Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: biography of this French naturalist

If we are talking about evolution, the first name that comes to mind is probably Charles Darwin. however Darwin was not the only great author to work on this aspect.There are other authors with a different consideration of the evolution of species and who have even served as inspiration.

The most prominent of all, although over time his ideas have become obsolete and have lost popularity in favor of other theories with more scientific approval, is Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.

This man, one of the first pioneers to separate species development from faith, is the father of the term biology as we know it and the author of one of the first truly coherent and integrated evolutionary theories. Understanding your life can help us greatly to value your reflection, which is why throughout this article let’s sketch a brief biography of Lamarck, As well as its scientific heritage.

    Brief biography of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

    Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet Cavaliere di Lamarck, better known under the name of Lamarck, was born in the village of Bazentin (Picardy region, Somme) on August 1, 1744. Son of Philippe Jacques de Monet de la Marck and de Casa- Françoise de Fontaines de Chuignolles, he was the eleventh son of a noble family devoted to the military domain.

    His father decided to enroll young Lamarck in a Jesuit seminary in order to dedicate his life to the priesthood. The young man would stay with them and receive education and training in different areas as part of the ecclesiastical career. However, when his father died in 1759, Lamarck decided to quit his habits and enlist in the army.

    Military service and further studies

    When he was seventeen, in 1761, he acquired a horse and enlisted in the army. His military career was short but intense, being promoted to officer during the first year in the army and participating in the Seven Years’ War. He became a knight. Nevertheless in 1768 suffered a serious neck injury that, after having engendered him a scrofula (infection in the ganglia of the neck which generates a great inflammation) would oblige him to finalize his military specialty.

    He moved to Paris, where he initially lived from his pension and his paternal heritage with his brother Philippe François. There he began to study music, but eventually decided to work later as an accountant.

    After that, he decided to enter medical school for four years, A period during which he will also be trained in what will become one of his great passions: botany. It would be in this field and in the natural sciences that he would be most interested, specializing in his study and participating in the herbalizations studied by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

    Botany and the rise of its prestige

    Such was his interest that he would carry out important research work based on the observation of plants, inventing in the process the so-called dichotomous method in order to systematically classify the flora of France. This work will be published in 1779 under the name of “Flore françois”, thanks to Count Georges Louis Buffon. Over time and in large part thanks to the popularity achieved through this publication he was appointed member of the Academy of Sciences.

    Lamarck was contacted by Buffon in 1780 to lead a mission across Europe to increase the botanical collection of the Jardin du Roi (du Roi), which he carried out successfully. The author now works as a botanist in this garden until 1793 in what is called the King’s Garden. At that time, he married Annie Rosalie Delaforte, with whom he had five children and who unfortunately died in 1792.

    This same garden, with the arrival of the French Revolution and largely thanks to his influence, it would be transformed into a national museum of natural history. He would be appointed there by the Committee of Public Instruction as director or professor of the Department of Lower Animals.

    This department was in charge of the study of insects and other animals that we now call invertebrates. In fact, this same concept is created by him to define animals that do not have vertebrae: throughout his studies he will elaborate the main subdivisions that still exist today.

    Furthermore, he also coined the term biology to identify the science that studies living things. In 1793 he also married for the second time, this time to Victoire Charlotte Reverdy, with whom he would have two more children. Nevertheless, this second wife died to few years, in 1797. A year later would contract its third weddings with Julie Mallet.

    In addition to starting to teach, during this time, he will develop what would be one of his most recognized works, “Natural History of Invertebrates”, which would consist of several volumes produced between 1815 and 1822. studies he conducted during this period find the germ that would eventually produce his theory of evolution.

    His work in meteorology

    Another branch in which he began to work was meteorologyBeing a pioneer in the evaluation of this weather forecast was possible through probabilistic methods. In this field, he believed that understanding what generates atmospheric alterations allows us to predict with some precision the behavior of the climate.

    Some of the possible causes of the atmospheric phenomena that he proposed were the influence of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the rotation of the Earth. However, in this regard, he has published several meteorological yearbooks, in which several errors were found and which are in fact considered his less precise work. It would be then that he would begin to suffer discredit.


    While Lamarck initially believed that living things did not change, over time and the research was warm. the idea that an evolutionary process really existed: Living beings were not created and remain immutable but have varied from the simpler beings that precede them.

    He would also consider that the organs and characteristics of different beings are atrophied or developed depending on their use, and that the characteristics acquired by useful predecessor organisms are passed on to their offspring (the most famous example being the necks of giraffes). . He believes it is habits and necessity that make organisms change.

    His ideas on the evolution and inheritance of acquired characteristics was born in Zoological Philosophy, published in 1809, and which is the first theoretical body which brings together the knowledge of the time in terms of evolution. This article was and still is of great historical relevance, allowing for debate at a time when biology was still strongly associated with creationism.

      Fall into disgrace, the last years and death

      But that also makes him suffer: to offer a copy to Napoleon Bonaparte, who will reject it in public. In addition, at this point, his health began to decline, and also had several conflicts and arguments with several authors who gradually diminished their prestige: criticize Lavoisier’s work on the functioning of fluidsHis works have been characterized as unscientific and biased and allegedly overstated his arguments.

      He also became deeply hostile to the biologist Georges Cuvier, who enjoyed very good public consideration and who started from a more empirical and experimental basis, managing to qualify Lamarck’s theories as absurdities.

      Unfortunately for Lamarck, over the years their many evolutionary contributions were discredited. From 1819, he became blind, having indeed to dictate some of his works to his daughters. In addition to that this time would die the one who was his third wife Julio Maillet. All this, together with the collapse of the author’s lack of prestige, caused him to become impoverished and to fall ill.

      He spent the last years of his life caring for his daughters, ignored and almost without recognition. His death took place on December 18, 1829, in the age of 85, a Paris.

      Although Lamarck’s theory of evolution was overtaken and surpassed by that of Darwin and in the later years of his life he was discredited and ignored over time. his ideas were considered an important advance in scientific knowledge of the time in which he lived and served as the basis for many theories. Further, although it is not so well known, its concepts and classifications are such as that of invertebrates, or the term biology, and greatly contribute to the development of botany and zoology.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Dawkins, R. (1986). The blind watchmaker. Barcelona: editorial work.
      • Harris, L. (1981). Evolution. Genesis and revelations. Barcelona: Hermann Blume Publishing.

      Leave a Comment