Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, (1707-1788) was a French naturalist, mathematician, biologist, cosmologist, and author whose views influenced future naturalists, such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin. In his Historie Naturelle (Natural History, 1749), a 44-volume encyclopedia, Buffon described everything then known about the natural world. He was the source of important ideas concerning the distribution of plants and animals around the globe, relationships among species, the age of the Earth, the sources of biological variation, and the possibility of evolution. Buffon also published Les Epoques de la Nature (1788), in which he discussed the origins of the solar system, speculating that the planets had been created by comets colliding with the sun. He also suggested that the age of the Earth was much greater than the 6,000 years proclaimed by the church; based on the cooling rate of iron, he calculated that the age of the earth was 75,000 years. For this, the Catholic Church of France condemned him, and his books were burned. Buffon also performed some of the first experiments proving that lightning was electrical, basing his metallic lightning rod directly on the work of Benjamin Franklin.