Jean-Baptiste LaMarck

On this date in 1744, botanist Jean-Baptiste LaMarck was born in Bazentin in northern France, the 11th child in an impoverished aristocratic family. He was an early proponent of the idea that biological evolution occurred and proceeded in accordance with natural laws. He was educated at the Jesuit College in Amiens but left the seminary to join the army and fight in Prussia. After five years of service he was injured and turned to the study of medicine, which he pursued for four years before turning to botany.

LaMarck was appointed Royal Botanist in 1781 and became professor of invertebrate zoology at the Natural History Museum in 1793. He was the first to coin the word “invertebrate.” LaMarck wrote Philosophie Zoologique (1809), proposing an early theory of evolution.

Darwin and others eventually hailed LaMarck, who died in obscurity and poverty, for doing the “eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all changes in the organic, as well as in the inorganic world, being the result of law and not of miraculous interposition.” LaMarck was a Deist in the classical sense. (D. 1829)

PHOTO: Lamarck c. 1802 in a portrait by Charles Thévenin.

Freedom From Religion Foundation