Georges-Louis Leclerc, le comte de Buffon, Translated by J. A. Zalasiewicz, Mateusz Zalasiewicz, and Anne-Sophie Milon, The Epochs of Nature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 288 pp., 7 b&w illus., $45.00 Cloth, ISBN: 9780226395432
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During the eighteenth century, the study of natural history was inextricably associated with the name “Buffon,” the moniker of the renowned intendant of the Jardin du Roy [King’s Garden] in Paris from 1739 until his death in 1788. George Louis Leclerc de Buffon, or simply “Buffon” as he was known, is sometimes mentioned in biology textbooks as responsible for defining a species as a group of living organisms capable of reproducing their own kind; however, Buffon’s many other achievements have been relatively unknown in the English-speaking world over the last hundred and fifty years.
This publication of “The Epochs of Nature” may contribute much to reviving Buffon’s scientific reputation. It is the first complete English translation of “The Epochs of Nature,” published by Buffon in 1778. Perhaps if the “Epochs” had been published in English earlier, Buffon might enjoy a more secure place in the history of science. This daring exposition on deep time could only have been authored by...