For many years this was just called the Zoology Building, but in 1994 they did a complete re-launch and changed the name to La Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, which is appropriate because it really is a grand museum.
It helps to have a reading knowledge of French, however, because only a few of the explanations have been translated into other languages.
Downstairs at level 0 there is a thorough and systematic exhibit of marine habitats, including the open sea, the Arctic and Antarctic, coastlines, coral reefs, hydrothermal vents and the quite frightening abyssal plains, where numerous life forms manage to exist at great depths despite the cold, darkness and extreme water pressure.
At level 1 there is a parade of stuffed animals that look as though they are queuing two by two to get into Noah’s ark, but in fact they are demonstrating the diversity of animal species that live on land in various terrestrial habitats.
The galleries at various levels around the sides of the building include exhibits on extinct and endangered species, the diversity of life, the evolution of life and man’s role in evolution.
Among many other exhibits there is a vivid display showing pollution in the valley of the Rhône River, which interested me particularly because I had noticed in Geneva how fantastically clean the Rhône is (for the first 800 meters after leaving Lake Geneva) and how filthy it has become by the time it reaches Lyon.
See also: The Rhône River in Avignon (over 200 kilometers downstream from Lyon)
The Grand Gallery of Evolution is one of several museums in the Jardin des Plantes (Garden of the Plants). Together they form the National Museum of Natural History.
These museums are not included in the Paris Museum Pass. As of 2018, the normal price of admission for the Grand Gallery of Evolution is 9 Euros.
The Jardin des Plantes is a large botanical garden in the 5th arrondissment of Paris, near the Austerlitz railway station and the Austerlitz Bridge. The garden was founded by King Louis XIII (son of Henri IV and father of Louis XIV) as the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants in 1635. Unlike most royal gardens it was opened to the public as early as 1640.
Most parts of the garden are free, but there are admission charges for the greenhouses and the museums.
The statue at the front entrance, on Place Valhubert (above), is of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (pronunciation here), a French naturalist who lived from 1744 to 1829.
The statue at the top end of the garden is of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788). Buffon was the director of the Jardin des Plantes, an important scientist and a prolific scientific author. His main work was a monumental thirty-six volume Natural History, General and Particular, which was widely read and translated into several different languages during his lifetime. The entire text of these thirty-six volumes is now available online, in the original French, at the website www.buffon.cnrs.fr. Both Buffon and Lamarck made important contributions to the emerging theory of evolution, before it was all brought together by Charles Darwin in the 19th century.
When you look at the statue from the front, Buffon seems to be sitting on a lion, but from the side you can see that he is sitting on a chair and the lion is under the chair. The lion does not look happy, however.
Location, aerial view and sketch map on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2018.