Benoît de Maillet was a well-travelled French diplomat and natural historian. He was French consul general at Cairo, and overseer in the Levant. He formulated an evolutionary hypothesis to explain the origin of the earth and its contents.
De Maillet's geological observations convinced him that the earth could not have been created in an instant because the features of the crust indicate a slow development by natural processes. He also believed that creatures on the land were ultimately derived from creatures living in the seas. He believed in the natural origin of man. He estimated that the development of the earth took two billion years.