Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, (1707 – 1788) was a French naturalist, mathematician, biologist, cosmologist, philosopher and writer. He was a member of both the French Academy of Sciences and of the Académie Française and participated in the spirit of the Enlightenment. His theories influenced two generations of naturalists, in particular Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744 – 1829, French botanist and naturalist, who carried out the classification of invertebrates) and Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882, author of the book On the Origin of Species, in 1859). Hailed by his contemporaries for his reference work Natural History, Buffon was described as the “Pliny of Montbard” (in reference to Pliny the Elder). For Buffon, the progress of Nature, always carried out by nuances, must combine all the characters and list all the attributes of the species. This contrasted strongly with the work of Linnaeus, his contemporary. His prose is more rigid and his system less flexible. While Buffon and Linnaeus share the fact that they both organized nature although neither of them were travellers or collectors of information, their methods diverged and their philosophical visions were opposed.

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