Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 413–438 | Cite as

The inspiration of Lamarck's belief in evolution

  • Richard W. BurkhardtJr.
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References

  1. 1.
    J. B. Lamarck, “Discours d'ouverture, prononcé le 21 floréal an 8,” in Systême des animaux sans vertèbres (Paris, 1801), pp. 1–2. All the translations in this paper are the author's own.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ideas concerning the balance of nature did appear in Lamarck's opening discours of 1798 and 1799 in his discussion of nature's checks on insect populations, but the issue of whether species might not always be conserved was not considered. This discussion was in fact taken directly from G. A.Olivier, “Mémoire sur l'utilité de l'étude des insectes, relativement à l'agriculture et aux arts,” Journal d'histoire naturelle 1 (1792), 33–56. Lamarck, “Discours préliminaire pour le cours de l'an six. lu le 14 floréal an 7 [3 May, 1799],” Muséum national d'histoire naturelle (Paris), MS 2628 (2). This important manuscript was discovered recently among the Muséum papers by Yves Laissus, Conservateur of the Muséum library. Henceforth this will be cited as “Discours de l'an VII.”Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Interpretations of how Lamarck came to believe in evolution have been offered by Marcel Landrieu in Lamarck: le fondateur du transformisme (Paris: 1909); Henri Daudin, Cuvier et Lamarck: les Classes zoologiques et l'idée de série animale (1790–1830), 2 vols. (Paris: 1926); Louis Roule, Lamarck et l'interprétation de la nature (Paris: 1927); Emile Guyénot, Les Sciences de la vie aux XVII e et XVIIIe siècles (Paris: 1941); Charles C. Gillispie, “The Formation of Lamarck's Evolutionary Theory,” Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences, 9 (1956); 323–338, and “Lamarck and Darwin in the History of Science,” in Bentley Glass et al.,Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gillispie, “The formation of Lamarck's evolutionary theory,” p. 325.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    J. B. Lamarck, Recherches sur les causes des principaux faits physiques, 2 vols. (Paris, 1794), II, 213–214. The comments that Lamarck made on generation in Mémoires de physiques et d'histoire naturelle (Paris: 1797), p. 270, do not constitute proof that Lamarck still believed in species fixity in 1797.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    “Discours de l'an VII.”Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lamarck does state in the discours that “One cannot help but admire nature's infinite resources in the variety of means she employs to diversify, multiply, and conserve her productions; that is to say, the species and kinds which constitute them” (“Discours de l'an VII,” p. 2). The rest of the discours provides no indication, however, that this statement is to be taken in an evolutionary sense.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See below, p. 432.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See “Nouvelles littéraires,” Magasin encyclopédique, 2e année (1796), I, 285, for a brief summary of Lamarck's introductory discours in 1796. To the best of my knowledge this useful source has previously escaped the attention of Lamarck scholars.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lamarck, “Prodrome d'une nouvelle classification des coquilles, comprenant une rédaction appropriée des caractères génériques, et l'établissement d'un grand nombre de genres nouveaux, lu à l'Institut national le 21 frimaire an 7 [11 Dec., 1798],” Mémoires de la Société d'Histoire naturelle de Paris, 1 (1799), 63–91.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lamarck, “Prodrome d'une nouvelle classification des coquilles, comprenant une rédaction appropriée des caractères génériques, et l'établissement d'un grand nombre de genres nouveaux, lu à l'Institut national le 21 frimaire an 7 [11 Dec., 1798],” Mémoires de la Société d'Histoire naturelle de Paris, 1 (1799), pp. 66–67.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    According to Pierre Denys de Montfort, who owned one of the major collections of shells in Paris at the time, more than six hundred dealers were making a good living in Paris at the turn of the century selling shells. Denys de Montfort, Conchyliologie systématique, et classification méthodique des coquilles ... (Paris: 1810), II, 96.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lamarck, “Prodrome d'une nouvelle classification des coquilles,” pp. 63–64.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For an earlier, similar statement concerning the importance of conchology, see J. G.Bruguière, “Conchyliologie,” Encyclopédie méthodique. Histoire naturelle des Vers, 1 (1792), 5–9.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, Histoire naturelle de la Montagne de Saint-Pierre de Maestricht (Paris: 1799), p. 28. This work was published in sections. The discours préliminaire, from which the quote is taken, appeared in 1799.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Daudin, Cuvier et Lamarck, II, 205–210.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Georges Cuvier, “Mémoire sur les espèces d'éléphans vivantes et fossiles. lu à la Séance publique de l'institut national, le 15 germinal an 4, [4 April, 1796]” Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, MS 628, p. 15 (unnumbered). This manuscript is not identical either to the “extract” of it that appeared in Magasin encyclopédique, 2e année (1796), III, 440–445, or to the memoir that appeared in Mémoires de l'Institut (Classe math. phys.), 2 (1799), 1–22.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Daudin never saw a copy of Lamarck's “Prodrome” (Daudin, Cuvier et Lamarck, II, 305), and he was evidently unaware of the remarks of Cuvier and Faujas on the interest of fossil shells.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cuvier, “Mémoire sur les espèces d'éléphans,” Muséum MS 628, pp. 14–15 (unnumbered).Google Scholar
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    I have not been able to identify which conchologists were maintaining that no fossil shells had any living counterparts. According to Faujas de Saint-Fond, the idea was advanced by a small number of naturalists (Faujas, Hist. nat. de Maestricht, p. 123). The man who probably had the finest conchological collection in Paris was L.-C.-M. Richard (1754–1821), who is known now primarily for his work as a botanist, but who was recognized by his contemporaries as an expert conchologist as well. Had Richard advanced the view in question he probably would have been named. On Richard, see Ed. Lamy, “Note sure une collection conchyliologique du commencement du xixe siècle,” Bull. Mus. nat. Hist. nat., 21 (1915), 101–104. Other collectors of note in the period besides Bruguière, Faujas, Lamarck, and Richard were Denys de Montfort, Aubert, Dedrée, Hwass, Maugé, Paris, Pech, Poissonier, Rossi, and Sollier. See Faujas de Saint-Fond, Essai de géologie, ou Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire naturelle du globe, I (Paris: 1803), pp. 42–43; Denys de Montfort, Conchyliologie systématique, II, 96; and Ed. Lamy, Les Cabinets d'histoire naturelle en France au xviii e siècle (Paris: 1930).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    J. G.Bruguière, “Cérite,” Encyclopédie méthodique. Vers, 1 (1972), 472. For a useful but by no means complete treatment of Bruguière (1750–1798), see Georges Cuvier, “Extrait d'une notice biographique sur Bruguières [sic],” Recueil des éloges historiques ... par G. Cuvier, nouvelle édition (Paris: 1861), III, 357–372.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Cuvier's article on Bruguière in the Biographie universelle gives the date of Bruguière's death incorrectly as 1799, an error which has been repeated in several subsequent biographical notices. Bruguière died at Ancône on October 3, 1798. See G. A. Olivier, Voyage dans l'Empire othoman, l'Égypte et la Perse, VI (1807), 515–517.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Georges Cuvier, “Extrait d'un ouvrage sur les espèces de quadrupèdes dont on a trouvé les ossemens dans l'intérieur de la terre, adressé aux savans et aux amateurs des sciences,” Magasin encyclopédique, 7e année (1801), I, 64.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cuvier soon stopped referring to the occurrence of a global catastrophe, and he eventually relied on migrations to explain the repopulation of areas following the occurrence of nonglobal catastrophes.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    J. B. Lamarck, “Sur les fossiles,” Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 407.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    I make this statement fully aware of the fact that when Lamarck considered the subject more analytically he concluded that nature was a non-intelligent order of things, something “which acts only by necessity, and which can execute only what it does execute.” See/Lamarck, Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres, I (Paris: 1815), 323, and “Nature,” Nouveau Dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, 22 (1818), 363–399.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lamarck, “Discours d'ouverture, 1800,” Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 23.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Camille Limoges, La Sélection naturelle (Paris: 1970), p. 38.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    J. G.Bruguière, “Ammonites,” Encyclopédie méthodique. Vers, 1 (1789), 32. For Lamarck's views, see Lamarck, “Sur une nouvelle espèce de Trigonie, et sur une nouvelle d'Huître, découvertes dans le voyage du capitaine Baudin,” Annales du Muséum d'Histoire naturelle, 4 (1804), 351–359; and Philosophie zoologique (Paris: 1809), I, 77. See also Stephen Jay Gould, “Trigonia and the Origin of Species,” J. Hist. Biol., 1 (1968), 41–56.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Faujas, Hist. nat. de Maestricht, pp. 124–125. By 1803 Faujas had expanded his list to fifty-six species. Faujas, Essai de géologie, I, 58–75.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 408: “It is worth remarking that among the fossil shells for which marine or living analogs are not known, there are many of them which have a form very close to shells of the same genera that are known in the marine state. They differ more or less, however, and cannot be regarded rigorously as the same species as those that are living, since they do not resemble them perfectly.”Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    See ErnstMayr, “Lamarck revisited,” J. Hist. Biol. 5 (1972), 61, and Greene, “The Kuhnian paradigm and the Darwinian revolution in natural history,” pp. 13, 24–25.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Landrieu, Lamarck, p. 172, and Albert Carozzi (ed.) Lamarck, Hydrogeology (Urbana, Ill., 1964), p. 8, assert incorrectly that Buffon was the only figure among Lamarck's predecessors and contemporaries who had an influence on Lamarck's geological theorizing (Carozzi's footnotes to Lamarck's text in fact suggest other contemporaries who may have been of some influence). Lamarck's Hydrogéologie (Paris: 1802) provides a prime example of how Lamarck's failure to cite contemporary thinkers has led to an exaggerated opinion of his originality. One finds, for example, that Daubenton, in a lecture delivered to students at the École normale in 1795, advanced most of the concepts that were to appear a few years later as the central ideas of Lamarck's Hydrogéologie. Daubenton, “Sur les couches du globe de la terre,” Séances des Écoles normales, recueillies par des sténographes, et revues par les professeurs, nouvelle édition, 8 vols. (Paris, 1800), II, 265–290. Daubenton, to be sure, was basically following Buffon in this lecture. The major concept of Lamarck's Hydrogéologie that is not found in Daubenton's lecture is the idea of the organic origin of much of the earth's surface. This idea was not novel either, however. The idea of the construction and shaping of the earth's surface by organic action plus the effects of water in motion is found in Antoine Baumé, Chymie expérimentale et raisonnée, 3 vols. (Paris, 1773), III, 301–334. Lamarck took a special interest in Baumé's work. See Lamarck, “Classes,” Encyclopédie méthodique. Botanique, 2 (1786), 35–36, and Recherches sur les causes des principaux faits physiques, II, 306–309.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    In 1797 Lamarck remarked that the sea “has successively covered the continents,” but he was disinclined to discuss geological theory at the time (Mémoires de physique et d'histoire naturelle, pp. 346–347). In 1801, in describing fossils as “extremely precious monuments” for studying “the revolutions that different parts of the surface of the globe have undergone” and “the changes that living beings have themselves successively experienced there,” he claimed: “In my lessons I have always insisted on these considerations” (Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 406). Lamarck gave his first course at the Muséum in the spring of 1794. There is no evidence that Lamarck insisted on the mutability of species as early as 1794 (and it is not clear that his statement of 1801 should be interpreted as claiming that). Some early lecture notes on the topic of fossil shells include simply the observation that fossil shells tell a great deal about changes on the globe's surface, in particular that the sea has covered particular points of the earth's surface for long periods of time. “Terminologie pour les coquilles et methodes de conchyliologie. Coquilles fossiles.” Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, MS 743 (8), p. 27. The manuscript is not dated.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Lamarck's thoughts on the organic origin of the minerals date from the 1780s. See Lamarck, “Classes”, Encyc. méth. Botanique, 2 (1786), 34–36.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Lamarck's memoir to the Institut was entitled “Sur les fossiles et l'influence du mouvement des eaux, considérés comme preuves du déplacement continuel du bassin des mers, et de son transport sur les différens points de la surface du globe.” Lamarck began reading the memoir at the session of February 9, 1799 and completed it February 19, 1799. The title of the memoir is given in Procès-verbaux des Séances de l'Académie, I, 524, 528. Some further information on the memoir is provided in a contemporary account of activities at the Institut: Lassus, “Sciences physiques,” Magasin encyclopédique, 5e année (1799), I, 233–234. To the best of my knowledge this account has not appeared previously in the Lamarck literature.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. vi.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ibid., p. vi.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    See above, n. 27.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    See Pluche (Abbé Noël Antoine), Le Spectacle de la Nature, ou entretiens sur les particularités de l'histoire naturelle qui ont paru les plus propres à rendre les jeunes gens curieux & à leur former l'esprit (Paris, 1782), I, 294. Lamarck owned the first edition of this work, which appeared in eight volumes (1732–1750).Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 15.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Ibid., pp. 407–408.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ibid., pp. 408–409.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Buffon, “L'asne,” Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi, 4 (Paris: 1753), p. 382.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Buffon, “De la dégénération des animaux,” Histoire naturelle, 14 (1766), 374.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    I intend to discuss Lacép`ede's views at greater length elsewhere. His most important texts for this study are his introductory discourses to the second and third volumes of his Histoire naturelle des Poissons (Paris, 1800 and 1802).Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Lamarck, Recherches sur les causes des principaux faits physiques, II, 213–214.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Lamarck, Mémoires de physique et d'histoire naturelle, p. 255. The development of Lamarck's thinking on the nature of life may well have been influenced by his consideration of Spallanzani's observations on the reanimation of dessicated rotifers. See Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 387; Spallanzani, Opuscules de physique, animale et végétale, 3 vols. (Pavia: 1787), II, 203–249.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Lamarck, Mémoires de physique et d'histoire naturelle, p. 255.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Ibid., pp. 238–367 (see esp. p. 249).Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ibid., p. 246.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Ibid., p. 272.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Lamarck, Philosophie zoologique, I, 285. See also Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, pp. 390, 397.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Lamarck, Philosophie zoologique, I, xvi.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Lamarck, Mémoires de physique et d'histoire naturelle, p. 279.Google Scholar
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    Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, pp. 41, 358–359.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Lamarck, “Discours de l'an VII,” p. 3.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Lamarck, “Pour mes leçons. Histoire naturelle des animaux invertébrés ou à sang blanc. Discours préliminaire. an VI à an VII,” Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, MS 2628 (1), p. 1. The same quote appears in Lamarck, Recherches sur l'organisation des corps vivans (Paris: 1802), p. 95.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Lamarck, Recherches sur l'organisation des corps vivans, p. 98.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 101.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Ibid., p. 103.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 103–104. See also Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, pp. 41, 391–392; and Philosophie zoologique, II, 83.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    George Gaylord Simpson, This View of Life (New York, 1964), p. 46.Google Scholar
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    Lamarck, Recherches sur l'organisation des corps vivans, pp. 121–122. See also Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres, I (Paris: 1815), 180–181.Google Scholar
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    Lamarck refers to implicit attacks on the linear arrangement of organisms in Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 17 n.Google Scholar
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    Daudin, Cuvier et Lamarck, II, 155.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Cuvier, “Mémoire sur la structure interne et externe, et sur les affinités des animaux auxquels on a donné le nom de vers; lu à la Société d'Histoire naturelle, le 21 floréal de l'an 3 [10 May, 1795] La Décade philosophique, littéraire, et politique, 5 (1795), 385–396.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Lamarck, Systême des animaux sans vertèbres, p. 11.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    “Nouvelles littéraires,” Mag. encyc., 2e année (1796), I, 28.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Lamarck, Histoire naturelle des végétaux, 2 vols. (Paris, 1803), II, 257–258.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Lamarck, Recherches sur l'organisation des corps vivans, pp. 7–8. The statement of 1800 is repeated on p. 62.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Lamarck, Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres, I, iii–iv.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    See, for example, Lamarck, “Espèce,” Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, 10 (1817), 448–450. For Lamarck's inconsistency on this point, compare in Philosophie zoologique, p. 70 with pp. 132–133.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    The kind of history represented by the four works mentioned has been discussed by Frederick J. Teggart, Theory of History (New Haven: 1925), chap. 8. See also Robert A. Nisbet, Social Change and History (London, Oxford, New York, 1969), pp. 139–158, who follows Teggart's lead.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Dugald Stewart, “Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith,” cited in Nisbet, Social Change and History, p. 157.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    In regard to the influence of Lamarck's physico-chemical views on his evolutionary thought, I do not agree with Gillispie that “What [Lamarck] did between 1797 and 1800 was to assimilate the question of organic species (or rather of their nonexistence) to that of species in general, and of mineral species in particular” (Gillispie, “The Formation of Lamarck's Evolutionary Theory,” p. 329). Gillispie's explanation fails to recognize the fundamental distinction that Lamarck, like his colleague Daubenton, characteristically made between mineral “sortes” and organic “espèces.” Hodge, though offering an explanation different from Gillispie's, also fails to make this important distinction (Hodge, “Lamarck's Science of Living Bodies,” pp. 333–334).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© President and Fellows of Harvard College 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard W. BurkhardtJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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