse of his lectures on the lower animals, in which his views on the origin of species were first propounded. During the years 1793-1798, or for a period of six years, he published nothing on zooelogy, and during this time only one paper appeared, in 1798, on the influence of the moon on the earth's atmosphere. But as his memoirs on fire and on sound were published in 1798, it is evident that his leisure hours during this period, when not engaged in museum work and the preparation of his lectures, were devoted to meditations on physical and meteorological subjects, and most probably it was towards the end of this period that he brooded over and conceived his views on organic evolution.

It appears that he was led, in the first place, to conchological studies through his warm friendship for a fellow naturalist, and this is one of many proofs of his affectionate, generous nature. The touching story is told by Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire.[36]

"It was impossible to assign him a professorship of botany. M. de Lamarck, then forty-nine years old, accepted this change in his scientific studies to take charge of that which everybody had neglected; because it was, indeed, a heavy load, this branch of natural history, where, with so varied relations, everything was to be created. On one group he was a little prepared, but it was by accident; a self-sacrifice to friendship was the cause. For it was both to please his friend Bruguiere as well as to penetrate more deeply into the affections of this very reserved naturalist, and also to converse with him in the only language which he wished to hear, which was restricted to conversations on shells, that M. de Lamarck had made some conchological studies. Oh, how, in 1793, did he regret that his friend had gone to Persia! He had wished, he had planned, that he should take the professorship which it was proposed to create. He would at least supply his place; it was in answer to the yearnings of his soul, and this affectionate impulse became a fundamental element in the nature of one of the greatest of zooelogical geniuses of our epoch."

Once settled in his new line of work, Lamarck, the incipient zooelogist, at a period in life when many students of less flexible and energetic natures become either hide-bound and conservative, averse to taking up a different course of study, or actually cease all work and rust out—after a half century of his life had passed, this rare spirit, burning with enthusiasm, charged like some old-time knight or explorer into a new realm and into "fresh fields and pastures new." His spirit, still young and fresh after nearly thirty years of mental toil, so unrequited in material things, felt a new stimulus as he began to investigate the lower animals, so promising a field for discovery.

He said himself:

"That which is the more singular is that the most important phenomena to be considered have been offered to our meditations only since the time when attention has been paid to the animals least perfect, and when researches on the different complications of the organization of these animals have become the principal foundation of their study. It is not less singular to realize that it was almost always from the examination of the smallest objects which nature presents to us, and that of considerations which seem to us the most minute, that we have obtained the most important knowledge to enable us to arrive at the discovery of her laws, and to determine her course."

After a year of preparation he opened his course at the Museum in the spring of 1794. In his introductory lecture, given in 1803, after ten years of work on the lower animals, he addressed his class in these words:

"Indeed it is among those animals which are the most multiplied and numerous in nature, and the most ready to regenerate themselves, that we should seek the most instructive facts bearing on the course of nature, and on the means she has employed in the creation of her innumerable productions. In this case we perceive that, relatively to the animal kingdom, we should chiefly devote our attention to the invertebrate animals, because their enormous multiplicity in nature, the singular diversity of their systems of organization and of their means of multiplication, their increasing simplification, and the extreme fugacity of those which compose the lowest orders of these animals, show us, much better than the higher animals, the true course of nature, and the means which she has used and which she still unceasingly employs to give existence to all the living bodies of which we have knowledge."

During this decade (1793-1803) and the one succeeding, Lamarck's mind grew and expanded. Before 1801, however much he may have brooded over the matter, we have no utterances in print on the transformation theory. His studies on the lower animals, and his general knowledge of the vertebrates derived from the work of his contemporaries and his observations in the Museum and menagerie, gave him a broad grasp of the entire animal kingdom, such as no one before him had. As the result, his comprehensive mind, with its powers of rapid generalization, enabled him to appreciate the series from monad (his ebauche) to man, the range of forms from the simple to the complex. Even though not a comparative anatomist like Cuvier, he made use of the latter's discoveries, and could understand and appreciate the gradually increasing complexity of forms; and, unlike Cuvier, realize that they were blood relations, and not separate, piece-meal creations. Animal life, so immeasurably higher than vegetable forms, with its highly complex physiological functions and varied means of reproduction, and the relations of its forms to each other and to the world around, affords facts for evolution which were novel to Lamarck, the descriptive botanist.

In accordance with the rules of the Museum, which required that all the professors should be lodged within the limits of the Jardin, the choice of lodgings being given to the oldest professors, Lamarck, at the time of his appointment, took up his abode in the house now known as the Maison de Buffon, situated on the opposite side of the Jardin des Plantes from the house afterwards inhabited by Cuvier, and in the angle between the Galerie de Zoologie and the Museum library.[37] With little doubt the windows of his study, where his earlier addresses, the Recherches sur l'Organisation des Corps Vivans, and the Philosophie Zoologique, were probably written, looked out upon what is now the court on the westerly side of the house, that facing the Rue Geoffroy St. Hilaire.

At the time of his entering on his duties as professor of zooelogy, Lamarck was in his fiftieth year. He had married twice and was the father of six children, and without fortune. He married for a third, and afterwards for a fourth time, and in all, seven children were born to him, as in the year (1794) the minute referring to his request for an indemnity states: "Il est charge de sept enfans dont un est sur les vaisseaux de la Republique." Another son was an artist, as shown by the records of the Assembly of the Museum for September 23, 1814, when he asked for a chamber in the lodgings of Thouin, for the use of his son, "peintre."

Geoffroy St. Hilaire, in 1829, spoke of one of his sons, M. Auguste de Lamarck, as a skilful and highly esteemed engineer of Ponts-et-Chaussees, then advantageously situated.

But man cannot live by scientific researches and philosophic meditations alone. The history of Lamarck's life is painful from beginning to end. With his large family and slender salary he was never free from carking cares and want. On the 30 fructidor, an II. of the Republic, the National Convention voted the sum of 300,000 livres, with which an indemnity was to be paid to citizens eminent in literature and art. Lamarck had sacrificed much time and doubtless some money in the preparation and publication of his works, and he felt that he had a just claim to be placed on the list of those who had been useful to the Republic, and at the same time could give proof of their good citizenship, and of their right to receive such indemnity or appropriation.

Accordingly, in 1795 he sent in a letter, which possesses much autobiographical interest, to the Committee of Public Instruction, in which he says:

"During the twenty-six years that he has lived in Paris the citizen Lamarck has unceasingly devoted himself to the study of natural history, and particularly botany. He has done it successfully, for it is fifteen years since he published under the title of Flore Francaise the history and description of the plants of France, with the mention of their properties and of their usefulness in the arts; a work printed at the expense of the government, well received by the public, and which now is much sought after and very rare." He then describes his second great botanical undertaking, the Encyclopaedia and Illustration of Genera, with nine hundred plates. He states that for ten years past he has kept busy "a great number of Parisian artists, three printing presses for different works, besides delivering a course of lectures."

The petition was granted. At about this period a pension of twelve hundred francs from the Academy of Sciences, and which had increased to three thousand francs, had ceased eighteen months previously to be paid to him. But at the time (an II.) Lamarck was "charge de sept enfans," and this appropriation was a most welcome addition to his small salary.

The next year (an III.) he again applied for a similar allowance from the funds providing an indemnity for men of letters and artists "whose talents are useful to the Republic." Again referring to the Flore Francaise, and his desire to prepare a second edition of it, and his other works and travels in the interest of botanical science, he says:

"If I had been less overburdened by needs of all kinds for some years, and especially since the suppression of my pension from the aforesaid Academy of Sciences, I should prepare the second edition of this useful work; and this would be, without doubt, indeed, the opportunity of making a new present to my country.

"Since my return to France I have worked on the completion of my great botanical enterprises, and indeed for about ten years past my works have obliged me to keep in constant activity a great number of artists, such as draughtsmen, engravers, and printers. But these important works that I have begun, and have in a well-advanced state, have been in spite of all my efforts suspended and practically abandoned for the last ten years. The loss of my pension from the Academy of Sciences and the enormous increase in the price of articles of subsistence have placed me, with my numerous family, in a state of distress which leaves me neither the time nor the freedom from care to cultivate science in a fruitful way."

Lamarck's collection of shells, the accumulation of nearly thirty years,[38] was purchased by the government at the price of five thousand livres. This sum was used by him to balance the price of a national estate for which he had contracted by virtue of the law of 28 ventose de l'an IV.[39] This little estate, which was the old domain of Beauregard, was a modest farm-house or country-house at Hericourt-Saint-Samson, in the Department of Seine-et-Oise, not far to the northward of Beauvais, and about fifty miles from Paris. It is probable that as a proprietor of a landed property he passed the summer season, or a part of it, on this estate.

This request was, we may believe, made from no unworthy or mercenary motive, but because he thought that such an indemnity was his due. Some years after (in 1809) the chair of zooelogy, newly formed by the Faculte des Sciences in Paris, was offered to him. Desirable as the salary would have been in his straitened circumstances, he modestly refused the offer, because he felt unable at that time of life (he was, however, but sixty-five years of age) to make the studies required worthily to occupy the position.

One of Lamarck's projects, which he was never able to carry out, for it was even then quite beyond the powers of any man single-handed to undertake, was his Systeme de la Nature. We will let him describe it in his own words, especially since the account is somewhat autobiographical. It is the second memoir he addressed to the Committee of Public Instruction of the National Convention, dated 4 vendemiaire, l'an III. (1795):

"In my first memoir I have given you an account of the works which I have published and of those which I have undertaken to contribute to the progress of natural history; also of the travels and researches which I have made.

"But for a long time I have had in view a very important work—perhaps better adapted for education in France than those I have already composed or undertaken—a work, in short, which the National Convention should without doubt order, and of which no part could be written so advantageously as in Paris, where are to be found abundant means for carrying it to completion.

"This is a Systeme de la Nature, a work analogous to the Systema naturae of Linnaeus, but written in French, and presenting the picture complete, concise, and methodical, of all the natural productions observed up to this day. This important work (of Linnaeus), which the young Frenchmen who intend to devote themselves to the study of natural history always require, is the object of speculations by foreign authors, and has already passed through thirteen different editions. Moreover, their works, which, to our shame, we have to use, because we have none written expressly for us, are filled (especially the last edition edited by Gmelin) with gross mistakes, omissions of double and triple occurrence, and errors in synonymy, and present many generic characters which are inexact or imperceptible and many series badly divided, or genera too numerous in species, and difficulties insurmountable to students.

"If the Committee of Public Instruction had the time to devote any attention to the importance of my project, to the utility of publishing such a work, and perhaps to the duty prescribed by the national honor, I would say to it that, after having for a long time reflected and meditated and determined upon the most feasible plan, finally after having seen amassed and prepared the most essential materials, I offer to put this beautiful project into execution. I have not lost sight of the difficulties of this great enterprise. I am, I believe, as well aware of them, and better, than any one else; but I feel that I can overcome them without descending to a simple and dishonorable compilation of what foreigners have written on the subject. I have some strength left to sacrifice for the common advantage; I have had some experience and practice in writing works of this kind; my herbarium is one of the richest in existence; my numerous collection of shells is almost the only one in France the specimens of which are determined and named according to the method adopted by modern naturalists—finally, I am in a position to profit by all the aid which is to be found in the National Museum of Natural History. With these means brought together, I can then hope to prepare in a suitable manner this interesting work.

"I had at first thought that the work should be executed by a society of naturalists; but after having given this idea much thought, and having already the example of the new encyclopaedia, I am convinced that in such a case the work would be very defective in arrangement, without unity or plan, without any harmony of principles, and that its composition might be interminable.

"Written with the greatest possible conciseness, this work could not be comprised in less than eight volumes in 8vo, namely: One volume for the quadrupeds and birds; one volume for the reptiles and fishes; two volumes for the insects; one volume for the worms (the molluscs, madrepores, lithophytes, and naked worms); two volumes for the plants; one volume for the minerals: eight volumes in all.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse