Georges Cuvier, French zoologist

Georges Cuvier, French zoologist

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Caption: Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), French zoologist, sculpted in an 18th-century brass plaque. Cuvier, a naturalist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist, was a giant in the sciences of the late-18th and early-19th centuries. His formidable reputation for identifying animals on the basis of few remains made him an authority in the new science of palaeontology. He described the first prehistoric reptiles, a pterosaur from Bavaria and a large Mosasaur from Maastricht. He speculated that there had been an age of reptiles. He pioneered the idea of extinction and believed the world had been subject to catastrophic events that had replaced whole faunas. He did not find evidence for evolution, and opposed the idea.

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