Louis Jean-Marie Daubenton

1716 (Montbard, France) – 1800 (Paris)

Though less renowned than Buffon (a childhood friend and professional colleague, who got him in because of his own distaste for anatomy and dissection), Daubenton was a significant naturalist and a pioneer of comparative anatomy. He contributed to Diderot’s encyclopaedia, wrote a preface for Lamarck, taught and inspired Haüy, and knew Banks. He recommended Geoffroy — who had attended his lectures and was also supported by another of Daubenton’s protégés, Vicq d’Azyr — to an important first job. After a decade working together, Buffon excised his contribution to the ‘Histoire Naturelle’ (to its detriment), though they later made up.

Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen

1804 (Lancaster, England) – 1892 (London)

Owen’s exceptional talents and achievements sit contrary to his (not undeserved) reputation as vain, vindictive and a plagiariser. He met Cuvier and attended his debates with Geoffroy, was introduced by Lyell to Darwin and analysed his haul of fossils, and examined Buckland’s, Mantell’s and Agassiz’s blood together at table (he later grew to hate Darwin’s achievement, antagonised Lyell, sabotaged Mantell’s career, and encouraged Buckland’s wife to commit him to an asylum). He knew Carlyle for 40 years, advised Livingston, and befriended Oken, Turner, Eliot, Tennyson and Dickens. Anning took him fossil-hunting; Faraday sent him a three-legged frog.

Robert Edmond Grant

1793 (Edinburgh) – 1874 (London)

Grant was a close friend and correspondent of Geoffroy, whom he’d met in France. Darwin met Grant while he was studying medicine in Edinburgh, becoming an enthusiastic student of the free-thinking biologist/anatomist. Grant took him to a talk by Audubon, whose wife had known Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus, but there is no record of a direct personal connection. Darwin’s close friendship with Grant ended when Grant felt that his student’s discoveries threatened his own. It seems likely that Grant as a student in Paris met Lamarck, whose ideas he keenly espoused, but it is unclear. Faraday advised Grant on public speaking.

Robert Edmond Grant knew…