An early proponent of the idea that evolution occurred and proceeded in accordance with natural laws. In the modern era, he is remembered primarily for a theory of inheritance of acquired characters.. However, his idea of soft inheritance was, perhaps, a reflection of the folk wisdom of the time, accepted by many natural historians. His contribution to evolutionary theory consisted of the first truly cohesive theory of evolution, in which an alchemical complexifying force drove organisms up a ladder of complexity, and a second environmental force adapted them to local environments through use and disuse of characteristics, differentiating them from other organisms.
Several recent studies, one conducted by researchers at MIT and another by researchers at the Tufts University School of Medicine, have rekindled the debate once again. As reported in MIT's Technology Review in February 2009, "The effects of an animal's environment during adolescence can be passed down to future offspring ... The findings provide support for a 200-year-old theory of evolution that has been largely dismissed, which states that acquired characteristics can be passed on to offspring.
Lived from 1744 to 1829.
Jean-Baptiste la Marck