Giraffe Feeding by Peter Halasz.

Pre-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory
John Lamarck, George Cuvier, James Hutton & Charles Lyell 


Jean Baptiste Chevalier de 

Lamarck was the first evolutionary theorist to very publicly proclaim his ideas about the processes leading to biological change. 
Article Summary: Before Darwin's theory of natural selection, Lamarckianism, Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism were thought to explain how species change.
Pre-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory
Jean Baptiste Lamarck
Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744 -1829)
Although his theory was incorrect, he was still instrumental in directing scientific thought toward the question of evolution and change.

Evolution to Perfection: Lamarck was a proponent of spontaneous generation, the belief that life can appear spontaneously from inanimate materials and then gradually change into more complex forms through a constant striving for perfection.

He believed that the ultimate product of this goal-oriented evolution was the human race. His theory, now known as Lamarckianism, was based on the belief that evolution was mostly due to the inheritance of acquired characteristics as creatures adapted to their environments.

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Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics: Lamarck's assertion was that that evolution occurred when an organism used a body part in such a way that it was ultimately altered during its lifetime and this acquired change could be inherited by its offspring.

Continued ... 
Cuvier & Catastrophism
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For example, Lamarck thought that giraffes evolved their long necks by each generation stretching further to get leaves in trees and that this change in body shape was then inherited. This is the inheritance of acquired characteristics, and although an appealing theory that, on the surface seems to make sense, it is absolutely without merit.