Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, count de

(1707-1788)
   naturalist, writer
   Born in Montbard into an aristocratic family, Georges Louis Leclerc, count de Buffon, studied medicine, botany, and mathematics in Paris. His early scientific pursuits gained him admittance to the Royal Academy of Sciences (1733), and, in 1740, he was made intendent (keeper) of the Royal Gardens (now the National Museum of Natural History in Paris). Buffon's major work, Histoire naturelle (36 volumes, published 1749-89), provided the first naturalistic account of the history of the Earth, including a complete description of its botanical, zoological, and mineralogical, aspects. In it, he employed an empirical causation to explain natural phenomena. This caused him, however, to criticize the classification system of the swedish naturalist Linnaeus and to support the theory of spontaneous generation upholding the idea of 38 original species as the basis of all living matter. Nonetheless, Buf-fon's writings, including his Épilogue de la nature (1751) and Discours sur la style (1753), are considered some of the best literary achievements of the Enlightenment. His position within the French intellectual community was recognized by King louis XV, who made him a count in 1773. Buffon earlier had been named to the Academy of Sciences (1733) and the Académie Française (1753).

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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