J. B. Lamarck

Zoological Philosophy

[This translation has been prepared by Ian Johnston, of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada (now Vancouver Island University). All sections listed below are in the public domain, and may be used by anyone, in whole or in part, without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged, released September 1999. For comments and suggestions please contact Ian Johnston. I would particularly welcome suggestions to improve or correct the translation. For a brief note on the translation click here.]


Translator’s Introductory Note

This translation is based on the 1809 text of Lamarck’s work (published in Paris). It follows Lamarck’s text closely, keeping to the same structure of paragraphs. Footnotes here appear at the end of the chapters, rather than at the foot of the page, for obvious reasons.

Lamarck’s style is generally very clear and straightforward, but it is also very loose and repetitive. It lacks much of the variety and grace which, for example, one finds in the scientific writing of his colleague Cuvier. One sometimes irritating feature of Lamarck’s style is his tendency to use many words where two or three will convey the meaning just as well. In dealing with this feature, I have tried to render Lamarck’s meaning precisely in a style which comes as close as possible to modern English, even if that means, at times, altering Lamarck’s original phrasing (so, for example, rather than saying “They launch themselves into the bosom of the air” this translation states “They fly in the air”). However, it has not been possible to avoid the repetitiveness in many places.

I have derived help with a number of the technical terms from an earlier translation of Lamarck’s work by Hugh Elliot (originally published in 1914).



Of the considerations relevant to the natural history of animals; to the diversity of their organic structure and of the faculties which they derive from it; to the physical causes sustaining life in them and producing the movements which they carry out; finally, to those causes which produce feeling in some and intelligence in others endowed with it.


Professor of Zoology at the Museum of Natural History, Member of the Institute of France and the Legion of Honour, the Philomatique Society, the Naturalists’ Society of Moscow, Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Munich, the Society of the Friends of Nature of Berlin, the Medical Emulation Society of Bordeaux, the Society of Agriculture, Sciences and Arts of Strasbourg, the Society of Agriculture of the Department of the Oise, the Society of Agriculture of Lyon, Free Associate of the Society of Pharmacists of Paris, etc.

PARIS 1809




Preliminary Discourse

Considerations of the Natural History of Animals, Their Characteristics, Their Interrelationships, Their Organic Structure, Their Distribution, Their Classification and Their Species

Chapter One
On the Role of Art in the Productions of Nature

Chapter Two
The Importance of Considering Affinities

Chapter Three
Concerning Speciation in Living Things and The Idea We Should Attach to This Word

Chapter Four
General Observations on Animals

Chapter Five
On the Present State of the Distribution and Classification of Animals

Chapter Six
The Degradation and Simplification in Organic Structure from One Extreme to the Other of the Chain of Animal Life, from the Most Complex to the Simplest

Chapter Seven
Concerning the Influence of Circumstances on the Actions and Habits of Animals, and the Influence of the Actions and Habits of these Living Bodies As Causes Which Modify Their Organic Structure and Their Parts

Chapter Eight
Concerning the Natural Order of Animals and the Arrangement Which Must Have Led to Their General Distribution to Make it Conform to the Very Order of Nature

[End of the First Part]