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GEOFFROY SAINT•HILAIRE, FITIENNE (1772-1844), a celebrated French naturalist, was the son of Jean Gerard Geoffroy, procurator and magistrate of Etampes, Seine-etOise, where he was born, April 15, 1772. His early education was carefully superintended by his mother and paternal grandmother, and when still a boy lie had already become acquainted with the masterpieces of the literature of the ancients, and of the age of Louis XIV. Destined by his friends for the church, lie entered, as an exhibitioner, the college of Navarre, in Paris, where he studied natural philosophy under Brisson ; and in 1788 he obtained one of the canonicates of the chapter of Sainte Croix at Etampes, and also a benefice. Science, however, offered to him a career more congenial to his tastes than that of an ecclesiastic, and, after sonic persuasion, lie gained from his father permission to remain in Paris, and to attend the lectures at the College de France and the Jardin des Plantes, on tire condition that he should likewise read law. He accordingly took up his residence at Cardinal Lemoine's college, and there became the pupil and soon the esteemed associate of Brisson's friend, Rally, the eminent mineralogist, under whose guiding influence his passion for the natural sciences daily deepened. Having, before the close of time year 1790, taken the degree of bachelor in law, lie became a student of medicine, but the lectures of Fourcroy at the Jardin des Plantes, and of Daubenton at the College de France, and his favourite scientific pursuits gradually came to occupy his almost exclusive attention. His studies at Paris were at length suddenly interrupted, for, on the 12th or 13t11 of August 1792, Haiiy and the other professors of Lemoine's college, as also those of the college of Navarre, were arrested by the revolutionists as priests, and confined in the prison of St Firmin. Through Daubenton and other persons of distinction with whom he was acquainted, Geoffroy on the 14th August obtained an order for the release of Haiiy in the name of the Academy; still the other professors of the two colleges, save Lhomond, who had been rescued by his pupil Tallien, remained in confinement. Geoffroy, foreseeing their certain destruction if they remained in the hands of the revolutionists, determined if possible to secure their liberty by stratagem. By bribing one of the officials at St Firmin, and disguising himself as a commissioner of prisons, lie gained admission to his friends, and entreated them to effect their escape by following him. All, however, dreading lest their deliverance should render the clown of their fellow-captives the more certain, refused the offer, and one priest only, who was unknown to Geoffroy, left the prison. Already on the night of the 2d of September the massacre of the proscribed had begun, when Geoffrey, yet intent on saving the life of Ids friends and teachers, repaired to St Firmin. At 4 o'clock on the morning of the 3d Sept., after S hours' waiting, he by means of a ladder assisted the escape of twelve ecclesiastics, not of the number of his acquaintance, and then the approach of dawn and the discharge of a gun directed at him warned him, his chief purpose unaccomplished, to return to his lodgings. Leaving Paris lie retired to Etampes, where, in consequence of the anxieties of which he had lately been the prey, and the horrors which he had witnessed, he was for some time seriously ill. At the beginning of the winter of 1792 he returned to his studies in Paris, and in March of the following year Daubenton, through the interest of Bernardin de Saint Pierre, procured him the office of sub-keeper and assistant demonstrator of the cabinet of natural history, vacant by the resignation of Lacepede. By a law passed June 10th, 1793, Geoffroy was appointed one of the twelve professors of the newly constituted museum of natural history, being assigned the chair of zoology. In the same year he busied himself with the formation of a menagerie at that institution. On the Gth May 1791 commenced his opening course of lectures, and on December 1st he read to the society of natural history his first paper, on the subject of the Aye-aye. It was in 1794, also, that through the introduction of Tessier he entered into correspondence with Georges Cuvier, to whom, after the perusal of some of his manuscripts, he wrote : " Venez jouer parmi nous le role de 'Anne, d'un antre logislateur derhistoire naturelle." Shortly after theappointment of Cuvier as Method's assistant (see vol. vi. p. 740), Geoffroy received him. into his house. The two friends wrote together five memoirs on natural history, one of which, on the classification of mammals, puts forward the idea of the subordination of characters upon which Cuvier based his zoological system. It was in a paper entitled " Histoire des Makis, ou singes de Madagascar," written in 1795, that Geoffroy first gave expression to his views on " the unity of organic composition," the influence of which is perceptible in all his subsequent writings : nature, he observes, presents us with only one plan of construction, the same in principle, but varied in its accessory parts.
In 1798 Geoffroy was chosen a member of the great scientific expedition to Egypt. With Delile and Larrey, on the capitulation of Alexandria in August 1801, he resisted the claim made by the British general Hutchinson to the collections of the expedition, sending him word that, were his demand persisted in, history would have to record of him that he also had burnt a library in Alexandria. Early in January 1802 Geoffroy returned to his accustomed labours in Paris. He was elected a member of the academy of sciences of that city in September 1807. In March of the following year the emperor, who had already recognized his national services by the award of the cross of the legion of honour, selected him to visit the museums of Portugal, for the purpose of procuring from them collections, and these, though in the face of considerable opposition from the British, he eventually was successful in retaining as a permanent possession for his country. In 1809, the year after his return to France, he was made professor of zoology of the faculty of sciences at Paris, and from that .-neriod he devoted himself more exclusively than before to the study of anatomical philosophy. In 1815 he was elected political representative for his native town. Three years later lie gave to the world the first part of Ids celebrated Ph iloso)il ie A natoncique, the second volume of which, published in 1822, and memoirs subsequently written account for the formation of monstrosities on the principle of arrest of development, and of the attraction of similar parts. When, in 1830, Geoffroy proceeded to apply to the invertebrata his views as to the unity of animal composition, he found a vigorous opponent in Georges Cuvier, and the discussion between them, continued up to the time of the death of the latter, soon attracted the attention of the scientific throughout Europe. Geoffroy, a synthesist, contended, in accordance with his theory of unity of plan in organic COMposition, that all animals are funned of the same elements, in the same number, and with the same connexions: homologous parts, however they differ in form and size, must remain associated in the same invariable order. With Goethe he held that there is in nature a law of compensation or balancing of growth, so that if one organ take on an excess of development, it is at the expense of some other part (el, Darwin, Origin of Species, 5th ed., p. 182); and he maintained that, since nature takes no sudden leaps, even organs which are superfluous in any given species, if they have played an important part in other species of the same family, are retained as rudiments, which testify to the permanence of the general plan of creation. It was his conviction that, owing to the conditions of life, the same forms had not been perpetuated since the origin of all timings, although it was not Ids belief that existing species are becoming modified (see Darwin, op. cit., p. xvi.). Cuvier, who was an analytical observer of facts, admitted only the prevalence of "laws of coexistence " or "harmony in animal organs, and maintained the absolute invariability of species, which he declared had been created with a regard to the circumstances in which they were placed, each organ contrived with a view to the function it had to fulfil, thus putting, in Geoffroy's consideration, the effect for the cause. In July 1840 Geoffroy became blind, and some months later he had a paralytic attack. From that time his strength gradually failed him. He resigned Ins chair at the museum in 1841, and on the 19th June 1844, at the age of 72, he died.
Geoffroy wrote - eatalogiic des 21ammifires dot 31usium national d'Histoire naturelle, 1813, not quite completed ; Philosophic anatonique, - t. i., Des organes respiratoires, 1818, & t. ii., Des Honstruosites lcumaines, 1822; ,S'ilstivie dentaire des .31«nincifircs et des Oiseaux, 1st pt., 1824; Sur le Principe de l' Uniti de Composition organique, 1828; (IOM's de l'Histoirc natural(' des Nam»?ifires, 1829; Principe de _Philosophic toologique, 1830 ; Etudes progressircr• d'un Natural-isle, 1835; Fragments biographiques, 1832; ..Volions syytheligues, hisloriqnes, et physiologigncs de Philosophic naturelle, 1838; and other works; also part of the Description de l'Egypte par Sc COMIlli981.011, des Sciences, 1821-30; and, with F. Cuvier, Histoire naturelle des ilfammifercs, 4 vols., 1820-42; besides very numerons papers published in the Animates du Museum, the Ann. des Sci. oat., the Bulletin philomatique, La Decade egyptienne, La Decade philosopltique, the Ren eneyclopklique, .3litm. de lAead. des Sciences, and elsewhere, among the subjects of which are the anatomy of marsupials, ruminants, and electrical fishes, the vertebrate theory of the skull, the opercula of fishes, teratology, paleontology, and the influence of surrounding conditions in modifying animal forms.
See Vie, Travaux, el Doctrine Scientifique d'Elienne aeoffroy par son film AL Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Parte and Strasburg, 1517, to which is appended a list of Gcoffroy's works; and dolt', in Biog. untrerselic, t. xvi., 1856. (F. 11.