J.G. Bruguiere 1750-98

In every age there have been men whose contribution to history was less in their personal achievement than in the inspiration which they gave to others. Samuel Johnson was one of these; his writings in all their literary perfection are very little read these days and apart from his Dictionary, his personal achievement is small; but he had a wonderful gift of arousing talent in others and imbibing his friends with an enthusiasm which formed perhaps the main contribution to one of the richest literary eras the world has known.

It seems to me that in some ways a similar influence can be seen in the life of Bruguiere, short though it was and dogged by ill-health. It is only rarely these days that we notice the suffix 'Brug.' - or more probably '(Brug.)' - after the specific name of a shell, and these scanty remains indicate little of the man's contribution to science. Truth to tell, much painstaking work of his has usually been attributed to one or other of his contemporaries.

A scientist's job, having verified his findings, is to impart them to the world so that they may be shared by other scientists. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, unless this is done in proper form, not only the information but the credit also, may be appropriated by others, and this is what seems often to have happened to this generous individual. It is now almost impossible to trace the whole scope of his work, but we can gather many clues in cases where other zoologists, notably Lamarck, honourably acknowledge the help or inspiration which he gave them. A great deal of Lamarck's best known work is, in fact, based entirely on a solid foundation of Bruguiere's development of the 'Vermes - Testacea' system, Linne's preliminary attempt to sort out what must in those days have seemed the incom¬prehensible muddle of the invertebrate world.

Bruguiere's work on these lines, fragmentary and incomplete though it is, became of the utmost*importance when the direction of further progress became clear. Geoffrey Saint Hilaire said in his 'Fragments Biographiques' that Lamarck's monumental researches into the invertebrates which brought him so much fame, were undertaken only to please and justify his friend Bruguiere. De Blainville also, in his 'Manuel de Malacologie' 1825, freely acknowledged that his work was written on principles laid down by Bruguiere.

Eighteenth century Montpelier was the birthplace of many well-known naturalists, among them d'Argenville, Grateloup, Rondelet and Moquin-Tandon, and it was here that Jean Guillaume Bruguiere was born in 1750* He took his doctor's degree at Montpelier, his principal study at that time being Botany, and embarked soon after, in 1773* with Kerguelen's expedition to the South Indian Seas. This engaged him for seven years, the climate and living conditions on board ship permanently ruining his health.

Back in Paris, Bruguiere proceeded to study the enormous collections of Caloune with the object of sorting out the 'Vermes - Testacea' for the great 1Encyclopaedie Methodique' of Diderot and d' Alembert, one of the first works to be based entirely on the Linnean system. Many famous scientists of the day contributed largely to this work, and it is not easy to sort out the credits. Much study has been put into the problem, notably by Sherborn, and it does appear that Bruguiere's contribution was a large one. Volume X comprised the last part of Latreille’s Insects and the 'Histoire Naturelle des Vers', and it seems that Bruguiere wrote Part I by himself and Part 2 in conjunction with Lamarck and Deshayes. He also wrote the article on Conus in Part 5, in which priority of the species was later granted to Hwass. The two men co-operated in classifying the latter's enormous collection and Bruguiere, who appears to have done all the written work himself, willingly gave all the credit to his colleague.

It must have been during this period that his influence over Lamarck was at its greatest, and his taxonomic work did much to open the way for Cuvier's establishment of the anatomical classification which, together with the Linnean system, is the foundation of all modern zoology.

It is to Bruguiere's advice that we owe the phyla of the Mollusca and Echinodermata, and it was he too, who showed Lamarck the need for separating the families of the Cephalopodao Indeed, until Bruguiere suggested it, there was no such taxon as 'the family' although Cuvier's 'genera' usually concern¬ed groups of much the size of what we now know to be families.

Lamarck's work on the 'Yermes - Testacea' was interrupted by the French revolution, and Bruguiere's unambitious life of solid support for his scientific friends underwent its last change, when Minister Roland asked him to join a scientific expedition to the Ottoman Empire. He undertook the task, although he must have suspected that its acceptance would probably be equivalent to signing his death warrant. Conditions met with during the course of the expedition were indeed bad, and when he arrived back after six years it was only to die very shortly afterwards at Ancona in 1798, aged 48.

His collections were entrusted to G. A. Olivier, the entomologist of the expedition, and were later put in order by de Ferussac who used them as a basis for his monumental 'Histoire Naturelle des Mollusques' 1819.

Zoology surely owes much to the modest nature and perceptive genius of Bruguiere.

. T. E. Crowley