Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (September 7, 1707 – April 16, 1788) was a French naturalist, mathematician, biologist, cosmologist and author. Buffon's views influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin. Darwin himself, in his foreword to the 6th edition of the Origin of Species, credited Aristotle with foreshadowing the concept of natural selection but also stated that "the first author who in modern times has treated it in a scientific spirit was Buffon".
Buffon is best remembered for his great work Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749-1778: in 36 volumes, 8 additional volumes published after his death by Lacépède). It included everything known about the natural world up until that date. He noted that despite similar environments, different regions have distinct plants and animals, a concept later known as Buffon's Law, widely considered the first principle of Biogeography. He made the radical conclusion that species must have both "improved" and "degenerated" (evolved) after dispersing away from a center of creation. He also asserted that climate change must have facilitated the worldwide spread of species from their center of origin.