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Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnæus with Introductory remarks on the Study of Natural History   By: (1796-1852)

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First Page:

[Illustration: Engraved by J. Horsburgh.

LINNÆUS.

PUBLISHED BY OLIVER & BOYD, EDINBURGH]

LIVES

OF

EMINENT ZOOLOGISTS,

FROM

ARISTOTLE TO LINNÆUS:

WITH

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON THE STUDY OF NATURAL HISTORY,

AND

OCCASIONAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROGRESS OF ZOOLOGY.

BY W. MACGILLIVRAY, A.M., F.R.S.E., &c.

Author of "A Narrative of the Travels and Researches of Alexander Von Humboldt."

WITH A PORTRAIT OF LINNÆUS ENGRAVED BY HORSBURGH.

SECOND EDITION.

EDINBURGH: OLIVER & BOYD, TWEEDDALE COURT; AND SIMPKIN & MARSHALL, LONDON. MDCCCXXXIV.

ENTERED IN STATIONERS' HALL.

Printed by Oliver & Boyd, Tweeddale Court, High Street, Edinburgh.

PREFACE.

Natural History has of late become a favourite pursuit in this country; and although its progress as a study may not have been equal to the enthusiasm which it has excited, its general effect is unquestionably beneficial. In consequence of the interest which it has created, a great variety of works, from the simple catechism to the elaborate treatise, have appeared in rapid succession. But while compends and manuals are thus multiplied, little has been said with regard to the private history and professional pursuits of the distinguished persons who have contributed most to the general stock of knowledge from which these popular essays have in a great measure been derived. We have, therefore, endeavoured in some degree to supply this deficiency, by presenting a series of Lives of the more Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnæus inclusive.

In the Introduction will be found a view of the objects, to the investigation of which the talents of the individuals whose annals we record were principally directed. The remarks there offered are calculated to enable such readers as may not have been previously acquainted with the subject to comprehend many circumstances which might otherwise appear unintelligible.

Few, even of those who have made considerable progress in the study of nature, are aware of the difficulties with which the ancient philosophers had to contend. For this reason we have begun with Aristotle, the founder of Natural History among the Greeks. A biography of the elder Pliny, the greatest of Roman writers in this department, comes next in order. The lives of the more remarkable zoologists who flourished after the revival of learning in Europe are briefly sketched; while some degree of connexion has been given to the series by remarks on the progress of knowledge at that period, on the labours of their contemporaries, and on the principal works which occasionally issued from colleges and museums. Although it is unnecessary here to enumerate all the names that enter into the catalogue of zoological writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Swammerdam, Ray, and Reaumur, may be particularly mentioned. The great Linnæus witnessed the termination of those dark ages, during which his favourite pursuits were treated with comparative neglect, and the commencement of a happier era, in which they were to assume the dignity of a science. His life is given with more detail than those of his predecessors, both because the facts relating to him are more abundant, and because he exercised a more decided influence upon the opinions of Europe. The volume concludes with a notice respecting his son, which forms an appropriate appendix to that of his more distinguished parent.

Although the lives of studious men may, generally speaking, present fewer striking incidents than those of warriors, navigators, and politicians, yet the memoirs of naturalists are always extremely interesting, on account of the connexion in which they are necessarily placed with whatever is curious, beautiful, or sublime in creation. Some of them, too, will be found to have occupied a high station in society; others to have forced their way through numberless obstacles, before obtaining the end of their ambition; while a third class are seen perishing in the midst of their career, the victims of indiscretion, or of neglect... Continue reading book >>




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