Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/420

This page has been validated.
406
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

our cabinets, and then you can do with our persons as you please. Yes," he added, to the astonished officer, "we shall do it. You are seeking for fame. Depend upon it, history will give it to you, for you also will have burned an Alexandrian library." These bold words were reported to Hutchinson, and he rescinded the order for seizing the collections.

Returning to France in 1802 with the magnificent zoological and zo├Âtomical collections thus literally saved from the fire, Geoffroy proceeded to classify them and prepare the description of them for the grand work on the expedition to Egypt, and began the series of monographs that served as the point of departure and as supports for his system of natural philosophy. He was already outlining his theory of unity of composition, in memoirs which, aside from novelty and elevation of ideas, contained, according to Cuvier, "facts very curious and generally new, and added much to the knowledge of naturalists and anatomists on the interior organization of fishes." These memoirs secured the author's admission to the Academy of Sciences in September, 1807.

In 1808 Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire was charged with a scientific mission to Portugal, then occupied by a French army under Junot. He was exposed to many perils in passing through Spain, where the people were restive against the French invasion, and was held a prisoner for several months at Merida. He used his influence with Junot, an old comrade of his in Egypt, to make the condition of the Portuguese more easy under military rule, and took away from the country many cases of mineralogical specimens, plants, and animals, including Brazilian ones, but in turn enriched the museum at Lisbon with a valuable cabinet of minerals from Paris, and set in order the collections there, which had hitherto been only the object of an unintelligent curiosity; and, by his tact and reputation for a general benevolent disposition, he managed to keep what he had acquired from Portugal when the French were obliged to give up everything else they had taken from foreign nations.

In 1809 Geoffroy was appointed Professor of Zo├Âlogy in the Faculty of Sciences at Paris, and toward the end of the year he began a course of instruction which was destined to have a great influence upon his hearers and on himself. "From this moment," says M. Dumas, "his thought, sustained by the respectful attention of distinguished pupils, and particularly by their philosophical studies, sprang more freely into the fields of abstraction, and succeeded in fixing those laws of organization to which his name will continue to be always attached, and which he had long perceived. Till then anatomical philosophy, as he conceived it, had no existence; it was with us and for us that he founded that doctrine, endeavoring every year to overcome new difficulties, fortifying his convictions with new proofs, and confirming himself in his views by their success, even while they were yet