Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Georges Cuvier to José Corrêa da Serra, [before 6 September 1813]


Georges Cuvier to José Corrêa da Serra

M. Cuvier prie M. Corréa de vouloir bien s’employer, pour procurer au Museum

Un cràne du bison d’amerique, (Buffalo) bos bison. L.

et S’il est possible une peau et un squelette.

Idem, du boeuf musqué du canada (bos moschatus. L.)

un exemplaire de l’animal nommé Mink ou minx à la caroline; s’il est pos-

 sible dans l’esprit de vin. C’est une espèce de loutre ou de putois.

Si M. Corréa va au brésil, ou s’il peut y avoir des correspondances nous lui demanderons

le squelette du gnouroumi ou grand fourmilier (myrmé cophaga jubata.)

celui du tamanduaï ou fourmilier moyen.

Il suffit que les os soient grossierèment décharnés, et enfermés pèle mèle dans un sac pour chaque espèce.

Editors’ Translation

Mr. Cuvier begs Mr. Corrêa to try to procure for the Museum

a skull of the American bison (Buffalo) bos bison. L.

and if possible a hide and a skeleton.

Idem, of the Canadian musk ox (bos moschatus. L.)

a specimen of the animal called the mink or minx in Carolina; if possible

 preserved in spirit of wine. It is a kind of otter or skunk.

If Mr. Corrêa goes to Brazil, or has contacts there, we will ask him for

the skeleton of the gnouroumi or giant anteater (myrmecophaga jubata.)

and that of the tamandua or medium-sized anteater.

It suffices if the bones are roughly cleaned and placed pell-mell in separate bags for each species.

RC (DLC: TJ Papers, 195:34722–3); undated. Translation by Dr. Roland H. Simon.

Georges Cuvier (1769–1832), zoologist and paleontologist, was born and educated in the French-speaking portion of Württemberg. In 1795 he moved to Paris, where his skills as a scholar and teacher facilitated his rapid rise within the scientific community. Cuvier was soon teaching zoology at the Écoles Centrales and animal anatomy at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, and he became a professor at the Collège de France in 1800, permanent secretary of the physical sciences at the Institut de France in 1803, a counsellor of state in 1814, and a baron in 1819. During his long career Cuvier took a special interest in the Muséum’s anatomical collections. With his assistance its holdings grew from a few hundred skeletons in the 1790s to thirteen thousand specimens at the time of his death. Although TJ owned several of Cuvier’s works, the two men apparently never met nor corresponded personally (DSB description begins Charles C. Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 1970–80, 16 vols. description ends ; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends nos. 423, 999, 1020; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5, 7 [nos. 174, 304]).

Index Entries

  • anteater, giant search
  • bison, American (buffalo) search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; animal specimens requested from search
  • Corrêa da Serra, José; letter to from G. Cuvier search
  • Cuvier, Georges; identified search
  • Cuvier, Georges; letter to J. Corrêa da Serra from search
  • Cuvier, Georges; requests animal specimens from J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • French language; letters in, from; G. Cuvier to J. Corrêa da Serra search
  • mink search
  • Muséum Impérial d’Histoire Naturelle; G. Cuvier requests animal specimens for search
  • musk ox, Canadian search
  • tamandua search