The Natural History Museum and the Botanical Gardens

Decree from the National Convention on June 10, 1793, Year 2 of the French Republic, on the Establishment of the National Garden for Plants and the Center of Natural History, Known as the Museum of Natural History

By decree from June 10, 1793, the King’s Garden became the Natural History Museum. The revolutionaries were persuaded that science could help fight against superstitions and manipulations: knowledge and reason needed to free Men from their shackles. Science needed to be developed and popularized for the entire world. Since it was the ultimate common good, nature interested them first and foremost: the Museum’s first mission was to “teach the public about natural history.” Great scholars from this time period gave public classes, like Jussieu, Lamarck, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier.

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A lecture hall for botany

In 1787, Buffon, the famous botanist and director of the King’s Garden, asked the architect Edme Verniquet to build a lecture hall in order to teach a class on botany. In 1794, the edifice was modified by Jacques Molinos. Semicircular pavilions housed laboratories and the main room was enlarged. Consequently, the building represented the revolutionaries’ desire to link education with the best in scientific research. It was in this lecture hall, in January 1795, where the first course was held for the Ecole normale de l’an III, the future Ecole normale supérieure, now located on rue d’Ulm.

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