Outside the Natural History Museum
in the Jardin des Plantes
There is an amusing story linking mammoths with the famous French naturalist, Buffon, and in fact with Thomas Jefferson. (Start at the bottom of this page.) When we study history, we often learn the facts and stories that keep famous people and events compartmentalized in our minds. "Buffon relates to France and to animals. The end." But history is so much more textured. When I took this photo, I coudn't remember much about Buffon except that he studied and attempted to classify hundreds or probably thousands of animals. While checking up on mammoths and Buffon for ths post, I learned that Buffon had made a statement that Old World fauna (including humans) were, comparatively, so much larger and more robust than their New World counterparts. This irked Thomas Jefferson (a man 6' 2" tall) to the point that he made lists of animals that were larger on this side of the Atlantic and presented it to Buffon. Apparently the argument went on for some time, and on a visit, Jefferson packed over to France the hide of an exceptionally large mountain lion to prove his point.
As for the mammoths, I haven't made a study of where each one lived and what size it was. They seem to have roamed over much of the Earth and the size varied from place to place. I'd never thought about that, either, and someday when I have nothing else to do. . . .
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