Georges Cuvier, 'Elegy of Lamarck', Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal Vol. XX (January 1836) pp.1-22. This elegy was read to the French Academy of Science in Paris by the Baron Silvestre (Cuvier had recently died) on 26 November 1832. It was intended to follow an elegy to M. Volta on 27 June 1831 but was postponed. It was published (after an unaccountable delay) in France in the Memoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences de l'Institut de France, vol. XIII (Paris, 1835) pp. i-xxxi. This translation, probably by Robert Jameson, appeared in the periodical he edited, the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal Vol. XX (January 1836) pp.1-22. It follows the French pretty faithfully. Jameson's translation is reproduced here in its entirety, and I have kept his spelling, punctuation and italicization intact. Cuvier often wrote such elegies to praise or condemn his contemporary men of science. Digitized by David Clifford, Ph.D., Cambridge University.
Among the men devoted to the noble employment of enlightening their fellows, a small number are to be found (and you have just witnessed an illustrious example), who, gifted at the same time with a lofty imagination and a sound judgment, embracing in their vast conceptions the entire field of the sciences, and seizing with a steady eye whatever afforded the hope of discovery, have laid before the world nothing but certain truths, establishing them by evident demonstrations, and deducing from no consequences but such as were irresistible, never allowing themselves to be led away by what is conjectural or doubtful; men of unequalled genius, whose immortal writings will shed a light, like so many phari, on the paths of science, as long as the world is governed by the same laws.
Others, with minds not less ardent, nor less adapted to seize new relations, have been less severe in scrutinizing the evidence; with real discoveries with which they have enriched science, they have mingled many fanciful conceptions; and, believing themselves able to outstrip both experience and calculation, they have laboriously constructed vast edifices on imaginary foundations, resembling the enchanted palaces of our old romances, which vanished into air on the destruction of the talisman to which they owed their birth. But the history of these less favoured philosophers is not perhaps the least useful. While the former should be unreservedly held up to our admiration, it is equally important that the latter should form the subject of our study. Nature alone produces genius of the first order; but it is competent to every laborious man to aspire to a rank among those who nave done service to science, and that rank will be the more elevated in proportion as he has learned to distinguish by marked examples the objects accessible to his exertions, and the difficulties which may oppose his progress. It is with this view, that, in sketching the life of one of our most celebrated naturalists, we have conceived it to be our duty, while bestowing the commendation they deserve on the great and useful works which science owes to him, likewise to give prominence to such of his productions in which too great indulgence of a lively imagination has led to results of a more questionable kind, and to indicate, as far as we can, the cause, or, if it may be so expressed, the genealogy of his deviations. This is the principle by which we have been guided in all our historical eloges, and, far from thinking that we have been thereby wanting in the respect due to the memory of our associates, we conceive that our homage is rendered purer, just because it is carefully freed from all that was unworthy of them.
JEAN BAPTIST PIERRE ANTOINE DE MONET, otherwise named the Chevalier de Lamarck, was born at Bazantin, a village in Picardy between Albert and Bapaume, on the 1st August 1744. He was the eleventh child of Pierre de Monet, superior of the place, of an ancient house of Bearn, but whose patrimony was quite inadequate to the support of such a numerous offspring. The church, at that period, offered a ready resource, and sometimes a large fortune, to the cadets of noble families, and M. de Monet made an early choice of that destination for his son. As a preliminary step, he was sent to study under the Jesuits at Amiens; but the boy's inclination by no means responded to his father's wishes. All that surrounded him spoke another language: for ages his relations had carried arms; his eldest brother fell in the breach at the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom; two others were still in the service; and the moment when France was so actively engaged in the dismal struggle begun in 1756, was not one fitted to discourage a young man of spirit from following such examples. His father, however, opposed this desire; but the good old man having died in 1760, no consideration could prevail on the youthful abbé to adhere to his profession. He set out for the army of Germany on a wretched horse, followed by a poor youth from his village, provided with no other passport than a letter from one of his neighbours, a Madame Lameth, directed to M. de Lastic, colonel of the regiment of Beaujolois. It is easy to conceive the annoyance of this officer at finding himself embarrassed with a boy, whose puny appearance caused him to be thought younger than he really was; he ordered him, however, to his quarters, and continued his duties. The moment in fact was a critical one. It was the 14th of July 1761, when the Marshal de Brogue, having united his army to that of the Prince of Soubise, designed next day to attack the allied army, commanded by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick. At the dawn of day, M. de Lastic inspected his troops, and the first person whom he saw was the young stranger, who, without saying a word, had placed himself in the first rank of a company of grenadiers, and nothing could induce him to quit his station.
It is well known that this battle, which bears the name of the little village of Fissingshausen, between Ham and Lippstadt, was lost by the French, and that their two generals, mutually accusing each other of the defeat, immediately separated, and undertook no important measure during the rest of the campaign. In the vicissitudes of the contest, the company to which M. de Lamarck had attached himself was placed in a situation which exposed it to the whole fire of the enemy's artillery: in the confusion of the retreat it was forgotten and left there. Already all the officers were killed, and only fourteen men remaining, when the oldest grenadier perceiving that there were no longer any French within sight, proposed to the young volunteer so speedily become commander, to withdraw this little troop. "This post has been assigned us," replied the boy "we must not quit it unless we are relieved;" and; in fact, he caused them to remain till the colonel, seeing that this company was wanting, sent an order, which could now reach its destination with the utmost difficulty. This instance of firmness having been reported to the Marechal, he instantly gave M. de Lamarck a commission, although his instructions required him to be very sparing in promotions of that nature. Soon after, M. de Lamarck was nominated to a lieutenancy; but such a successful commencement of his military career was not attended with the consequences that might have been expected, for a most unfortunate accident removed him altogether from the service, and entirely altered his destination. When his regiment was in garrison at Toulon and Monaco, one of his companions, in play, lifted him by the head, and occasioned a serious derangement in the glands of the neck. He was obliged to repair to Paris for more skilful treatment than these places afforded, but the efforts of the most celebrated surgeons had no effect; and the danger was become very imminent, when our late associate M. Tenon, with his usual penetration, perceived the nature of the disorder, and effected a cure by a complicated operation, the marks of which always continued visible. This confined him for a year, and during that time, the extreme slenderness of his resources kept him in solitude, which afforded ample leisure for reflection.
The profession of arms had not caused him to lose sight of the notions of physics he had acquired at college.
During his stay at Monaco, the singular vegetation of that rocky country had attracted his attention, and the Traité des Plantes Usuelles of Chomel having accidentally fallen into his hands, inspired him with some taste for botany. From his lodging in Paris, which, by his own account, was much higher than accorded with his wishes, the clouds formed almost his only spectacle, and their varied aspects suggested his earliest ideas of meteorology - a subject which could not fail to interest a mind always distinguished for activity and originality. He now began to perceive, as Voltaire has said of Condorcet, that lasting discoveries might confer on him a different kind of celebrity from a company of infantry.
The resolution which he formed in consequence, was not less firmly adhered to than the first. Reduced to an alimentary pension of 400 francs, he determined to become a doctor, and until he could obtain time for the requisite studies, he laboured assiduously for his daily bread in the office of a banker. His reflections, however, and the contemplations which he delighted to indulge, afforded him consolation, and when he found an opportunity of communicating his ideas to some friend, of discussing them, and defending them against objections, the real world was nothing to him; his warmth made him forget all his difficulties. It is in this way that many men have passed their youth, who have become the lights of the world. Too often is genius born to poverty; but there is in it a principle of resistance against misfortune, and adversity is perhaps the surest test by which it can he tried. Never ought the most unfortunate or young men to forget, that Linnaeus was preparing himself to become the reformer of Natural History, at the time when be was patching up for his own use the cast-off shoes of his companions.
At last, after having occupied ten years in preparing himself, M. de Lamarck made himself suddenly known, both to the world and men of science, by a work on a new plan, and executed in a manner full of interest.
He had been for a long time accustomed, when collecting plants, or visiting the Jardin du Roi, to engage in warm discussions with his fellow students on the imperfections of all the systems of arrangement then in vogue, and to maintain how easy it would be to form one which would lead with greater case and certainty to the determination of plants. His friends in some measure defied him to the task; he immediately set about proving his assertion, and after six months of unremitting labour, finished his "Flore Française." This work has no pretensions to add to the number of species previously known as indigenous to France, nor even to give a more complete history of them. It is merely a guide which, by setting out from the most general forms dividing and subdividing always by two, and only allowing the choice between two opposite characters, conducts the reader, however little he may understand descriptive language, as it were by the hand, with certainty, and even amusement, to the determination of the plant of which he desires the name. This kind of dichotomy or continual bifurcation, is implied in all methods of arrangement, and even forms the necessary foundation of them, but modern authors, for the sake of brevity, have attempted to present many ramifications together. M. de Lamarck, in imitation of some of the old botanists, developed and expressed them all, representing them by accolades, in such a manner that the most uninstructed reader, without any initiatory labour, by taking him for a guide, may suppose himself to be a botanist. His book appeared at a time when botany had become a popular science, the example of J.J. Rousseau, and the enthusiasm which he inspired, having even caused it to be studied by ladies and people of fashion; the success of the work was therefore rapid. M. de Buffon, not perhaps unwilling to shew by this example how easily systems, on which he set so little value, could be framed, and at the same time their indifferent consequence, used his interest to have the Flore Française printed by the royal press. A place having become open in the botanical department of the Academy of Sciences, and M. de Lamarck being presented in the second rank, the Minister caused it to be given to him by the King in 1775, in preference (a thing almost unexampled,) to M. Descemet, who was presented first, and who has never been able, during a long life, to recover the station of which the preference deprived him. In short, the poor officer, so little regarded since the commencement of the peace, all of a sudden attained to the good fortune, always of rare occurrence, and particularly so then, of being at the same time an object of favour with the court and with the public. The partiality of M. de Buffon obtained for him another advantage. When his son was about to set out on his travels, after finishing his studies, M. de Buffon proposed to M. de Lamarck to accompany him; and not wishing that the latter should appear merely in the character of a preceptor, he procured for him the commission of botanist to the King, for the purpose of visiting foreign gardens and cabinets, and opening a correspondence between them and similar establishments in Paris. In consequence of this he travelled in company with the younger Buffon during part of the years 1781 and 1782, through Holland, Germany, and Hungary; visited Gleditsch at Berlin, Jacquin at Vienna, Murray at Goettingen, and obtained an idea of the magnificent establishments devoted to botany in many foreign countries; to which our own do not yet approach, notwithstanding all that has been done for them for the last thirty years.
Shortly after his return, he commenced more important works than his Flora, although less widely known, and which have procured for him a more eminent rank among botanists,-I mean his Dictionary of Botany, and his Illustrations of Genera, both of which form a part of the Encyclopedie Methodique.
These generic illustrations are perhaps better calculated than any other work for conveying a speedy and accurate knowledge of this beautiful science. The precision of the descriptions and definitions of Linnaeus is accompanied, as in the institutions of Tournefort, with figures fitted to embody their abstractions, and to present them to the eye as well as to the mind. Nor will the student have the means of becoming acquainted with the fruits and flowers only; the whole appearance and habits of one or two of the principal species are often represented, the whole consisting of two thousand genera on a thousand quarto plates, and accompanied at the same time with abridged characters of an infinity of species. The Dictionary contains a more detailed history of them, with careful descriptions, critical investigations of their synonymy, and many interesting observations on their uses, and the peculiarities of their organization. All is not original, it is true, in these two works; but the selection of figures is judicious, the descriptions are derived from the best authors, and a very considerable number of both these are to be found, which refer to species and even genera previously unknown.
It may excite surprise that M. de Lamarck, who had hitherto occupied himself with botany merely as an amateur, should so soon have been in a condition to produce such considerable works, containing representations and descriptions of the very rarest plants. The reason is, that the moment he undertook the task, he entered upon it with all the ardour of his character, occupying himself exclusively with plants, seeking them in all the gardens and in every herbarium. He spent his time among such botanists as could supply him with information, and was often in the company of M. de Jussieu, whose enlightened hospitality rendered his residence for a very long period the favourite resort of all who devoted their attention to the amiable science of plants. Whoever arrived in Paris with specimens, might be certain that M. de Lamarck would be the first to pay him a visit. His eagerness was the means of procuring him one of the finest presents he could have desired. When the celebrated traveller Sonnerat returned the second time from India in 1781, with valuable collections of objects in natural history, he imagined that all who cultivated that science would eagerly assemble round him; he could not learn at Pondicherry, or among the Moluccas, that the philosophers of this capital are too often as much engrossed as men of the world. No one appeared but M. de Lamarck, and Sonnerat in his disappointment presented him with the magnificent herbarium which he had brought with him. He likewise availed himself of that of Commerson, and the collections accumulated in the house of M. de Jussieu were generously laid open to his inspection.
It may likewise appear surprising, although in a different way, that M. de Lamarck has not adopted in these his great works, the more perfect modes of arrangement, the rules for which he has so accurately laid down in the preface to his Flora; and that he confined himself, in the one case, to the sexual system, and in the other, to mere alphabetical order. Such, however, were the conditions which the manager of the Encyclopaedia had imposed on him, for it must be acknowledged that M. de Lamarck was still obliged to labour for booksellers, and according to their direction. This kind of labour, indeed, constituted his only resource.
The attachment of M. de Buffon, and even that of the minister, had not procured him any settled occupation; nor was any thing done for him till M. de la Billardiere, Buffon's successor, and related to M. de Lamarck's family, created for him the paltry place of keeper of the herbaria in the king's cabinet; a place of which he was continually on the point of being deprived, for strong opposition was made to its establishment, and the National Assembly was even required to suppress it, as I learn from two pamphlets which he was obliged to publish in its defence. If he obtained some years afterwards a less precarious means of support, it was only to be attained by again changing his vocation.
In l793, the King's Garden and Cabinet were re-established, under the title of Museum of Natural History. All the superior functionaries were appointed professors, and charged with the superintendence of those departments most in unison with their preceding employments or personal studies. M. de Lamarck, being the last appointed, had to content himself with the branch not selected by the others, and was nominated to the chair relating to the two last classes of the animal kingdom, according to the Linnean division,- those, namely, which were then called Insects and Worms. He was at that time nearly fifty years of age, and the only preparatory knowledge which he possessed of his vast department of zoology, consisted of some acquaintance with shells, which he had often studied with Bruguiere, and of which he had made a small collection. But his former courage did not desert him; he began the study of these new objects with unremitting ardour. Availing himself of the aid of some of his friends, and applying, at least to all that related to shells and corals, that sagacity which a long exercise had given him in reference to plants, he laboured so successfully in this new field of inquiry, that his works on those animals will confer on his name perhaps a more lasting reputation than all that he has published an botany. Before we give an analysis of these, however, we have first to speak of other writings, which will not probably enjoy the same advantage.
During the thirty years which had elapsed since the peace of 1763, all his time had not been occupied with botany. In the long solitudes to which his restricted circumstances confined him, all the great questions which for ages had fixed the attention of men, passed through his mind. He had meditated on the general laws of physics and chemistry, on the phenomena of the atmosphere, on those of living bodies, and on the origin of the globe and its revolutions. Psychology, and the higher branches of metaphysics, were not beyond the range of his contemplations; and on all these subjects he had formed a number of definite ideas, original in respect to himself, because conceived by the unaided power of his own mind, but which he believed to be equally new to others, and not less certain in themselves, than calculated to place every branch of knowledge on a new foundation. In this respect, he resembled so many others who spend their lives in solitude, who never entertain a doubt of the accuracy of their opinions, because they never happen to be contradicted. These views he began to lay before the public as soon as he had obtained a fixed occupation; and for twenty years he continued to reproduce them in every variety of form, introducing them even into such of his works as appear most foreign to them. It is the more necessary that we should point them out, as with out them some of his best writings would be unintelligible. Even the character of the man himself could not otherwise be understood; for so intimately did he identify himself with his systems, and such was his desire that they should be propagated, that all other objects seemed to him subordinate, and even his greatest and most useful works appeared in his own eyes mere1y as the slight accessories of his lofty speculations.
Thus, while Lavoisier was creating in his laboratory a new chemistry, founded on a beautiful and methodical series of experiments, M. de Lamarck, without attempting experiment, and destitute of the means of doing so, imagined that he had discovered another, which he did not hesitate to set in opposition to the former, although nearly the whole of Europe had received it with the warmest approbation.
As early as 1780 he had ventured to present this theory in manuscript to the Academy of Sciences; but it was not till 1792 that he published it under the title of Recherches sur les Causes des Principaux Faits Physiques. It reappeared in an improved order in the Memoires de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle, which he hastened to read to the Institute shortly after its establishment, and which he collected into a volume in 1797. According to him, matter is not homogeneous; it consists of simple principles, essentially different among themselves. The connection of these principles in compounds varies in intensity; they mutually conceal each other, more or less, according as each of them is more or less predominant. The principle of no compound is ever in a natural state, but always more or less modified. As, however, it is not agreeable to reason that a substance should have a tendency to pass from its natural condition, it must he concluded, that combinations are not produced by nature; but that, on the contrary, she tends unceasingly to destroy the combinations which exist, and each principle of a compound body tries to disengage itself according to the degree of its energy. From this tendency, favoured by the presence of water, dissolutions result: affinities have no influence; and all experiments by which it is attempted to be proved that water decomposes, that there are many kinds of air, are mere illusions, and it is fire which produces them. The element of fire is subject, like the others, to modification, when combined. In its natural state, every where diffused, and penetrating every substance, it is absolutely imperceptible; only, when it is put into vibration, it becomes the essence of sound; for air is not the vehicle of sound, as natural philosophers believe. But fire is fixed in a great number of bodies, where it accumulates, and becomes, in its highest degree of condensation, carbonic fire, the basis of all combustible substances, and the cause of all colours. When less condensed, and more liable to Escape, it is acidific fire (feu acidifique), the cause of causticity when in great abundance, and of tastes and smells when less so. At the moment when it disengages itself, and in its transitory state of expansive motion, it is caloric fire. It is in this form that it dilates, warms, liquefies, and volatizes bodies, by surrounding their molecules; that it burns them, by destroying their aggregation; and that it calcines or acidifies them, by again becoming fixed in them. In the greatest force of its expansion, it possesses the power of emitting light, which is of a white, red, or violet-blue colour, according to the force with which it acts; and it is, therefore, the origin of the prismatic colours; as also of the tints seen in the flame of candles. Light, in its turn, has likewise the power of acting upon fire, and it is thus that the sun continually produces new sources of heat. Besides, all the compound substances observed on the globe, are owing to the organic powers of beings endowed with life, of which, consequently, it may be said, that they are not conformable to nature, and are even opposed to it, because they unceasingly reproduce what nature continually tends to destroy. Vegetables form direct combinations of the elements; animals produce more complicated compounds, by combining those formed by vegetables; but there is in every living body a power which tends to destroy it; all, therefore, die, each in his appointed season, and all mineral substances, and all inorganic bodies whatsoever, are nothing but the remains of bodies which once had life, and from which the more volatile principles have been successively disengaged. The products of the most complex animals are calcareous substances, those of vegetables, soils, or clays. Both of these pass into a siliceous state, by freeing themselves more and more from their less fixed principles, and at last are reduced to rock-crystal, which is earth in its greatest purity. Salts, pyrites, metals, differ from other minerals only because certain circumstances have had the effect of accumulating in them, in different proportions, a greater quantity or carbonic or acidific fire.
With respect to life, the only cause of all compositions - the mother, not only of animals and vegetables, but all bodies which now occupy the surface of the earth, - M. de Lamarck yet admitted, in these his two earliest works, that all we know of it is, that living beings all come from individuals similar to themselves, but that it is impossible for us to ascertain the physical cause which has given birth to the first individual of each species.
To these two writings he added a third of a polemical description, viz. a refutation of the pneumatic theory, in which he, in some measure, challenged the new chemists to the combat: conceiving, like so many other authors of system, that to keep silence would be to cause his system to be forgotten, and not doubting that if he could only enter it in the lists, it would obtain an easy triumph, and the public, attracted by the eclat of the dispute, would not hesitate to adopt a system of which they could scarcely otherwise be aware of the existence.
To his great regret, neither this refutation, nor his exposition met with any reply; no one considered it necessary. He was himself, in fact, too well aware, that the whole of this edifice rested on two assertions equally conjectural; the one, that substances do not enter into combinations, unless modified in their nature; the other, that it is not reasonable to believe, that nature impresses on them a tendency to such a change. Deprived of one of these foundations, the whole falls to the ground.
We have mentioned that M. de Lamarck at this period still conceived it impossible to remount to the first origin of living beings: this was a great step yet remaining for him, and he was not long in making it. In 1802 he published his Researches on Living Bodies, containing a physiology peculiar to himself, in the same way that his researches on the principal facts of physics contained a chemistry of that character. In his opinion, the egg contains nothing prepared for life before being fecundated, and the embryo of the chick becomes susceptible of vital motion only by the action of the seminal vapour: but, if we admit that there exists in the universe a fluid analogous to this vapour, and capable of acting upon matter placed in favourable circumstances, as in the case of the embryon, which it organizes and fits for the enjoyment of life, we will then be able to form an idea of spontaneous generations. Heat alone is perhaps the agent employed by Nature to produce these incipient organizations; or it may act in concert with electricity. M. de Lamarck did not believe that a bird, a horse, nor even an insect, could directly form themselves in this manner; but, in regard to the most simple living bodies, such as occupy the extremity of the scale in the different kingdoms, he perceived no difficulty; for a monad or a polypus are, in his opinion, a thousand times more easily formed than the embryo of a chick. But how do beings of more complicated structure, such as spontaneous generation could never produce, derive their existence? Nothing, according to him, is more easy to be conceived. If the orgasm, excited by this organizing fluid, be prolonged, it will augment the consistency of the containing parts, and render them susceptible of reacting on the moving fluids which they contain, and an irritability will be produced, which will consequently be possessed of feeling. The first efforts of a being thus beginning to develope itself must tend to procure it the means of subsistence, and to form for itself a nutritive organ. Hence the existence of an alimentary canal ! Other wants and desires, produced by circumstances, will lead to other efforts, which will produce other organs: for, according to a hypothesis inseparable from the rest, it is not the organs, that is to say, the nature and the form of the parts, which give rise to habits and faculties; but it is the latter which in process of time give birth to the organs. It is the desire and the attempt to swim that produces membranes in the feet of aquatic birds; wading in the water, and at the same time the desire to avoid wet, has lengthened the legs of such as frequent the sides of rivers; and it is the desire of flying that has converted the arms of all birds into wings, and their hairs and scales into feathers. In advancing these illustrations, we have used the words of the author, that we may not be suspected either of adding to his sentiments or detracting any thing from them.
These principles once admitted, it will easily be perceived that nothing is wanting but time and circumstances to enable a monad or a polypus gradually and indifferently to transform themselves into a frog, a stork, or an elephant. But it will also be perceived that M. de Lamarck could not fail to come to the conclusion that species do not exist in nature; and he likewise affirms, that if mankind think otherwise, they have been led to do so only from the length of time which has been necessary to bring about those innumerable varieties of form in which living nature now appears. This result ought to have been a very painful one to a naturalist, nearly the whole of whose long life had been devoted to the determination of what had hitherto been believed to be species, whether in reference to plants or animals, and whose most acknowledged merit, it must be confessed, consisted in this very determination.
However this may be, M. de Lamarck reproduced this theory of Life in all the zoological works which he afterwards published; and whatever interest these works may have excited by their positive merits, no one conceived their systematic part sufficiently dangerous to be made the subject of attack. It was left undisturbed like his theory of Chemistry, and for the same reason, because every one could perceive that, independently of many errors in the details, it likewise rested on two arbitrary suppositions; the one, that it is the seminal vapour which organizes the embryo; the other, that efforts and desires may engender organs. A system established on such foundations may amuse the imagination of a poet; a metaphysician may derive from it an entirely new series of systems; but it cannot for a moment bear the examination of any one who has dissected a hand, a viscus, or even a feather.
But his theory of chemistry and of living bodies is by no means the whole that M. de Lamarck accomplished in this way. In his Hydrogeology, published in l802, he advanced a corresponding theory of the formation of the globe and its changes, founded on the supposition that all composite minerals are the remains of living beings. The seas, unceasingly agitated by the tides, which the action of the moon produces, are continually hollowing out their bed; and in proportion as the latter deepens in the crust of the earth, it necessarily follows that their level lowers, and their surface diminishes; and thus the dry land, formed, as has been already said, by the debris of living creatures, is more and more disclosed. As the lands emerge from the sea, the water from the clouds forms currents upon their surface, by which they are rent and excavated, and divided into valleys and mountains. With the exception of volcanoes, our steepest and most elevated ridges have formerly belonged to plains, even their substance once made a part of the bodies of animals and plants; and it is in consequence of being so long purified from foreign principles that they are reduced to a siliceous nature. But running waters furrow them in all directions, and carry their materials into the bed of the sea, and the latter, from continual efforts to deepen its bottom, necessarily throws them out on some side or other. Hence there results a general movement, and a constant transposition of the ocean, which has perhaps ready made several circuits of the globe. This shifting cannot occur without displacing the centre of gravity in the globe; a circumstance which, according to Lamarck, would have the effect of displacing the axis itself, and changing the temperatures of the different climates. If none of these things have fallen under our observation, it is on account of the excessive slowness with which these operations are carried on. Time is always necessary to account for them; unlimited time, which plays such an important part in the religion of the magi, is no less necessary to Lamarck's physics, and it was to it that he had recourse to silence his own doubts, and to answer all the objections of his readers.
The case was no longer the same, when he ventured to make an application of his systems to phenomena capable of being a predated by near intervals. He had soon an opportunity of convincing himself how far nature sometime rebels against doctrines conceived a priori. The atmosphere, according to him, may be compared to the sea,- it has a surface, waves, storms; it ought likewise to have a flux and reflux, for the moon ought to heave it upwards as it does the ocean. In the temperate and frigid zones, therefore, the wind, which is only the tide of the atmosphere, must depend greatly on the declination of the moon; it ought to blow towards the pole which is nearest to it, and advancing in that direction only, in order to reach every place, traversing dry countries or extended seas, it ought then to render the sky serene or stormy. If the influence of the moon on the weather is denied, it is only that it may be referred to its phases; but its position in the ecliptic will afford probabilities much nearer the truth.
In order to demonstrate this theory in some measure by facts, and to attract the attention of the public to it, M. de Lamarck thought it would be useful to present it under the form of predictions. He had even the perseverance to print almanacs for eleven years successively, announcing the probable state of the temperature for each day; but it may be said that the weather took pleasure in exposing his fallacies. In vain did he attempt every year to introduce some new consideration, such as the phases, the apogee and perigee of the moon, and the relative position of the sun; in vain did he seek thereby to explain his false reckonings, and to rectify his calculations. The very succeeding season taught him, to his disappointment, that our atmosphere is subjected to influences far too complicated for mankind to calculate upon its phenomena. At last he renounced this fruitless labour, and, returning to that which be ought never to have neglected, occupied himself with the direct object of his professors1ip,- the history of invertebrate animals, - in which he at last found an indisputable source of reputation, and a lasting title to the gratitude of posterity. It is to him that we are indebted for the above name, invertebrate animals, which expresses perhaps the only circumstance in their organization which is common to them all. He was the first to use it in preference to that of white-blooded animals hitherto employed; and the accuracy of his views was not long in being confirmed by observations, which prove that an entire class of these animals possess red blood. A new classification, founded on their anatomy, had been published in 1795; this he in a great measure adopted in 1797, and substituted it in the room of those of Linnaeus and Bruguiere, which at first formed the base of his course. After that period, he modified it in various ways, but without entirely changing it. His anatomic knowledge was not of such a kind as to enable him to advance many new views; it may even be said that the general distribution of these animals into apathetic, sensible, and intelligent, which he at last introduced into his method, was neither founded on their organization, nor exact observation of their faculties. But what was peculiarly his own, and will continue to be of fundamental importance in all ulterior researches on these subjects, are his observations on shells and polypi, whether of a stony or flexible nature. The sagacity with which he circumscribed and characterized the genera, according to the circumstances of form, proportion, surface, and structure, judiciously selected and easily recognised; the perseverance he displayed in comparing and distinguishing the species, fixing the synonyms, and furnishing clear and detailed descriptions, have rendered each of his successive works the regulator of this department of natural history.
It was chiefly according to his views that such as have written on the same subject, have named and arranged their species; and even at present, we should in vain seek for a more complete account of sponges (for example), of alcyons, and many other kinds of corals, than what is afforded by his Histoire des Animaux sans Vertebres. There is one branch of knowledge in particular to which he has given a remarkable impulse, the history, namely, of shells found in the bowels of the earth. These had attracted the attention of geologists from the time that the chimerical notion was exploded, which attributed their origin to the plastic force of a mineral nature. It was perceived that a comparison of such as belong to the different beds, and their approximation to those now living in different seas, could alone throw light on this anomalous phenomenon, - the deepest, perhaps, of all the mysteries which inanimate nature presents to our view. This comparison, however, had scarcely been attempted, or, if it were, it was made in the most superficial manner. The study had been regarded as a trifling object of curiosity. Whence do they come? Have they lived in our climate, or, have they been transported hither? Are they still in a living state elsewhere? All these important questions could not be answered but by carefully examining them one by one. The prosecution of this inquiry was the more tempting to M. de Lamarck, on account of the basin of Paris being, perhaps, the only spot in the world where such a vast number of these productions are accumulated in so small a space. At Grignon, which does not exceed a few square toises in extent, no fewer than 600 different species of shells have been collected.
M. de Lamarck entered upon this examination with that profound knowledge which he had acquired of living shells, and the excellent figures and careful descriptions which he produced, caused those beings, deprived of life for so many ages, again, as it were, to reappear in the world.
It was thus that M. de Lamarck, by resuming occupations analogous to those which first procured him reputation, at last raised for himself a monument which will endure as long as the objects on which it rests. Fortunate had it been for him if he had been able to render it more perfect. But we have already seen that he was late in devoting himself to zoology; and from the first, the weakness of his eyes obliged him to have recourse for the investigation of insects to our celebrated associate M. de Latreille, whom Europe recognises as his master in this immense department of Natural History. The clouds thickened upon him by degrees, and allowed but an imperfect glimpse of all those delicate organizations, the observation of which constituted his only enjoyment. No art could stop the inroads of this calamity, nor administer a remedy; that light, which had been so much the subject of his study, at last entirely failed him, and he passed many of his last years in absolute blindness. This misfortune was the more distressing, because it overtook him in such circumstances that he could obtain none of those means of distraction or alleviation which might have otherwise been procured. He had been married four times, and was the father of seven children. The whole of his little patrimony, and even the fruits of his early economy, were lost in one of those hazardous investments, which are so often held out as baits to credulity by shameless speculators.
His retired life, the consequence of his youthful habits, and attachments to systems so little in accordance with the ideas which prevailed in science, were not calculated to recommend him to those who had the power of dispensing favours. When numberless infirmities, brought on by old age, had increased his wants, nearly his whole means of support consisted of a small income derived from his chair. The friends of science, attracted by the high reputation which his botanical and zoological works had obtained for him, witnessed this with surprise. It appeared to them that a government which protects the sciences, ought to have been more careful to become better acquainted with the situation of a celebrated individual; but their esteem for him was doubled, when they saw the courage with which the illustrious old man bore up against the assaults both of fortune and of nature. They particularly admired the devotedness which he inspired in such of his children as remained with him. His eldest daughter, entirely devoted to the duties of filial affection for many years, never left him for an instant, readily engaged in every study which might supply his want of sight, wrote to his dictation a portion of his last works, and accompanied and supported him as long as he was able to take some exercise. Her sacrifices, indeed, were carried to a degree which it is impossible to express; when the father could no longer leave his room, the daughter never once left the house. When she afterwards did so for the first tine, she was incommoded by the free air, the use of which had been so long unfamiliar to her. It is rare to see virtue carried to such a degree, and it is not less so to inspire it to that degree; and it is adding to the praise of M. de Lamarck to recount what his children did for him.
M. de Lamarck died on the 18th December 1829, at the age of eighty-five years, leaving only two sons and two daughters. The eldest of these sons occupies an important place in the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées. His place in the Institute has been given to M. Auguste de Saint Hilaire, whose travels in America have procured so many interesting plants, and which he has studied so profoundly. His chair in the Museum of Natural History, the object of which was too extensive for the exertions of one individual, has been, at the request of his colleagues, divided into two by the government; M. Latreille taking the charge of Insects and Crustacea; and M de Blainville of all the other divisions which constituted the Linnean Class of Vermes.