He was born at Montbard (Côte d'Or). His father, Jean Daubenton, a notary, intended him for the church, and sent him to Paris to study theology, but he was more interested in medicine. Jean's death in 1736 set his son free to choose his own career, and in 1741 he graduated in medicine at Reims, and returned to his native town planning to practise as a physician. At about this time, Buffon, also a native of Montbard, was about to bring out a grand treatise on natural history, and in 1742 he invited Daubenton to assist him by providing the anatomical descriptions for that work. The two men were complete opposites, but worked well in partnership.
In the first section of the natural history Daubenton gave descriptions and details of the dissection of 182 species of quadrupeds, thus procuring for himself a high reputation, and exciting the envy of Réaumur, who considered himself the expert on natural history in France. Jealousy induced Buffon to dispense with the services of Daubenton in the preparation of the subsequent parts of his work, which, as a consequence, lost much in precision and scientific value. Buffon afterwards acknowledged his error, and renewed their association.
Daubenton published many dissertations on natural history in the memoirs of the Académie française. Zoological descriptions and dissections, the comparative anatomy of recent and fossil animals, vegetable physiology, mineralogy, experiments in agriculture, and the introduction of the merino sheep into France occupied him; and he was a great asset to the cabinet of natural history in Paris, of which in 1744 he was appointed keeper and demonstrator. From 1775 Daubenton lectured on natural history in the college of medicine, and in 1783 on rural economy at the Alfort school. He was also professor of mineralogy at the Jardin du Roi. As a lecturer he was in high repute, and to the last retained his popularity. In December 1799 he was appointed a member of the senate, but at the first meeting which he attended he fell from his seat in an apoplectic fit, and after a short illness died at Paris.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.