When Count L. F. Marsigli went to the south of France in 1706 to study the structure of the land and sea bed, his first task was to investigate the sediments, concretions and deposits found off the coasts of Provence and Languedoc. Among these was coral, about which scientific opinion was still divided. Marsigli decided that it was a mineral growth, until one day he observed its 'flowers' and became convinced that it was a plant. Thenceforth, although the chemical experiments and the observations of his companions suggested otherwise, he clung to this view. In deference to his social standing, there was no immediate published refutation of his opinions. Documents from Montpellier and London reveal how far the work of provincial naturalists and chemists had progressed, yet was eclipsed by the publication in 1725 of Marsigli's compendious Histoire de la Mer. When J. A. Peyssonnel, who as a young boy had been shown the flowers by Marsigli, later suggested that coral was animal in nature, his views were obscured by Réaumur at the Académie des sciences in Paris, and were not published until 1752, in London
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