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Early Naturalists
Important to the development of Evolutionary ideas
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John Ray

English; 1627-1705
Biology and Geology
Classification of plants and animals.
Questioned the age of the earth.

For a good biography of Ray, see:
Duncan, J. 1835. The Natural History of Beetles. W.H. Lizars, Edinburgh.
or
Duncan, James. Edited by Sir William Jardine. 1845?. Naturalists Library Vol. XXXIII Entomology: Beetles. W.H. Lizars, Edinburgh.

Carl Linnaeus

Swedish; 1707-1778
Biology
Foundations of Modern Taxonomy.
Author of Systema Naturæ.

Jean Baptiste Lamarck

French; 1744-1829
Biology
The most important pre-Darwinian evolutionist.
Less complex organisms evolve into more complex organisms.
Evolution results from the ever improving adaption of organisms to their environment (Environmentalism).
Author of Philosophie Zoologique.

Georges Cuvier

French; 1769-1832
Biology and Geology
Earth's history is a result of a series of catastophies (Catastophism); after each catastrophy new, more perfect organisms were created (Progressionism).
Cuvier rejected evolution but was influential in the abandonment of the Scala Naturæ.

James Hutton

English; 1764-1839
Geology
Past and present geological processes are the same.
Geological processes that we observe in the present can explain what happened in the past (Uniformitarianism).
Proposed that the earth is infinitely old.

Charles Lyell

English; 1797-1875
Geology
Uniformitarianism.
Must interpret the past from processes observed in present.
Author of Principles of Geology which amassed information supporting and developing Uniformitarianism.
Lyell's book had immense influence on Darwin.