Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oct 14, Part 13 - Rue Linne, Cuvier Fountain, and the entrance to the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

We came out of the very short Rue des Arenes into the Rue Linné, named for the Swedish botanist Carl Von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus), who is most famous for coming up with the idea of binomial nomenclature - the naming of species using two Latinized names, for example Tapirus terrestris for the lowland tapir. I think my heart quickened when we got here. There is something about the history of animals, taxonomy, paleontology, evolution, etc., that I was born to appreciate. And we were now on the outskirts of zoology mecca in the greater sense of the disciplines that came into play.

We turned right for a few paces, and soon came to this fountain dedicated to Georges Cuvier, another of the gods in the Pantheon of zoological history. The street curving away to the building with blood-red vines also bears Cuvier's name. Especially in those early years, scientists never did just one thing, and one of Cuvier's, claims to fame was establishing extinction as a fact after years of debate, although he blamed it on catastrophic events. He also established the science of comparative anatomy and set the stage for vertebrate paleontology; he taught animal anatomy at the National Museum of Natural History near here and he died at 43 Rue Cuvier. There is an interesting article about him on the web site of UC Berkeley. Cuvier never embraced evolution, believing that an animal would die if its structure changed. You can also see another view of the fountain here.

When you click on the photo above, you can see more and more animals. They don't seem to stop. At the far left is a sea turtle with a small frog nearby. To the left of the human figure an owl and the rump end of a majestic lion. And what is that thing on the back of the crocodile?

The sculptor seems to have liked animals with lots of teeth. I wouldn't want to tangle with this fish.

Below the human figure is a frieze with heads on it. Most of them are animals.

I'm not sure what the human is doing here. The nose looks a little like Cuvier's, but I haven't seen a picture of him yet with a beard, and I have not read up on the symbolism of the fountain.

Here's a nice snake-like thing with a fish, a lobster, a starfish, and a couple of shells.

Number 20 Rue Cuvier is now a restaurant, and you can see a bit of the sign on the right. The standing placard is about Cuvier. It's in French, of course, and would take a long time for me to decipher. I do have a bigger photo of it, though. If you enlarge this picture you may not be able to read it, but you will be able to see the lizard shapes between the glass panels of the door. They're a nice touch!

And here, across the street from Cuvier's fountain, is the entrance to the Jardin des Plantes - it's a beautiful complex including a small zoo, a number of science buildings, and well-labelled gardens. It's also the heart of zoology in France, and certainly one of the most important cradles of zoology for the whole world.

This is me in front of the gate. The light of day is already starting to fade, but I wasn't going to miss this. We began to wonder if the zoo would be open and if they had tapirs. The last time I was here, I visited with the Curator of Mammals, and they were excitedly beginning to plan an exhibit for a pair of Asian tapirs they were hoping to get within the next couple of years.


hyrax said...


Do you think maybe the human head on the frieze was 'just one of the animals', like, including us in the animal kingdom?

tapirgal said...

Hello hyrax, and so we meet again in blogland. I was thinking of you when I posted this, and then I tought I'd wait for the next few and tell you about them then. I can't wait for the paleoanimal carousel post!

I like your interpretation. The head does look pretty generic, doesn't it? At first I was wondering if it was a Greek allegorical thing, but it didn't seem to fit the mode of the fountain. I think you must be right. Note that it's sitting at the very front so as to be head (heh) of the family.

Semen Rendi said...
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