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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Baron Georges Cuvier Quotes

Thumbnail of Baron Georges Cuvier (source)
Baron Georges Cuvier
(23 Aug 1769 - 13 May 1832)

French zoologist, statesman, anatomist and paleontologist.


Science Quotes by Baron Georges Cuvier (22 quotes)

>> Click for Baron Georges Cuvier Quotes on | Fossil | Morphology |

Oil portrait of George Cuvier - head and shoulders
Georges Cuvier (source)
A famous anecdote concerning Cuvier involves the tale of his visitation from the devil—only it was not the devil but one of his students dressed up with horns on his head and shoes shaped like cloven hooves. This frightening apparition burst into Cuvier's bedroom when he was fast asleep and claimed:
'Wake up thou man of catastrophes. I am the Devil. I have come to devour you!'
Cuvier studied the apparition carefully and critically said,
'I doubt whether you can. You have horns and hooves. You eat only plants.'
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Quoted in Glyn Daniel, The Idea of Pre-History (1962), 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Anecdote (17)  |  Morphology (18)

All organs of an animal form a single system, the parts of which hang together, and act and re-act upon one another; and no modifications can appear in one part without bringing about corresponding modifications in all the rest.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Histoire des Progrès des Sciences naturelles depuis (1789), Vol. I, 310. Quoted in E. S. Russell, Form and Function(1916), 35.
Science quotes on:  |  Morphology (18)

As an antiquary of a new order, I have been obliged to learn the art of deciphering and restoring these remains, of discovering and bringing together, in their primitive arrangement, the scattered and mutilated fragments of which they are composed, of reproducing in all their original proportions and characters, the animals to which these fragments formerly belonged, and then of comparing them with those animals which still live on the surface of the earth; an art which is almost unknown, and which presupposes, what had scarcely been obtained before, an acquaintance with those laws which regulate the coexistence of the forms by which the different parts of organized being are distinguished.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 1-2.
Science quotes on:  |  Classification (79)  |  Fossil (107)

At the sight of a single bone, of a single piece of bone, I recognize and reconstruct the portion of the whole from which it would have been taken. The whole being to which this fragment belonged appears in my mind's eye.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Cited by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Comptes-Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences. 1837, 7, 116. Trans. Franck Bourdier, 'Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire versus Cuvier: The Campaign for Paleontological Evolution (1825- 1838)', Cecil J. Schneer (ed.), Toward a History of Geology (1969), 44.
Science quotes on:  |  Appearance (77)  |  Being (39)  |  Belonging (12)  |  Bone (57)  |  Eye (159)  |  Fragment (24)  |  Mind (544)  |  Mind’s Eye (2)  |  Morphology (18)  |  Piece (32)  |  Portion (14)  |  Recognition (62)  |  Reconstruction (13)  |  Sight (25)  |  Single (72)  |  Whole (122)

Fortunately Nature herself seems to have prepared for us the means of supplying that want which arises from the impossibility of making certain experiments on living bodies. The different classes of animals exhibit almost all the possible combinations of organs: we find them united, two and two, three and three, and in all proportions; while at the same time it may be said that there is no organ of which some class or some genus is not deprived. A careful examination of the effects which result from these unions and privations is therefore sufficient to enable us to form probable conclusions respecting the nature and use of each organ, or form of organ. In the same manner we may proceed to ascertain the use of the different parts of the same organ, and to discover those which are essential, and separate them from those which are only accessory. It is sufficient to trace the organ through all the classes which possess it, and to examine what parts constantly exist, and what change is produced in the respective functions of the organ, by the absence of those parts which are wanting in certain classes.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Letter to Jean Claude Mertrud. In Lectures on Comparative Anatomy (1802), Vol. I, xxiii--xxiv.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (309)  |  Classification (79)  |  Organ (60)

Genius and science have burst the limits of space, and few observations, explained by just reasoning, have unveiled the mechanism of the universe. Would it not also be glorious for man to burst the limits of time, and, by a few observations, to ascertain the history of this world, and the series of events which preceded the birth of the human race?
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 3-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (482)  |  Observation (418)

I am of opinion, then, ... that, if there is any circumstance thoroughly established in geology, it is, that the crust of our globe has been subjected to a great and sudden revolution, the epoch of which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thousand years ago; that this revolution had buried all the countries which were before inhabited by men and by the other animals that are now best known; that the same revolution had laid dry the bed of the last ocean, which now forms all the countries at present inhabited; that the small number of individuals of men and other animals that escaped from the effects of that great revolution, have since propagated and spread over the lands then newly laid dry; and consequently, that the human race has only resumed a progressive state of improvement since that epoch, by forming established societies, raising monuments, collecting natural facts, and constructing systems of science and of learning.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 171-2.
Science quotes on:  |  Extinction (55)  |  Man (345)

If they [enlightened men] take any interest in examining, in the infancy of our species, the almost obliterated traces of so many nations that have become extinct, they will doubtless take a similar interest in collecting, amidst the darkness which covers the infancy of the globe, the traces of those revolutions which took place anterior to the existence of all nations.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Evolution (482)  |  Fossil (107)

In my work on Fossil Bones, I set myself the task of recognizing to which animals the fossilized remains which fill the surface strata of the earth belong. ... As a new sort of antiquarian, I had to learn to restore these memorials to past upheavals and, at the same time, to decipher their meaning. I had to collect and put together in their original order the fragments which made up these animals, to reconstruct the ancient creatures to which these fragments belonged, to create them once more with their proportions and characteristics, and finally to compare them to those alive today on the surface of the earth. This was an almost unknown art, which assumed a science hardly touched upon up until now, that of the laws which govern the coexistence of forms of the various parts in organic beings.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Discours sur les révolutions du globe, (Discourse on the Revolutions of the Surface of the Globe), originally the introduction to Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles des quadrupèdes (1812). Translated by Ian Johnston from the 1825 edition. Online at Vancouver Island University website.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)

In spite of what moralists say, the, animals are scarcely less wicked or less unhappy than we are ourselves. The arrogance of the strong, the servility of the weak, low rapacity, ephemeral pleasure purchased by great effort, death preceded by long suffering, all belong to the animals as they do to men.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Recueil des Éloges Historiques 1819-27, Vol. 1, 91.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (309)  |  Death (270)  |  Happiness (82)

It has been long considered possible to explain the more ancient revolutions on... [the Earth's] surface by means of these still existing causes; in the same manner as it is found easy to explain past events in political history, by an acquaintance with the passions and intrigues of the present day. But we shall presently see that unfortunately this is not the case in physical history:—the thread of operation is here broken, the march of nature is changed, and none of the agents that she now employs were sufficient for the production of her ancient works.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 24.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)

It is in this mutual dependence of the functions and the aid which they reciprocally lend one another that are founded the laws which determine the relations of their organs and which possess a necessity equal to that of metaphysical or mathematical laws, since it is evident that the seemly harmony between organs which interact is a necessary condition of existence of the creature to which they belong and that if one of these functions were modified in a manner incompatible with the modifications of the others the creature could no longer continue to exist.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Leçons d' anatomie comparée, Vol. I, 47. Trans. William Coleman, Georges Cuvier Zoologist: A Study in the History of Evolution Theory (1964), 67-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (309)  |  Law (418)  |  Organ (60)

It is my object, in the following work, to travel over ground which has as yet been little explored and to make my reader acquainted with a species of Remains, which, though absolutely necessary for understanding the history of the globe, have been hitherto almost uniformly neglected.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)

It is to them [fossils] alone that we owe the commencement of even a Theory of the Earth ... By them we are enabled to ascertain, with the utmost certainty, that our earth has not always been covered over by the same external crust, because we are thoroughly assured that the organized bodies to which these fossil remains belong must have lived upon the surface before they came to be buried, as they now are, at a great depth.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 54-55.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)  |  Geology (187)

Life, therefore, has been often disturbed on this earth by terrible events—calamities which, at their commencement, have perhaps moved and overturned to a great depth the entire outer crust of the globe, but which, since these first commotions, have uniformly acted at a less depth and less generally. Numberless living beings have been the victims of these catastrophes; some have been destroyed by sudden inundations, others have been laid dry in consequence of the bottom of the seas being instantaneously elevated. Their races even have become extinct, and have left no memorial of them except some small fragments which the naturalist can scarcely recognise.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 16-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Extinction (55)  |  Flood (26)  |  Fossil (107)  |  Sea (143)

Nurse, it was I who discovered that leeches have red blood.[]On his deathbed when the nurse came to apply leeches
— Baron Georges Cuvier
(1832). Attributed. In Barnaby Conrad, Famous Last Words (1961), 78.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (227)  |  Blood (95)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Leech (5)  |  Nurse (19)  |  Red (25)

Since nothing can exist that does not fulfil the conditions which render its existence possible, the different parts each being must be co-ordinated in such a way as to render possible the existence of the being as a whole, not only in itself, but also in its relations with other beings, and the analysis of these conditions often leads to general laws which are as certain as those which are derived from calculation or from experiment.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Le Règne Animal distribué d' Après son Organisation (1817), 6. Translated in E. S. Russell, Form and Function: A Contribution to the History of Animal Morphology (1916), 34.
Science quotes on:  |  Morphology (18)

The entire human body is disposed for a vertical posture.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Science quotes on:  |  Human Body (30)  |  Physiology (66)  |  Posture (4)  |  Vertical (3)

The observer listens to nature: the experimenter questions and forces her to reveal herself.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Attributed.
Science quotes on:  |  Experiment (543)  |  Observation (418)

The works which this man [Joseph Banks] leaves behind him occupy a few pages only; their importance is not greatly superior to their extent; and yet his name will shine out with lustre in the history of the sciences.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Funeral oration at the Academy of Sciences, Paris (2 Apr 1821). Quoted in Hector Charles Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, K.B., P.R.S.: the Autocrat of the Philosophers (1952) 209.
Science quotes on:  |  Sir Joseph Banks (3)  |  Extent (30)  |  History (302)  |  Importance (183)  |  Lustre (3)  |  Name (118)  |  Obituary (10)  |  Publication (83)  |  Science (1699)  |  Shine (22)  |  Superior (30)  |  Work (457)

Why has not anyone seen that fossils alone gave birth to a theory about the formation of the earth, that without them, no one would have ever dreamed that there were successive epochs in the formation of the globe.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Discours sur les révolutions du globe, (Discourse on the Revolutions of the Surface of the Globe), originally the introduction to Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles des quadrupèdes (1812). Translated by Ian Johnston from the 1825 edition. Online at Vancouver island University website.
Science quotes on:  |  Earth (487)  |  Formation (54)  |  Fossil (107)  |  Theory (582)

[Audubon’s works are] the most splendid monuments which art has erected in honor of ornithology.
— Baron Georges Cuvier
Introduction by Jas. Grant Wilson's to John James Audubon and Lucy Audubon (editor), The Life of John James Audubon: the Naturalist (1869), iv.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (205)  |  John James Audubon (9)  |  Erect (3)  |  Honour (23)  |  Monument (19)  |  Ornithology (16)  |  Splendid (8)



Quotes by others about Baron Georges Cuvier (6)

To seek in the great accumulation of the already-said the text that resembles "in advance" a later text, to ransack history in order to rediscover the play of anticipations or echoes, to go right back to the first seeds or to go forward to the last traces, to reveal in a work its fidelity to tradition or its irreducible uniqueness, to raise or lower its stock of originality, to say that the Port -Royal grammarians invented nothing, or to discover that Cuvier had more predecessors than one thought, these are harmless enough amusements for historians who refuse to grow up.
The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), trans. M. Sheridan Smith (1972), 144.
Science quotes on:  |  History Of Science (53)  |  Knowledge (1128)

Evolution is the law of policies: Darwin said it, Socrates endorsed it, Cuvier proved it and established it for all time in his paper on 'The Survival of the Fittest.' These are illustrious names, this is a mighty doctrine: nothing can ever remove it from its firm base, nothing dissolve it, but evolution.
'Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes', Which Was the Dream? (1967), Chap. 8. In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 47.
Science quotes on:  |  Base (43)  |  Charles Darwin (284)  |  Dissolve (9)  |  Doctrine (53)  |  Establish (30)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Firm (19)  |  Illustrious (3)  |  Law (418)  |  Mighty (7)  |  Name (118)  |  Policy (23)  |  Proof (192)  |  Publication (83)  |  Remove (18)  |  Socrates (14)  |  Survival Of The Fittest (34)

Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.
Letter to W. Ogle (22 Feb 1882). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 427.
Science quotes on:  |  Aristotle (141)  |  Carolus Linnaeus (26)  |  Schoolboy (5)

Is not Cuvier the great poet of our era? Byron has given admirable expression to certain moral conflicts, but our immortal naturalist has reconstructed past worlds from a few bleached bones; has rebuilt cities, like Cadmus, with monsters’ teeth; has animated forests with all the secrets of zoology gleaned from a piece of coal; has discovered a giant population from the footprints of a mammoth.
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated by Ellen Marriage in The Wild Ass’s Skin (1906), 21-22.
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Have you ever plunged into the immensity of space and time by reading the geological treatises of Cuvier? Borne away on the wings of his genius, have you hovered over the illimitable abyss of the past as if a magician’s hand were holding you aloft?
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated by Herbert J. Hunt in The Wild Ass’s Skin (1977), 40-41.
Science quotes on:  |  Abyss (20)  |  Aloft (4)  |  Genius (186)  |  Geological (11)  |  Hover (3)  |  Immensity (17)  |  Limitless (5)  |  Magician (12)  |  Past (109)  |  Plunge (7)  |  Read (83)  |  Space (154)  |  Time (439)  |  Treatise (19)  |  Wing (36)

Have you ever plunged into the immensity of time and space by reading the geological tracts of Cuvier? Transported by his genius, have you hovered over the limitless abyss of the past, as if held aloft by a magician’s hand?
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
Science quotes on:  |  Abyss (20)  |  Aloft (4)  |  Genius (186)  |  Geological (11)  |  Hand (103)  |  Hold (56)  |  Hover (3)  |  Immensity (17)  |  Limitless (5)  |  Magician (12)  |  Past (109)  |  Plunge (7)  |  Read (83)  |  Space (154)  |  Time (439)  |  Tract (3)  |  Transport (10)


See also:
  • 23 Aug - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Cuvier's birth.

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