Pierre-Paul Grassé


Pierre-Paul Grassé November 27, 1895, Périgueux Dordogne – July 9, 1985 was a French zoologist, author of over 300 publications including the influential 52-volume Traité de Zoologie He was an expert on termites and one of the last proponents of neo-Lamarckian evolution[1][2]

Contents

  • 1 Biography
    • 11 Education
    • 12 Teaching and research
    • 13 Publications
  • 2 Neo-Lamarckism
    • 21 Evolution of Living Organisms
  • 3 Selected publications
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Biography

Education

Grassé began his studies in Périgueux where his parents owned a small business He went on to study medicine at the University of Bordeaux and studied biology in parallel, including the lectures of the entomologist Jean de Feytaud 1881–1973 Mobilized during World War I, he was forced to interrupt his studies during four years By the end of the war he was a military surgeon

Grassé continued his studies in Paris, focusing exclusively on science He obtained his Licence in Biology and frequented the laboratory of biologist Étienne Rabaud 1868–1956 He abandoned his preparations for the agrégation to accept a position as professor in the École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier 1921, where the department of zoology was led by François Picard 1879–1939 There he frequented several phytogeographers like Charles Flahault 1852–1935, Josias Braun-Blanquet 1884–1980, Georges Kuhnholtz-Lordat 1888–1965 and Marie Louis Emberger 1897–1969 He became the assistant of Octave Duboscq 1868–1943 who oriented the young Grassé toward the study of protozoan parasites After the departure of Duboscq to Paris, Grassé worked for Eugène Bataillon 1864–1953 and there discovered techniques for experimental embryology

In 1926, Grassé became vice-director of the École supérieure de sériciculture He submitted his theses, Contribution à l'étude des flagellés parasites, in 1926, and it was published in the Archives de zoologie expérimentale et générale

Teaching and research

In 1929, Grassé became professor of zoology at the Université de Clermont-Ferrand He supervised the theses of several students on insects He conducted his first field research trip in Africa in 1933-1934, and returned there several times 1938–1939, 1945, 1948 During these trips he studied termites, and became one of the great specialists on these insects

In 1935, he became an Assistant Professor at the Université de Paris where he worked alongside Germaine Cousin 1896–1992, and received the Prix Gadeau de Kerville de la Société entomologique de France for his work on orthoptera and termites In 1939 he chaired the Société zoologique de France and in 1941 the Société entomologique de France

After having been briefly mobilized in Tours, in 1944 he succeeded Maurice Caullery as Chair in Zoology and the Evolution of Beings Grassé was elected a member of the Académie des sciences on November 29, 1948, in the anatomy and zoology sector and presided over the institution in 1967 In 1976 he changed sectors, into the newly created animal and vegetal biology sector

Grassé received numerous honours and titles during his career: commander of the Légion d'honneur, doctor honoris causa of the universities of Brussels, Basel, Bonn, Ghent, Madrid, Barcelona and São Paulo He was one of the founders of the Société Française de Parasitologie in 1962 He was also a member of several academic societies, including the New York Academy of Sciences and The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium

Publications

Grassé began publishing a very big project in 1946 entitled Traité de zoologie The 38 volumes required almost forty years of work, uniting some of the greatest names in zoology They are still essential references in the field for the groups that are treated in their pages Ten volumes are dedicated to mammals, nine to insects Apart from this treatise, he led two collections published by Masson: the first, entitled Grands problèmes de la biologie, has thirteen volumes and the second is entitled Précis de sciences biologiques Alongside Andrée Tétry, he composed the two volumes dedicated to zoology in the collection Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, published by Gallimard He also supervised the edition of the Abrégé de zoologie two volumes, Masson

He also composed the Termitologia 1982, 1983, 1984, a work in three volumes totalling over 2400 pages In it Grassé compiles all available knowledge concerning termites It was by studying symbiotic flagellates in termites that he eventually began studying their hosts In this publication, Grassé introduced the concept of Stigmergy :

"Stigmergy manifests itself in the termite mound by the fact that the individual labour of each construction worker stimulates and guides the work of its neighbour"[3]

He also created three scientific reviews: Arvernia biologica 1932, Insectes sociaux 1953 et Biologia gabonica 1964 He participated in several reviews like the Annales des sciences naturelles and the Bulletin biologique de la France et de la Belgique Apart from his numerous scientific publications, he published several works popularising science such as La Vie des animaux Larousse, 1968 He also signed the articles "Évolution" and "Stigmergie" of the Encyclopædia Universalis

Grassé also authored many works where he talks of his views on evolution and metaphysics such as Toi, ce petit Dieu Albin Michel, 1971, L’Évolution du vivant, matériaux pour une nouvelle théorie transformiste Albin Michel, 1973, La Défaite de l’amour ou le triomphe de Freud Albin Michel, 1976, Biologie moléculaire, mutagenèse et évolution Masson, 1978, L’Homme en accusation: de la biologie à la politique Albin Michel, 1980

Neo-Lamarckism

Grassé was a supporter of the French tradition of Lamarckism He occupied the Chair of Evolutionary Biology of the Faculty of Paris, of which the two previous occupiers, Alfred Giard 1846–1908 and Maurice Caullery 1868–1958, were both also supporters of Lamarckism Only after Grassé's retirement did the chair become occupied by a partisan of Darwinism, Charles Bocquet 1918–1977[4]

In support of Lamarck's theories he organised an international congress in Paris in 1947 under the auspices of the CNRS with the theme "paleontology and transformism" The records were published in 1950 by Albin Michel He united many of the greatest French authorities on the question including Lucien Cuénot 1866–1951, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 1881–1955, and Maurice Caullery[4] They were all opponents to certain tenets of neo-Darwinism Other brilliant biologists present were John Burdon Sanderson Haldane 1892–1964 and George Gaylord Simpson 1902–1984[4] Grassé stated his support for Lamarck in other ways too, like an article in the Encyclopædia Universalis, and by affirming that Lamarck had been unjustifiably slandered and ought to be rehabilitated[5]

Some authors, like Marcel Blanc explain the strong support of Lamarck by French biologists by giving simple patriotic reasons and the historical and social context: Catholic culture favoring support of Lamarckism whilst Protestant culture favored support of Darwinism, although Grassé was a Protestant[4]

Evolution of Living Organisms

Grassé presents his arguments against neo-Darwinism in his work L'évolution du vivant 1973, translated into English as Evolution of Living Organisms in 1977 Against the idea which states that the evolution of living things is the product of their adapting to changes in their environments, he opposes living fossils, meaning species which stopped evolving at some point in time and have remained relatively identical to this day regardless of great climatic or geological changes he cites numerous examples in Les formes panchroniques et les arrêts de l'évolution, p 133 Therefore, evolution is in his opinion a process which is not necessary, it does not occur in living beings under the constraints of external physical forces cf Necessity-utility is not the primus movens of biological evolution, p 302 To explain evolution he instead thinks that you must look at the internal dynamics of living things

Biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in a review that Grassé's belief that evolution is directed by some unknown mechanism does not explain anything He concluded that "to reject what is known, and to appeal to some wonderful future discovery which may explain it all, is contrary to sound scientific method The sentence with which Grassé ends his book is disturbing: "It is possible that in this domain biology, impotent, yields the floor to metaphysics"[6]

Colin Patterson reviewed Evolution of Living Organisms for the New Scientist stating that the book was a criticism of neo-Darwinism, with the opinion that paleontology is "the only true science of evolution" Patterson a paleontologist disputed this statement He also noted that Grassé's own theory of neo-Lamarckism was "hard to disentangle, and there were other places where Grasse's reasoning was difficult to follow" According to Patterson the book did not mention gene duplication, but this has been well-established in evolution[7]

Geologist David B Kitts negatively reviewed the book commenting that all of "Grassé's arguments have been marshaled against Darwinian theory before and, in the opinion of most Darwinians, have been adequately countered" Grassé stated that evolution was driven by an internal factor Regarding the identification of this factor, Kitts quotes Grasse as saying "perhaps in this area of biology can go no further: the rest is metaphysics" Kitts found this statement unacceptable commenting that "the fundamental issues raised by Grassé's theory of evolution do not even belong to biology, but to some other discipline"[8]

Selected publications

  • 1935: Parasites et parasitisme, Armand Collin Paris : 224 p
  • 1935: with Max Aron 1892–1974, Précis de biologie animale, Masson Paris : viii + 1016 p – second revised edition in 1939, third edition in 1947, fourth edition in 1948, fifth edition in 1957, sixth edition in 1962, eighth edition in 1966
  • 1963: with A Tétry, Zoologie, two volumes, Gallimard Paris, collection encyclopédie de la Pléiade: xx + 1244 p et xvi + 1040 p
  • 1971: Toi, ce petit dieu ! essai sur l'histoire naturelle de l'homme, Albin Michel Paris : 288 p
  • 1973: L'évolution du vivant, matériaux pour une nouvelle théorie transformiste, Albin Michel Paris : 477 p - a criticism of neo-Darwinism Republished and translated into English in 1977 under the title Evolution of Living Organisms by Academic Press
  • 1978: Biologie moléculaire, mutagenèse et évolution, Masson Paris : 117 p ISBN 2-225-49203-4
  • 1980: L'Homme en accusation : de la biologie à la politique, Albin Michel Paris : 354 p ISBN 2-226-01054-8
  • 1982-1986: Termitologia Vol I: Anatomie Physilogie Reproduction, 676 pp; Vol II: Fondation des Sociétés Construction, 613 pp; Vol III: Comportement Socialité Écologie Évolution Systématique, 715 pp Paris: Masson

References

  1. ^ Théodoridès, Jean 1986 Obituary: Pierre-Paul Grasse 1895-1985 History of Science Journal Volume 39, No 1, pp 79-82
  2. ^ Loison, Laurent 2011 French Roots of French Neo-Lamarckisms, 1879–1985 Journal of the History of Biology Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer 44 4: 713-744
  3. ^ Pesson, Paul 1985 Hommage à Pierre-Paul Grassé 1895–1985, Professeur honoraire à l’Université de Paris, Membre de l’Académie des Sciences Bulletin de la Société entomologique de France 90 9-10: 1-7
  4. ^ a b c d Blanc, Marcel 1990 Les Héritiers de Darwin L’évolution en Mutation Seuil Paris, collection Science ouverte: pp 10-11, p 238 ISBN 2-02-012510-2
  5. ^ Lapidus, Rémy Lestienne et Roxanne 2000 Chance, Progress and Complexity in Biological Evolution SubStance, 29 1, 91: 39-55
  6. ^ Dobzhansky, Theodosius 1975 Darwinian or 'Oriented' Evolution L'Evolution du Vivant by Pierre P Grasse Evolution Vol 29, No 2, pp 376-378
  7. ^ Colin Patterson 1978 Evolution of Living organisms New Scientist 7, September p 694
  8. ^ Kitts, David B 1979 Search for the Holy Transformation Evolution of Living Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation by Pierre-P Grassé Paleobiology Vol 5, No 3 pp 353-355
  • Jean Lhoste 1987 Les Entomologistes français 1750-1950, INRA Éditions et OPIE : 351 p [244-247]

External links

  • Stigmergy: Invisible Writing, Collective Intelligence in Social Insects in Introduction & Self-Organisation by David Gordon for the AI depot
  • Stigmergic Collaboration: A Theoretical Framework for Mass Collaboration by : Elliott, Dr Mark Alan 2007 PhD thesis, Centre for Ideas, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne The thesis explicitly refers to the work of Pierre-Paul Grassé to define stigmergy, chapter 3


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