Scientist of the Day - Edouard Riou
Edouard Riou, a French artist and book illustrator, was born Dec. 2, 1833. Riou studied under the famous illustrator Gustave Doré, and in the 1860s, Riou began executing wood engravings for such books as Jules Verne's Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1862), Voyage au centre de la Terre (Voyage to the Center of the Earth, 1864), and Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1866-69).
In the realm of scientific illustration, Riou was asked to provide the images for Louis Figuier's La Terre avant le deluge (The World before the Deluge), one of the first books devoted to prehistoric life, published in Paris in 1863. Riou designed a lush Carboniferous swamp, a Pleistocene ice age (see third image above), and two memorable Jurassic battlefields, with an Iguanodon and a Megalosaurus engaging each other tooth and claw (first image), and an Ichthyosaurus and a Plesiosaurus clashing on the high seas (second image).
But one of Riou’s most interesting cuts for this book was “The Apparition of Man,” which was little more than a disguised “Adam and Eve” scene (fourth image). As the book went through subsequent editions, this scene changed. By 1866, Adam and Eve had been replaced by real prehistoric stone-weapon-wielding cave dwellers (fifth image), in as dramatic a transformation of views of human antiquity as one can find in this period. We have the first five French editions and the first English translation of Figuier’s World before the Deluge in our History of Science Collection, and we displayed the two “Apparition of Man” wood engravings by Riou in our 2012 exhibition, Blade and Bone: The Discovery of Human Antiquity.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.