Here is another episode from "The Incredible treasures of history" TV series.....
|Hand tinted plate from |
Buffon's Histoire Naturelle, 1770
Interest in apes in the 18th century was fueled by advances in comparative anatomy, dissection and science of physiology, but was still dependent on a small number of mainly documentary sources. Discussion centred on the differences between man and apes. Linnaeus, who used anatomical features to develop a systematic classification, classed humans and orangutans in the same genus "Homo". Buffon, however, adhered to a strict Carteian dualism and criticised Linnaeus for concentrating on structural resemblance rather than functions such as thought and speech. An orangutan, claimed Buffon complacently, is "but a pure animal wearing a human mask" (xiv.41)
The specimen bears the hallmarks of 18th century taxidermy; it is actually stuffed with straw. When Petrus Campus visited Paris for the second time in 1777 he was shocked to observe that the infant chimpanzee had been turned into an erect adult with a walking stick. The museum also has the chimp's skull and a few other bones. The conservator on the TV programme agrees that its DNA could be reconstructed; but to what end is not entirely clear.