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Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences

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Georges Cuvier

1. Major Scientific Advances Preceding the Eighteenth-Century

1. Foundations of Eighteenth-Century Natural Science

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Cabinet of Natural History Engraving (detail) by Dureau after a drawing of Edmond Hédouin Cliché Bibliothèque centrale, MNHN.

Messieurs,

This year’s lectures will focus on the history of the natural sciences in the eighteenth century.

There were so many works and observations produced during that century that listing their authors might take as much time as citing the writings and philosophers at the foundation of the sciences during all the previous centuries. However, this wealth of knowledge is less surprising when you realize the level of support and facilitation provided by the works that immediately preceding this period.

Those who followed my lectures last year witnessed the birth of the sciences in India and in Egypt. They followed their more rapid development in Greece, liberated from the ties with the priestly caste. They learned how they degenerated in Rome under the despotism of emperors, how they practically disappeared after the invasion of the barbarians but then graduall...

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