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SurroundingsA History of Environments and Environmentalisms$
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Etienne S. Benson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226706153

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226706320.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

The World in the Museum: Natural History and the Invention of Organisms and Environments in Post-Revolutionary Paris

The World in the Museum: Natural History and the Invention of Organisms and Environments in Post-Revolutionary Paris

Chapter:
(p.17) Chapter 1 The World in the Museum: Natural History and the Invention of Organisms and Environments in Post-Revolutionary Paris
Source:
Surroundings
Author(s):

Etienne S. Benson

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226706320.003.0002

This chapter focuses on research conducted at the Paris Museum of Natural History or Museum d’Histoire Naturelle in the decades following its founding in 1793. Located at a longstanding botanical garden and natural history collection, the post-revolutionary museum became a site where specimens gathered from around the world by French explorers, sailors, traders, and colonists—as well as specimens acquired from other European nations over the course of the Napoleonic wars—could be classified, compared, and subjected to experiment. Through this research, the chapter argues, Parisian naturalists such as Georges Cuvier, André Thouin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire produced an extensive body of knowledge about how the structure and function of each kind of living being corresponded to the conditions under which it typically lived. By the mid-nineteenth century, they were increasingly describing this correspondence in terms of organisms (organismes) and their environments (milieux)—a conceptual distinction that was soon adopted by researchers far beyond the museum itself.

Keywords:   Paris, Napoleonic France, natural history museums, environment, milieu, organism, Georges Cuvier, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, André Thouin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

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