From physiology to classification: comparative anatomy and Vicq d'Azyr's plan of reform for life sciences and medicine (1774-1794).Sci Context. 2009 Jun; 22(2):145-93.SC
Here I analyze the anatomical thought of the French physician and naturalist Félix Vicq d'Azyr (1748-1794) in order to bring to light its importance in the development of comparative anatomy at the end of the eighteenth century. I argue that his work and career can be understood as an ambitious program for a radical reform of all biomedical sciences and a reorganization of this whole field around comparative anatomy, on the conceptual as well as the institutional level. In particular, he recommended a close connection between anatomical and physiological studies, and a generalization of the comparative approach towards organs and functions in man and animals. This conception led him not only to reform the scope, the methods, the style of description, and the vocabulary in anatomy, but also to construct a new classification of living beings and to pursue a quest for laws of organization. This strategy was successful, since Vicq d'Azyr was able to promote his thought as well as his institutional position efficiently. The Revolution and his untimely death prevented him from achieving his program, but his attempt would serve as an example for younger scientists like Cuvier.