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Encyclopedia > Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, by François-Hubert Drouais (1727-1775).
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, by François-Hubert Drouais (1727-1775).

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (September 7, 1707April 16, 1788) was a French naturalist, mathematician, biologist, cosmologist and author. Buffon's views influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin. Darwin himself, in his foreword to the 6th edition of the Origin of Species, credited Aristotle with foreshadowing the concept of natural selection, and stated that "the first author who in modern times has treated it in a scientific spirit was Buffon". ImageMetadata File history File links Download high resolution version (765x1134, 1065 KB) Summary Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon (7 septembre 1707 - 16 avril 1788), naturaliste, mathématicien, biologiste, cosmologiste et écrivain français. ... ImageMetadata File history File links Download high resolution version (765x1134, 1065 KB) Summary Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon (7 septembre 1707 - 16 avril 1788), naturaliste, mathématicien, biologiste, cosmologiste et écrivain français. ... Francois-Hubert Drouais (Paris, December 14, 1727 – Paris, October 21, 1775) was a French painter and Jean-Germain Drouaiss father. ... September 7 is the 250th day of the year (251st in leap years). ... Events January 1 - John V is crowned King of Portugal March 26 - The Acts of Union becomes law, making the separate Kingdoms of England and Scotland into one country, the Kingdom of Great Britain. ... April 16 is the 106th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (107th in leap years). ... 1788 was a leap year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... Table of natural history, 1728 Cyclopaedia Natural history is an umbrella term for what are now usually viewed as several distinct scientific disciplines. ... // Cosmology, from the Greek: κοσμολογία (cosmologia, κόσμος (cosmos) order + λογια (logia) discourse) is the study of the Universe in its totality, and by extension, humanitys place in it. ... Jean-Baptiste Lamarck Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck (August 1, 1744 – December 28, 1829) was a French naturalist and an early proponent of the idea that evolution occurred and proceeded in accordance with natural laws. ... Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) He was an English naturalist who achieved lasting fame by producing considerable evidence that species originated through evolutionary change, at the same time proposing the scientific theory that natural selection is the mechanism by which such change occurs. ... The 1859 edition of On the Origin of Species First published in 1859, The Origin of Species (full title On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life) by British naturalist Charles Darwin is one of the pivotal... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – March 7, 322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Natural selection is the process by which individual organisms with favorable traits are more likely to survive and reproduce. ...



Early life

He was born at Montbard, Côte d'Or. His father, Benjamin Leclerc, was the Lord of Dijon and Montbard. He attended Jesuit College from the age of ten, and then Angers University. He began studying law, but soon began to concentrate on his twin interests of mathematics and science. He was later forced to leave university after becoming involved in a duel, and set off on a grand tour of Europe, returning when his father's remarriage threatened his inheritance. Montbard (population 7900 in 1991) is a town in eastern France, a sub-prefecture of the Côte dOr département, in the Burgundy région. ... For other uses, see Côte dOr (disambiguation). ... Dijon ( ) is a city in eastern France, the préfecture (administrative capital) of the Côte-dOr département and of the Bourgogne région. ... The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu), commonly known as the Jesuits, is a Roman Catholic religious order. ...

He first made his mark in the field of mathematics and in Sur le jeu de franc-carreau introduced differential and integral calculus into probability theory. During this period he corresponded with the Swiss mathematician, Gabriel Cramer. The problem of Buffon's needle in probability theory is also named in his honor. Calculus is a central branch of mathematics. ... Probability theory is the mathematical study of probability. ... Gabriel Cramer Gabriel Cramer (July 31, 1704 - January 4, 1752) was a Swiss mathematician, born at Geneva. ... In mathematics, Buffons needle problem is a question first posed in the 18th century by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon: suppose we have a floor made of parallel strips of wood, each the same width, and we drop a needle onto the floor. ... Probability theory is the mathematical study of probability. ...

His translations of works by Isaac Newton and Stephen Hales' Vegetable staticks into French heightened his interest in biology. Sir Isaac Newton, FRS (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) [OS: 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727][1] was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, and natural philosopher, widely regarded as one of the key figures in the history of science. ... Stephen Hales (September 17, 1677 - January 4, 1761) was an English physiologist, chemist and inventor. ...

He moved to Paris where he made the acquaintance of Voltaire and other intellectuals. He joined the French Academy of Sciences at the age of 27. He became Keeper of the Jardin du Roi (later Jardin des Plantes) in Paris from 1739. During his period in charge he converted it from the King's garden to a research centre and museum, and the park was considerably enlarged, with the addition of many trees and plants from around the world. Voltaire at 24 years of age by Nicolas de Largillière. ... Louis XIV visiting the Académie in 1671 The French Academy of Sciences (Académie des sciences) is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research. ... The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. ...


Natural history

Buffon is best remembered for his great work Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749-1788: in 36 volumes, 8 additional volumes published after his death by Lacépède). It included everything known about the natural world up until that date. In it Buffon considered the similarities between humans and apes, and the possibility of a common ancestry. Buffon debated James Burnett, Lord Monboddo on the question of ancestry of the primates to man, Monboddo insisting[1] on the closeness of relationship of man and apes. Those who assisted him in the production of this great work included Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton. Buffon's work is considered to have greatly influenced modern ecology (see history of ecology). His Histoire was translated into many different languages, making him the most widely read scientific author of the day, equaling Rousseau and Voltaire.[2] Lacépède Bernard Germain Étienne de la Ville, Comte de Lacépède (December 26, 1756 – October 6, 1825) was a French naturalist. ... James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714 - May 26, 1799) was a Scottish judge, scholar and eccentric. ... Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton (May 29, 1716 - January 1, 1800) was a French naturalist. ... Ernst Haeckel coined the term oekologie in 1866. ... Rousseau is a French surname. ... Voltaire at 24 years of age by Nicolas de Largillière. ...

In Les époques de la nature (1778) Buffon discussed the origins of the solar system, speculating that the planets had been created by comets colliding with the sun. He also suggested that the age of the earth was much greater than the 6,000 years proclaimed by the church. Based on the cooling rate of iron, he calculated that the age of the earth was 75,000 years. For this he was condemned by the Catholic Church in France and his books were burned. Buffon also denied that Noah's flood ever occurred and observed that some animals retain parts that are vestigial and no longer useful, suggesting that they have evolved rather than having been spontaneously generated.[3] Despite this, Buffon insisted that he was not an atheist.[4] Major features of the Solar System (not to scale): The Sun, the eight planets, the asteroid belt containing the dwarf planet Ceres, outermost there is the dwarf planet Pluto (the dwarf planet Eris not shown), and a comet. ... Comet Hale-Bopp For other uses, see Comet (disambiguation). ... General Name, Symbol, Number iron, Fe, 26 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 8, 4, d Appearance lustrous metallic with a grayish tinge Atomic mass 55. ...

Besides his many brilliant insights he is also known for expounding the theory that nature in the New World was inferior to that of Eurasia. He argued that the Americas were lacking in large and powerful creatures, and that even the people were far less virile than their European counter parts. He ascribed this to the marsh odours and dense forests of the continent. Carte dAmérique, Guillaume Delisle, c. ... Eurasia African-Eurasian aspect of Earth Eurasia is the landmass composed of Europe and Asia. ...

Buffon was very skilled with words, earning him the nickname from mathematician Jean le Rond d' Alembert of "the great phrasemonger." Speaking of his many detractors, he said, "I shall keep absolute silence . . . and let their attacks fall upon themselves." He said that the horse was "man's most noble conquest." When delivering his Discours sur le style (“Discourse on Style”), he said, "Writing well consists of thinking, feeling and expressing well, of clarity of mind, soul and taste . . . The style is the man himself" ("Le style c'est l'homme même").[5] He lent his affinity of words to the world of science and, among others, is credited with coining the term prehensile (from Latin prehensus). Leclerc was made Comte (Count) de Buffon in 1773. He died in Paris 1788. Jean le Rond dAlembert, pastel by Maurice Quentin de la Tour Jean Le Rond dAlembert (November 16, 1717 – October 29, 1783) was a French mathematician, mechanician, physicist and philosopher. ... Prehensility is the quality of an organ that has adapted for grasping or holding. ... Latin was the language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. ...


Wood tests

Statue of Buffon in the Jardin des Plantes
Statue of Buffon in the Jardin des Plantes

Buffon performed one of the most comprehensive series of tests that had been undertaken at his time on the mechanical properties of wood. Included were a series of tests to compare the properties of small clear specimens with those of large members. After carefully testing more than 1,000 small specimens and being extremely careful to ensure that the specimens contained no knots or other defects, Buffon concluded that it was not possible to predict the properties of full-size timbers containing defects from tests of small specimens, and he began a series of tests on full-size structural members. His conclusion that tests of small specimens (without further adjustment) cannot be used to predict the properties of full-size members raised a question that was to continue into the 20th century. Download high resolution version (1204x1348, 244 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (1204x1348, 244 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. ... A tree trunk as found at the Veluwe, The Netherlands Wood is derived from woody plants, notably trees but also shrubs. ...



  1. ^ "Cloyd, E.L.," James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, Clarendon Press, Oxford (1972)
  2. ^ "Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de," Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, Biographies Plus Illustrated (H.W. Wilson Company, 2001)[1] [Accessed December 26, 2005].
  3. ^ "Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de," Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Biography,, Biographies Plus Illustrated (H.W. Wilson Company, 2000) [2] [Accessed December 26, 2005].
  4. ^ "Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc, count de," Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Online [3] [Accessed December 26, 2005].
  5. ^ Ibid.

James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714 - May 26, 1799) was a Scottish judge, scholar and eccentric. ...

Sources, Online texts

  • The Buffon project : L'histoire naturelle online (in French), edited by a history of science labs from CNRS (2006). You can read online all the Buffon's natural history.
  • Digital text Kyoto University

External links

  • O'Connor, John J., and Edmund F. Robertson. "Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon
Preceded by:
Jean-Joseph Languet de Gergy
Seat 1
Académie française
Succeeded by:
Félix Vicq d'Azir



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