The early nineteenth century has been described as a time of ‘Positive Geology’. The goal was to pursue fieldwork and build the edifice of science on ‘facts,’ thereby displacing the theorizing of previous centuries. French naturalists contributed prominently to the evolution of geoscience in that era. Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847) were among the researchers who adhered to the ‘Facts First’ approach to understanding nature. Brongniart is an exemplar of the dedicated empiricist, careful observer, and cautious writer who was able to see ways to synthesize facts into conclusions of far-reaching consequence. The result is that collection and description of fossils, and observation of field relationships of rock units, led to an appreciation of the theoretical power of biotic succession, biostratigraphy, the geologic column, and geologic mapping.

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