Biography of Jean-Baptiste Pierre de Monet de Lamarck (1744-1829)

Jean-Baptiste De Lamarck.

Naturalist French, born in Bazantin (Picardy) 1 August 1744 and died in Paris on December 28, 1829, who denied the immutability of species, and developed the first causal explanation of evolution, known by the name of lamarckism (see also neolamarckismo). His theories failed to establish itself among its contemporaries, primarily because of the opposition of Cuvier, who fought from a position rigidly fixist. Even when evolution was universally admitted, Darwin (although considered him his predecessor), you would criticize him for not having supported his theory on a solid basis of experimental observations.

Following the publication of his Flore francoise (1779) was admitted to the Academy of Sciences. She was also interested in chemistry and physics. He held the Chair of Anatomy of the invertebrates at the Museum of Natural history. His most important works are: Systeme des animeaux sans vertèbres (1801), Philosophie zoologique (two vols., 1809), Histoire naturelle des animeaux sans vertèbres (7 vols., 1815-22), among others.


It was the eleventh son of the marriage formed by the military Jacques Phillipe de Monet of the Mark and Marie-Francoise of Fontaines, an ancient noble family impoverished. At age eleven he was sent to study at the College of the Jesuits of Amiens with the idea that became a clergyman, but having no religious vocation left school to devote himself to military life after his father's death in 1759. He participated in various military campaigns between 1756 and 1763, and his travels in the Mediterranean allowed him to observe the variety of the French flora. After graduating, he studied medicine for four years, being interested in Botany, meteorology and chemistry, while it colectaba mollusc shells.

She got married for the first time with Marie Rosalie Delaforte, which had six children. After her death he married Julie Maillet, who died childless in 1819. Lamarck had married a third time because he had two more children. With the help of Buffon, worked in the King's Garden, important this last naturalist, directing scientific center dedicated to Botany, where he became a renowned specialist. After writing some works on this discipline, he entered the French Academy of Sciences; under its aegis, he made some expeditions, one of them to Auvergne and another, accompanied by a son of Buffon, to Freiberg, to study the theories of Werner. Lamarck also played a significant role in the society of Natural history, founded in 1790.

Along the way until 1793 he published various works of Botany, he wrote some works on meteorology and chemistry, and founded the Journal d'histoire naturelle (1792). A year later, was appointed Professor of insects and worms - which he renamed as "invertebrates" - of the newly founded Museum of Natural history in Paris (before garden of the King), which meant a turn important for him, because since then he should dedicate himself to zoology. Their tasks consisted of courses and collect invertebrates for the Museum, among other responsibilities. In 1795 he was appointed member of the National Institute, which replaced the Academy of Sciences. He worked in various subjects of natural sciences, but it also dealt with other philosophical, within the concept that had of nature as a whole.

In 1809, date of the publication of his most famous work Zoological philosophy, began to resent their health. His eye problems left him virtually blind in 1818, although he did not stop work dictating their works to one of his sons. He spent his last years alone, confined in a small Department of the Museum, where he died on December 18, 1829. To pay for his funeral, it was necessary to sell at public auction books and scientific collections. Some of his works would be published posthumously.

Scientific work


Studies of Botany

Thanks to the support of Buffon, who interceded to make the Government published it, Lamarck gave the press the three volumes de Flore francoise (1779). The work had several editions, the third of them in 1795, commissioned by Lamarck to A. p. Candolle, who expanded it considerably to replace the classification of Lamarck's plants by Antoine l. Jussieu and incorporating new data and botanical discoveries. In this work, Lamarck proposes dichotomous keys to identify the French plants - which carries out an extensive enumeration-, with the use of certain names and features exclusive to separate large groups; in this way the plants could be more rapidly identified that the system of Linnaeus, based on sexual characteristics. His classification was one of the first to include the nomenclature of Linnaeus and other botanists. In the "preliminary discourse", of this work he explained his method of analysis and an extensive exhibition on the fundamentals of Botany.

Eight volumes forming the Encyclopédie méthodique Lamarck wrote the first, second, third and fourth, and supplements; all published in 1783, 1786, 1789 and 1795. It included, among other aspects a "speech" and work on classification and structures of plants, as well as the description of specific plants and their qualifying groups.

The Tableau encyclopédique et methodiques des three r´egnes of the nature. Botanique, or as also cited him, the illustration des genres, appeared in three volumes in 1791 and 1798 and 1800 and was continued by Poiret. It contains a large number of species and Genera classified according to the system of Linnaeus, where Lamarck identifies several new.

Lamarck conceived of nature as a whole, constituted by a gradual chain and non-linear beings - comparing their structures and relationships between them - that descended from the most complex to least complex, subordinate beings to others and methodically arranged. It also stressed the influence of climate on the development of the plant, and the changes (called by the degradations) undergoing the vegetables when they were artificially cultivated. Progress over time--not only for plants but also for animals and man-conceived within his concept of nature as a whole, the French naturalist with more detail from 1800; explained the idea of evolutionary progress from the simplest to the most complex, up to that date had maintained the concept of degradation. Also held this qualifying natural order of nature in another botanical work published last year, Introduction to the botanique (1803), as well as in two of the Fifteen volumes of the Histoire naturelle des végétaux, written mostly by Myrbel.Para more information see taxonomy and biology: classification of living beings.

Studies of chemistry

One of the interests of Lamarck was chemistry, who began studying in the Decade of the seventies of the 18th century. On the subject published several works, such as Recherches sur causes les des principaux faits physiques (1794), Refutation of the theorie pneumatique (1796), Mémoires de physique et d'Histoire naturelle (1797) and two articles which included in its Hydrogeologie (1802), where was his theories of chemical with its geological conceptions.

Lamarck was a supporter of the theory of the four elements (Earth, water, air and fire) that was very much in vogue at the time, being the fire for him the most important. This was a natural form and two modified forms: the caloric and fixed fire; This last was the called Phlogiston, of a temporary nature. Applied them to multiple chemical and physical phenomena (sound, magnetismos, steam), but also to life, as it was the essential component of substances, depending on these various States and proportions of fixed fire.

Human beings produced chemical compounds to break down, due to the tendency which had to, being the natural elements at the end. And like animals and plants, had a string of degradation going from most to least complex, later arguing that nature was produced in reverse for minerals. Lamarck chemistry studies were important for him to elaborate his evolutionary theory, relying also on his geological studies.

Studies of meteorology

Starting from 1797 Lamarck began publishing several works on this subject, especially important were those included in the Annuaire météorologique (1800-1810). You interested in the history and development of this discipline, the classification of meteorological phenomena and laws governing changes in the climate. He attributed these changes to the action of the Moon and alterations that occurred in different areas. It recommended to the Government the establishment of a central meteorological databases, which put into operation later Chaptal, in order to standardize and improve those data. At the same time Humboldt proposed a similar idea based on meteorological stations located in different parts of the world. The interests of Lamarck on meteorology must be understood within their conception of nature as a whole and its position with regard to evolution, where the climate was a relevant factor in the formation of the varieties of living beings.

Studies of Zoology, paleontology and geology

After the death in 1798 of her colleague and friend Guillaume Bruguière, Lamarck finished the work of the Histoire des vers. He also published Prodrome d'une nouvelle classification des coquilles (1799), système des animaux sans vertèbres (1801) and Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres (1815-1822), in seven volumes.

In Prodrome d'une nouvelle classification des coquilles classified - from more complex to less complex - and described 126 genera, including fossils of molluscs that were known then, determining the analogies between these and the living forms, in a moment in which it was discussed if such similarities existed, and whether or not the extinction of the fossils was result of geological cataclysms (Cuvier and others). Although still relies here on the degradation to their classification, already by then accepts the transformism - he not employed the term evolution-rather than the doomsday theories of Cuvier, exposing both the living forms such as the fossils were the product of changes which had suffered over time organisms, due to the influence of climate and environmentthe creator-driven the entire process in a home.

Lamarck defines for the first time these ideas in his opening speech to his eighth course in Museum in 1800, and then reaffirms his Systeme des animaux sans vertèbres (System of animals without vertebrae) in 1801. In this first great Zoological work group of invertebrates subdivided into seven classes, which later expanded to ten and then to twelve: polyps, Radiados, worms, insects, Arachnids, crustaceans, molluscs, diatomaceous, annelids, barnacles, tunicates and Conchiferos. At the same time he studied not only the living forms, but also the fossils, within their descriptions and classifications, leaving the above mentioned quick change character sitting in them.

Seven volumes of Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres meet all these mentioned aspects, which will combine the scientific issues with the philosophical (especially tomo I) in that Lamarck will analyse in more detail the mechanism of the transformation of species, which had dealt with in his Philosophie zoologique (1809).

Dealt also with the fossil species in his Recherches sur le organisation des corps vivans (1802) and in his Mémoires sur les fossils des environs de Paris (1802-1806), in whose introduction addressed the significance of fossils for the elaboration of a geological theory. Their research in this respect, as in others, were related to his philosophical concept of nature as a whole, but also because you were needed to understand the origin and the relations between human beings. For example, in the case of shellfish - and especially the fossil-had appeared and developed in the waters or on the ground. In its Hydrogeologie (1802), it was considered that the Moon was the main cause of the advancement of the Ocean on the world, and to the water as the essential force that acted for millions of years, on the organic remains, forming the mountains, etc.

For more information see lamarckism, neolamarckismo and Darwinism.


BARSANTI, g. "Lamarck: Taxonomy and theoretical biology", in Asclepius, 52 (2), 119-131, 2000. BURKHARDT, R. W. The spirit of system. Lamarck and evoltionary biology. Cambridge (mass.), Harvard University Press, 1995.

Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York, Charles Scribneds, s. to.

GOULVEN, l. "Paleontologie (s) et au début du XIXe evolution Siècle Cuvier et Lamarck", in Asclepius, 52 (2), 133-212, 2000.

TORT, p. (dir.) Dictionaire du Darwinisme et de l' évolution. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1996.

Armando García Gonzalezconsejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas