Louis Jean Marie Daubenton, a French naturalist, born at Montbar, May 29, 1716, died in Paris, Jan. 1,1800. Destined for the church, he was sent to Paris to study theology, but applied himself to medicine, and took his degree at Rheims in 1741. He began practice in his native place, but Buffon, then in charge of the jardin des plantes, and whom he had known from childhood, invited Daubenton to assist him in his work on natural history. He was made demonstrator and keeper of the cabinet of natural history in 1745, and contributed the most valuable details to the three volumes of the Histoire naturelle which Buffon issued in 1749. He was engaged upon the work altogether 25 years, modestly taking a secondary place, but by his prudence and accurate observation giving great value to the first 15 volumes of their joint work. He described 182 species of quadrupeds, of which 58 had never before been dissected, and 13 not previously described; there are also external descriptions of 26 species, of which five were before unknown.
This clear arrangement and description, with the multitude of new facts of internal structure, was the first considerable attempt in France to place comparative anatomy upon a basis of observation, and gave great fame to the authors; but Buffon was finally induced to dispense with the help of his associate, and in his 8vo edition he cut out the anatomical details and descriptions, to the injury of the work. Daubenton had meanwhile built up the cabinets of natural history, increased the number of specimens a hundred fold, arranged and named them, discovered and perfected processes for preserving organic matters, and mounted many birds and quadrupeds. He applied the science of comparative anatomy to the determination of fossils, and in 1762 declared that a bone which had been supposed to be that of the leg of a giant was the radius of a giraffe, a judgment which was confirmed 30 years after by a skeleton sent to the museum of Paris. He pointed out in 1764 the essential differences between the construction of man and the orang-outang. He made also important discoveries in con-chology, and contributed greatly to the sciences of vegetable physiology, mineralogy, and agriculture; while he did much to promote cultivation of a superior breed of sheep, and the production of wool.
At his suggestion a chair of practical medicine in the college de France was changed to one of natural history, and in 1778 he was appointed to fill it. In 1783 he lectured on rural economy in the veterinary college of Alfort. He contributed many articles to the Encyclopedie of Diderot and to the Encyclopedie methodique, and was also engaged in editing the Journal des Savants. He obtained from the convention the conversion of the cabinets of the jardin des plantes into a special school of natural history, in which he was appointed professor of mineralogy, a position which he held until his death, keeping up with the progress of science, and at the age of 80 delighting to explain to his classes the brilliant discoveries of Haiiy, his former pupil. He was chosen a member of the senate in 1799, and undertook to perform the duties of the office; but the change in the simple routine of his life at his advanced age, and exposure at a rigorous season, brought on apoplexy, and on his first meeting with the senate he fell senseless into the arms of his colleagues, and soon expired. He was buried in the jardin des plantes, which he may almost be said to have created.
He left besides the works already mentioned many important essays which are preserved in the Memoires of the academy of sciences (1750-'85), royal medical society (1777 -'83), etc. He published also in book form Instructions pour les bergers et les proprie-taires de troupeaux (Paris, 1782), Tableau me-thodique des mineraux (1784), and Memoire sur les indigestions (1785). His Catecliisme des oergers (1810) appeared posthumously. - His wife, Maegueeite, who was also his cousin, was the author of several romances, of which the most notable and successful was Zelie dans le desert (1787). She died in Paris in 1818, at the age of 98.