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Abstract

As Martin Rudwick has emphatically underlined, the beginning of the nineteenth century was marked in France by an intense intellectual awakening that allowed, in the scope of Earth Sciences, new applications of research. Indeed, the joint study of rocks and their associated fossils was made in France in its earliest years by pioneers, afterwards amplified by the endowed work of Georges Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart on the ‘Géographie minéralogique des environs de Paris’. But the integration of the study of fossils into a new geognostic practice was made possible by the combination of a number of favourable circumstances: the presence in France of such new institutions as the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle and the Ecole des Mines where ambitious and rigorous scientific programmes, backed by a determined political power, were brought together. In these institutions young talented naturalists within premises entirely devoted to research and teaching, coupled with the presence of very diverse collections of natural history, the recruitment of competent staff and significant financial support, led to spectacular results. These studies did, of course, contribute to the rise of geology in France, but they also brought celebrity to their authors, increased the prestige of the institutions and of the authorities in place.

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