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Lacepede, Bernard Germain Etienne De La Ville

LACEPEDE, BERNARD GERMAIN ETIENNE DE LA VILLE, COMTE DE (1756-1825), French naturalist, was born at Agen in Guienne on the 26th of December 1756. His education was carefully conducted by his father, and the early perusal of Buffon's Natural History awakened his interest in that branch of study, which absorbed his chief attention. His leisure he devoted to music, in which, besides becoming a good performer on the piano and organ, he acquired considerable mastery of composition, two of his operas (which were never published) meeting with the high approval of Gluck; in 1781-1785 he also brought out in two volumes his Poetique de la musique. Meantime he wrote two treaties, Essai sur Velectricite (1781) and Physique generale et particuliere (1782-1784), which gained him the friendship of Buffon, who in 1785 appointed him subdemonstrator in the Jardin du Roi, and proposed to him to become the continuator of his Histoire naturelle. This continuation was published under the titles Histoire des quadrupedes ovipares (A des serpents (2 vols., 1788-1789) and Histoire naturelle des reptiles (1789). After the Revolution Lacepe'de became a member of the legislative assembly, but during the Reign of Terror he left Paris, his life having become endangered by his disapproval of the massacres. When the Jardin du Roi was reorganized as the Jardin des Plantes, Lacepede was appointed to the chair allocated to the study of reptiles and fishes. In 1798 he published the first volume of Histoire naturelle des poissons, the fifth volume appearing in 1803; and in 1804 appeared his Histoire des cetaces. From this period till his death the part he took in politics prevented him making any further contribution of importance to science. In 1799 he became a senator, in 1801 president of the senate, in 1803 grand chancellor of the legion of honour, in 1804 minister of state, and at the Restoration in 1819 he was created a peer of France. He died at Epinay on the 6th of October 1825. During the latter part of his life he wrote Histoire generale physique et cimle de I' Europe, published posthumously in 18 vols., 1826.

A collected edition of his works on natural history was published in 1826.

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

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