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Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

1744 - 1829

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, 1744 - 1829

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck was a prominent French botanist and invertebrate zoologist, who developed a transmutation theory of change in species, which became the major fore-runner to the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection.

  • Nationality
  • French

  • Subject
  • Biology

  • Fields
  • evolutionary theory, botany, invertebrate zoology

  • Distinctions
  • Many species are named after Lamarck, including a honeybee (Apis mellifera lamarckii), a jellyfish (Cyaneia lamarckii), 116 plant species, and a grass genus (Larmarckia).

  • Posts
  • Chair of Botany in the French Academy of Sciences, from 1788.

    Professor of Zoology, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, from 1793.

    Keeper of the Royal Herbarium of the Royal Garden, 1788, subsequently renamed Jardin des Plantes.

  • Publications
  • Flore françoise, 1788.

    Système des animaux sans vertèbres, 1801, dealing with the classification of invertebrates.

    Philosophie Zoologigue, 1809, in which he lays out his theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, subsequently referred to as Lamarkism.

    Recherches sur l'Organisation des Corps Vivants, 1802, in which he presents his theory on evolution.

  • Theories
  • Lamarck invented the term invertebrate, and was an early user of the term biology for the modern science of life.

    Theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics

    Lamarck proposed arguably the first cohesive theory of evolution. The mechanism he favoured was a movement of organisms up a ladder of complexity, with adaptation to local environmental conditions through use and disuse of characteristics.

In his 1802 book, Recherches sur l'Organisation des Corps Vivants, Lamarck set out his theory that life was organized in a vertical hierarchy according to complexity. This was contrary to the prevailing concept of staticness in species, whereby all species were created at the one time, and some had gone extinct through time (to accommodate the existence of fossils of non-extant animals).

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