Interesting Cuvier quotations

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.

As Cuvier could correctly describe a whole animal by the contemplation of a single bone, so the observer who has thoroughly understood one link in a series of incidents should be able to accurately state all the other ones, both before and after.

Cuvier had preceded Lamarck in specifying the kinds and degrees of variation, which his own observations and critical judgment of the reports of others led him to admit.

The vast results obtained by Science are won by no mystical faculties, by no mental processes other than those which are practicedby every one of us, in the humblest and meanest affairs of life. A detective policeman discovers a burglar from the marks made by his shoe, by a mental process identical with that by which Cuvier restored the extinct animals of Montmartre from fragments of their bones.


The interpretations of science do not give us this intimate sense of objects as the interpretations of poetry give it; they appeal to a limited faculty, and not to the whole man. It is not Linnaeus or Cavendish or Cuvier who gives us the true sense of animals, or water, or plants, who seizes their secret for us, who makes us participate in their life; it is Shakspeare [sic] … Wordsworth … Keats … Chateaubriand … Senancour.

Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.

Cuvier had even in his address & manner the character of a superior Man, much general power & eloquence in conversation & great variety of information on scientific as well as popular subjects. I should say of him that he is the most distinguished man of talents I have ever known on the continent: but I doubt if He be entitled to the appellation of a Man of Genius.

I have rarely read anything which has interested me more, though I have not read as yet more than a quarter of the book proper. From quotations which I had seen, I had a high notion of Aristotle's merits, but I had not the most remote notion what a wonderful man he was. Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.

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