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Boucher De Crevcoeur De Perthes, Jacques

BOUCHER DE CREVCOEUR DE PERTHES, JACQUES (1788-1868), French geologist and antiquary, was born on the 10th of September 1788 at Rethel, Ardennes, France. He was the eldest son of Jules Armand Guillaume Boucher de Crèvecœur, botanist and customs officer, and of Etienne-Jeanne-Marie de Perthes (whose surname he was authorized by royal decree in 1818 to assume in addition to his father's). In 1802 he entered government employ as an officer of customs. His duties kept him for six years in Italy, whence returning (in 1811) he found rapid promotion at home, and finally was appointed (March 1825) to succeed his father as director of the douane at Abbeville, where he remained for the rest of his life, being superannuated in January 1853, and dying on the 5th of August 1868. His leisure was chiefly devoted to the study of what was afterwards called the Stone Age, "antediluvian man," as he expressed it. About the year 1830 he had found, in the gravels of the Somme valley, flints which in his opinion bore evidence of human handiwork; but not until many years afterwards did he make public the important discovery of a worked flint implement with remains of elephant, rhinoceros, etc., in the gravels of Menchecourt. This was in 1846. A few years later he commenced the issue of his monumental work, Antiquités celtiques et an édiluviennes (1847, 1857, 1864; 3 vols.), a work in which he was the first to establish the existence of man in the Pleistocene or early Quaternary period. His views met with little approval, partly because he had previously propounded theories regarding the antiquity of man without facts to support them, partly because the figures in his book were badly executed and they included drawings of flints which showed no clear sign of workmanship. In 1855 Dr Jean Paul Rigollot (1810-1873), of Amiens, strongly advocated the authenticity of the flint implements; but it was not until 1858 that Hugh Falconer (q.v.) saw the collection at Abbeville and induced Prestwich (q.v.) in the following year to visit the locality. Prestwich then definitely agreed that the flint implements were the work of man, and that they occurred in undisturbed ground in association with remains of extinct mammalia. In 1863 his discovery of a human jaw, together with worked flints, in a gravel-pit at Moulin-Quignon near Abbeville seemed to vindicate Boucher de Perthes entirely; but doubt was thrown on the antiquity of the human remains (owing to the possibility of interment), though not on the good faith of the discoverer, who was the same year made an officer of the Legion of Honour together with Quatrefages his champion. Boucher de Perthes displayed activity in many other directions. For more than thirty years he filled the presidential chair of the Société d'Emulation at Abbeville, to the publications of which he contributed articles on a wide range of subjects. He was the author of several tragedies, two books of fiction, several works of travel, and a number of books on economic and philanthropic questions. To his scientific books may be added De l'homme antédilumen et de ses œuvres (Paris, 1860).

See Alcius Ledien, Boucher de Perthes; sa vie, ses œuvres, sa correspondence (Abbeville, 1885); Lady Prestwich, "Recollections of M. Boucher de Perthes" (with portrait) in Essays Descriptive and Biographical (1901).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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