I recently visited Paris and made a quick trip to the Jardin des Plantes, the site of the Natural History Museum of Paris. Immediately facing you as you enter the park is a statue of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Lamarck’s theories are now mostly abandoned, as Darwin and Wallace’s theory of Evolution by Natural Selection has become the basis of biological science. However, Lamarck deserves credit for his contribution to evolutionary ideas as he was the first to propose a theory to explain evolution, that animals change in response to the environment. Paris recognises this with this statue, in which Lamarck is heralded as “Fondateur de la Doctrine de L’Evolution” or “Founder of the Doctrine of Evolution”.
At the other end of the gardens Buffon and his work is also recognised with a statue. Buffon’s work in natural history, published in an incredible 36 volumes over 39 years, influenced future naturalists such as Lamarck, and discussed a number of evolutionary problems – “he brought them to the attention of the scientific world”. He also was at the forefront of making the Jardin des Plants the Kew Gardens of Paris, with research and the associated museum.
Science is a step-by-step process, always building on previous theories and data. Parisiens recognise these two scientists for their work in the field of natural history, and despite many of their ideas now being understood as incorrect, their work is part of the formation of evolutionary theory, the unifying concept of the life sciences.