Buffon (Cornell History of Science)

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9780801429187: Buffon (Cornell History of Science)
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The appearance in English of this magisterial biography is a major publishing event. Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon (1707-1788), was perhaps the most important of Charles Darwin's predecessors, Director of the Royal Botanical Garden, and certainly the premier French scientist of the Enlightenment. Buffon conducted a broad range of experiments, from the burning effects of the sun's rays, to the tensile strength of timber. His studies of plant life led to his creation of a renowned nursery, his zoological interests to his development of an aviary and menagerie. His massive, thirty-six-volume System of Nature was the most widely collected work of the Enlightenment, reaching more readers than even the classics of Voltaire and Rousseau. After Buffon's death, however, his importance as a scientist was denigrated, and little information about him has been available in English. This biography, the life work of Jacques Roger, finally gives Buffon his due. Roger transforms Buffon's image from that of a somewhat incoherent courtly naturalist into that of a major philosophical and scientific thinker. Using Buffon's enormous literary production as the major source of insight into his and his age's beliefs about the natural world, the book is both a biography and an analytical discussion of Buffon's science.Wonderful illustrations of assorted animals, taken from early editions of Buffon's Natural History, make this intellectual extravaganza a visual delight as well.

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"It is one of the charms of the biography that, assisted by Roger's deft and wide-ranging scholarship, the reader of this Buffon will gain a superbly detailed panoramic view of Enlightenment science, ranging from the origins of the earth, through fossils, sexual reproduction, the nature of matter to multifarious aspects of zoology, biology, and comparative anthropology. . . . Written with a delicacy of touch which allows us behind Buffon's defensive shield, this biography does justice to a major figure in a way which will be much appreciated by historians of science. Indeed, anyone with even the faintest interest in the social and intellectual history of the ancien regime will not fail to be entranced by this brilliant portrait." Colin Jones, Times Literary Supplement"

Synopsis:

A biography of a premier French scientist of the Enlightenment and the director of France's Royal Botanical Garden, using Buffon's enormous literary production as the major source of insight into his and his age's beliefs about the natural world. Includes b&w illustrations from his Natural History . First published in 1989 as Buffon, un philosophe

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