Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14, Part 14 - There's lots to see in the southwest corner of the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

I didn't know what this was, I just took a photo because it looked nice. It's the back of the old Faculty of Sciences Annex. The front is on Rue Cuvier. It seems the building used to look like this. There's a lot of history here, and I haven't taken time to sort it out. It may be the building where the Curies discovered radium. There is also a HUGE modern science complex on the other side of Rue Cuvier, but we didn't go that way, we had entered the park instead for some history and the quiet gardens.

One of the first things we came to was this statue of Michel Eugène Chevreul, who I had never heard of. He was a chemist who worked on fatty acids. Sounds exciting, yes? As it turns out he influenced a lot of ideas, including the color theory used by the Impressionists. He is also credited with discovering margarine and designing an early form of soap. He lived to be 102 years old and also pioneered studies in gerontology. I thought it was a cool statue, so I'm including an enlargement of Michel Eugène.

Our margarine guy stands forever on a pedestal looking at this view (below) of the Amphitheatre.

The place was packed for some event with men in suits. As it had been built to hold 600 people, there was probably room for all. This is the side of the building, and the front entrance is to the right. Online I found an old engraving of the outside of the building. It's the top picture on this page; click to enlarge when you get there. And here is a file where you can see a number of old engravings of the gardens and buildings in the Jardin des Plantes, including one of the interior of the amphitheatre.

A few paces away is the Pavillion Buffon, which I think is now an administration building, and apparently has been so for many years. The next two photos show different views of the same building. I liked the colors, and I also liked the giraffe.

Buffon, who the building was named for, managed the gardens for many years and was one of France's early scientific giants.

We backtracked a little and thought we'd climb the small hill by way of a circular walkway, but we realized that we had a lot to see here and the light was fading. I took a photo of this maribou stork at the point where we turned back onto the main walkway.

This is Buffon's building again on the left. Now we're headed toward the zoo.

Along the way, we encountered the statue below.

Again, I didn't know who it was except for the name carved into it. Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre was a writer and botanist. He's the top figure in the sculpture, with two of his most famous characters, Paul and Virginie, shown below. In about 1792 and 1793, during the French Revolution, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre formulated the idea to make a zoo in the Jardin des Plantes when a number of laws and situations coincided to render it a more viable idea than keeping the menagerie at Versailles. In addition, scientists here could learn from observing living animals instead of dead and dissected ones. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre was a proponent of keeping the animals in conditions as close to their natural ways of life as possible. He was among the first to consider the needs of the animals rather than the needs of the humans who wished to keep them. In the statue above, Jacques-Henry Bernardin de Saint-Pierre is leaning on his arm, probably in contemplation. Note that the trunk of the tree behind him is also resting - perhaps with empathy. I couldn't guess if it's just tired or is also contemplating.

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