Nicolas Desmarest's Géographie-Physique, his contribution to the Encyclopédie Méthodique, is a surprisingly useful resource for his biographer. The four volumes he completed during his declining years offer insights into his activities over a long period, such as the extent of his travels, and the sorts of phenomena he selected for observation. Leaving aside those articles that he plagiarized, the many entries he wrote testify to the depth of his commitment to a place-specific construction of a new science of the Earth. In comparison with the article ‘Géographie Physique’ that he provided for the Diderot-d'Alembert Encyclopédie (1757), the components of Géographie-Physique also exhibit Desmarest's deepened interest in cultivating knowledge of the Earth's past. Nonetheless his basic conception of physical geography—which he regularly distinguished from both Theories of the Earth and the emerging géologie (whose definition he found elusive)—remained centered on a search for law-like generalizations about the natural world's order, rather than its historical development.

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