Cabinet 16 - Contemporaries
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), was Linnaeus's French contemporary in the field of zoology. He was a fierce opponent of Linnaeus's classification system. Indeed, both were openly critical of each other. In his Histoire Naturelle (a large 44 volume work), Buffon describes his own account of what was known of Nature. Although widely read, his work has been criticised for being too general in its descriptions (Blunt). On display is a portrait of Buffon engraved for The Naturalist's Library opposite an image of a young Rhesus monkey.
Sir William Jardine, 'The Natural History of Monkeys.' Vol. I. The Naturalist's Library. Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars, and Stirling and Kenney, [and others], 1833. DeB Sb 1833 N M1
Famous for his poetry, Thomas Gray (1716-1771) was also interested in botany and found Linnaeus inspirational. He shared Linnaeus's liking for patterns and order. Gray recorded his own observations of Nature, which he transcribed into his own interleaved copy of Linnaeus's Systema Naturae (1759). It is reported that Gray took pride in being able to identify an eagle, from a farmer's description, making reference to Linnaeus's work (Mack). On display is a facsimile copy of Gray's carefully transcribed notes, open to the page of names of birds found in Scotland.
Charles Eliot Norton, The Poet Gray as a Naturalist. Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed, 1903. Special PR 3503 NV82
Georges Leopold, Baron Cuvier (1769-1832), like Buffon, was also a French contemporary of Linnaeus. Cuvier's area of expertise was that of comparative anatomy and paleontology. Through his observations he recognised similarities between living creatures and fossils. He extended Linnaeus's system for classifying mammals by dividing the animal kingdom into four groups, according to their anatomy; Mollusca, Radiata, Articulata, and Vertebrata. Accurate classification was sometimes difficult. Was the Polar Bear a new species or just an albino Brown Bear? M. F. Cuvier's, Cuvier's younger brother, description of a Polar Bear in the Parisian Menagerie in 1795 is found in The Animal Kingdom (pp. 233-235).