Birthplace: Montbard, Côte d'Or, France
Location of death: Paris, France
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Naturalist, Paleontologist
Executive summary: French comparative anatomist
French naturalist, born at Montbar (Côte d'Or) on the 29th of May 1716. His father, Jean Daubenton, a notary, destined him for the church, and sent him to Paris to learn theology, but the study of medicine was more to his taste. The death of his father in 1736 set him free to follow his own inclinations, and accordingly in 1741 he graduated in medicine at Reims, and returned to his native town with the intention of practicing as a physician. But about this time Buffon, also a native of Montbar, had formed the plan of bringing out a grand treatise on natural history, and in 1742 he invited Daubenton to assist him by providing the anatomical descriptions for that work. The characters of the two men were opposed in almost every respect. Buffon was violent and impatient; Daubenton, gentle and patient; Buffon was rash in his judgments, and imaginative, seeking rather to divine than to discover truths; Daubenton was cautious, and believed nothing he had not himself been able to see or ascertain. From nature each appeared to have received the qualities requisite to temper those of the other; and a more suitable coadjutor than Daubenton it would have been difficult for Buffon to obtain. In the first section of the natural history Daubenton gave descriptions and details of the dissection of 182 species of quadrupeds, thus procuring for himself a high reputation, and exciting the envy of Réaumur, who considered himself as at the head of the learned in natural history in France. A feeling of jealousy induced Buffon to dispense with the services of Daubenton in the preparation of the subsequent parts of his work, which, as a consequence, lost much in precision and scientific value. Buffon afterwards perceived and acknowledged his error, and renewed his intimacy with his former associate. The number of dissertations on natural history which Daubenton published in the memoirs of the French Academy is very great. Zoological descriptions and dissections, the comparative anatomy of recent and fossil animals, vegetable physiology, mineralogy, experiments in agriculture, and the introduction of the merino sheep into France gave active occupation to his energies; and the cabinet of natural history in Paris, of which in 1744 he was appointed keeper and demonstrator, was arranged and considerably enriched by him. From 1775 Daubenton lectured on natural history in the college of medicine, and in 1783 on rural economy at the Alfort school. He was also professor of mineralogy at the Jardin du Roi. As a lecturer he was in high repute, and to the last retained his popularity. In December 1799 he was appointed a member of the senate, but at the first meeting which he attended he fell from his seat in an apoplectic fit, and after a short illness died at Paris on the 1st of January 1800.
Father: Jean Daubenton (notary, d. 1736)
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