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previously acquainted with the subject to comprehend many circumstances which might otherwise appear unintelligible.
Few, even of those who have made considerable progress in the study of nature, are aware of the difficulties with which the ancient philosophers had to contend. For this reason we have begun with Aristotle, the founder of Natural History among the Greeks. A biography of the elder Pliny, the greatest of Roman writers in this department, comes next in order. The lives of the more remarkable zoologists who flourished after the revival of learning in Europe are briefly sketched; while some degree of connexion has been given to the series by remarks on the progress of knowledge at that period, on the labours of their contemporaries, and on the principal works which occasionally issued from colleges and museums. Although it is unnecessary here to enumerate all the names that enter into the catalogue of zoological writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Swammerdam, Ray, and Reaumur, may be particularly mentioned. The great Linnæus witnessed the termination of those dark ages, during which his favourite pursuits were treated with comparative neglect, and the commencement of a happier era, in which they were to assume the dignity of a science. His life is given with more detail than those of his predecessors, both because the facts relating to him are more abundant, and because he exercised a more decided influence upon the opinions of Europe. The volume concludes with a notice respecting his son, which forms an appropriate appendix to that of his more distinguished parent.
Although the lives of studious men may, generally speaking, present fewer striking incidents than those of warriors, navigators, and politicians, yet the memoirs of naturalists are always extremely interesting, on account of the connexion in which they are necessarily placed with whatever is curious, beautiful, or sublime in creation. Some of them, too, will be found to have occupied a high station in society; others to have forced their way through numberless obstacles, before obtaining the end of their ambition; while a third class are seen perishing in the midst of their career, the victims of indiscretion, or of neglect. Certain highly-gifted individuals, again, shine as bright luminaries in the firmament of science, and extend their influence over the whole of the civilized world; while the labours of nearly all have been in some degree productive of good. Perhaps there is no order of men to whose charge so little positive evil can be laid; and if their studies do not always elevate the mind above the corroding cares and cankering jealousies of life, they at least tend to bring it into a more immediate relation with the great Creator and Governor of the universe.
It is not therefore imagined that the general reader will find the following sketches destitute of interest, even although he should possess only a superficial knowledge of the principles and phenomena to which they refer. The professional student, on the other hand, cannot fail to obtain in them information which will prove of the utmost value to him, whether viewed as a guide, or as a stimulus to exertion; and even the accomplished naturalist may derive pleasure from the general review of the labours of
those to whom he is mainly indebted for the knowledge which he possesses.
The authorities which have been consulted with reference to these Lives are too numerous to be mentioned here; but the more important are pointed out as occasion presents. It may be sufficient to remark, that no modern work on Natural History would be deserving of public confidence, which did not acknowledge some obligation to the valuable labours of the French School, and of Sir James Edward Smith in our own country.
The second volume, already in preparation, will be devoted to the most distinguished writers in the same department, from Pallas, Brisson, and Buffon, down to Cuvier, and will conclude with General Reflections on the present state of the science.
EDINBURGH, June 1834.