Jean-Baptiste Lamarck : works and heritage

Theories of evolution

In ancient times, the origin of life and evolution were not major issues: spontaneous generation of simple forms of life from matter was common belief, as was their transformation into other forms.

Towards the end of the 18th century , scientists including Erasmus DARWIN (1731-1802) in England, Alberto FORTIS (1741-1803) in Italy, and Jean-Claude de la METHERIE (1743-1817), Philippe BERTRAND (1730-1811), Eugène-Melchior-Louis PATRIN (1742-1815) and Bernard-Germain-Etienne de LACEPEDE (1756-1825) in France suggested that living organisms could have changed gradually along with changes in the earth's crust - at the same time refusing to endorse similar doctrines formulated in philosophical novels such as Benoit de Maillet's Telliamed.

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Author : Pietro CORSI, pietro.corsi@history.ox.ac.uk,
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