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Penser l'existence de vie dans les profondeurs marines au XIXe siècle : entre abîme impossible et origine du vivant (1804-1885)

Abstract : Abyss : chasm, hell, chaos. On the fringe of the western civilization, the marine depths were regarded as impenetrable and were depreciated before being studied during the 19th century. At sea, the naturalist took over fishing techniques and rummaged through a dark universe to collect an unknown fauna.This thesis shows the importance of the various influences that shaped the scientific theories about the existence of life in the abyss.The idea of a limit for marine life, beneath a given depth, dominated, notably using the azoic theory (1843) of the British Edward Forbes (1815-1854). According to us, this theory was a “final horizon”, that is to say an anthropomorphic finitude placed on the animal distribution. Later, the representation of a life inhabiting every place – a “triumphant life” – replaced it during the 1860s to form the basis of our current knowledge, at a time when the abyss was regarded as a “lair of the past” containing “living-fossils”. These representations were reflections of a culture and of interests.This work also reveals that the scientists focused on some objects like the seabed, which was a fixed mark considered through a terrestrial view linked to an analogy with altitude. The bathymetric face of the ocean emerged while the submarine cable became an “interface of revival” for the knowledge about the abyss. The will to design an “absolute panorama” of the ocean was present in this period, using horizontal (every sea) and vertical (every depth) extrapolations from a few facts.
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Submitted on : Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 3:30:08 PM
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Loïc Péton. Penser l'existence de vie dans les profondeurs marines au XIXe siècle : entre abîme impossible et origine du vivant (1804-1885). Histoire. Université de Bretagne occidentale - Brest, 2016. Français. ⟨NNT : 2016BRES0001⟩. ⟨tel-01398655⟩

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