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- Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence - 1/92 -






I am aware that this book has neither the fullness of personal narrative, nor the closeness of scientific analysis, which its too comprehensive title might lead the reader to expect. A word of explanation is therefore needed. I thought little at first of the general public, when I began to weave together in narrative form the facts, letters, and journals contained in this volume. My chief object was to prevent the dispersion and final loss of scattered papers which had an unquestionable family value. But, as my work grew upon my hands, I began to feel that the story of an intellectual life, which was marked by such rare coherence and unity of aim, might have a wider interest and usefulness; might, perhaps, serve as a stimulus and an encouragement to others. For this reason, and also because I am inclined to believe that the European portion of the life of Louis Agassiz is little known in his adopted country, while its American period must be unfamiliar to many in his native land, I have determined to publish the material here collected.

The book labors under the disadvantage of being in great part a translation. The correspondence for the first part was almost wholly in French and German, so that the choice lay between a patch-work of several languages or the unity of one, burdened as it must be with the change of version. I have accepted what seemed to me the least of these difficulties.

Besides the assistance of my immediate family, including the revision of the text by my son Alexander Agassiz, I have been indebted to my friends Dr. and Mrs. Hagen and to the late Professor Guyot for advice on special points. As will be seen from the list of illustrations, I have also to thank Mrs. John W. Elliot for her valuable aid in that part of the work.

On the other side of the water I have had most faithful and efficient collaborators. Mr. Auguste Agassiz, who survived his brother Louis several years, and took the greatest interest in preserving whatever concerned his scientific career, confided to my hands many papers and documents belonging to his brother's earlier life. After his death, his cousin and brother-in-law, Mr. Auguste Mayor, of Neuchatel, continued the same affectionate service. Without their aid I could not have completed the narrative as it now stands.

The friend last named also selected from the glacier of the Aar, at the request of Alexander Agassiz, the boulder which now marks his father's grave. With unwearied patience Mr. Mayor passed hours of toilsome search among the blocks of the moraine near the site of the old "Hotel des Neuchatelois," and chose at last a stone so monumental in form that not a touch of the hammer was needed to fit it for its purpose. In conclusion I allow myself the pleasure of recording here my gratitude to him and to all who have aided me in my work.


CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, June 11, 1885.



1807-1827: TO AGE 20.

Birthplace.--Influence of his Mother.--Early Love of Natural History.--Boyish Occupations.--Domestic Education.--First School. --Vacations.--Commercial Life renounced.--College of Lausanne. --Choice of Profession.--Medical School of Zurich.--Life and Studies there.--University of Heidelberg.--Studies interrupted by Illness.--Return to Switzerland.--Occupations during Convalescence.


1827-1828: AGE 20-21.

Arrival in Munich.--Lectures.--Relations with the Professors. --Schelling, Martius, Oken, Dollinger.--Relations with Fellow-Students.--The Little Academy.--Plans for Traveling.--Advice from his Parents.--Vacation Journey.--Tri-Centennial Durer Festival at Nuremberg.


1828-1829: AGE 21-22.

First Important Work in Natural History.--Spix's Brazilian Fishes. --Second Vacation Trip.--Sketch of Work during University Year. --Extracts from the Journal of Mr. Dinkel.--Home Letters.--Hope of joining Humboldt's Asiatic Expedition.--Diploma of Philosophy. --Completion of First Part of the Spix Fishes.--Letter concerning it from Cuvier.


1829-1830: AGE 22-23.

Scientific Meeting at Heidelberg.--Visit at Home.--Illness and Death of his Grandfather.--Return to Munich.--Plans for Future Scientific Publications.--Takes his Degree of Medicine.--Visit to Vienna.--Return to Munich.--Home Letters.--Last Days at Munich. --Autobiographical Review of School and University Life.


1830-1832: AGE 23-25.

Year at Home.--Leaves Home for Paris.--Delays on the Road. --Cholera.--Arrival in Paris.--First Visit to Cuvier.--Cuvier's Kindness.--His Death.--Poverty in Paris.--Home Letters concerning Embarrassments and about his Work.--Singular Dream.


1832: AGE 25.

Unexpected Relief from Difficulties.--Correspondence with Humboldt. --Excursion to the Coast of Normandy.--First Sight of the Sea. --Correspondence concerning Professorship at Neuchatel.--Birthday Fete.--Invitation to Chair of Natural History at Neuchatel. --Acceptance.--Letter to Humboldt.


1832-1834: AGE 25-27.

Enters upon his Professorship at Neuchatel.--First Lecture. --Success as a Teacher.--Love of Teaching.--Influence upon the Scientific Life of Neuchatel.--Proposal from University of Heidelberg.--Proposal declined.--Threatened Blindness. --Correspondence with Humboldt.--Marriage.--Invitation from Charpentier.--Invitation to visit England.--Wollaston Prize.--First Number of "Poissons Fossiles."--Review of the Work.


1834-1837: AGE 27-30.

First Visit to England.--Reception by Scientific Men.--Work on Fossil Fishes there.--Liberality of English Naturalists.--First Relations with American Science.--Farther Correspondence with Humboldt.--Second Visit to England.--Continuation of "Fossil Fishes."--Other Scientific Publications.--Attention drawn to Glacial Phenomena.--Summer at Bex with Charpentier.--Sale of Original Drawings for "Fossil Fishes."--Meeting of Helvetic Society.--Address on Ice-Period.--Letters from Humboldt and Von Buch.


1837-1839: AGE 30-32.

Invitation to Professorships at Geneva and Lausanne.--Death of his Father.--Establishment of Lithographic Press at Neuchatel. --Researches upon Structure of Mollusks.--Internal Casts of Shells. --Glacial Explorations.--Views of Buckland.--Relations with Arnold Guyot.--Their Work together in the Alps.--Letter to Sir Philip Egerton concerning Glacial Work.--Summer of 1839.--Publication of "Etudes sur les Glaciers."


1840-1842: AGE 33-35.

Summer Station on the Glacier of the Aar.--Hotel des Neuchatelois. --Members of the Party.--Work on the Glacier.--Ascent of the Strahleck and the Siedelhorn.--Visit to England.--Search for Glacial Remains in Great Britain.--Roads of Glen Roy.--Views of English Naturalists concerning Agassiz's Glacial Theory.--Letter from Humboldt.--Winter Visit to Glacier.--Summer of 1841 on the Glacier.--Descent into the Glacier.--Ascent of the Jungfrau.


1842-1843: AGE 35-36.

Zoological Work uninterrupted by Glacial Researches.--Various Publications.--"Nomenclator Zoologicus."--"Bibliographia Zoologiae et Geologiae."--Correspondence with English Naturalists. --Correspondence with Humboldt.--Glacial Campaign of 1842. --Correspondence with Prince de Canino concerning Journey to United States.--Fossil Fishes from the Old Red Sandstone.--Glacial Campaign of 1843.--Death of Leuthold, the Guide.

Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence - 1/92

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