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Peter Wilhelm Lund: Life and Work

Chapter

Abstract

Peter Wilhelm Lund (1801–1880) was a most remarkable nineteenth century Danish naturalist. During 10 years of intense work in the Brazilian limestone caves in the 1830s and 1840s, he generated new explanations for the evolution of the Earth, its fauna and flora, and human beings. His scientific methods were characterized by his unprecedented focus on complete systematic registration. Lund discovered and described an enormous range of extinct animals. He demonstrated that the extinction of prehistoric animals had by no means been complete, that actual animals in fact had lived side by side with animals that are now extinct and even that human beings had been contemporaneous with the extinct megafauna. Lund’s discoveries and analyses contributed toward the lasting and persistent reformulation of the history of the Earth and of humanity that eventually paved the way for a more general acceptance of Darwin’s revolutionary ideas. In fact, he offered to Darwin a long-term view of animal evolution. In addition, Lund performed a pioneering attempt of determining an absolute dating of the contents of a cave. This chapter gives an introductory survey of Lund’s work in the caves of the Lagoa Santa region, as well as a summary of his most important studies on cave fauna.

Keywords

Danish naturalist Lagoa Santa Paleontology Brazilian prehistory Megafauna 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lector emeritus, the Botanical GardenUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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