“M. Couplet will find one”

When the anatomists at the seventeenth-century Paris Academy of Sciences wished to dissect an animal – which was often – they called on Claude-Antoine Couplet (1642-1722). Couplet was an élève (literally, a student) of the Academy, although he was hardly an adolescent.  When the Paris Observatory opened in 1672, Couplet moved in as its concierge, …

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The King’s Elephant

Last month, someone broke into the Paleontology wing of the Paris Museum of Natural History, and used a chain saw to cut off one of the tusks of the elephant skeleton there.  The skeleton dates from 1681 and is the oldest specimen at the museum.  Here is a little on the skeleton’s origins, from my …

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Anatomy vs natural history?

"...Anatomy... differs essentially from natural history. ....natural history dwells upon forms, upon the exterior qualities of bodies, and is restricted, in whatever guise, to skimming their surfaces. Anatomy goes further: it penetrates bodies, divides them, isolates the parts of which they are composed, and seeks to lift the veil hiding the secret of their organization." …

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