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Smith Woodward embarked on the production of a catalogue of fossil fishes half a century after Louis Agassiz began a similar exercise. These two palaeontological goliaths remain the only authorities who saw all relevant fossil fish material in all important collections. Between their works there was a substantial increase in the number of species recognized, reflecting the nineteenth-century passion for collecting, the rise of museums, as well as an acceptance that species change through time. Agassiz was working in pre-evolutionary days but Smith Woodward’s view on fish diversity was strongly influenced by the theory of evolution and specifically the...

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