STL Science Center

STL Science Center

12 June 2014

Names Aplenty

Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier, Baron Cuvier, Georges Cuvier. They are all the same person. Where Georges came from I have not found as yet. There are videos and books dedicated to him (aside from the books and papers he authored). The real fame of Cuvier is not displayed in popular culture very often with his name attached. People know his work, they do not always know they know his work. In fact, many people on a regular basis look at models and casts of animals that he named without realizing that it was named by Georges Cuvier. Take this album of photos for example from the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. All of those photos are taken in front of a Mosasaur, a group named by Cuvier. There are a handful of people in those photos that may actually know that; I know they know because their acquaintances of mine. The name was not given until 1822 though in 1808 Cuvier confirmed the description of Adriaan Gilles Camper from 1799 that the remains being described were that of a lizard-like animal rather than an aquatic mammal or fish, as previous descriptions had asserted. Cuvier also named Pterodactylus (Cuvier 1809) and was one of the first to hypothesize that the world had once been dominated by the reptiles. The contributions of Cuvier are still important today and laid the base for a blossoming science. Truly he is a scientist that cannot be forgotten.

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