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Science  ISBN: 978-1-935238-81-2
$18.95 USD



Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals of the Earth

Translated by Ian Johnston

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was a brilliant, influential, and powerful figure in natural science in the early nineteenth century, particularly famous for his work with the fossils of quadrupeds and his ability to reconstruct entire skeletal structures on the basis of a few fragments. Like many of his colleagues, Cuvier opposed evolution and yet, as a scientist, he could not ignore the evidence of past extinctions. Thus, he proposed that the history of the earth was characterized by a series of major calamities which had wiped out almost all creatures on the earth. The latest of these disasters occurred a few thousand years ago.

The Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals was originally the introduction to an important book on quadruped fossils, but its popularity soon led to its being printed and translated as a separate volume. In it Cuvier sets down an argument for his views on the history the earth, a position that has come to be known as Catastrophism.

However, the Discourse is more than a fascinating picture of the state of natural science in the years before Darwin’s work, for it offers an enormously wide-ranging exploration of what we can learn about the history of human society from mythology, astrology, astronomy, and literature from all of the world’s cultures to which Cuvier had access.

Ian Johnston’s fluent new translation of this landmark in the history of science also includes Cuvier’s essay On the Ibis, in which Cuvier resolves a long dispute about the identity of this ancient bird.