Geoffroy Saint - Hilaire - Pioneer biologist

Hearing of fish, how to fold the wings of ducks, geese and twins together: these are interesting research topics of anatomist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in the early 19th century. Behind the pretext of eclecticism is a specific purpose: to demonstrate the unity in the body of animals. It was not until 200 years later when molecular biology was born that people could prove that he was absolutely right.

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire is truly a nature lover. In his work as an anatomist, he immersed himself in the study of the mechanism of action of animals. For example, how can a porcupine inflate? Not only that, but he is also trying to understand broader issues and especially to build a theory of the relationship between "indeterminate currents" in the universe (light, electricity, divine flow). Kinh.vv ..).

Geoffroy Saint - Hilaire - Pioneering Biologist (Image: Wikimedia) Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire went to Egypt and there he found the first ideas to write on Anatomy Philosophy: a great ambition to prove "has a basic unit in the structure of all animals".

He started with very simple things: try proving that the body structure of mammals is similar, followed by other animals such as fish, reptiles and amphibians. . In other words, he tried to understand and identify what biologists today know: the same biological source. For example, he argues that the fish gills (shells) are the shells that protect the ears similar to the cartilage rings that are the major components of the middle ear in mammals (hammer bone, de bone and pedal bone. in the ear).

Later, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire also found similarities in the structure of very different species, for example, between insects and fish to expand his hypothesis.

The story of the duck and the cuttlefish

Still not satisfied, he continued to follow his path and confirmed that the anatomy of the lobster showed that when turning back the shrimp, they resembled ... vertebrates. It is important to remember that lobsters have major nerve lines on the ventral surface and the main blood vessels in the back, but in invertebrates, these arrangements are the opposite. However, he finds it much more strange in molluscs: if one takes a duck and turns it upside down so that the head touches the tail, their anatomical pattern seems very similar to ... the cuttlefish. .

The findings of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire caught the attention of Cuvier, one of the most famous surgeons at the time and his main rival at the Paris Museum of Natural History. Cuvier told the Academy of Sciences in 1830 that Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire was mistaken: a duck could not be compared to a squid and the similarity between a fish's gill and an inner ear of a mammal was only conjecture is not a serious study. However, for any biologist now, this homogeneity is a normal thing. Not only that, but they are found everywhere: we see the similarity between DNA sequences as well as the similarity among members of four-legged vertebrates. Identity is a natural result of evolution.

The story of the duck and the lobster is quickly forgotten. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the name of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire no longer appeared in the history of comparative anatomy.

But history has finally returned his true value. The name of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire has recently become more and more mentioned. Not only that, he is considered as one of the researchers who laid the foundation for a new discipline called biologie de l'évolution du développement. The goal of the research is to explore the unique identities among different species. This work has now been demonstrated by molecular genetics. Interestingly, the Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire buildings were only published in English until 2004.

Back in the past, as an irony of history, after being beaten by "Mr." Cuvier ", Geoffroy continues to embark on another research project. This time the goal is no less illusory. And it wasn't until 500 years later that the accuracy of this research was acknowledged.

In the summer of 1829, two connected twins named Ritta and Christina Parodi arrived in Paris. The parents of the two children are farmers in the island of Machia (from Italy and the Mediterranean). They brought the two children out in the street in hopes of earning money. From the shoulders upwards, the two children separate from each other and stick together in the abdomen. Although they have four arms, they share only one genitalia, one rectum, one pelvis and two legs. The press at the time exaggerated about the "Ritta-Christina" event and considered them to be a ... two-headed. In fact it is not, it is just two children with a lower body.

The twin sisters Ritta - Christina are such a big scientific-social event (Image: Imageshack)

These two twin twins attracted the special attention of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. The deformation of these conjoined twins to him is only a sub-form of a basic unit and diversity of living things. In Philosophy of Anatomy, he considered deformed children as a play of creation. In fact, these phenomena still obey the laws of nature which dominate in the structure of the body. In other words, despite the deformed appearance, this body still respects the laws of nature.
On November 23, 1829, Ritta Parodi died of lung disease. The younger sister Christina also passed away three minutes after her sister passed away. Although the twins' parents did not want to, the two children were still transferred to the museum for surgery. The autopsy was conducted in the museum's main room which was considered a major social and scientific event that year. Cuvier also attended the examination.

The most carefully detailed record of the operation to date was 400 pages long and was a great scientific work. The record was written by Serres, a student of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, but all the details are his, in which he wants to give explanations about the development of the human body.

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire has come up with a hypothesis that only molecular biology can prove to be completely correct: the great diversity in nature is actually hidden under a fundamental unity. . Nothing could verify this better than the results of animal genetic programs.

In 2001, when our genetic maps were decoded, we learned that we humans have about 30,000 genes. This is really a modest result because this proves that humans have only 50% of the genes of Caenorhabditis elegans, a worm with a length of just ... 1 millimeter. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire truly became a hero when molecular biology emerged and developed. His anatomy philosophy failed simply because at that time he lacked the scientific means we currently had.

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