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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/713

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SKETCH OF PIERRE BELON.

ume, and size; the gall; the intestine, its direction and disposition; and the pyloric appendages, which he called apophyses cæcos. Long before the fine researches of Cuvier, Mierendorff, Valenciennes, and Duvernay, Belon first studied the conformation of the liver in more than thirty species of fishes. We copy from this book a curious picture of a hippopotamus of the Nile devouring a crocodile (Fig. 2). The germ of embryology appears

PSM V34 D713 The hippopotamus of the nile.jpg
Fig. 2.—The Hippopotamus of the Nile (after Pierre Belon).

in a most remarkable manner in a representation, in the first of the books named in our note, of the matrix and embryo of the porpoise. These works, in which the genius of Belon showed itself to be of a superior order, were followed by the book on the "Nature of Birds,"[1] which is described by M. Crié as an "imperishable work, a fruitful source of instruction to the philosopher and the naturalist." It was the crowning work of Belon's life, and marks an era in the history of science, for in it was developed and illustrated the idea of a uniform plan of structure among animals. Belon had already in his "Fishes" and his descriptions of plants definitely applied the distinctions of genera and species, and had invented the binary nomenclature to take the place of the long-drawn and often not satisfactory descriptions with which previous authors had tried to mark these differences. More than one hundred and eighty years before Linnæus he had brought similar plants into single groups, to which he applied common or generic names—as Fagi, Ulmi, Fraxini, Aceres, Corni, etc.—and had then substituted for the usual descriptive phrase a specific name, sometimes an adjective relating to an external quality, as Smilax aspera, Smilax lævis, Papaver corniculatum; sometimes one of the common names of the period or of a celebrated person.

At the very beginning of his book on "Birds," Belon placed a representation of the skeleton of a bird face to face with a human skeleton, and marked by a common lettering the features and parts common to both. By this, creating the comparative method,

  1. "Histoire de la nature des oyseaux, avec leurs descriptions et naifs pourtraicts retirez du naturel, escripte en sept livres," 1555.