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Georges Cuvier was one of the world's greatest naturalists. His pioneering studies, comparing living creatures with fossils, helped to establish the fields of palaeontology and comparative anatomy. He also established 'extinction' as an accepted scientific phenomenon and is known for having opposed early theories of evolution, pre-Darwin, among many other achievements. He worked for most of his career at the Jardin des Plantes (later the National Museum of Natural History) in Paris, where he gave his first series of lectures in 1795. He refused an invitation to become a naturalist on Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt from 1798 to 1801, in order to continue his research there.
In his 1835 description, Soane notes that this bust of Cuvier is 'said to be an excellent likeness', from which we can deduce that he never met Cuvier personally.
In addition to knowing of his scientific work, Soane may have admired Cuvier for his promotion of public museums and role in establishing provincial French universities and must have heard of him first-hand from Sir Thomas Lawrence. The fact that Cuvier was a surgeon general to Napoleon in 1815 may also have made him a figure of interest to Soane. Cuvier was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society in 1806 but never visited England.
acquired by Sir John Soane, before 1837
inscribed on front: G. COUVIER; signed on the back: P MERLIEUX 1827