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Alcide d'Orbigny

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Alcide d'Orbigny

Alcide Charles Victor Marie Dessalines d'Orbigny
Alcide d' Orbigny
Born 6 September 1802
Couëron, France
Died 30 June 1857
Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, France
Residence France
Nationality French
Fields Naturalist, zoology, malacology, palaeontology, geology, archaeology, anthropology
Institutions Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris
Known for malacology, fossils, palaeontology

Alcide Charles Victor Marie Dessalines d'Orbigny (6 September 1802 – 30 June 1857) was a French naturalist who made major contributions in many areas, including zoology (including malacology), palaeontology, geology, archaeology and anthropology.

D'Orbigny was born in Couëron (Loire-Atlantique), the son of a ship's physician and amateur naturalist. The family moved to La Rochelle in 1820, where his interest in natural history was developed while studying the marine fauna and especially the microscopic creatures that he named "foraminiferans".

In Paris he became a disciple of the geologist Lamarckism.

South American era

D'Orbigny travelled on a mission for the Paris Museum, in South America between 1826 and 1833. He visited Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia and returned to France with an enormous collection of more than 10,000 natural history specimens. He described part of his findings in La Relation du Voyage dans l'Amérique Méridionale pendant les annés 1826 à 1833 (Paris, 1824–47, in 90 fascicles. His contemporary, Charles Darwin called this book "one of the great monuments of science in the 19th century". The other specimens were described by zoologists at the museum. He had numerous interactions with Darwin, and named certain species after Darwin; for example d'Orbigny assigned the common name Darwin's rhea to the South American bird Rhea pennata.[1]

He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Société de Géographie of Paris in 1834.[2] The South American Paleocene pantodont Alcidedorbignya was named in his honour.[3]

1840 and later

On the shore of Rio Magdalen. Image from Voyages pittoresque dans les deux Amériques

In 1840, d'Orbigny started the methodical description of French fossils and published La Paléontologie Française (8 vols). In 1849 he published a closely related Prodrome de Paléontologie Stratigraphique, intended as a "Preface to Stratigraphic Palaeontology", in which he described almost 18,000 species, and with biostratigraphical comparisons erected geological stages, the definitions of which rest on their stratotypes.

In 1853 he became professor of palaeontology at the Paris Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, publishing his Cours élémentaire that related paleontology to zoology, as a science independent of the uses made of it in stratigraphy.[4] The chair of paleontology was created especially in his honor. The d’Orbigny collection is housed in the Salle d'Orbigny and is often visited by experts.[5]

He described the geological timescales and defined numerous geological strata, still used today as chronostratigraphic reference such as Toarcian, Callovian, Oxfordian, Kimmeridgian, Aptian, Albian and Cenomanian. He died in the small town of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, near Paris.


Several zoological and botanical taxa were named in his honor, including the following genera and species.

In the above list, a taxon author or binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than the genus to which the species is currently assigned.


  • d'Orbigny, Alcide (1843). Paléontologie française. Description zoologique et géologique de tous les animaux mollusques & rayonnés fossiles de France 3. Paris: Arthus Bertrand. p. 807. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 


  1. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2009. ,, ed. N. StrombergLesser Rhea: Rhea pinnata
  2. ^ "GRANDE MÉDAILLE D’OR DES EXPLORATIONS ET VOYAGES DE DÉCOUVERTE (in French)". Société de géographie. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "Alcidedorbignya". Retrieved July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Conception et suites de la Paléontologie française d’Alcide d’Orbigny", Comptes Rendus Paleologiques 1.7 (December 2002) pp 599-613.
  5. ^ Agnès Lauriat-Rag, "La collection d’Invertébrés fossiles d’Alcide d’Orbigny et la salle d’Orbigny", Comptes Rendus Paleologiques 1.7 (December 2002) pp 615-627.

La Gazette des Français du Paraguay, Alcide d'Orbigny - Voyageur Naturaliste pour le Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle dans le Cone Sud - Alcide d'Orbigny - Viajero Naturalista para el Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Francia en el Cono Sur - Bilingue Français Espagnol - numéro 7, année 1, Asuncion Paraguay.

Further reading

  • Beolens, Bo; Watson, Michael; Grayson, Michael. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("D'Orbigny", p. 74).
  • "Alcide d'Orbigny" In Taylor, W. Thomas; Taylor, Michael L. 2011. Aves: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Libraries. 156 pp. ISBN 978-0615453637.

External links

  • Gallica Digital versions of some d'Orbigny works. Search at Recherche.
  • Dictionnaire Universel d'Histoire Naturelle
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