Until quite recently, French zoologist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) opposed the biological theory of evolution, and championed the geological theory of catastrophism; but his research on fossils helped form and bring credibility to geology and palaeontology, and recent research has proved that his ideas on the importance of mass extinctions and catastrophes were well ahead of their time. In this volume, Martin Rudwick provides a modern translation of Cuvier's essential writings on fossils and catastrophes, together with two previously unpublished pieces. Rudwick links these translated texts together with his own narrative and interpretive commentary, placing Cuvier's work in its biographical, scientific, and social context. A major feature of this book is a translation of Cuvier's best-known work, the "Preliminary Discourse" (1812). Frequently reprinted and translated, this essay became a key document in 19th-century debates about evolutionary theory, and can still be used as source material by many English-speaking historians.