GEOFFROY SAINT-HILAIRE, Étienne (1772-1844). Autograph manuscript entitled 'Nouvelles considerations sur la nature des glandes abdominals des monotremes par Mr Geoffroy S-Hilaire', including autograph cancellations and emendations, endorsed 'Deposé le 1er juillet 1833', 12½ pages, 8vo, stitched; and an autograph translation into French of the observations of Richard Owen, 4 pages, small 8vo, inserted between pages 30-31 of the printed report of the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 8 January-26 March 1833, in which Geoffroy's findings are discussed, the manuscripts and printed text stitched together in centre folds; together with a small drawing of the aorta and kidneys and intestinal canal of an ornithorynchus, window-mounted on a leaf captioned in autograph, one page, 220 x 155 mm, mounted.
An interesting survival of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire's continuing work on the classification of Monotremata, the subject of furious debate amongst zoologists in the 1820s and '30s, prompted by Meckel's discovery of certain glands and the disagreements which followed about their functions. (Monotremata are the lowest order of Mammals, having only one opening or vent for the genital, urinary and digestive organs. The order includes the duck-billed platypus and several species of spiny ant-eaters.)
The crucial issue was whether they should be considered as oviparous (Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire's contention) or also as mammals. He repudiated Meckel's 1826 findings that the Ornithorynchus and Echnidea had mammary glands and should therefore not be placed in a special group (Monotremata), and also disagreed with Owen's decision that, based on Aristotle's statement that oviparous cretaures have no epiglottis, they should not be recognised as a separate group. From 1822 Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire assembled his reasons, based on anatomy, for regarding theses creatures as oviparus to justify their belonging to a fifth class of Vertebrates and assigned them to the group Monotremata. In 1834-35 three of his Mémoires sur les Monotrèmes were published in the Annales de l'Académie des Sciences Naturelles, and the present manuscript, a response to the discussion of his articles in the proceedings of the Zoological Society with particular reference to Richard Owen (his former pupil), was presumably written for this or a very similar purpose.
As a brilliant young zoologist, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire was appointed professor of quadrupeds, cetaceans, birds, reptiles and fish at the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle (formerly the Jardin des Plantes) in 1793, at the age of twenty-one. He accompanied Bonaparte's Egyptian campaign as a scientist, and after his return devoted himself to descriptive zoology and classification, cataloguing the mammal collections of the Museum. He was compared frequently with Georges Cuvier, with whom he fell out famously in 1829 over his efforts to explain the transformations of species and his experiments in embryology. His sometimes bizarre ideas did not detract from his revitalisation of the study of comparative anatomy in France, and his great talent for classification and description. Richard Owen (1804-1892), met Cuvier and attended his and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire's lectures in Paris. Owen was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and specialised in comparative anatomy.