Nicolas Desmarest (1725-1815), one of the great pioneering field naturalists of the eighteenth century, began to pursue geological field work only in the later 1750s, Well past the age of 30. Until that time, the patterns of Desmarest's scientific interests and thinking resembled those of a scholarWhose range of experienceWas defined mostly by books. In this essay I attempt to characterize Desmarest's intellectual orientations, prior to his conversion into an investigative naturalist. Before his first efforts in active field research, Desmarest became committed to an empiricist epistemology of a phenomenalist type, emphasizing know ledge of natural regularities in a fashion parallel to views expressed in the early volumes of Histoire Naturelle, by Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte du Buffon (1707-1788). Through his close linksWith antiquarian scholars, Desmarest formed critical mental habits regarding use of historical and archeological evidence in interpretations of the past. These early scholarly experiences helped shape his approach to work as a field geologist. I suggest also that Desmarest's employment as a government analyst of practical and industrial arts, at the very time he began active scientific field work, contributed to his rapid and successful embrace of empirical procedures in science.

Let us consult nature herself, who ordinarily leaves recognizable marks of her operations, even if she likes most often to cloak them in disguise, to hide them from minds unfamiliar with her tricks, or heedless in following their solution.

Nicolas Desmarest, Dissertation sur l'ancienne jonction de l'Angleterre à la France, 1753

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