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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/419

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ÉTIENNE GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE.

only a few quadrupeds in the national collection. My duty was to try to increase the number. I entered into correspondence with the principal naturalists, I was powerfully seconded by their zeal, and the collection of viviparous quadrupeds or mammals is now the richest of that class in existence. I have likewise greatly enriched the collection of birds. Finally, I have made the collections useful to young naturalists by making rigorous determinations of the animals intrusted to my administration."

The course was opened in May, 1794, and in the following December Geoffroy read to the Society of Natural History an essay on the aye-aye, in the introduction to which, criticising the views of Bonnet on the scale of beings, he attacked a theory that was but slightly different from the one which he himself afterward adopted.

In 1795 the Abbé Tessier had found in Normandy a youth who was strongly interested in natural history, and gave an account of him to Geoffroy, to which the young man added a communication describing some of his researches. Geoffroy wrote back to the youth: "Come to Paris without delay; come, assume the place of another Linnæus, and become another founder of natural history." The youth came, and thus was opened the career of the illustrious Georges Cuvier. He and Geoffroy became fast friends, and together composed five memoirs, of which one, on the classification of mammalia, contained the theory of the subordination of characters, fundamental to Cuvier's system. In a memoir on the Makis, or Madagascar monkeys, published a year afterward by Geoffroy alone, appears the principle of unity of composition, to which the author afterward related all comparative anatomy. The minds of the two friends had already begun to diverge toward opposite systems.

In 1798 Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire were invited to accompany Bonaparte on his expedition to Egypt. Cuvier declined, Geoffroy went. There he was one of the members of the scientific commission that explored the Delta, and of the Commission of Seven for the organization of the Institute of Egypt, which distinguished itself by its archæological labors. He made in succession journeys through the Delta, to Upper Egypt, and to the Red Sea. After his return from the Cataracts, at the end of 1799, he established himself at Suez, and began a collection of the fishes of the Red Sea.

On the evacuation of Egypt by the French, the scientific party were confined to Alexandria, where, amid all the perils of the siege, Geoffroy continued his scientific investigations and his examinations of the electrical fishes of the Nile. When the city was given up, no reservation was made of the collections, but Geoffroy managed to save them. General Hutchinson demanded a strict execution of the terms of surrender, and sent Hamilton to enforce them upon Geoffroy's treasures. "No," said Geoffroy, "we shall not obey the orders; your army can not get in here for two days: we will take that time to burn