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´╗┐Title: Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence
Author: Agassiz, Louis
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence" ***






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


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.


1843-1846: AGE 36-39.

Completion of Fossil Fishes.--Followed by Fossil Fishes of the Old
Red Sandstone.--Review of the Later Work.--Identification of Fishes
by the Skull.--Renewed Correspondence with Prince Canino about
Journey to the United States.--Change of Plan owing to the Interest
of the King of Prussia in the Expedition.--Correspondence between
Professor Sedgwick and Agassiz on Development Theory.--Final
Scientific Work in Neuchatel and Paris.--Publication of "Systeme
Glaciaire."--Short Stay in England.--Farewell Letter from Humboldt.
--Sails for United States.


1846: AGE 39.

Arrival at Boston.--Previous Correspondence with Charles Lyell and
Mr. John A. Lowell concerning Lectures at the Lowell Institute.
--Relations with Mr. Lowell.--First Course of Lectures.--Character
of Audience.--Home Letter giving an Account of his first Journey in
the United States.--Impressions of Scientific Men, Scientific
Institutions and Collections.


1846-1847: AGE 39-40.

Course of Lectures in Boston on Glaciers.--Correspondence with
Scientific Friends in Europe.--House in East Boston.--Household and
Housekeeping.--Illness.--Letter to Elie de Beaumont.--Letter to
James D. Dana.


1847-1850: AGE 40-43.

Excursions on Coast Survey Steamer.--Relations with Dr. Bache, the
Superintendent of the Coast Survey.--Political Disturbances in
Switzerland.--Change of Relations with Prussia.--Scientific School
established in Cambridge.--Chair of Natural History offered to
Agassiz.--Acceptance.--Removal to Cambridge.--Literary and
Scientific Associations there and in Boston.--Household in
Cambridge.--Beginning of Museum.--Journey to Lake Superior.--"
Report, with Narration."--"Principles of Zoology," by Agassiz and
Gould.--Letters from European Friends respecting these
Publications.--Letter from Hugh Miller.--Second Marriage.--Arrival
of his Children in America.


1850-1852: AGE 43-45.

Proposition from Dr. Bache.--Exploration of Florida Reefs.--Letter
to Humboldt concerning Work in America.--Appointment to
Professorship of Medical College in Charleston, S.C.--Life at the
South.--Views concerning Races of Men.--Prix Cuvier.


1852-1855: AGE 45-48.

Return to Cambridge.--Anxiety about Collections.--Purchase of
Collections.--Second Winter in Charleston.--Illness.--Letter to
James D. Dana concerning Geographical Distribution and Geological
Succession of Animals.--Resignation of Charleston Professorship.
--Propositions from Zurich.--Letter to Oswald Heer.--Decision to
remain in Cambridge.--Letters to James D. Dana, S.S. Haldeman, and
Others respecting Collections illustrative of the Distribution of
Fishes, Shells, etc., in our Rivers.--Establishment of School for


1855-1860: AGE 48-53.

"Contributions to Natural History of the United States."
--Remarkable Subscription.--Review of the Work.--Its Reception in
Europe and America.--Letters from Humboldt and Owen concerning it.
--Birthday.--Longfellow's Verses.--Laboratory at Nahant.
--Invitation to the Museum of Natural History in Paris.--Founding
of Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge.--Summer Vacation in


1860-1863: AGE 53-56.

Return to Cambridge.--Removal of Collection to New Museum Building.
--Distribution of Work.--Relations with his Students.--Breaking out
of the War between North and South.--Interest of Agassiz in the
Preservation of the Union.--Commencement of Museum Publications.
--Reception of Third and Fourth Volumes of "Contributions."--Copley
Medal.--General Correspondence.--Lecturing Tour in the West.
--Circular Letter concerning Anthropological Collections.--Letter
to Mr. Ticknor concerning Geographical Distribution of Fishes in


1863-1864: AGE 56-57.

Correspondence with Dr. S.G. Howe.--Bearing of the War on the
Position of the Negro Race.--Affection for Harvard College.
--Interest in her General Progress.--Correspondence with Emerson
concerning Harvard.--Glacial Phenomena in Maine.


1865-1868: AGE 58-61.

Letter to his Mother announcing Journey to Brazil.--Sketch of
Journey.--Kindness of the Emperor.--Liberality of the Brazilian
Government.--Correspondence with Charles Sumner.--Letter to his
Mother at Close of Brazil Journey.--Letter from Martius concerning
Journey in Brazil.--Return to Cambridge.--Lectures in Boston and
New York.--Summer at Nahant.--Letter to Professor Peirce on the
Survey of Boston Harbor.--Death of his Mother.--Illness.
--Correspondence with Oswald Heer.--Summer Journey in the West.
--Cornell University.--Letter from Longfellow.


1868-1871: AGE 61-64.

New Subscription to Museum.--Additional Buildings.--Arrangement of
New Collections.--Dredging Expedition on Board the Bibb.--Address
at the Humboldt Centennial.--Attack on the Brain.--Suspension of
Work.--Working Force at the Museum.--New Accessions.--Letter from
Professor Sedgwick.--Letter from Professor Deshayes.--Restored
Health.--Hassler Voyage proposed.--Acceptance.--Scientific
Preparation for the Voyage.


1871-1872: AGE 64-65.

Sailing of the Hassler.--Sargassum Fields.--Dredging at Barbados.
--From the West Indies to Rio de Janeiro.--Monte Video.
--Quarantine.--Glacial Traces in the Bay of Monte Video.--The Gulf
of Mathias.--Dredging off Gulf of St. George.--Dredging off Cape
Virgens.--Possession Bay.--Salt Pool.--Moraine.--Sandy Point.
--Cruise through the Straits.--Scenery.--Wind Storm.--Borja Bay.
--Glacier Bay.--Visit to the Glacier.--Chorocua Bay.


1872: AGE 65.

Picnic in Sholl Bay.--Fuegians.--Smythe's Channel.--Comparison of
Glacial Features with those of the Strait of Magellan.--Ancud.
--Port of San Pedro.--Bay of Concepcion.--Three Weeks in
Talcahuana.--Collections.--Geology.--Land Journey to Santiago.
--Scenes along the Road.--Report on Glacial Features to Mr. Peirce.
--Arrival at Santiago.--Election as Foreign Associate of the
Institute of France.--Valparaiso.--The Galapagos.--Geological and
Zoological Features.--Arrival at San Francisco.


1872-1873: AGE 65-66.

Return to Cambridge.--Summer School proposed.--Interest of Agassiz.
--Gift of Mr. Anderson.--Prospectus of Penikese School.
--Difficulties.--Opening of School.--Summer Work.--Close of School.
--Last Course of Lectures at Museum.--Lecture before Board of
Agriculture.--Illness.--Death.--Place of Burial.


John W. Elliot from a pastel drawing by Cecile Braun.

2. THE STONE BASIN AT MOTIER; drawn by Mrs. Elliot from a

3. THE LABORATORY AT NAHANT; from a drawing by Mrs. Elliot.

4. THE BIRTHPLACE OF LOUIS AGASSIZ; from a photograph.

5. HOTEL DES NEUCHATELOIS; copied by Mrs. Elliot from an oil sketch
made on the spot by J. Burkhardt.

6. PORTRAIT OF JACOB LEUTHOLD; from a portrait by Burkhardt.

7. SECOND STATION ON THE AAR GLACIER; Copied by Mrs. Elliot from a
sketch in oil by J. Burkhardt.

published in "Nature".

9. COTTAGE AT NAHANT; from a photograph.

10. MUSEUM OF COMPARATIVE ZOOLOGY; from a photograph.

ZOOLOGY; from a photograph.

12. VIEW OF PENIKESE; from a photograph.





1807-1827: TO AGE 20.

Influence of his Mother.
Early Love of Natural History.
Boyish Occupations.
Domestic Education.
First School.
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.

JEAN LOUIS RODOLPHE AGASSIZ was born May 28, 1807, at the village
of Motier, on the Lake of Morat. His father, Louis Rodolphe
Agassiz, was a clergyman; his mother, Rose Mayor, was the daughter
of a physician whose home was at Cudrefin, on the shore of the Lake
of Neuchatel.

The parsonages in Switzerland are frequently pretty and
picturesque. That of Motier, looking upon the lake and sheltered by
a hill which commands a view over the whole chain of the Bernese
Alps, was especially so. It possessed a vineyard large enough to
add something in good years to the small salary of the pastor; an
orchard containing, among other trees, an apricot famed the country
around for the unblemished beauty of its abundant fruit; a good
vegetable garden, and a delicious spring of water flowing always
fresh and pure into a great stone basin behind the house. That
stone basin was Agassiz's first aquarium; there he had his first
collection of fishes.* (* After his death a touching tribute was
paid to his memory by the inhabitants of his birthplace. With
appropriate ceremonies, a marble slab was placed above the door of
the parsonage of Motier, with this inscription, "J. Louis Agassiz,
celebre naturaliste, est ne dans cette maison, le 28 Mai, 1807.")

It does not appear that he had any precocious predilection for
study, and his parents, who for the first ten years of his life
were his only teachers, were too wise to stimulate his mind beyond
the ordinary attainments of his age. having lost her first four
children in infancy, his mother watched with trembling solicitude
over his early years. It was perhaps for this reason that she was
drawn so closely to her boy, and understood that his love of
nature, and especially of all living things, was an intellectual
tendency, and not simply a child's disposition to find friends and
playmates in the animals about him. In later years her sympathy
gave her the key to the work of his manhood, as it had done to the
sports of his childhood. She remained his most intimate friend to
the last hour of her life, and he survived her but six years.

Louis's love of natural history showed itself almost from infancy.
When a very little fellow he had, beside his collection of fishes,
all sorts of pets: birds, field-mice, hares, rabbits, guinea-pigs,
etc., whose families he reared with the greatest care. Guided by
his knowledge of the haunts and habits of fishes, he and his
brother Auguste became the most adroit of young fishermen,--using
processes all their own and quite independent of hook, line, or
net. Their hunting grounds were the holes and crevices beneath the
stones or in the water-washed walls of the lake shore. No such
shelter was safe from their curious fingers, and they acquired such
dexterity that when bathing they could seize the fish even in the
open water, attracting them by little arts to which the fish
submitted as to a kind of fascination. Such amusements are no doubt
the delight of many a lad living in the country, nor would they be
worth recording except as illustrating the unity of Agassiz's
intellectual development from beginning to end. His pet animals
suggested questions, to answer which was the task of his life; and
his intimate study of the fresh-water fishes of Europe, later the
subject of one of his important works, began with his first
collection from the Lake of Morat.

As a boy he amused himself also with all kinds of handicrafts on a
small scale. The carpenter, the cobbler, the tailor, were then as
much developed in him as the naturalist. In Swiss villages it was
the habit in those days for the trades-people to go from house to
house in their different vocations. The shoemaker came two or three
times a year with all his materials, and made shoes for the whole
family by the day; the tailor came to fit them for garments which
he made in the house; the cooper arrived before the vintage, to
repair old barrels and hogsheads or to make new ones, and to
replace their worn-out hoops; in short, to fit up the cellar for
the coming season. Agassiz seems to have profited by these lessons
as much as by those he learned from his father; and when a very
little fellow, he could cut and put together a well-fitting pair of
shoes for his sisters' dolls, was no bad tailor, and could make a
miniature barrel that was perfectly water-tight. He remembered
these trivial facts as a valuable part of his incidental education.
He said he owed much of his dexterity in manipulation, to the
training of eye and hand gained in these childish plays.

Though fond of quiet, in-door occupation, he was an active, daring
boy. One winter day when about seven years of age, he was skating
with his little brother Auguste, two years younger than himself,
and a number of other boys, near the shore of the lake. They were
talking of a great fair held that day at the town of Morat, on the
opposite side of the lake, to which M. Agassiz had gone in the
morning, not crossing upon the ice, however, but driving around the
shore. The temptation was too strong for Louis, and he proposed to
Auguste that they should skate across, join their father at the
fair, and come home with him in the afternoon. They started
accordingly. The other boys remained on their skating ground till
twelve o'clock, the usual dinner hour, when they returned to the
village. Mme. Agassiz was watching for her boys, thinking them
rather late, and on inquiring for them among the troop of urchins
coming down the village street she learned on what errand they had
gone. Her anxiety may be imagined. The lake was not less than two
miles across, and she was by no means sure that the ice was safe.
She hurried to an upper window with a spy-glass to see if she could
descry them anywhere. At the moment she caught sight of them,
already far on their journey, Louis had laid himself down across a
fissure in the ice, thus making a bridge for his little brother,
who was creeping over his back. Their mother directed a workman, an
excellent skater, to follow them as swiftly as possible. He
overtook them just as they had gained the shore, but it did not
occur to him that they could return otherwise than they had come,
and he skated back with them across the lake. Weary, hungry, and
disappointed, the boys reached the house without having seen the
fair or enjoyed the drive home with their father in the afternoon.

When he was ten years old, Agassiz was sent to the college for boys
at Bienne, thus exchanging the easy rule of domestic instruction
for the more serious studies of a public school. He found himself
on a level with his class, however, for his father was an admirable
teacher. Indeed it would seem that Agassiz's own passion for
teaching, as well as his love of young people and his sympathy with
intellectual aspiration everywhere, was an inheritance. Wherever
his father was settled as pastor, at Motier, at Orbe, and later at
Concise, his influence was felt in the schools as much as in the
pulpit. A piece of silver remains, a much prized heir-loom in the
family, given to him by the municipality of Orbe in acknowledgment
of his services in the schools.

The rules of the school at Bienne were rather strict, but the life
led by the boys was hardy and invigorating, and they played as
heartily as they worked. Remembering his own school-life, Agassiz
often asked himself whether it was difference of climate or of
method, which makes the public school life in the United States so
much more trying to the health of children than the one under which
he was brought up. The boys and girls in our public schools are
said to be overworked with a session of five hours, and an
additional hour or two of study at home. At the College of Bienne
there were nine hours of study, and the boys were healthy and
happy. Perhaps the secret might be found in the frequent
interruption, two or three hours of study alternating with an
interval for play or rest. Agassiz always retained a pleasant
impression of the school and its teachers. Mr. Rickly, the
director, he regarded with an affectionate respect, which ripened
into friendship in maturer years.

The vacations were, of course, hailed with delight, and as Motier
was but twenty miles distant from Bienne, Agassiz and his younger
brother Auguste, who joined him at school a year later, were in the
habit of making the journey on foot. The lives of these brothers
were so closely interwoven in their youth that for many years the
story of one includes the story of the other. They had everything
in common, and with their little savings they used to buy books,
chosen by Louis, the foundation, as it proved, of his future

Long before dawn on the first day of vacation the two bright,
active boys would be on their homeward way, as happy as holiday
could make them, especially if they were returning for the summer
harvest or the autumn vintage. The latter was then, as now, a
season of festivity. In these more modern days something of its
primitive picturesqueness may have been lost; but when Agassiz was
a boy, all the ordinary occupations were given up for this
important annual business, in which work and play were so happily
combined. On the appointed day the working people might be seen
trooping in from neighboring cantons, where there were no
vineyards, to offer themselves for the vintage. They either camped
out at night, sleeping in the open air, or found shelter in the
stables and outhouses. During the grape gathering the floor of the
barn and shed at the parsonage of Motier was often covered in the
evening with tired laborers, both men and women. Of course, when
the weather was fine, these were festival days for the children. A
bushel basket, heaped high with white and amber bunches, stood in
the hall, or in the living room of the family, and young and old
were free to help themselves as they came and went. Then there were
the frolics in the vineyard, the sweet cup of must (unfermented
juice of the grape), and, the ball on the last evening at the close
of the merry-making.

Sometimes the boys passed their vacations at Cudrefin, with their
grandfather Mayor. He was a kind old man, much respected in his
profession, and greatly beloved for his benevolence. His little
white horse was well known in all the paths and by-roads of the
country around, as he went from village to village among the sick.
The grandmother was frail in health, but a great favorite among the
children, for whom she had an endless fund of stories, songs, and
hymns. Aunt Lisette, an unmarried daughter, who long lived to
maintain the hospitality of the old Cudrefin house and to be
beloved as the kindest of maiden aunts by two or three generations
of nephews and nieces, was the domestic providence of these family
gatherings, where the praises of her excellent dishes were annually
sung. The roof was elastic; there was no question about numbers,
for all came who could; the more, the merrier, with no diminution
of good cheer.

The Sunday after Easter was the great popular fete. Then every
house was busy coloring Easter eggs and making fritters. The young
girls and the lads of the village, the former in their prettiest
dresses and the latter with enormous bouquets of artificial flowers
in their hats, went together to church in the morning. In the
afternoon the traditional match between two runners, chosen from
the village youths, took place. They were dressed in white, and
adorned with bright ribbons. With music before them, and followed
by all the young people, they went in procession to the place where
a quantity of Easter eggs had been distributed upon the ground. At
a signal the runners separated, the one to pick up the eggs
according to a prescribed course, the other to run to the next
village and back again. The victory was to the one who accomplished
his task first, and he was proclaimed king of the feast. Hand in
hand the runners, followed as before by all their companions,
returned to join in the dance now to take place before the house of
Dr. Mayor. After a time the festivities were interrupted by a
little address in patois from the first musician, who concluded by
announcing from his platform a special dance in honor of the family
of Dr. Mayor. In this dance the family with some of their friends
and neighbors took part,--the young ladies dancing with the peasant
lads and the young gentlemen with the girls of the village,--while
the rest formed a circle to look on.

Thus, between study and recreation, the four years which Agassiz's
father and mother intended he should pass at Bienne drew to a
close. A yellow, time-worn sheet of foolscap, on which during the
last year of his school-life he wrote his desiderata in the way of
books, tells something of his progress and his aspirations at
fourteen years of age. "I wish," so it runs, "to advance in the
sciences, and for that I need d'Anville, Ritter, an Italian
dictionary, a Strabo in Greek, Mannert and Thiersch; and also the
works of Malte-Brun and Seyfert. I have resolved, as far as I am
allowed to do so, to become a man of letters, and at present I can
go no further: 1st, in ancient geography, for I already know all my
notebooks, and I have only such books as Mr. Rickly can lend me; I
must have d'Anville or Mannert; 2nd, in modern geography, also, I
have only such books as Mr. Rickly can lend me, and the Osterwald
geography, which does not accord with the new divisions; I must
have Ritter or Malte-Brun; 3rd, for Greek I need a new grammar, and
I shall choose Thiersch; 4th, I have no Italian dictionary, except
one lent me by Mr. Moltz; I must have one; 5th, for Latin I need a
larger grammar than the one I have, and I should like Seyfert; 6th,
Mr. Rickly tells me that as I have a taste for geography he will
give me a lesson in Greek (gratis), in which we would translate
Strabo, provided I can find one. For all this I ought to have about
twelve louis. I should like to stay at Bienne till the month of
July, and afterward serve my apprenticeship in commerce at
Neuchatel for a year and a half. Then I should like to pass four
years at a university in Germany, and finally finish my studies at
Paris, where I would stay about five years. Then, at the age of
twenty-five, I could begin to write."

Agassiz's note-books, preserved by his parents, who followed the
education of their children with the deepest interest, give
evidence of his faithful work both at school and college. They form
a great pile of manuscript, from the paper copy-books of the
school-boy to the carefully collated reports of the college
student, begun when the writer was ten or eleven years of age and
continued with little interruption till he was eighteen or
nineteen. The later volumes are of nearly quarto size and very
thick, some of them containing from four to six hundred closely
covered pages; the handwriting is small, no doubt for economy of
space, but very clear. The subjects are physiological,
pathological, and anatomical, with more or less of general natural
history. This series of books is kept with remarkable neatness.
Even in the boy's copy-books, containing exercises in Greek, Latin,
French and German, with compositions on a variety of topics, the
writing is even and distinct, with scarcely a blot or an erasure.
From the very beginning there is a careful division of subjects
under clearly marked headings, showing even then a tendency toward
an orderly classification of facts and thoughts.

It is evident from the boyish sketch which he drew of his future
plans that the hope of escaping the commercial life projected for
him, and of dedicating himself to letters and learning, was already
dawning. He had begun to feel the charm of study, and his
scientific tastes, though still pursued rather as the pastimes of a
boy than as the investigations of a student, were nevertheless
becoming more and more absorbing. He was fifteen years old and the
time had come when, according to a purpose long decided upon, he
was to leave school and enter the business house of his uncle,
Francois Mayor, at Neuchatel. He begged for a farther delay, to be
spent in two additional years of study at the College of Lausanne.
He was supported in his request by several of his teachers, and
especially by Mr. Rickly, who urged his parents to encourage the
remarkable intelligence and zeal already shown by their son in his
studies. They were not difficult to persuade; indeed, only want of
means, never want of will, limited the educational advantages they
gave to their children.

It was decided, therefore, that he should go to Lausanne. Here his
love for everything bearing on the study of nature was confirmed.
Professor Chavannes, Director of the Cantonal Museum, in whom he
found not only an interesting teacher, but a friend who sympathized
with his favorite tastes, possessed the only collection of Natural
History in the Canton de Vaud. To this Agassiz now had access. His
uncle, Dr. Mathias Mayor, his mother's brother and a physician of
note in Lausanne, whose opinion had great weight with M. and Mme.
Agassiz, was also attracted by the boy's intelligent interest in
anatomy and kindred subjects. He advised that his nephew should be
allowed to study medicine, and at the close of Agassiz's college
course at Lausanne the commercial plan was finally abandoned, and
he was permitted to choose the medical profession as the one most
akin to his inclination.

Being now seventeen years of age, he went to the medical school of
Zurich. Here, for the first time, he came into contact with men
whose instruction derived freshness and vigor from their original
researches. He was especially indebted to Professor Schinz, a man
of learning and ability, who held the chair of Natural History and
Physiology, and who showed the warmest interest in his pupil's
progress. He gave Agassiz a key to his private library, as well as
to his collection of birds. This liberality was invaluable to one
whose poverty made books an unattainable luxury. Many an hour did
the young student pass at that time in copying books which were
beyond his means, though some of them did not cost more than a
dollar a volume. His brother Auguste, still his constant companion,
shared this task, a pure labor of love with him, for the books were
more necessary to Louis's studies than to his own.

During the two years passed by Agassiz in Zurich he saw little of
society beyond the walls of the university. His brother and he had
a pleasant home in a private house, where they shared the family
life of their host and hostess. In company with them, Agassiz made
his first excursion of any importance into the Alps. They ascended
the Righi and passed the night there. At about sunset a fearful
thunder-storm gathered below them, while on the summit of the
mountain the weather remained perfectly clear and calm. Under a
blue sky they watched the lightning, and listened to the thunder in
the dark clouds, which were pouring torrents of rain upon the plain
and the Lake of Lucerne. The storm lasted long after night had
closed in, and Agassiz lingered when all his companions had retired
to rest, till at last the clouds drifted softly away, letting down
the light of moon and stars on the lake and landscape. He used to
say that in his subsequent Alpine excursions he had rarely
witnessed a scene of greater beauty.

Such of his letters from Zurich as have been preserved have only a
home interest. In one of them, however, he alludes to a curious
circumstance, which might have changed the tenor of his life. He
and his brother were returning on foot, for the vacation, from
Zurich to their home which was now in Orbe, where their father and
mother had been settled since 1821. Between Neuchatel and Orbe they
were overtaken by a traveling carriage. A gentleman who was its
sole occupant invited them to get in, made them welcome to his
lunch, talked to them of their student life, and their future
plans, and drove them to the parsonage, where he introduced himself
to their parents. Some days afterward M. Agassiz received a letter
from this chance acquaintance, who proved to be a man in affluent
circumstances, of good social position, living at the time in
Geneva. He wrote to M. Agassiz that he had been singularly
attracted by his elder son, Louis, and that he wished to adopt him,
assuming henceforth all the responsibility of his education and his
establishment in life. This proposition fell like a bomb-shell into
the quiet parsonage. M. Agassiz was poor, and every advantage for
his children was gained with painful self-sacrifice on the part of
both parents. How then refuse such an opportunity for one among
them, and that one so gifted? After anxious reflection, however,
the father, with the full concurrence of his son, decided to
decline an offer which, brilliant as it seemed, involved a
separation and might lead to a false position. A correspondence was
kept up for years between Louis and the friend he had so suddenly
won, and who continued to interest himself in his career. Although
it had no sequel, this incident is mentioned as showing a kind of
personal magnetism which, even as child and boy, Agassiz
unconsciously exercised over others.

From Zurich, Agassiz went to the University of Heidelberg, where we
find him in the spring of 1826.


HEIDELBERG, April 24, 1826.

. . .Having arrived early enough to see something of the environs
before the opening of the term, I decided to devote each day to a
ramble in one direction or another, in order to become familiar
with my surroundings. I am the more glad to have done this as I
have learned that after the lectures begin there will be no further
chance for such interruptions, and we shall be obliged to stick
closely to our work at home.

Our first excursion was to Neckarsteinach, two and a half leagues
from here. The road follows the Neckar, and at certain places rises
boldly above the river, which flows between two hills, broken by
rocks of the color of red chalk, which often jut out from either
side. Farther on the valley widens, and a pretty rising ground,
crowned by ruins, suddenly presents itself in the midst of a wide
plain, where sheep are feeding. Neckarsteinach itself is only a
little village, containing, however, three castles, two of which
are in ruins. The third is still inhabited, and commands a
magnificent view. In the evening we returned to Heidelberg by

Another day we started for what is here called "The Mountain,"
though it is at most no higher than Le Suchet. As the needful
supplies are not to be obtained there, we took our provisions with
us. We had so much fun out of this, that I must tell you all about
it. In the morning Z--bought at the market veal, liver, and bacon
enough to serve for three persons during two days. To these
supplies we added salt, pepper, butter, onions, bread, and some
jugs of beer. One of us took two saucepans for cooking, and some
alcohol. Arrived at the summit of our mountain, we looked out for a
convenient spot, and there we cooked our dinner. It did not take
long, nor can I say whether all was done according to the rules of
art. But this I know,--that never did a meal seem to me better. We
wandered over the mountain for the rest of the day, and at evening
came to a house where we prepared our supper after the same
fashion, to the great astonishment of the assembled household, and
especially of an old woman who regretted the death of her husband,
because she said it would certainly have amused him. We slept on
the ground on some straw, and returned to Heidelberg the next day
in time for dinner. The following day we went to Mannheim to visit
the theatre. It is very handsome and well appointed, and we were
fortunate in happening upon an excellent opera. Beyond this, I saw
nothing of Mannheim except the house of Kotzebue and the place
where Sand was beheaded.

To-day I have made my visits to the professors. For three among
them I had letters from Professors Schinz and Hirzel. I was
received by all in the kindest way. Professor Tiedemann, the
Chancellor, is a man about the age of papa and young for his years.
He is so well-known that I need not undertake his panegyric here.
As soon as I told him that I brought a letter from Zurich, he
showed me the greatest politeness, offered me books from his
library; in one word, said he would be for me here what Professor
Schinz, with whom he had formerly studied, had been for me in
Zurich. After the opening of the term, when I know these gentlemen
better, I will tell you more about them. I have still to describe
my home, chamber, garden, people of the house, etc.

The next letter fills in this frame-work.


HEIDELBERG, May 24, 1826.

. . .According to your request, I am going to write you all
possible details about my host, the employment of my time, etc.,
etc. Mr.--, my "philister," is a tobacco merchant in easy
circumstances, having a pretty house in the faubourg of the city.
My windows overlook the town, and my prospect is bounded by a hill
situated to the north of Heidelberg. At the back of the house is a
large and fine garden, at the foot of which is a very pretty
summer-house. There are also several clumps of trees in the garden,
and an aviary filled with native birds. . .

Since each day in term time is only the repetition of every other,
the account of one will give an idea of all, especially as I follow
with regularity the plan of study I have formed. Every morning I
rise at six o'clock, dress, and breakfast. At seven I go to my
lectures, given during the morning in the Museum building, next to
which is the anatomical laboratory. If, in the interval, I have a
free hour, as sometimes happens from ten to eleven, I occupy it in
making anatomical preparations. I shall tell you more of that and
of the Museum another time. From twelve to one I practice fencing.
We dine at about one o'clock, after which I walk till two, when I
return to the house and to my studies till five o'clock. From five
to six we have a lecture from the renowned Tiedemann. After that, I
either take a bath in the Neckar or another walk. From eight to
nine I resume my special work, and then, according to my
inclination, go to the Swiss club, or, if I am tired, to bed. I
have my evening service and talk silently with you, believing that
at that hour you also do not forget your Louis, who thinks always
of you. . .As soon as I know, for I cannot yet make an exact
estimate, I will write you as nearly as possible what my expenses
are likely to be. Sometimes there may be unlooked-for expenditures,
as, for instance, six crowns for a matriculation paper. But be
assured that at all events I shall restrict myself to what is
absolutely necessary, and do my best to economize. The same of the
probable duration of my stay in Heidelberg; I shall certainly not
prolong it needlessly. . .

Now for the first time the paths of the two brothers separated,
Auguste returning from Zurich to Neuchatel, where he entered into
business. It chanced, however, that in one of the first
acquaintances made by Louis in Heidelberg he found not only a
congenial comrade, but a friend for life, and in after years a
brother. Professor Tiedemann, by whom Agassiz had been so kindly
received, recommended him to seek the acquaintance of young
Alexander Braun, an ardent student, and an especial lover of
botany. At Tiedemann's lecture the next day Agassiz's attention was
attracted by a young man who sat next him, and who was taking very
careful notes and illustrating them. There was something very
winning in his calm, gentle face, full of benevolence and
intelligence. Convinced by his manner of listening to the lecture
and transcribing it that this was the student of whom Tiedemann had
spoken, Agassiz turned to his neighbor as they both rose at the
close of the hour, and said, "Are you Alex Braun?" "Yes, and you,
Louis Agassiz?" It seems that Professor Tiedemann, who must have
had a quick eye for affinities in the moral as well as in the
physical world, had said to Braun also, that he advised him to make
the acquaintance of a young Swiss naturalist who had just come, and
who seemed full of enthusiasm for his work. The two young men left
the lecture-room together, and from that time their studies, their
excursions, their amusements, were undertaken and pursued in each
other's company. In their long rambles, while they collected
specimens in their different departments of Natural History, Braun
learned zoology from Agassiz, and he, in his turn, learned botany
from Braun. This was, perhaps, the reason why Alexander Braun,
afterward Director of the Botanical Gardens in Berlin, knew more of
zoology than other botanists, while Agassiz himself combined an
extensive knowledge of botany with his study of the animal kingdom.
That the attraction was mutual may be seen by the following extract
from a letter of Alexander Braun to his father.


HEIDELBERG, May 12, 1826.

. . .In my leisure hours, between the forenoon and afternoon
lectures, I go to the dissecting-room, where, in company with
another young naturalist who has appeared like a rare comet on the
Heidelberg horizon, I dissect all manner of beasts, such as dogs,
cats, birds, fishes, and even smaller fry, snails, butterflies,
caterpillars, worms, and the like. Beside this, we always have from
Tiedemann the very best books for reference and comparison, for he
has a fine library, especially rich in anatomical works, and is
particularly friendly and obliging to us.

In the afternoon from two to three I attend Geiger's lectures on
pharmaceutical chemistry, and from five to six those of Tiedemann
on comparative anatomy. In the interval, I sometimes go with this
naturalist, so recently arrived among us (his name is Agassiz, and
he is from Orbe), on a hunt after animals and plants. Not only do
we collect and learn to observe all manner of things, but we have
also an opportunity of exchanging our views on scientific matters
in general. I learn a great deal from him, for he is much more at
home in zoology than I am. He is familiar with almost all the known
mammalia, recognizes the birds from far off by their song, and can
give a name to every fish in the water. In the morning we often
stroll together through the fish market, where he explains to me
all the different species. He is going to teach me how to stuff
fishes, and then we intend to make a collection of all the native
kinds. Many other useful things he knows; speaks German and French
equally well, English and Italian fairly, so that I have already
appointed him to be my interpreter on some future vacation trip to
Italy. He is well acquainted with ancient languages also, and
studies medicine besides. . .

A few lines from Braun to his mother, several weeks later, show
that this first enthusiasm, poured out with half-laughing
extravagance to his father, was ripening into friendship of a more
serious character.


HEIDELBERG, June 1, 1826.

. . .I am very happy now that I have found some one whose
occupations are the same as mine. Before Agassiz came I was obliged
to make my excursions almost always alone, and to study in
hermit-like isolation. After all, two people working together can
accomplish far more than either one can do alone. In order, for
instance, to utilize the interval spent in the time-consuming and
mechanical work of preparing specimens, pinning insects and the
like, we have agreed that while one is so employed the other shall
read aloud. In this way we shall go through various works on
physiology, anatomy, and zoology.

Next to Alexander Braun, Agassiz's most congenial companion at
Heidelberg was Karl Schimper, a friend of Braun, and like him a
young botanist of brilliant promise. The three soon became
inseparable. Agassiz had many friends and companions at the
university beside those who, on account of their influence upon his
after life, are mentioned here. He was too affectionate not to be a
genial companion among his young countrymen of whom there were many
at Heidelberg, where they had a club and a gymnasium of their own.
In the latter, Agassiz bore his part in all the athletic sports,
being distinguished both as a powerful gymnast and an expert

Of the professors then at Heidelberg, Leuckart, the zoologist, was,
perhaps, the most inspiriting. His lectures were full of original
suggestions and clever hypotheses, which excited and sometimes
amused his listeners. He knew how to take advantage of the
enthusiasm of his brighter pupils, and, at their request, gave them
a separate course of instruction on special groups of animals; not
without some personal sacrifice, for these extra lectures were
given at seven o'clock in the morning, and the students were often
obliged to pull their professor out of bed for the purpose. The
fact that they did so shows at least the friendly relation existing
between teacher and scholars. With Bischoff the botanist also, the
young friends were admitted to the most kindly intercourse. Many a
pleasant botanical excursion they had with him, and they owed to
him a thorough and skillful instruction in the use of the
microscope, handled by him like a master. Tiedemann's lectures were
very learned, and Agassiz always spoke of his old teacher in
comparative anatomy and physiology with affectionate respect and
admiration. He was not, however, an inspiring teacher, and though
an excellent friend to the students, they had no such intimate
personal relations with him as with Leuckart and Bischoff. From
Bronn, the paleontologist, they received an immense amount of
special information, but his instruction was minute in details
rather than suggestive in ideas; and they were glad when their
professor, finding that the course must be shortened for want of
time, displayed to them his magnificent collection of fossils, and
with the help of the specimens, developed his subject in a more
general and practical way.* (* This collection was purchased in
1859 by the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and Agassiz had thus the pleasure of teaching his
American pupils from the very collection in which he had himself
made his first important paleontological studies.) Of the medical
professors, Nageli was the more interesting, though the reputation
of Chelius brought him a larger audience. If there was however any
lack of stimulus in the lecture rooms, the young friends made good
the deficiency by their own indefatigable and intelligent study of
nature, seeking to satisfy their craving for knowledge by every
means within their reach.* (* The material for this account of the
student life of the two friends at Heidelberg and of their teachers
was chiefly furnished by Alexander Braun himself at the close of
his own life, after the death of Agassiz. The later sketches of the
Professors at Munich in 1832 were drawn in great part from the same

As the distance and expense made it impossible for Agassiz to spend
his vacations with his family in Switzerland, it soon became the
habit for him to pass the holidays with his new friend at
Carlsruhe. For a young man of his tastes and acquirements a more
charming home-life than the one to which he was here introduced can
hardly be imagined. The whole atmosphere was in harmony with the
pursuits of the students. The house was simple in its appointments,
but rich in books, music, and in all things stimulating to the
thought and imagination. It stood near one of the city gates which
opened into an extensive oak forest, in itself an admirable
collecting ground for the naturalist. At the back certain rooms,
sheltered by the spacious garden from the noise of the street, were
devoted to science. In the first of these rooms the father's rich
collection of minerals was arranged, and beyond this were the
laboratories of his sons and their friends, where specimens of all
sorts, dried and living plants, microscopes and books of reference,
covered the working tables. Here they brought their treasures; here
they drew, studied, dissected, arranged their specimens; here they
discussed the theories, with which their young brains were teeming,
about the growth, structure, and relations of animals and plants.*
(* See "Biographical Memoir of Louis Agassiz" by Arnold Guyuot, in
the "Proceedings of U.S. National Academy".)

From this house, which became a second home to Agassiz, he wrote to
his father in the Christmas holidays of 1826:. . ."My happiness
would be perfect were it not for the painful thought which pursues
me everywhere, that I live on your privations; yet it is impossible
for me to diminish my expenses farther. You would lift a great
weight from my heart if you could relieve yourself of this burden
by an arrangement with my uncle at Neuchatel. I am confident that
when I have finished my studies I could easily make enough to repay
him. At all events, I know that you cannot pay the whole at once,
and therefore in telling me frankly what are our resources for this
object you would do me the greatest favor. Until I know that, I
cannot be at peace. Otherwise, I am well, going on as usual, always
working as hard as I can, and I believe all the professors whose
lectures I attend are satisfied with me.". . .His father was also
pleased with his conduct and with his progress, for about this time
he writes to a friend, "We have the best possible news of Louis.
Courageous, industrious, and discreet, he pursues honorably and
vigorously his aim, namely, the degree of Doctor of Medicine and

In the spring of 1827 Agassiz fell ill of a typhus fever prevalent
at the university as an epidemic. His life was in danger for many
days. As soon as he could be moved, Braun took him to Carlsruhe,
where his convalescence was carefully watched over by his friend's
mother. Being still delicate he was advised to recruit in his
native air, and he returned to Orbe, accompanied by Braun, who did
not leave him till he had placed him in safety with his parents.
The following extracts from the correspondence between himself and
Braun give some account of this interval spent at home.


ORBE, May 26, 1827.

. . .Since I have been here, I have walked faithfully and have
collected a good number of plants which are not yet dry. I have
more than one hundred kinds, about twenty specimens of each. As
soon as they can be taken out of the press, I'll send you a few
specimens of each kind with a number attached so that you may
identify them. Take care that you do not displace the numbers in
opening the package. Should you want more of any particular kind
let me know; also whether Schimper wishes for any. . .At Neuchatel
I had the good fortune to find at least thirty specimens of
Bombinator obstetricans with the eggs. Tell Dr. Leuckart that I
will bring him some,--and some for you also. I kept several alive
laid in damp moss; after fourteen days the eggs were almost as
large as peas, and the little tadpoles moved about inside in all
directions. The mother stripped the eggs from her legs, and one of
the little tadpoles came out, but died for want of water. Then I
placed the whole mass of eggs in a vessel filled with water, and
behold! in about an hour some twenty young ones were swimming
freely about. I shall spare no pains to raise them, and I hope, if
I begin aright, to make fine toads of them in the end. My oldest
sister is busy every day in making drawings for me to illustrate
their gradual development. . .I dissect now as much and on as great
a variety of subjects as possible. This makes my principal
occupation. I am often busy too with Oken. His "Natur-philosophie"
gives me the greatest pleasure. I long for my box, being in need of
my books, which, no doubt, you have sent. Meantime, I am reading
something of Universal History, and am not idle, as you see. But I
miss the evenings with you and Schimper at Heidelberg, and wish I
were with you once more. I am afraid when that happy time does
come, it will be only too short. . .


HEIDELBERG, May, 1827.

. . .On Thursday evening, the 10th, I reached Heidelberg. The
medical lectures did not begin till the second week of May, so that
I have missed little, and almost regret having returned so soon. . .
I passed the last afternoon in Basel very pleasantly with Herr
Roepper, to whom I must soon write. He gave me a variety of
specimens, showed me many beautiful things, and told me much that
was instructive. He is a genuine and excellent botanist, and no
mere collector like the majority. Neither is he purely an observer
like Dr. Bischoff, but a man who thinks. . .Dr. Leuckart is in
raptures about the eggs of the "Hebammen Krote," and will raise
them. . .Schweiz takes your place in our erudite evening meetings.
I have been lecturing lately on the metamorphosis of plants, and
Schimper has propounded an entirely new and very interesting
theory, which will, no doubt, find favor with you hereafter, about
the significance of the circular and longitudinal fibres in
organisms. Schimper is fruitful as ever in poetical and
philosophical ideas, and has just now ventured upon a natural
history of the mind. We have introduced mathematics also, and he
has advanced a new hypothesis about comets and their long tails. . .
Our chief botanical occupation this summer is the careful
observation of all our plants, even the commonest, and the
explanation of whatever is unusual or enigmatical in their
structure. We have already cracked several such nuts, but many
remain to be opened. All such puzzling specimens are spread on
single sheets and set aside. . .But more of this when we are
together again. . .Dr. Leuckart begs you to study carefully the
"Hebammen Unke;"* (* Bombinator obstetricans referred to in a
former letter.) to notice whether the eggs are already fecundated
when they are in the earth, or whether they copulate later in the
water, or whether the young are hatched on land, and what is their
tadpole condition, etc. All this is still unknown. . .


ORBE, June 10, 1827.

. . .Last week I made a very pleasant excursion. You will remember
that I have often spoken to you of Pastor Mellet at Vallorbe, who
is much interested in the study of the six-legged insects. He
invited me to go to Vallorbe with him for some days, and I passed a
week there, spending my time most agreeably. We went daily on a
search after insects; the booty was especially rich in beetles and
butterflies. . .I examined also M. Mellet's own most excellent
collection of beetles and butterflies very carefully. He has many
beautiful things, but almost exclusively Swiss or French, with a
few from Brazil,--in all about 3,000 species. He gave me several,
and promises more in the autumn. . .He knows his beetles
thoroughly, and observes their habits, haunts, and changes (as far
as he can) admirably well. It is a pity though that while his
knowledge of species is so accurate, he knows nothing of
distribution, classification, or general relations. I tried to
convince him that he ought to collect snails, slugs, and other
objects of natural history, in the hope that he might gain thereby
a wider insight. But he would not listen to it; he said he had
enough to do with his Vermine.

My brother writes me that my box has arrived in Neuchatel. As I am
going there soon I will take it then. I rejoice in the thought of
being in Neuchatel, partly on account of my brother, Arnold
(Guyot), and other friends, and partly that I may study the fishes
of our Swiss lakes. The species Cyprinus and Corregonus with their
allies, including Salmo, are, as you know, especially difficult. I
will preserve some small specimens in alcohol, and, if possible,
dissect one of each, in order to satisfy myself as to their
identity or specific variety. As the same kinds have received
different names in different lakes, and since even differences of
age have led to distinct designations, I will note all this down
carefully. When I have made it clear to myself, I will send you a
catalogue of the kinds we possess, specifying at the same time the
lakes in which they occur. As I am on the chapter of fishes, I will
ask you:

1. What are the gill arches?
2. What the gill blades?
3. What is the bladder in fishes?
4. What is the cloaca in the egg-laying animals?
5. What signify the many fins of fishes?
6. What is the sac which surrounds the eggs in Bombinator obstetricans?

. . .Tell Dr. Leuckart I have already put aside for him the
Corregonus umbla (if such it be), but can get no Silurus glanis.

I suppose you continue to come together now and then in the evening
. . .Make me a sharer in your new discoveries. Have you finished
your essay on the physiology of plants, and what do you make of
it?. . .


CARLSRUHE, Whitsuntide, Monday, 1827.

. . .I am in Carlsruhe, and as the package has not gone yet, I add
a note. I have been analyzing and comparing all sorts of plants in
our garden to-day, and I wish you had been with me. On my last
sheet I send some nuts for you to pick, some wholly, some half,
others not at all, cracked. Schimper is lost in the great
impenetrable world of suns, with their planets, moons, and comets;
he soars even into the region of the double stars, the milky way,
and the nebulae.

On a loose sheet come the "nuts to pick." It contains a long list
of mooted questions, a few of which are given here to show the
exchange of thought between Agassiz and his friend, the one
propounding zoological, the other botanical, puzzles. Although most
of the problems were solved long ago, it is not uninteresting to
follow these young minds in their search after the laws of
structure and growth, dimly perceived at first, but becoming
gradually clearer as they go on. The very first questions hint at
the law of Phyllotaxis, then wholly unknown, though now it makes a
part of the most elementary instruction in botany.* (* Botany owes
to Alexander Braun and Karl Schimper the discovery of this law, by
which leaves, however crowded, are so arranged around the stem as
to divide the space with mathematical precision, thus giving to
each leaf its fair share of room for growth.)

"1. Where is the first diverging point of the stems and roots in
plants, that is to say, the first geniculum?

"2. How do you explain the origin of those leaves on the stem
which, not arising from distinct geniculi, are placed spirally or
scattered around the stem?

"3. Why do some plants, especially trees (contrary to the ordinary
course of development in plants), blossom before they have put
forth leaves? (Elm-trees, willow-trees, and fruit-trees.)

"4. In what succession does the development of the organs of the
flower take place?--and their formation in the bud? (Compare
Campanula, Papaver.)

"5. What are the leaves of the Spergula?

"6. What are the tufted leaves of various pine-trees? (Pinus
sylvestris, Strobus, Larix, etc.). . .

"8. What is individuality in plants?"

The next letter contains Agassiz's answer to Dr. Leuckart's
questions concerning the eggs he had sent him, and some farther
account of his own observations upon them.


NEUCHATEL, June 20, 1827.

. . .Now you shall hear what I know of the "Hebammen Krote." How
the fecundation takes place I know not, but it must needs be the
same as in other kinds of the related Bombinator; igneus throws out
almost as many eggs hanging together in clusters as obstetricans;
fuscus throws them out from itself in strings (see Roseld's
illustration). . .I have now carefully examined the egg clusters of
obstetricans; all the eggs are in one string and hang together.
This string is a bag, in which the eggs lie inclosed at different
distances, though they seem in the empty space to be fallen,
thread-like, together. But if you stretch the thread and press the
eggs, they change their places, and you can distinctly see that
they lie free in the bag, having their own membranous envelopes
corresponding to those of other batrachian eggs. Surely this
species seeks the water at the time of fecundation, for so do all
batrachians, the water being indeed a more fitting medium for
fecundation than the air. . .It is certain that the eggs were
already fecundated when we found them in the ground, for later, I
found several not so far advanced as those you have, and yet after
three weeks I had tadpoles from them. In those eggs which were in
the lowest stage of development (how they may be earlier, nescio),
nothing was clearly visible; they were simply little yellow balls.
After some days, two small dark spots were to be seen marking the
position of the eyes, and a longitudinal streak indicated the
dorsal ridge. Presently everything became more distinct; the mouth
and the nasal opening, the eyes and the tail, which lay in a half
circle around the body; the skin was so transparent that the
beating of the heart and the blood in the vessels could be easily
distinguished; the yolk and the yolk sac were meanwhile sensibly
diminished. The movements of the little animal were now quite
perceptible,--they were quick and by starts. After three or four
weeks the eggs were as large as peas; the bags had burst at the
spots where the eggs were attached, and the little creatures filled
the egg envelopes completely. They moved incessantly and very
quickly. Now the female stripped off the eggs from her legs; she
seemed very uneasy, and sprang about constantly in the tank, but
grew more quiet when I threw in more water. The eggs were soon
free, and I laid them in a shallow vessel filled with fresh water.
The restlessness among them now became greater, and behold! like
lightning, a little tadpole slipped out of its egg, paused
astonished, gazed on the greatness of the world, made some
philanthropic observations, and swam quickly away. I gave them
fresh water often, and tender green plants as well as bread to eat.
They ate eagerly. Up to this time their different stages of
development had been carefully drawn by my sister. I now went to
Vallorbe; they promised at home to take care of my young brood, but
when I returned the tadpoles had been forgotten, and I found them
all dead; not yet decayed, however, and I could therefore preserve
them in alcohol. The gills I have never seen, but I will watch to
see whether they are turned inward. . .


CARLSRUHE, August 9, 1827.

. . .This is to tell you that I have determined to leave Heidelberg
in the autumn and set forth on a pilgrimage to Munich, and that I
invite you to be my traveling companion. Judging by a
circumstantial letter from Dollinger, the instruction in the
natural sciences leaves nothing to be desired there. Add to this
that the lectures are free, and the theatre open to students at
twenty-four kreutzers. No lack of advantages and attractions,
lodgings hardly more expensive than at Heidelberg, board equally
cheap, beer plenty and good. Let all this persuade you. We shall
hear Gruithuisen in popular astronomy, Schubert in general natural
history, Martius in botany, Fuchs in mineralogy, Seiber in
mathematics, Starke in physics, Oken in everything (he lectures in
winter on the philosophy of nature, natural history, and
physiology). The clinical instruction will be good. We shall soon
be friends with all the professors. The library contains whatever
is best in botany and zoology, and the collections open to the
public are very rich. It is not known whether Schelling will
lecture, but at all events certain of the courses will be of great
advantage. Then little vacation trips to the Salzburg and
Carinthian Alps are easily made from there! Write soon whether you
will go and drink Bavarian beer and Schnapski with me, and write
also when we are to see you in Heidelberg and Carlsruhe. Remind me
then to tell you about the theory of the root and poles in plants.
As soon as I have your answer we will bespeak our lodgings from
Dollinger, who will attend to that for us. Shall we again house
together in one room, or shall we have separate cells in one comb,
namely, under the same roof? The latter has its advantages for
grass-gatherers and stone-cutters like ourselves. . .Hammer away
industriously at all sorts of rocks. I have collected at Auerbach,
Weinheim, Wiesloch, etc. But before all else, observe carefully and
often the wonderful structure of plants, those lovely children of
the earth and sky. Ponder them with child-like mind, for children
marvel at the phenomena of nature, while grown people often think
themselves too wise to wonder, and yet they know little more than
the children. But the thoughtful student recognizes the truth of
the child's feeling, and with his knowledge of nature his wonder
does but grow more and more. . .


1827-1828: AGE 20-21.

Arrival in Munich.
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.

Agssiz accepted with delight his friend's proposition, and toward
the end of October, 1827, he and Braun left Carlsruhe together for
the University of Munich. His first letter to his brother is given
in full, for though it contains crudities at which the writer
himself would have smiled in after life, it is interesting as
showing what was the knowledge possessed in those days by a clever,
well-informed student of natural history.


MUNICH, November 5, 1827.

. . .At last I am in Munich. I have so much to tell you that I
hardly know where to begin. To be sure that I forget nothing,
however, I will give things in their regular sequence. First, then,
the story of my journey; after that, I will tell you what I am
doing here. As papa has, of course, shown you my last letter, I
will continue where I left off. . .

From Carlsruhe we traveled post to Stuttgart, where we passed the
greater part of the day in the Museum, in which I saw many things
quite new to me; a llama, for instance, almost as large as an ass.
You know that this animal, which is of the genus Camelus, lives in
South America, where it is to the natives what the camel is to the
Arab; that is to say, it provides them with milk, wool, and meat,
and is used by them, moreover, for driving and riding. There was a
North American buffalo of immense size; also an elephant from
Africa, and one from Asia; beside these, a prodigious number of
gazelles, deer, cats, and dogs; skeletons of a hippopotamus and an
elephant; and lastly the fossil bones of a mammoth. You know that
the mammoth is no longer found living, and that the remains
hitherto discovered lead to the belief that it was a species of
carnivorous elephant. It is a singular fact that some fishermen,
digging recently on the borders of the Obi, in Siberia, found one
of these animals frozen in a mass of ice, at a depth of sixty feet,
so well preserved that it was still covered with hair, as in life.
They melted the ice to remove the animal, but the skeleton alone
remained complete; the hide was spoiled by contact with the air,
and only a few pieces have been kept, one of which is in the Museum
at Stuttgart. The hairs upon it are as coarse as fine twine, and
nearly a foot long. The entire skeleton is at St. Petersburg in the
Museum, and is larger than the largest elephant. One may judge by
that what havoc such an animal must have made, if it was, as its
teeth show it to have been, carnivorous. But what I would like to
know is how this animal could wander so far north, and then in what
manner it died, to be frozen thus, and remain intact, without
decomposing, perhaps for countless ages. For it must have belonged
to a former creation, since it is nowhere to be found living, and
we have no instance of the disappearance of any kind of animal
within the historic period. There were, besides, many other kinds
of fossil animals. The collection of birds is very beautiful, but
it is a pity that many of them are wrongly named. I corrected a
number myself. . .From Stuttgart we went to Esslingen, where we
were to visit two famous botanists. One was Herr Steudel; a sombre
face, with long overhanging black hair, almost hiding the eyes,--a
very Jewish face. He knows every book on botany that appears, has
read them all, but cares little to see the plants themselves; in
short, he is a true closet student. He has a large herbarium,
composed in great part of plants purchased or received as gifts.
The other, Professor Hochstetter, is an odd little man, stepping
briskly about in his high boots, and having always a half
suppressed smile on his hips whenever he takes the pipe from
between his teeth. A very good man, however, and extremely
obliging; he offered us every civility. As we desired not only to
make their acquaintance, but to win from these botanists at least a
few grasses, we presented ourselves like true commis voyageurs,
with dried herbs to sell, each of us having a package of plants
under his arm,--mine being Swiss, gathered last summer, Braun's
from the Palatinate. We gave specimens to each, and received in
exchange from Steudel some American plants; from Hochstetter some
from Bohemia, and others from Moravia, his native country. From
Esslingen we were driven to Goeppingen, in the most frightful
weather possible; it rained, snowed, froze, blew, all at once. It
was a pity, since our road lay through one of the prettiest valleys
I have ever seen, watered by the Neckar, and bordered on both sides
by mountains of singular form and of considerable height. They are
what the Wurtembergers call the Suabian Alps, but I think that
Chaumont is higher than the loftiest peak of their Alps. Here we
found an old Heidelberg acquaintance, whose father owns a superb
collection of fossils, especially of shells and zoophytes. He has
also quite a large collection of shells from the Adriatic Sea, but
among these last not one was named. As we knew them, we made it our
duty to arrange them, and in three hours his whole collection was
labeled. Since he has duplicates of almost everything, he promised,
as soon as he should have time, to make a selection from these and
send them to us. Could we have stayed longer we might have picked
out what we pleased, for he placed his collection at our disposal.
But we were in haste to arrive here, so we begged him to send us,
at his leisure, whatever he could give us.

Thence we continued our journey by post, because it still rained,
and the roads were so detestable that with the best will in the
world we could not have made our way on foot. In the evening we
reached Ulm, where, owing to the late hour, we saw almost nothing
except the famous belfry of the cathedral, which was distinctly
visible as we entered the city. After supper we continued our
journey, still by post, wishing to be in Munich the next day. I
have never seen anything more beautiful than the view as we left
Ulm. The moon had risen and shone upon the belfry like broad
daylight. On all sides extended a wide plain, unbroken by a single
inequality, so far as the eye could distinguish, and cut by the
Danube, glittering in the moonbeams. We crossed the plain during
the night, and reached Augsburg at dawn. It is a beautiful city,
but we merely stopped there for breakfast, and saw the streets only
as we passed through them. On leaving Augsburg, the Tyrolean Alps,
though nearly forty leagues away, were in sight. About eighteen
leagues off was also discernible an immense forest; of this we had
a nearer view as we advanced, for it encircles Munich at some
distance from the town. We arrived here on Sunday, the 4th, in the
afternoon. . .My address is opposite the Sendlinger Thor Number 37.
I have a very pretty chamber on the lower floor with an alcove for
my bed. The house is situated outside the town, on a promenade,
which makes it very pleasant. Moreover, by walking less than a
hundred yards, I reach the Hospital and the Anatomical School, a
great convenience for me when the winter weather begins. One thing
gives me great pleasure: from one of my windows the whole chain of
the Tyrolean Alps is visible as far as Appenzell; and as the
country is flat to their very base, I see them better than we see
our Alps from the plain. It is a great pleasure to have at least a
part of our Swiss mountains always in sight. To enjoy it the more,
I have placed my table opposite the window, so that every time I
lift my head my eyes rest on our dear country. This does not
prevent me from feeling dull sometimes, especially when I am alone,
but I hope this will pass off when my occupations become more
regular. . .

A far more stimulating intellectual life than that of Heidelberg
awaited our students at Munich. Among their professors were some of
the most original men of the day,--men whose influence was felt all
over Europe. Dollinger lectured on comparative anatomy and kindred
subjects; Martius and Zuccarini on botany. Martius gave, besides,
his so-called "Reise-Colleg," in which he instructed the students
how to observe while on their travels. Schelling taught philosophy,
the titles of his courses in the first term being, "Introduction to
Philosophy" and "The Ages of the World"; in the second, "The
Philosophy of Mythology" and "The Philosophy of Revelation."
Schelling made a strong impression upon the friends. His manner was
as persuasive as his style was clear, and his mode of developing
his subject led his hearers along with a subtle power which did not
permit fatigue. Oken lectured on general natural history,
physiology, and zoology, including his famous views on the
philosophy of nature (Natur-philosophie). His lectures gave
occasion for much scientific discussion, the more so as he brought
very startling hypotheses into his physiology, and drew from them
conclusions which even upon his own showing were not always in
accordance with experience. "On philosophical grounds," he was wont
to say, when facts and theory thus confronted each other, "we must
so accept it." Oken was extremely friendly with the students, and
Agassiz, Braun, and Schimper (who joined them at Munich) passed an
evening once a week at his house, where they listened to scientific
papers or discussed scientific matters, over a pipe and a glass of
beer. They also met once a week to drink tea at the house of
Professor von Martius, where, in like manner, the conversation
turned upon scientific subjects, unless something interesting in
general events gave it a different turn. Still more beloved was
Dollinger, whose character they greatly esteemed and admired while
they delighted in his instruction. Not only did they go to him
daily, but he also came often to see them, bringing botanical
specimens to Braun, or looking in upon Agassiz's breeding
experiments, in which he took the liveliest interest, being always
ready with advice or practical aid. The fact that Agassiz and Braun
had their room in his house made intercourse with him especially
easy. This room became the rendezvous of all the aspiring, active
spirits among the young naturalists at Munich, and was known by the
name of "The Little Academy." Schimper, no less than the other two,
contributed to the vivid, enthusiastic intellectual life, which
characterized their meetings. Not so happy as Agassiz and Braun in
his later experience, the promise of his youth was equally
brilliant; and those who knew him in those early days remember his
charm of mind and manner with delight. The friends gave lectures in
turn on various subjects, especially on modes of development in
plants and animals. These lectures were attended not only by
students, but often by the professors.

Among Agassiz's intimate friends in Munich, beside those already
mentioned, was Michahelles, the distinguished young zoologist and
physician, whose early death in Greece, where he went to practice
medicine, was so much regretted. Like Agassiz, he was wont to turn
his room into a menagerie, where he kept turtles and other animals,
brought home, for the most part, from his journeys in Italy and
elsewhere. Mahir, whose name occurs often in the letters of this
period, was another college friend and fellow-student, though
seemingly Agassiz's senior in standing, if not in years, for he
gave him private instruction in mathematics, and also assisted him
in his medical studies.


MUNICH, November 20, 1827.

. . .I will tell you in detail how my time is spent, so that when
you think of me you may know where I am and what I am doing. In the
morning from seven to nine I am at the Hospital. From nine to
eleven I go to the Library, where I usually work at that time
instead of going home. From eleven till one o'clock I have
lectures, after which I dine, sometimes at one place, sometimes at
another, for here every one, that is, every foreigner, takes his
meals in the cafes, paying for the dinner on the spot, so that he
is not obliged to go always to the same place. In the afternoon I
have other lectures on various subjects, according to the days,
from two or three till five o'clock. These ended, I take a walk
although it is then dark. The environs of Munich are covered with
snow, and the people have been going about in sleighs these three
weeks. When I am frozen through I come home, and set to work to
review my lectures of the day, or I write and read till eight or
nine o'clock. Then I go to my cafe for supper. After supper I am
glad to return to the house and go to bed.

This is the course of my daily life, with the single exception that
sometimes Braun and I pass an evening with some professor,
discussing with all our might and main subjects of which we often
know nothing; this does not, however, lessen the animation of the
talk. More often, these gentlemen tell us of their travels, etc. I
enjoy especially our visits to M. Martius, because he talks to us
of his journey to Brazil, from which he returned some years ago,
bringing magnificent collections, which he shows us whenever we
call upon him. Friday is market day here, and I never miss going to
see the fishes to increase my collection. I have already obtained
several not to be found in Switzerland; and even in my short stay
here I have had the good fortune to discover a new species, of
which I have made a very exact description, to be printed in some
journal of natural history. Were my dear Cecile here, I should have
begged her to draw it nicely for me. That would have been pleasant
indeed. Now I must ask a stranger to do it, and it will have by no
means the same value in my eyes. . .


MUNICH, December 26, 1827.

. . .After my long fast from news of you, your letter made me very
happy. I was dull besides, and needed something to cheer me. . .
Since my talk about natural history does not bore you, I want to
tell you various other things about it, and also to ask you to do
me a favor. I have stuffed a superb otter lately; next week I shall
receive a beaver, and I have exchanged all my little toads from
Neuchatel for reptiles from Brazil and Java. One of our professors
here, who is publishing a natural history of reptiles, will
introduce in his work my description of that species, and my
observations upon it. He has already had lithographed those
drawings of eggs that Cecile made for me, as well as the colored
drawings made for me by Braun's sister when I was at Carlsruhe. My
collection of fishes is also much increased, but I have no
duplicates left of the species I brought with me. I have exchanged
them all. I should therefore be greatly obliged if you would get me
some more of the same. I will tell you what kinds I want, and how
you are to forward them. I have still at Cudrefin several jars of
thick green glass. When you go there take them away with you, fill
them with alcohol, and put into them as many of these fishes as you
can find for me. Put something between every two specimens, to
prevent them from rubbing against each other; pack them in a little
box wrapped in hay, and send them either by a good opportunity or
in the least expensive way. The kinds I want are [here follows the
list]. . .It will interest you to know that I am working with a
young Dr. Born upon an anatomy and natural history of the
fresh-water fishes of Europe. We have already gathered a great deal
of material, and I think by the spring, or in the course of the
summer, we shall be able to publish the first number. This will
bring in a little ready money for a short journey in the vacation.

I earnestly advise you to while away your leisure hours with study.
Read much, but only good and useful books. I promised to send you
something; do not think, because I have not done so yet, that I
have forgotten it. On the contrary, the difficulty of choosing is
the cause of the delay; but I will make farther inquiry as to what
will suit you best and you shall have my list. Meantime remember to
read Say, and if you have not already begun it, do not put it off.
Remember that statistical and political knowledge alone
distinguishes the true merchant from the mere tradesman, and guides
him in his undertakings. . .A merchant familiar with the products
of a country, its resources, its commercial and political relations
with other countries, is much less likely to enter into
speculations based on false ideas, and therefore of doubtful issue.
Write me about what you are reading and about your plans and
projects, for I can hardly believe that any one could exist without
forming them: I, at least, could not.

The last line of this letter betrays the restless spirit of
adventure growing out of the desire for larger fields of activity
and research. Tranquilized for a while in the new and more
satisfying intellectual life of Munich, it stirred afresh from time
to time, not without arousing anxiety in friends at home, as we
shall see. The letter to which the following is an answer has not
been found.


ORBE, January 8, 1828.

. . .Your letter reached me at Cudrefin, where I have been passing
ten days. With what pleasure I received it,--and yet I read it with
a certain sadness too, for there was something of ennui, I might
say of discontent, in the tone. . .Believe me, my dear Louis, your
attitude is a wrong one; you see everything in shadow. Consider
that you are exactly in the position you have chosen for yourself;
we have in no way opposed your plans. We have, on the contrary,
entered into them with readiness, saying amen to your proposals,
only insisting upon a profession that would make us easy about your
future, persuaded as we are that you have too much energy and
uprightness not to wish to fill honorably your place in society.
You left us a few months ago with the assurance that two years
would more than suffice to complete your medical studies. You chose
the university which offered, as you thought, the most ample means
to reach your end; and now, how is it that you look forward only
with distaste to the practice of medicine? Have you reflected
seriously before setting aside this profession? Indeed, we cannot
consent to such a step. You would lose ground in our opinion, in
that of your family, and in that of the public. You would pass for
an inconsiderate, fickle young fellow, and the slightest stain on
your reputation would be a mortal blow to us. There is one way of
reconciling all difficulties,--the only one in my opinion. Complete
your studies with all the zeal of which you are capable, and then,
if you have still the same inclination, go on with your natural
history; give yourself wholly up to it should that be your wish.
Having two strings to your bow, you will have the greater facility
for establishing yourself. Such is your father's way of thinking as
well as mine. . .Nor are you made to live alone, my child. In a
home only is true happiness to be found; there you can settle
yourself to your liking. The sooner you have finished your studies,
the sooner you can put up your tent, catch your blue butterfly, and
metamorphose her into a loving housewife. Of course you will not
gather roses without thorns; life consists of pains and pleasures
everywhere. To do all the good you can to your fellow-beings, to
have a pure conscience, to gain an honorable livelihood, to procure
for yourself by work a little ease, to make those around you happy,
--that is true happiness; all the rest but mere accessories and
chimeras. . .


MUNICH, February 3, 1828.

. . .You know well to whom you speak, dear mother, and how you must
bait your hook in order that the fish may rise. When you paint it,
I see nothing above domestic happiness, and am convinced that the
height of felicity is to be found in the bosom of your family,
surrounded by little marmots to love and caress you. I hope, too,
to enjoy this happiness in time. . .But the man of letters should
seek repose only when he has deserved it by his toil, for if once
he anchor himself, farewell to energy and liberty, by which alone
great minds are fostered. Therefore I have said to myself, that I
would remain unmarried till my work should assure me a peaceful and
happy future. A young man has too much vigor to bear confinement so
soon; he gives up many pleasures which he might have had, and does
not appreciate at their just value those which he has. As it is
said that the vaurien must precede the bon sujet, so I believe that
for the full enjoyment of sedentary life one must have played the
vagabond for a while.

This brings me to the subject of my last letter. It seems that you
have misunderstood me, for your answer grants me after all just
what I ask. You think that I wish to renounce entirely the study of
medicine? On the contrary, the idea has never occurred to me, and,
according to my promise, you shall have one of these days a doctor
of medicine as a son. What repels me is the thought of practicing
medicine for a livelihood, and here you give me free rein just
where I wanted it. That is, you consent that I should devote myself
wholly to the natural sciences should this career offer me, as I
hope it may, a more favorable prospect. It requires, for instance,
but two or three years to go around the world at government
expense. I will levy contributions on all my senses that not a
single chance may escape me for making interesting observations and
fine collections, so that I also may be ranked among those who have
enlarged the boundaries of science. With that my future is secured,
and I shall return content and disposed to do all that you wish.
Even then, if medicine had gained greater attraction for me, there
would still be time to begin the practice of it. It seems to me
there is nothing impracticable in this plan. I beg you to think of
it, and to talk it over with papa and with my uncle at Lausanne
. . .I am perfectly well and as happy as possible, for I feed in
clover here on my favorite studies, with every facility at my
command. If you thought my New Year's letter depressed, it was only
a momentary gloom due to the memories awakened by the day. . .


ORBE, February 21, 1828.

Your mother's last letter, my dear Louis, was in answer to one from
you which crossed it on the way, and gave us, so far as your health
and contentment are concerned, great satisfaction. Yet our
gratification lacks something; it would be more complete had you
not a mania for rushing full gallop into the future. I have often
reproved you for this, and you would fare better did you pay more
attention to my reproof. If it be an incurable malady with you, at
all events do not force your parents to share it. If it be
absolutely essential to your happiness that you should break the
ice of the two poles in order to find the hairs of a mammoth, or
that you should dry your shirt in the sun of the tropics, at least
wait till your trunk is packed and your passports are signed before
you talk with us about it. Begin by reaching your first aim, a
physician's and surgeon's diploma. I will not for the present hear
of anything else, and that is more than enough. Talk to us, then in
your letters, of your friends, of your personal life, of your wants
(which I am always ready to satisfy), of your pleasures, of your
feeling for us, but do not put yourself out of our reach with your
philosophical syllogisms. My own philosophy is to fulfill my duties
in my sphere, and even that gives me more than I can do. . .

The Vaudois "Society of Public Utility" has just announced an
altogether new project, that of establishing popular libraries. A
committee consisting of eight members, of whom I have the honor to
be one, is nominated under the presidency of M. Delessert for the
execution of this scheme. What do you think of the idea? To me it
seems a delicate matter. I should say that before we insist upon
making people read we must begin by preparing them to read
usefully?. . .


MUNICH, March 3, 1828.

. . .What you tell me of the "Society of Public Utility" has
aroused in me a throng of ideas, about which I will write you when
they are a little more mature. Meanwhile, please tell me: 1. What
is this Society? 2. Of what persons is it composed? 3. What is its
principal aim? 4. What are the popular libraries to contain, and
for what class are they intended? I believe this project may be of
the greatest service to our people, and it is on this account that
I desire farther details that I may think it over carefully. Tell
me, also, in what way you propose to distribute your libraries at
small expense, and how large they are to be. . .

I could not be more satisfied than I am with my stay here. I lead a
monotonous but an exceedingly pleasant life, withdrawn from the
crowd of students and seeing them but little. When our lectures are
over we meet in the evening at Braun's room or mine, with three or
four intimate acquaintances, and talk of scientific matters, each
one in his turn presenting a subject which is first developed by
him, and then discussed by all. These exercises are very
instructive. As my share, I have begun to give a course of natural
history, or rather of pure zoology. Braun talks to us of botany,
and another of our company, Mahir, who is an excellent fellow,
teaches us mathematics and physics in his turn. In two months our
friend Schimper, whom we left at Heidelberg, will join us, and he
will then be our professor of philosophy. Thus we shall form a
little university, instructing each other and at the same time
learning what we teach more thoroughly, because we shall be obliged
to demonstrate it. Each session lasts two or three hours, during
which the professor in charge retails his merchandise without aid
of notes or book. You can imagine how useful this must be in
preparing us to speak in public and with coherence; the experience
is the more important, since we all desire nothing so much as
sooner or later to become professors in very truth, after having
played at professor in the university.

This brings me naturally to my projects again. Your letter made me
feel so keenly the anxiety I had caused you by my passion for
travel, that I will not recur to it; but as my object was to make
in that way a name that would win for me a professorship, I venture
upon another proposition. If during the course of my studies I
succeed in making myself known by a work of distinction, will you
not then consent that I shall study, at least during one year, the
natural sciences alone, and then accept a professorship of natural
history, with the understanding that in the first place, and in the
time agreed upon, I shall take my Doctor's degree? This is, indeed,
essential to my obtaining what I wish, at least in Germany. You
will object that, before thinking of anything beyond, I ought first
to fulfill the condition. But let me say that the more clearly a
man sees the road before him, the less likely he is to lose his way
or take the wrong turn,--the better he can divide his stages and
his resting-places. . .


ORBE, March 25, 1828.

. . .I have had a long talk about you with your uncle. He does not
at all disapprove of your letters, of which I told him the
contents. He only insists, as we do, on the necessity of a settled
profession as absolutely essential to your financial position.
Indeed, the natural sciences, however sublime and attractive, offer
nothing certain in the future. They may, no doubt, be your golden
bridge, or you may, thanks to them, soar very high, but--modern
Icarus--may not also some adverse fortune, an unexpected loss of
popularity, or, perhaps, some revolution fatal to your philosophy,
bring you down with a somersault, and then you would not be sorry
to find in your quiver the means of gaining your bread. Agreed that
you have now an invincible repugnance to the practice of medicine,
it is evident from your last two letters that you would have no
less objection to any other profession by which money is to be
made, and, besides, it is too late to make another selection. This
being so, we will come to an understanding in one word: Let the
sciences be the balloon in which you prepare to travel through
higher regions, but let medicine and surgery be your parachutes. I
think, my dear Louis, you cannot object to this way of looking at
the question and deciding it. In making my respects to the
professor of zoology, I have the pleasure to tell him that his
uncle was delighted with his way of passing his evenings, and
congratulates him with all his heart on his choice of a recreation.
Enough of this chapter. I close it here, wishing you most heartily
courage, health, success, and, above all, contentment. . .

Upon this follows the answer to Louis's request for details about
the "Society of Public Utility." It shows the intimate exchange of
thought between father and son on educational subjects, but it is
of too local an interest for reproduction here.

The Easter vacation was devoted to a short journey, some account of
which will be found in the next letter. The traveling party
consisted of Agassiz, Braun, and Schimper, with two other students,
who did not, however, remain with them during the whole trip.


MUNICH, May 15, 1828.

. . .Pleasant as my Easter journey was, I will give you but a brief
account of it, for my enjoyment was so connected with my special
studies that the details would only be tiresome to you. You know
who were my traveling companions, so I have only to tell you of our
adventures, assuredly not those of knights errant or troubadours.
Could these gentry have been resuscitated, and have seen us
starting forth in blouses, with bags or botanical boxes at our
backs and butterfly-nets in our hands, instead of lance and
buckler, they could hardly have failed to look down upon us with
pity from the height of their grandeur.

The first day brought us to Landshut, where was formerly the
university till it was transferred, ten years ago, to Munich. We
had the pleasure of finding along our road most of the early spring
plants. The weather was magnificent, and nature seemed to smile
upon her votaries. . .We stopped on the way but one day, at
Ratisbon, to visit some relations of Braun's, with whom we promised
to spend several days on our return. Learning on our arrival at
Nuremberg that the Durer festival, which had been our chief
inducement for this journey, would not take place under eight or
ten days, we decided to pass the intervening time at Erlangen, the
seat, as you know, of a university. I do not know if I have already
told you that among German students the exercise of hospitality
toward those who exchange visits from one university to another is
a sacred custom. It gives offense, or is at least looked upon as a
mark of pride and disdain, if you do not avail yourself of this. We
therefore went to one of the cafe's de reunion, and received at
once our tickets for lodgings. We passed six days at Erlangen most
agreeably, making a botanical excursion every day. We also called
upon the professors of botany and zoology, whom we had already seen
at Munich, and by whom we were most cordially received. The
professor of botany, M. Koch, invited us to a very excellent
dinner, and gave us many rare plants not in our possession before,
while M. Wagner was kind enough to show us in detail the Museum and
the Library.

At last came the day appointed for the third centennial festival of
Durer. Everything was so arranged as to make it very brilliant, and
the weather was most favorable. I doubt if ever before were
collected so many painters in the same place. They gathered; as if
to vie with each other, from all nations, Russians, Italians,
French, Germans, etc. Beside the pupils of the Academy of Fine Arts
at Munich, I think that every soul who could paint, were it only
the smallest sketch, was there to pay homage to the great master.
All went in procession to the place where the monument is to be
raised, and the magistrates of the city laid the first stones of
the pedestal. To my amusement they cemented these first stones with
a mortar which was served in great silver platters, and made of
fine pounded porcelain mixed with champagne. In the evening all the
streets were illuminated; there were balls, concerts, and plays, so
that we must have been doubled or quadrupled to see everything. We
stayed some days longer at Nuremberg to visit the other curiosities
of the city, especially its beautiful churches, its manufactories,
etc., and then started on our return to Ratisbon. . .


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.

It was not without a definite purpose that Agassiz had written to
his father some weeks before, "Should I during the course of my
studies succeed in making myself known by a distinguished work,
would you not then consent that I should study for one year the
natural sciences alone?" Unknown to his parents, for whom he hoped
to prepare a delightful surprise, Agassiz had actually been engaged
for months on the first work which gave him distinction in the
scientific world; namely, a description of the Brazilian fishes
brought home by Martius and Spix from their celebrated journey in
Brazil. This was the secret to which allusion is made in the next
letter. To his disappointment an accident brought his undertaking
to the knowledge of his father and mother before it was completed.
He always had a boyish regret that his little plot had been
betrayed before the moment for the denouement arrived. The book was
written in Latin and dedicated to Cuvier.* (* "Selecta genera et
species piscium quos collegit et pingendos curavit Dr. J.W. de
Spix". Digessit, descripsit et observationibus illustravit Dr. L.


MUNICH, July 27, 1828.

. . .Various things which I have begun keep me a prisoner here.
Probably I shall not stir during the vacation, and shall even give
up the little trip in the Tyrol, which I had thought of making as a
rest from occupations that bind me very closely at present, but
from which I hope to free myself in the course of the holidays.
Don't be angry with me for not telling you at once what they are.
When you know, I hope to be forgiven for keeping you so long in the
dark. I have kept it a secret from papa too, though in his last
letter he asks me what is my especial work just now. A few months
more of patience, and I will give you a strict account of my time
since I came here, and then I am sure you will be satisfied with
me. I only wish to guard against one thing: do not take it into
your head that I am about to don the fool's cap suddenly and
surprise you with a Doctor's degree; that would be going a little
too fast, nor do I think of it yet. . .I want to remind you not to
let the summer pass without getting me fishes according to the list
in my last letter, which I hope you have not mislaid. You would
give me great pleasure by sending them as soon as possible. Let me
tell you why. M. Cuvier has announced the publication of a complete
work on all the known fishes, and in the prospectus he calls on
such naturalists as occupy themselves with ichthyology to send him
the fishes of the country where they live; he mentions those who
have already sent him collections, and promises duplicates from the
Paris Museum to those who will send him more. He names the
countries also from which he has received contributions, and
regrets that he has nothing from Bavaria. Now I possess several
specimens of all the native species, and have even discovered some
ten not hitherto known to occur here, beside one completely new to
science, which I have named Cyprinus uranoscopus on account of the
position of the eyes, placed on the top instead of the sides of the
head,--otherwise very like the gudgeon. I have therefore thought I
could not better launch myself in the scientific world than by
sending Cuvier my fishes with the observations I have made on their
natural history. To these I should like to add such rare Swiss
species as you can procure for me. So do not fail.


NEUCHATEL, August 25, 1828.

. . .I received in good time, and with infinite delight, your
pleasant letter of July 27th. Its mysteries have however been
unveiled by Dr. Schinz, who came to the meeting of the Natural
History Society in Lausanne, where he met papa and my uncle, to
whom he pronounced the most solemn eulogiums on their son and
nephew, telling them at the same time what was chiefly occupying
you now. I congratulate you, my dear brother, but I confess that
among us all I am the least surprised, for my presentiments about
you outrun all this, and I hope soon to see them realized. In all
frankness I can assure you that the stoutest antagonists of your
natural history schemes begin to come over to your side. Among them
is my uncle here, who never speaks of you now but with enthusiasm.
What more can be said? I gave him your letter to read, and since
then he has asked me a dozen times at least if I had not forgotten
to forward the remittance you asked for, saying that I must not
delay it. The truth is, I have deferred writing till the last
moment, because I have not succeeded in getting your fishes, and
have always been hoping that I might be able to fulfill your
commission. I busied myself on your behalf with all the zeal and
industry of which I was capable, but quite in vain. The devil
seemed to be in it. The season of Bondelles was over two months
ago, and there are none to be seen; as to trout, I don't believe
one has been eaten in the whole town for six weeks. I am forever at
the heels of the fishermen, promising them double and treble the
value of the fish I want, but they all tell me they catch nothing
except pike. I have been to Cudrefin for lampreys, but found
nothing. Rodolphe* (* An experienced old boatman.) has been
paddling in the brook every day without success. I went to Sauge,
--no eels, no anything but perch and a few little cat-fish. Two
mortal Sundays did I spend, rod in hand, trying to catch bream,
chubs, etc. I did get a few, but they were not worth sending. Now
it is all over for this year, and we may as well put on mourning
for them; but I promise you that as soon as the spring opens I will
go to work, and you shall have all you want. If, in spite of
everything, your hopes are not realized, I shall be very sorry, but
rest assured that it is not my fault. . .


MUNICH, October 29, 1828.

. . .I have never written you about what has engrossed me so
deeply; but since my secret is out, I ought not to keep silence
longer. That you may understand why I have entered upon such a work
I will go back to its origin. In 1817 the King of Bavaria sent two
naturalists, M. Martius and M. Spix, on an exploring expedition to
Brazil. Of M. Martius, with whom I always spend my Wednesday
evenings, I have often spoken to you. In 1821 these gentlemen
returned to their country laden with new discoveries, which they
published in succession. M. Martius issued colored illustrations of
all the unknown plants he had collected on his journey, while M.
Spix brought out several folio volumes on the monkeys, birds, and
reptiles of Brazil, the animals being drawn and colored, chiefly
life-size, by able artists. It had been his intention to give a
complete natural history of Brazil, but to the sorrow of all
naturalists he died in 1826. M. Martius, desirous to see the
completion of the work which his traveling companion had begun,
engaged a professor from Erlangen to publish the shells, and these
appeared last year. When I came to Munich there remained only the
fishes and insects, and M. Martius, who had learned something about
me from the professors to whom I was known, found me worthy to
continue the work of Spix, and asked me to carry on the natural
history of the fishes. I hesitated for a long time to accept this
honorable offer, fearing that the occupation might withdraw me too
much from my studies; but, on the other hand, the opportunity for
laying the foundation of a reputation by a large undertaking seemed
too favorable to be refused. The first volume is already finished,
and the printing was begun some weeks ago. You can imagine the
pleasure I should have had in sending it to our dear father and
mother before they had heard one word about it, or knew even of the
proposition. But I hope the premature disclosure of my secret
(indeed, to tell the truth, I had not imposed silence on M. Schinz,
not dreaming that he would see any one of the family) will not
diminish your pleasure in receiving the first work of your brother
Louis, which I hope to send you at Easter. Already forty colored
folio plates are completed. Will it not seem strange when the
largest and finest book in papa's library is one written by his
Louis? Will it not be as good as to see his prescription at the
apothecary's? It is true that this first effort will bring me in
but little; nothing at all, in fact, because M. de Martius has
assumed all the expenses, and will, of course, receive the profits.
My share will be a few copies of the book, and these I shall give
to the friends who have the first claim.

To his father Agassiz only writes of his work at this time: "I have
been very busy this summer, and I can tell you from a good source
(I have it from one of the professors himself) that the professors
whose lectures I have attended have mentioned me more than once, as
one of the most assiduous and best informed students of the
university; saying also that I deserved distinction. I do not tell
you this from ostentation, but only that you may not think I lose
my time, even though I occupy myself chiefly with the natural
sciences. I hope yet to prove to you that with a brevet of Doctor
as a guarantee, Natural History may be a man's bread-winner as well
as the delight of his life. . ."

In September Agassiz allowed himself a short interruption of his
work. The next letter gives some account of this second vacation


MUNICH, September 26, 1828.

. . .The instruction for the academic year closed at the end of
August, and our professors had hardly completed their lectures when
I began my Alpine excursion. Braun, impatient to leave Munich, had
already started the preceding day, promising to wait for me on the
Salzburg road at the first spot which pleased him enough for a
halt. That I might not keep him waiting, I begged a friend to drive
me a good day's journey, thinking to overtake Braun the first day
on the pleasant banks of the Lake of Chiem. My traveling companions
were the younger Schimper [Wilhelm], of whom I have spoken to you
(and who made a botanical journey in the south of France and the
Pyrenees two years ago), and Mahir, who drove us, with whom I am
very intimate; he is a medical student, and also a very
enthusiastic physicist. He gave me private lessons in mathematics
all winter, and was a member of our philomathic meetings. Braun had
not set out alone either, and his two traveling companions were
also friends of ours. One was Trettenbacher, a medical student
greatly given to sophisms and logic, but allowing himself to be
beaten in argument with the utmost good nature, though always
believing himself in the right; a thoroughly good fellow with all
that, and a great connoisseur of antiquities. The other was a young
student, More, from the ci-devant department of Mt. Tonnerre, who
devotes himself entirely to the natural sciences, and has chosen
the career of traveling naturalist. You can easily imagine that
this attracts me to him, but as he is only a beginner I am, as it
were, his mentor.

On the morning of our departure the weather was magnificent.
Driving briskly along we had various surmises as to where we should
probably meet our traveling companions, not doubting that, as we
hoped to reach the Lake of Chiem the same day, We should come
across them the day following on one of its pretty islands. But in
the afternoon the weather changed, and we were forced to seek
shelter from torrents of rain at Rosenheim, a charming town on the
banks of the Inn, where I saw for the first time this river of
Helvetic origin. I saluted it as a countryman of mine, and wished I
could change its course and send it back laden with my greetings.
The next day Mahir drove us as far as the shore of the lake. There
we parted from him, and took a boat to the islands, where we were
much disappointed not to find Braun and his companions. We thought
the bad weather of the day before (for here it had rained all day)
might have obliged them to make the circuit of the lake. However,
in order to overtake them before reaching Salzburg, we kept our
boatmen, and were rowed across to the opposite shore near
Grabenstadt, where we arrived at ten o'clock in the evening. In the
afternoon the weather had cleared a little, and the view was
beautiful as we pulled away from the islands and watched them fade
in the twilight. I also gathered much interesting information about
the inhabitants of the waters of this lake. Among others, I was
much pleased to find a cat-fish, taken in the lake by one of the
island fishermen, and also a kind of chub, not found in
Switzerland, and called by the fishermen here "Our Lady's Fish,"
because it occurs only on the shore of an island where there is a
convent, the nuns of which esteem it a great delicacy.

The third day we reached Traunstein, where, although it was Sunday,
there was a great horse fair. We looked with interest at the gay
Tyroleans, with the cock-feathers in their pointed hats, singing
and yodeling in the streets with their sweethearts on their arms.
Every now and then they let fall some sarcastic comment on our
accoutrements, which were indeed laughable enough to these people,
who had never seen anything beyond their own chalets, and for whom
an excursion from their mountains to a fair in the nearest town is
a journey. It was noon when we stopped at Traunstein, and from
there to Salzburg is but five leagues. Before reaching the
fortress, however, you must pass the great custom-house on the
Bavarian frontier, and fearing we might be delayed there too long
by the stupid Austrian officials, and thus be prevented from
entering the city before the gates were closed, we resolved to wait
till the next morning and spend the night at Adelstaetten, a pretty
village about a league from Salzburg, and the last Bavarian post.
Night was falling as we approached a little wood which hid the
village from us. There we asked a peasant how far we had still to
go, and when he had answered our question he told us, evidently
with kind intention, that we should find good company in the
village, for a few hours earlier three journeymen laborers had
arrived there; and then he added that we should no doubt be glad to
meet comrades and have a gay evening with them. We were not
astonished to be taken for workmen, since every one who travels
here on foot, with a knapsack on his back, is understood to belong
to the laboring class. . .Arrived at the village, we were delighted
to find that the three journeymen were our traveling companions.
They had come, like ourselves, from Traunstein, where we had missed
each other in the crowd, and they were going likewise to sleep at
Adelstaetten, to avoid the custom-house. Finally, on Monday, at ten
o'clock, we crossed the long bridge over the Saala, between the
white coats with yellow trimmings on guard there. On the Bavarian
frontier we had hardly remembered that there was a custom-house,
and the name of student sufficed to pass us without our showing any
passports; here, on the contrary, it was another reason for the
strictest examination. "Have you no forbidden books?" was the first
question. By good fortune, before crossing the bridge, I had
advised Trettenbach to hide his song-book in the lining of his
boot. I am assured that had it been taken upon him he would not
have been allowed to pass. In ransacking Braun's bag, one of the
officials found a shell such as are gathered by the basketful on
the shores of the Lake of Neuchatel. His first impulse was to go to
the office and inquire whether we should not pay duty on this,
saying that it was no doubt for the fabrication of false pearls,
and we probably had plenty more. We had all the difficulty in the
world to make him understand that not fifty steps from the
custom-house the shores of the river were strewn with them. . .
After all this we had to empty our purses to show that we had money
enough for our journey, and that we should not be forced to beg in
order to get through. While we underwent this inquisition, another
officer made a tour of inspection around us, to observe our general
bearing, etc. . .After having kept us thus on coals for two hours
they gave us back our passports, and we went our way. At one
o'clock we arrived at Salzburg as hungry as wolves, but at the gate
we had still to wait and give up our passports again in exchange
for receipts, in virtue of which we could obtain permits from the
police to remain in the city. From our inn, we sent a waiter to get
these permits, but he presently returned with the news that we must
go in person to take them; there was, however, no hurry; it would
do in three or four hours! We had no farther difficulty except that
it was made a condition of our stay that we should not appear in
student's dress. This dress, they said, was forbidden in Austria.
They begged More to have his hair cut, otherwise it would be
shortened gratis, and also informed us that at our age it was not
becoming to dispense with cravats. Happily, I had two with me, and
Braun tied his handkerchief around his neck. It astonished me,
also, to see that we were not entered on the list of strangers
published every evening. So it was also, as we found, with other
students, though the persons who came with them by the same
conveyance, even the children, were duly inscribed. It seems this
is a precaution against any gathering of students. . .

The letter concludes in haste for the mail, and if the story of the
journey was finished the final chapter has not been preserved. Some
extracts from the home letters of Agassiz's friend Braun, which are
in place here, throw light on their university life for the coming
year.* (* See "Life of Alexander Braun", by his daughter, Madame
Cecile Mettenius.)


MUNICH, November 18, 1828.

. . .I will tell you how we have laid out our time for this term.
Our human consciousness may be said to begin at half-past five
o'clock in the morning. The hour from six to seven is appointed for
mathematics, namely, geometry and trigonometry. To this appointment
we are faithful, unless the professor oversleeps himself, or
Agassiz happens to have grown to his bed, an event which sometimes
occurs at the opening of the term. From seven to eight we do as we
like, including breakfast. Under Agassiz's new style of
housekeeping the coffee is made in a machine which is devoted
during the day to the soaking of all sorts of creatures for
skeletons, and in the evening again to the brewing of our tea. At
eight o'clock comes the clinical lecture of Ringseis. As Ringseis
is introducing an entirely new medical system this is not wholly
without general physiological and philosophical interest. At ten
o'clock Stahl lectures, five times a week, on mechanics as
preliminary to physics. These and also the succeeding lectures,
given only twice a week on the special natural history of
amphibians by Wagler, we all attend together. From twelve to one
o'clock we have nothing settled as yet, but we mean to take the
lectures of Dollinger, in single chapters, as, for instance, when
he comes to the organs of the senses. At one o'clock we go to
dinner, for which we have at last found a comfortable and regular
place, at a private house, after having dined everywhere and
anywhere, at prices from nine to twenty kreutzers. Here, for
thirteen kreutzers* (* About nine cents of our money.) each, in
company with a few others, mostly known to us, we are provided with
a good and neatly served meal. After dinner we go to Dr. Waltl,
with whom we study chemistry, using Gmelin's text-book, and are
shown the most important experiments. Next week we are to begin
entomology with Dr. Perty, from three to four, three times a week.
From one to two o'clock on Saturday we have a lesson in
experimental physiology, plainly speaking, in animal dissection,
from Dr. Oesterreicher, a young Docent, who has written on the
circulation of the blood. As Agassiz dissects a great many animals,
especially fishes, at the house, we are making rapid progress in
comparative anatomy. At four o'clock we go usually once a week to
hear Oken on "Natur-philosophie" (a course we attended last term
also), but by that means we secure a good seat for Schelling's
lecture immediately after. A man can hardly hear twice in his life
a course of lectures so powerful as those Schelling is now giving
on the philosophy of revelation. This will sound strangely to you,
because, till now, men have not believed that revelation could be a
subject for philosophical treatment; to some it has seemed too
sacred; to others too irrational. . .This lecture brings us to six
o'clock, when the public courses are at an end: we go home, and now
begin the private lectures. Sometimes Agassiz tries to beat French
rules and constructions into our brains, or we have a lesson in
anatomy, or I read general natural history aloud to William
Schimper. By and by I shall review the natural history of grasses
and ferns, two families of which I made a special study last
summer. Twice a week Karl Schimper lectures to us on the morphology
of plants; a very interesting course on a subject but little known.
He has twelve listeners. Agassiz is also to give us lectures
occasionally on Sundays upon the natural history of fishes. You see
there is enough to do. . .

Somewhat before this, early in 1828, Agassiz had made the
acquaintance of Mr. Joseph Dinkel, an artist. A day spent together
in the country, in order that Mr. Dinkel might draw a brilliantly
colored trout from life, under the immediate direction of the young
naturalist, led to a relation which continued uninterruptedly for
many years. Mr. Dinkel afterward accompanied Agassiz, as his
artist, on repeated journeys, being constantly employed in making
illustrations for the "Poissons Fossiles" and the "Poissons d'Eau
Douce," as well as for his monographs and smaller papers. The two
larger works, the latter of which remained unfinished, were even
now in embryo. Not only was Mr. Dinkel at work upon the plates for
the Fresh-Water Fishes, but Mr. J.C. Weber, who was then engaged in
making, under Agassiz's direction, the illustrations for the Spix
Fishes, was also giving his spare hours to the same objects. Mr.
Dinkel says of Agassiz's student life at this time:--* (* Extract
from notes written out in English by Mr. Dinkel after the death of
Agassiz and sent to me. The English, though a little foreign, is so
expressive that it would lose by any attempt to change it, and the
writer will excuse me for inserting his vivid sketch just as it

"I soon found myself engaged four or five hours almost daily in
painting for him fresh-water fishes from the life, while he was at
my side, sometimes writing out his descriptions, sometimes
directing me. . .He never lost his temper, though often under great
trial; he remained self-possessed and did everything calmly, having
a friendly smile for every one and a helping hand for those who
were in need. He was at that time scarcely twenty years old, and
was already the most prominent among the students at Munich. They
loved him, and had a high consideration for him. I had seen him at
the Swiss students' club several times, and had observed him among
the JOLLY students; he liked merry society, but he himself was in
general reserved and never noisy. He picked out the gifted and
highly-learned students, and would not waste his time in ordinary
conversation. Often, when he saw a number of students going off on
some empty pleasure-trip, he said to me, 'There they go with the
other fellows; their motto is, "Ich gehe mit den andern." I will go
my own way, Mr. Dinkel,--and not alone: I will be a leader of
others.' In all his doings there was an ease and calm which was
remarkable. His studio was a perfect German student's room. It was
large, with several wide windows; the furniture consisted of a
couch and about half a dozen chairs, beside some tables for the use
of his artists and himself. Dr. Alex Braun and Dr. Schimper lodged
in the same house, and seemed to me to share his studio. Being
botanists, they, too, brought home what they collected in their
excursions, and all this found a place in the atelier, on the
couch, on the seats, on the floors. Books filled the chairs, one
alone being left for the other artist, while I occupied a standing
desk with my drawing. No visitor could sit down, and sometimes
there was little room to stand or move about. The walls were white,
and diagrams were drawn on them, to which, by and by, we artists
added skeletons and caricatures. In short, it was quite original. I
was some time there before I could discover the real names of his
friends: each had a nickname,--Molluscus, Cyprinus, Rhubarb, etc."

From this glimpse into "The Little Academy" we return to the thread
of the home letters, learning from the next one that Agassiz's
private collections were assuming rather formidable proportions
when considered as part of the household furniture. Brought
together in various ways, partly by himself, partly in exchange for
duplicates, partly as pay for arranging specimens in the Munich
Museum, they had already acquired, when compared with his small
means, a considerable pecuniary value, and a far higher scientific
importance. They included fishes, some rare mammalia, reptiles,
shells, birds, an herbarium of some three thousand species of
plants collected by himself, and a small cabinet of minerals. After
enumerating them in a letter to his parents he continues: "You can
imagine that all these things are in my way now that I cannot
attend to them, and that for want of room and care they are piled
up and in danger of spoiling. You see by my list that the whole
collection is valued at two hundred louis; and this is so low an
estimate that even those who sell objects of natural history would
not hesitate to take them at that price. You will therefore easily
understand how anxious I am to keep them intact. Can you not find
me a place where they might be spread out? I have thought that
perhaps my uncle in Neuchatel would have the kindness to let some
large shelves be put up in the little upper room of his house in
Cudrefin, where, far from being an annoyance or causing any smell,
my collection, if placed in a case under glass, or disposed in some
other suitable manner, would be an ornament. Be so kind as to
propose it to him, and if he consents I will then tell you what I
shall need for its arrangement. Remember that on this depends, in
great part, the preservation of my specimens, and answer as soon as

Agassiz was now hurrying forward both his preparation for his
degree and the completion of his Brazilian Fishes, in the hope of
at last fulfilling his longing for a journey of exploration. This
hope is revealed in his next home letter. The letter is a long one,
and the first half is omitted since it concerns only the
arrangements for his collections, the care to be taken of them,


MUNICH, February 14, 1829.

. . .But now I must talk to you of more important things, not of
what I possess, but of what I am to be. Let me first recall one or
two points touched upon before in our correspondence, which should
now be fully discussed.

1st. You remember that when I first left Switzerland I promised you
to win the title of Doctor in two years, and to be prepared (after
having completed my studies in Paris) to pass my examination before
the "Conseil de Sante," and begin practice.

2nd. You will not have forgotten either that you exacted this only
that I might have a profession, and that you promised, should I be
able to make my way in the career of letters and natural history,
you would not oppose my wishes. I am indeed aware that in the
latter case you see but one obstacle, that of absence from my
country and separation from all who are dear to me. But you know me
too well to think that I would voluntarily impose upon myself such
an exile. Let us see whether we cannot resolve these difficulties
to our mutual satisfaction, and consider what is the surest road to
the end I have proposed to myself ever since I began my medical
studies. Weigh all my reasons, for in this my peace of mind and my
future happiness are concerned. Examine my conduct with reference
to what I propose in every light, that of son and Vaudois citizen
included, and I feel sure you will concur in my views.

Here is my aim and the means by which I propose to carry it out. I
wish it may be said of Louis Agassiz that he was the first
naturalist of his time, a good citizen, and a good son, beloved of
those who knew him. I feel within myself the strength of a whole
generation to work toward this end, and I will reach it if the
means are not wanting. Let us see in what these means consist.
[Here follows the summing up of his reasons for preferring a
professorship of natural history to the practice of medicine, and
his intention of trying for a diploma as Doctor of Philosophy in
Germany.] But how obtain a professorship, you will say,--that is
the important point? I answer, the first step is to make myself a
European name, and for that I am on the right road. In the first
place my work on the fishes of Brazil, just about to appear, will
make me favorably known. I am sure it will be kindly received; for
at the General Assembly of German naturalists and medical men last
September, in Berlin, the part already finished and presented
before the Assembly was praised in a manner for which I was quite
unprepared. The professors also, to whom I was known, spoke of me
there in very favorable terms.

In the second place there are now preparing two expeditions of
natural history, one by M. de Humboldt, with whose reputation you
are surely familiar,--the same who spent several years in exploring
the equatorial regions of South America, in company with M.
Bonpland. He has been for some years at Berlin, and is now about to
start on a journey to the Ural Mountains, the Caucasus, and the
confines of the Caspian Sea. Braun, Schimper, and I have been
proposed to him as traveling companions by several of our
professors; but the application may come too late, for M. de
Humboldt decided upon this journey long ago, and has probably
already chosen the naturalists who are to accompany him. How happy
I should be to join this expedition to a country the climate of
which is by no means unhealthy, under the direction of a man so
generally esteemed, to whom the Emperor of Russia has promised help
and an escort at all times and under all circumstances. The second
expedition is to a country quite as salubrious, and which presents
no dangers whatever for travelers,--South America. It will be under
the direction of M. Ackermann, known as a distinguished
agriculturist and as Councilor of State to the Grand Duke of Baden.
I should prefer to go with Humboldt; but if I am too late, I feel
very sure of being able to join the second expedition. So it
depends, you see, only on your consent. This journey is to last two
years, at the end of which time, happily at home once more, I can
follow with all desirable facilities the career I have chosen. If
there should be a place for me at Lausanne, which I should prefer
to any other locality, I could devote my life to teaching my young
countrymen, awaken in them the taste for science and observation so
much neglected among us, and thus be more useful to my canton than
I could be as a practitioner. These projects may not succeed; but
in the present state of things all the probabilities are favorable.
Therefore, I beg you to consider it seriously, to consult my uncle
in Lausanne, and to write me at once what you think. . .

In spite of the earnest desire for travel shown in this letter it
will be seen later how the restless aspirations of childhood,
boyhood, and youth, which were, after all, only a latent love of
research, crystallize into the concentrated purpose of the man who
could remain for months shut up in his study, leaving his
microscope only to eat and sleep,--a life as sedentary as ever was
lived by a closet student.


ORBE, February 23, 1829.

. . .It was not without deep emotion that we read your letter of
the 14th, and I easily understand that, anticipating its effect
upon us all, you have deferred writing as long as possible. Yet you
were wrong in so doing; had we known your projects earlier we might
have forestalled for you the choice of M. de Humboldt, whose
expedition seems to us preferable, in every respect, to that of M.
Ackermann. The first embraces a wider field, and concerns the
history of man rather than that of animals; the latter is confined
to an excursion along the sea-board, where there would be, no
doubt, a rich harvest for science, but much less for philosophy.
However that may be, your father and mother, while they grieve for
the day that will separate them from their oldest son, will offer
no obstacles to his projects, but pray God to bless them. . .

The subjoined letter of about the same date from Alexander Braun to
his father tells us how the projects so ardently urged upon his
parents by Agassiz, and so affectionately accepted by them, first
took form in the minds of the friends.


MUNICH, February 15, 1829.

. . .Last Thursday we were at Oken's. There was interesting talk on
all sorts of subjects, bringing us gradually to the Ural and then
to Humboldt's journey, and finally Oken asked if we would not like
to go with Humboldt. To this we gave warm assent, and told him that
if he could bring it about we would be ready to start at a day's
notice, and Agassiz added, eagerly, "Yes,--and if there were any
hope that he would take us, a word from you would have more weight
than anything." Oken's answer gave us but cold comfort;
nevertheless, he promised to write at once to Humboldt in our
behalf. With this, we went home in great glee; it was very late and
a bright moonlight night. Agassiz rolled himself in the snow for
joy, and we agreed that however little hope there might be of our
joining the expedition, still the fact that Humboldt would hear of
us in this way was worth something, even if it were only that we
might be able to say to him one of these days, "We are the fellows
whose company you rejected."

With this hope the friends were obliged to content themselves, for
after a few weeks of alternate encouragement and despondency their
bright vision faded. Oken fulfilled his promise and wrote to
Humboldt, recommending them most warmly. Humboldt answered that his
plans were conclusively settled, and that he had chosen the only
assistants who were to accompany him,--Ehrenberg and Rose.

In connection with this frustrated plan is here given the rough
draft of a letter from Agassiz to Cuvier, written evidently at a
somewhat earlier date. Although a mere fragment, it is the
outpouring of the same passionate desire for a purely scientific
life, and shows that the opportunity suggested by Humboldt's
journey had only given a definite aim to projects already full
grown. From the contents it must have been written in 1828. After
some account of his early studies, which would be mere repetition
here, he goes on: "Before finishing my letter, allow me to ask some
advice from you, whom I revere as a father, and whose works have
been till now my only guide. Five years ago I was sent to the
medical school at Zurich. After the first few lectures there in
anatomy and zoology I could think of nothing but skeletons. In a
short time I had learned to dissect, and had made for myself a
small collection of skulls of animals from different classes. I
passed two years in Zurich, studying whatever I could find in the
Museum, and dissecting all the animals I could procure. I even sent
to Berlin at this time for a monkey in spirits of wine, that I
might compare the nervous system with that of man. I spent all the
little means I had in order to see and learn as much as possible.
Then I persuaded my father to let me go to Heidelberg, where for a
year I followed Tiedemann's courses in human anatomy. I passed
almost the whole winter in the anatomical laboratory. The following
summer I attended the lectures of Leuckart on zoology, and those of
Bronn on fossils. When at Zurich, the longing to travel some day as
a naturalist had taken possession of me, and at Heidelberg this
desire only increased. My frequent visits to the Museum at
Frankfort, and what I heard there concerning M. Ruppell himself,
strengthened my purpose even more than all I had previously read. I
was, as it were, Ruppell's traveling companion: the activity, the
difficulties to be overcome, all were present to me as I looked
upon the treasures he had brought together from the deserts of
Africa. The vision of difficulty thus vanquished, and of the inward
satisfaction arising from it, tended to give all my studies a
direction in keeping with my projects."

"I felt that to reach my aim more surely it was important to
complete my medical studies, and for this I came to Munich eighteen
months ago. Still I could not make up my mind to renounce the
natural sciences. I attended some of the pathological lectures, but
I soon found that I was neglecting them; and yielding once more to
my inclination, I followed consecutively the lectures of Dollinger
on comparative anatomy, those of Oken on natural history, those of
Fuchs on mineralogy, as well as the courses of astronomy, physics,
chemistry, and mathematics. I was confirmed in this withdrawal from
medical studies by the proposition of M. de Martius that I should
describe the fishes brought back by Spix from Brazil, and to this I
consented the more gladly because ichthyology has always been a
favorite study with me. I have not, however, been able to give them
all the care I could have wished, for M. de Martius, anxious to
complete the publication of these works, has urged upon me a rapid
execution. I hope, nevertheless, that I have made no gross errors,
and I am the less likely to have done so, because I had as my guide
the observations you had kindly made for him on the plates of Spix.
Several of these plates were not very exact; they have been set
aside and new drawings made. I beg that you will judge this work
when it reaches you with indulgence, as the first literary essay of
a young man. I hope to complete it in the course of the next
summer. I would beg you, in advance, to give me a paternal word of
advice as to the direction my studies should then take. Ought I to
devote myself to the study of medicine? I have no fortune, it is
true; but I would gladly sacrifice my life if, by so doing, I could
serve the cause of science. Though I have not even a presentiment
of any means with which I may one day travel in distant countries,
I have, nevertheless, prepared myself during the last three years
as if I might be off at any minute. I have learned to skin all
sorts of animals, even very large ones. I have made more than a
hundred skeletons of quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and fishes; I
have tested all the various liquors for preserving such animals as
should not be skinned, and have thought of the means of supplying
the want in countries where the like preparations are not to be
had, in case of need. Finally, I have trained as traveling
companion a young friend,* (* William Schimper, brother of Karl.)
and awakened in him the same love of the natural sciences. He is an
excellent hunter, and at my instigation has been taking lessons in
drawing, so that he is now able to sketch from nature such objects
as may be desirable. We often pass delightful moments in our
imaginary travels through unknown countries, building thus our
castles in Spain. Pardon me if I talk to you of projects which at
first sight seem puerile; only a fixed aim is needed to give them
reality, and to you I come for counsel. My longing is so great that
I feel the need of expressing it to some one who will understand
me, and your sympathy would make me the happiest of mortals. I am
so pursued by this thought of a scientific journey that it presents
itself under a thousand forms, and all that I undertake looks
toward one end. I have for six months frequented a blacksmith's and
carpenter's shop, learning to handle hammer and axe, and I also
practice arms, the bayonet and sabre exercise. I am strong and
robust, know how to swim, and do not fear forced marches. I have,
when botanizing and geologizing, walked my twelve or fifteen
leagues a day for eight days in succession, carrying on my back a
heavy bag loaded with plants or minerals. In one word, I seem to
myself made to be a traveling naturalist. I only need to regulate
the impetuosity which carries me away. I beg you, then, to be my

The unfinished letter closes abruptly, having neither signature nor
address. Perhaps the writer's courage failed him and it never was
sent. An old letter (date 1827) from Cuvier to Martius, found among
Agassiz's papers of this time, and containing the very notes on the
Spix Fishes to which allusion is here made, leaves no doubt,
however, that this appeal was intended for the great master who
exercised so powerful an influence upon Agassiz throughout his
whole life.

In the spring of 1829 Agassiz took his diploma in the faculty of
philosophy. He did this with no idea of making it a substitute for
his medical degree, but partly in deference to Martius, who wished
the name of his young colleague to appear on the title-page of the
Brazilian Fishes with the dignity of Doctor, and partly because he
believed it would strengthen his chance of a future professorship.
Of his experience on this occasion he gives some account in the
following letter:--


MUNICH, May 22, 1829.

As it was necessary for me to go through with my examination at
once, and as the days for promotion here were already engaged two
months in advance, I decided to pass it at Erlangen. That I might
not go alone, and also for the pleasure of their company, I
persuaded Schimper and Michahelles to do the same. Braun wanted to
be of the party, but afterward decided to wait awhile. We made our
request to the Faculty in a long Latin letter (because, you know,
among savants it is the thing to speak and write the language you
know least), requesting permission to pass our examination in
writing, and to go to Erlangen only for the colloquium and
promotion. They granted our request on condition of our promise
(jurisjurandi loco polliciti sumus) to answer the questions
propounded without help from any one and without consulting books.
Among other things I had to develop a natural system of zoology, to
show the relation between human history and natural history, to
determine the true basis and limits of the philosophy of nature,
etc. As an inaugural dissertation, I presented some general and
novel considerations on the formation of the skeleton throughout
the animal kingdom, from the infusoria, mollusks, and insects to
the vertebrates, properly so called. The examiners were
sufficiently satisfied with my answers to give me my degree the
23rd or 24th of April, without waiting for the colloquium and
promotion, writing to me that they were satisfied with my
examination, and therefore forwarded my diploma without regard to
the oral examination. . .The Dean of the Faculty, in inclosing it
to me, added that he hoped before long to see me professor, and no
less the ornament of my university in that position than I had
hitherto been as student. I must try not to disappoint him. . .

A letter from his brother contains a few lines in reference to
this. "Last evening, dear Louis, your two diplomas reached me. I
congratulate you with all my heart on your success. I am going to
send to grandpapa the one destined for him, and I see in advance
all his pleasure, though it would be greater if the word medicine
stood for that of philosophy."

The first part of the work on the Brazilian Fishes was now
completed, and he had the pleasure of sending it to his parents as
his own forerunner. After joining a scientific meeting to be held
at Heidelberg, in September, he was to pass a month at home before
returning to Munich for the completion of his medical studies.


MUNICH, July 4, 1829.

. . .I hope when you read this letter you will have received the
first part of my Brazilian Fishes from M.--, of Geneva, to whom
Martius had to send a package of plants, with which my book was
inclosed. I venture to think that this work will give me a name,
and I await with impatience the criticism that I suppose it will
receive from Cuvier. . .I think the best way of reaching the
various aims I have in view is to continue the career on which I
have started, and to publish as soon as possible my natural history
of the fresh-water fishes of Germany and Switzerland. I propose to
issue it in numbers, each containing twelve colored plates
accompanied by six sheets of letter-press. . .In the middle of
September there is to be a meeting of all the naturalists and
medical men of Germany, to which foreign savants are invited. A
similar meeting has been held for the last two or three years in
one or another of the brilliant centres of Germany. This year it
will take place at Heidelberg. Could one desire a better occasion
to make known a projected work? I could even show the original
drawings already made of species only found in the environs of
Munich, and, so to speak, unknown to naturalists. At Heidelberg
will be assembled Englishmen, Danes, Swedes, Russians, and even
Italians. If I could before then arrange everything and distribute
the printed circulars of my work I should be sure of success. . .

In those days of costly postage one sheet of writing paper was
sometimes made to serve for several members of the family. The next
crowded letter contains chiefly domestic details, but closes with a
postscript from Mme. Agassiz, filling, as she says, the only
remaining corner, and expressing her delight in his diploma and in
the completion of his book.


August 16, 1829.

. . .The place your brother has left me seems very insufficient for
all that I have to say, dear Louis, but I will begin by thanking
you for the happiness, as sweet as it is deeply felt, which your
success has given us. Already our satisfaction becomes the reward
of your efforts. We wait with impatience for the moment when we
shall see you and talk with you. Your correspondence leaves many
blanks, and we are sometimes quite ashamed that we have so few
details to give about your book. You will be surprised that it has
not yet reached us. Does the gentleman in Geneva intend to read it
before sending it to us, or has he perhaps not received the
package? Not hearing we are uneasy. . .Good-by, my dear son; I have
no room for more, except to add my tender love for you. An
honorable mention of your name in the Lausanne Gazette has brought
us many pleasant congratulations. . .


August, 1829.

. . .I hope by this time you have my book. I can the less explain
the delay since M. Cuvier, to whom I sent it in the same way, has
acknowledged its arrival. I inclose his letter, hoping it will give
you pleasure to read what one of the greatest naturalists of the
age writes me about it.


PARIS, AU JARDIN DU ROI, August 3, 1829.

. . .You and M. de Martius have done me honor in placing my name at
the head of a work so admirable as the one you have just published.
The importance and the rarity of the species therein described, as
well as the beauty of the figures, will make the work an important
one in ichthyology, and nothing could heighten its value more than
the accuracy of your descriptions. It will be of the greatest use
to me in my History of Fishes. I had already referred to the plates
in the second edition of my "Regne Animal." I shall do all in my
power to accelerate the sale among amateurs, either by showing it
to such as meet at my house or by calling attention to it in
scientific journals.

I look with great interest for your history of the fishes of the
Alps. It cannot but fill a wide gap in that portion of natural
history,--above all, in the different divisions of the genus Salmo.
The figures of Bloch, those of Meidinger, and those of Marsigli,
are quite insufficient. We have the greater part of the species
here, so that it will be easy for me to verify the characters; but
only an artist, working on the spot, with specimens fresh from the
water, can secure the colors. You will, no doubt, have much to add
also respecting the development, habits, and use of all these
fishes. Perhaps you would do well to limit yourself at first to a
monograph of the Salmones.

With my thanks for the promised documents, accept the assurance of
my warm regard and very sincere attachment.


At last comes the moment, so long anticipated, when the young
naturalist's first book is in the hands of his parents. The news of
its reception is given in a short and hurried note.


ORBE, August 31, 1829.

I hasten, my dear son, to announce the arrival of your beautiful
work, which reached us on Thursday, from Geneva. I have no terms in
which to express the pleasure it has given me. In two words, for I
have only a moment to myself, I repeat my urgent entreaty that you
would hasten your return as much as possible. . .The old father,
who waits for you with open heart and arms, sends you the most
tender greeting. . .


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.


HEIDELBERG, September 25, 1829.

. . .THE time of our meeting is almost at hand. Relieved from all
anxiety about the subjects I had wished to present here, I can now
be quietly with you and enjoy the rest and freedom I have so long
needed. The tension of mind, forced upon me by the effort to reach
my goal in time, has crowded out the thoughts which are most
present when I am at peace. I will not talk to you of what I have
been doing lately, (a short letter from Frankfort will have put you
on my track), nor of the relations I have formed at the Heidelberg
meeting, nor of the manner in which I have been received, etc.
These are matters better told than written. . .I intend to leave
here to-morrow or the day after, according to circumstances. I
shall stay some days at Carlsruhe to put my affairs in order, and
from there make the journey home as quickly as possible. . .

The following month we find him once more at home in the parsonage
of Orbe. After the first pleasure and excitement of return, his
time was chiefly spent in arranging his collections at Cudrefin,
where his grandfather had given him house-room for them. In this
work he had the help of the family in general, who made a sort of
scientific fete of the occasion. But it ended sadly with the
illness and death of the kind old grandfather, under whose roof
children and grandchildren had been wont to assemble.


ORBE, December 3, 1829.

. . .I will devote an hour of this last evening I am to pass in
Orbe, to talking with you. You will wonder that I am still here,
and that I have not written. You already know that I have been
arranging my collections at Cudrefin, and spending very happy days
with my grandfather. But he is now very ill, and even should we
have better news of him to-day, the thought weighs heavily on my
heart, that I must take leave of him when he is perhaps on his
death-bed. . .I have just tied up my last package of plants, and
there lies my whole herbarium in order,--thirty packages in all.
For this I have to thank you, dear Alex, and it gives me pleasure
to tell you so and to be reminded of it. What a succession of
glorious memories came up to me as I turned them over. Free from
all disturbing incidents, I enjoyed anew our life together, and
even more, if possible, than in actual experience. Every talk,
every walk, was present to me again, and in reviewing it all I saw
how our minds had been drawn to each other in an ever-strengthening
union. In you I see my own intellectual development reflected as in
a mirror, for to you, and to my intercourse with you, I owe my
entrance upon this path of the noblest and most lasting enjoyment.
It is delightful to look back on such a past with the future so
bright before us. . .

Agassiz now returned to Munich to add the title of Doctor of
Medicine to that of Doctor of Philosophy. A case of somnambulism,
which fell under his observation and showed him disease, or, at
least, abnormal action of the brain, under an aspect which was new
to him, seems to have given a fresh impulse to his medical studies,
and, for a time, he was inclined to believe that the vocation which
had thus far been to him one of necessity, might become one of
preference. But the naturalist was stronger than the physician.
During this very winter, when he was preparing himself with new
earnestness for his profession, a collection of fossil fishes was
put into his hands by the Director of the Museum of Munich. It will
be seen with what ardor he threw himself into this new
investigation. His work on the "Poissons Fossiles," which placed
him in a few years in the front rank of European scientific men,
took form at once in his fertile brain.


MUNICH, January 18, 1830.

. . .My resolve to study medicine is now confirmed. I feel all that
may be done to render this study worthy the name of science, which
it has so long usurped. Its intimate alliance with the natural
sciences and the enlightenment it promises me regarding them are
indeed my chief incitements to persevere in my resolution. In order
to gain time, and to strike while the iron is hot (don't be afraid
it will grow cold; the wood which feeds the fire is good), I have
proposed to Euler, with whom I am very intimate, to review the
medical course with me. Since then, we pass all our evenings
together, and rarely separate before midnight,--reading alternately
French and German medical books. In this way, although I devote my
whole day to my own work about fishes, I hope to finish my
professional studies before summer. I shall then pass my
examination for the Doctorate in Germany, and afterward do the same
in Lausanne. I hope that this decision will please mama. My
character and conduct are the pledge of its accomplishment.

This, then, is my night-work. I have still to tell you what I do by
day, and this is more important. My first duty is to complete my
Brazilian Fishes. To be sure, it is only an honorary work, but it
must be finished, and is an additional means of making subsequent
works profitable. This is my morning occupation, and I am sure of
bringing it to a close about Easter. After much reflection, I have
decided that the best way to turn my Fresh-Water Fishes to account,
is to finish them completely before offering them to a publisher.
All the expenses being then paid, I could afford, if the first
publisher should not feel able to take them on my own terms, to
keep them as a safe investment. The publisher himself seeing the
material finished, and being sure of bringing it out as a complete
work, the value of which he can on that account better estimate,
will be more disposed to accept my proposals, while I, on my side,
can be more exacting. The text for this I write in the afternoon.
My greatest difficulty at first was the execution of the plates.
But here, also, my good star has served me wonderfully. I told you
that beside the complete drawings of the fishes I wanted to
represent their skeletons and the anatomy of the soft parts, which
has never been done for this class. I shall thereby give a new
value to the work, and make it desirable for all who study
comparative anatomy. The puzzle was to find some one who was
prepared to draw things of this kind; but I have made the luckiest
hit, and am more than satisfied. My former artist continues to draw
the fishes, a second draws the skeletons (one who had already been
engaged for several years in the same way, for a work upon
reptiles), while a young physician, who is an admirable
draughtsman, makes my anatomical figures. For my share, I direct
their work while writing the text, and thus the whole advances with
great strides. I do not, however, stop here. Having by permission
of the Director of the Museum one of the finest collections of
fossils in Germany at my disposition, and being also allowed to
take the specimens home as I need them, I have undertaken to
publish the ichthyological part of the collection. Since it only
makes the difference of one or two people more to direct, I have
these specimens also drawn at the same time. Nowhere so well as
here, where the Academy of Fine Arts brings together so many
draughtsmen, could I have the same facility for completing a
similar work; and as it is an entirely new branch, in which no one
has as yet done anything of importance, I feel sure of success; the
more so because Cuvier, who alone could do it (for the simple
reason that every one else has till now neglected the fishes), is
not engaged upon it. Add to this that just now there is a real need
of this work for the determination of the different geological
formations. Once before, at the Heidelberg meeting, it had been
proposed to me; the Director of the Mines at Strasbourg, M. Voltz,
even offered to send me at Munich the whole collection of fossil
fishes from their Museum. I did not speak to you of this at the
time because it would have been of no use. But now that I have it
in my power to carry out the project, I should be a fool to let a
chance escape me which certainly will not present itself a second
time so favorably. It is therefore my intention to prepare a
general work on fossil ichthyology. I hope, if I can command
another hundred louis, to complete everything of which I have
spoken before the end of the summer, that is to say, in July. I
shall then have on hand two works which should surely be worth a
thousand louis to me. This is a low estimate, for even ephemeral
pieces and literary ventures are paid at this price. You can easily
make the calculation. They allow three louis for each plate with
the accompanying text; my fossils will have about two hundred
plates, and my fresh-water fishes about one hundred and fifty. This
seems to me plausible. . .

This letter evidently made a favorable impression on the business
heads of the family at Neuchatel, for it is forwarded to his
parents, with these words from his brother on the last sheet: "I
hasten, dear father, to send you this excellent letter from my
brother, which has just reached me. They have read it here with
interest, and Uncle Francois Mayor, especially, sees both stability
and a sound basis in his projects and enterprises."

There is something touching and almost amusing in Agassiz's efforts
to give a prudential aspect to his large scientific schemes. He was
perfectly sincere in this, but to the end of his life he skirted
the edge of the precipice, daring all, and finding in himself the
power to justify his risks by his successes. He was of frugal
personal habits; at this very time, when he was keeping two or
three artists on his slender means, he made his own breakfast in
his room, and dined for a few cents a day at the cheapest eating
houses. But where science was concerned the only economy he
recognized, either in youth or old age, was that of an expenditure
as bold as it was carefully considered.

In the above letter to his brother we have the story of his work
during the whole winter of 1830. That his medical studies did not
suffer from the fact that, in conjunction with them, he was
carrying on his two great works on the living and the dead world of
fishes may be inferred from the following account of his medical
theses. It was written after his death, to his son Alexander
Agassiz, by Professor von Siebold, now Director of the Museum in
the University of Munich. "How earnestly Agassiz devoted himself to
the study of medicine is shown by the theses (seventy-four in
number), a list of which was printed, according to the prescribed
rule and custom, with his 'Einladung.' I am astonished at the great
number of these. The subjects are anatomical, pathological,
surgical, obstetrical; they are inquiries into materia medica,
medicina forensis, and the relation of botany to these topics. One
of them interested me especially. It read as follows. 'Foemina
humana superior mare.' I would gladly have known how your father
interpreted that sentence. Last fall (1873) I wrote him a letter,
the last I ever addressed to him, questioning him about this very
subject. That letter, alas! remained unanswered."

In a letter to his brother just before taking his degree, Agassiz
says: "I am now determined to pursue medicine and natural history
side by side. Thank you, with all my heart, for your disinterested
offer, but I shall not need it, for I am going on well with my
publisher, M. Cotta, of Stuttgart. I have great hope that he will
accept my works, since he has desired that they should be forwarded
to him for examination. I have sent him the whole, and I feel very
sure he will swallow the pill. My conditions would be the only
cause of delay, but I hope he will agree to them. For the
fresh-water fishes and the fossils together I have asked twenty
thousand Swiss francs. Should he not consent to this, I shall apply
to another publisher."

On the 3rd of April he received his degree of Doctor of Medicine. A
day or two later he writes to his mother that her great desire for
him is accomplished.


MUNICH, April, 1830.

. . .My letter to-day must be to you, for to you I owe it that I
have undertaken the work just completed, and I write to thank you
for having encouraged my zeal. I am very sure that no letter from
me has ever given you greater pleasure than this one will bring;
and I can truly say, on my own part, that I have never written one
with greater satisfaction. Yesterday I finished my medical
examination, after having satisfied every requirement of the
Faculty. . .The whole ceremony lasted nine days. At the close,
while they considered my case, I was sent out of the room. On my
return, the Dean said to me, "The Faculty have been VERY MUCH"
(emphasized) "pleased with your answers; they congratulate
themselves on being able to give the diploma to a young man who has
already acquired so honorable a reputation. On Saturday, after
having argued your thesis, you will receive your degree, in the
Academic Hall, from the Rector of the University." The Rector then
added that he should look upon it as the brightest moment of his
Rectorship when he conferred upon me the title I had so well
merited. Next Saturday, then, at the very time you receive this
letter, at ten o'clock in the morning, the discussion will have
begun, and at twelve I shall have my degree. Dear Mother, dismiss
all anxiety about me. You see I am as good as my word. . .Write
soon; in a few days I go to Vienna for some months. . .


ORBE, April 7, 1830.

I cannot thank you enough, my dear Louis, for the happiness you
have given me in completing your medical examinations, and thus
securing to yourself a career as safe as it is honorable. It is a
laurel added to those you have already won; in my eyes the most
precious of all. You have for my sake gone through a long and
arduous task; were it in my power I would gladly reward you, but I
cannot even say that I love you the more for it, because that is
impossible. My anxious solicitude for your future is a proof of my
ardent affection for you; only one thing was wanting to make me the
happiest of mothers, and this, my Louis, you have just given me.
May God reward you by giving you all possible success in the care
of your fellow-beings. May the benedictions which honor the memory
of a good physician be your portion, as they have been in the
highest degree that of your grandfather. Why can he not be here to
share my happiness to-day in seeing my Louis a medical graduate!. . .

Agassiz was recalled from Vienna in less than two months by the
arrival in Munich of his publisher, M. Cotta, a personal interview
with whom seemed to him important. The only letter preserved from
the Vienna visit shows that his short stay there was full of
interest and instruction.


VIENNA, May 11, 1830.

. . .Since my arrival I have seen so much that I hardly know where
to begin my narrative, and what I have seen has suggested
reflections on many grave subjects, of a kind I had hardly expected
to make here. Nowhere have I seen establishments on broader or more
stately foundations, nor do I believe that anywhere are foreigners
allowed more liberal use of like institutions. I speak of the
university, the hospitals, libraries, and collections of all sorts.
Neither have I seen anywhere else such fine churches, and I have
more than once felt the difference between worshiping within bare
walls, and in buildings more worthy of devotional purposes. In one
word, I should be enchanted with my stay in Vienna if I could be
free from the idea that I am always surrounded by an imperceptible
net, ready to close upon me at the slightest signal. With this
exception, the only discomfort to a foreigner here, if he is
unaccustomed to it, is that of being obliged to abstain from all
criticism of affairs in public places; still more must he avoid
commenting upon persons. I am especially satisfied with my visit
from a scientific point of view. I have learned, and am still
learning, the care of the eyes and how to operate upon them; as to
medicine, the physicians, however good, do not surpass those I have
already known; and as I do not believe it important that a young
physician should familiarize himself with a great variety of
curative methods, I try to observe carefully the patient and his
disease rather than to remember the medicaments applied in special
cases. Surgery and midwifery are poorly provided, but one has a
chance to see many interesting cases.

During the last fortnight I have visited the collection of natural
history often, generally in the afternoon. To tell you how I have
been expected there from the moment I was known to be here, and how
I was received on my first visit, and have been feted since (as
Ichthyologus primus seculi,--so they say), would, perhaps, tire you
and might seem egotistical in me, neither of which do I desire. But
it will not be indifferent to you to know that Cotta is disposed to
accept my Fishes. He has been at Munich for some days, and Schimper
has been talking with him, and has advanced matters more by a few
words than I had been able to do by much writing. For this reason I
intend returning soon to Munich to complete the business, since
Cotta is to be there several weeks longer. Thus I shall have
reached my aim, and be provided from this autumn onward with an
independent maintenance. I was often very anxious this past winter,
in my uncertainty about the means of finally making good such large
outlays. If, however, Cotta makes no other condition than that of a
certain number of subscribers, I shall be sure of them in six months.
You may thus regard what I have done as a speculation happily
concluded, and one which places me at the summit of my desires, for
it leaves me free, at last, to work upon my projects. . .

A letter to his brother, of the 29th of May, just after his return
to Munich, gives a retrospect of the Viennese visit, including the
personal details which he had hesitated to write to his father.
They are important as showing the position he already, at
twenty-three years of age, held among scientific men. "Everything,"
he says, "was open to me as a foreigner, and to my great surprise I
was received as an associate already known. Was it not gratifying
to go to Vienna with no recommendation whatever, and to be welcomed
and sought by all the scientific men, and afterwards presented and
introduced everywhere? In the Museum, not only were the rooms
opened for me when I pleased, but also the cases, and even the
jars, so that I could take out whatever I needed for examination.
At the hospital several professors carried their kindness so far,
as to invite me to accompany them in their private visits. You may
fancy whether I profited by all this, and how many things I saw."
After some account of his business arrangements with Cotta, he adds
"Meantime, be at ease about me. I have strings enough to my bow,
and need not feel anxious about the future. What troubles me is
that the thing I most desire seems to me, at least for the present,
farthest from my reach,--namely, the direction of a great Museum.
When I have finished with Cotta I shall begin to pack my effects,
and shall hope to turn my face homeward somewhere about the end of
August. I can hardly leave earlier, because, for the sake of
practice, I have begun to deliver zoological lectures, open to all
who like to attend, and I want to complete the course before my
departure. I lecture without even an outline or headings before me,
but this requires preparation. You see I do not lose my time."

The next home letter announces an important change in the family
affairs. His father had been called from his parish at Orbe to that
of Concise, a small town situated on the south-western shore of the
Lake of Neuchatel.


ORBE, July, 1830.

. . .Since your father wrote you on the 4th of June, dear Louis, we
have had no news from you, and therefore infer that you are working
with especial zeal to wind up your affairs in Germany and come home
as soon as possible. Whatever haste you make, however, you will not
find us here. Four days ago your father became pastor of Concise,
and yesterday we went to visit our new home. Nothing can be
prettier, and by all who know the place it is considered the most
desirable position in the canton. There is a vineyard, a fine
orchard filled with fruit-trees in full bearing, and an excellent
kitchen garden. A never-failing spring gushes from a grotto, and
within fifty steps of the house is a pretty winding stream with a
walk along the bank, bordered by shrubbery, and furnished here and
there with benches, the whole disposed with much care and taste.
The house also is very well arranged. All the rooms look out upon
the lake, lying hardly a gunshot from the windows. There are a
parlor and a dining-room on the first floor, beside two smaller
rooms; and on the same floor two doors lead out into the flower
garden. The kitchen is small, and on one side is a pretty ground
where we can dine in the open air in summer. The distribution of
rooms in the upper story is the same, with a large additional room
for the accommodation of your father's catechumens. A jasmine vine
drapes the front of the house and climbs to the very roof. . .

To this quiet pretty parsonage Madame Agassiz became much attached.
Her tranquil life is well described in a letter written many years
afterward by one of her daughters. "Here mama returned to her
spinning-wheel with new ardor. It was a work she much liked, and in
which she was very skillful. In former times at grandpapa's every
woman in the house, whether mistress or maid, had her wheel, and
the young ladies were accustomed to spin and make up their own
trousseaus. Later, mama continued her spinning for her children,
and even for her grandchildren. We all preserve as a precious
souvenir, table linen of her making. We delighted to see her at her
wheel, she was so graceful, and the thread of her thought seemed to
follow, so to speak, the fine and delicate thread of her work as it
unwound itself under her touch from the distaff."

Agassiz was detained by his publishing arrangements and his work
longer than he had expected, and November was already advanced
before his preparations for leaving Munich were completed.


MUNICH, November 9, 1830.

. . .According to your wish [this refers to a suggestion about a
fellow-student in a previous letter] I shall not bring any friend
with me. I long to enjoy the pleasure of family life. I shall,
however, be accompanied by one person, for whom I should like to
make suitable arrangements. He is the artist who makes all my
drawings. If there is no room for him in the house he can be lodged
elsewhere; but I wish you could give me the use of a well-lighted
room, where I could work and he could draw at my side through the
day. Do not be frightened; he is not at my charge; but it would be
a great advantage to me if I could have him in the house. As I do
not want to lose time in the mechanical part of my work, I would
beg papa to engage for me some handy boy, fifteen years old or so,
whom I could employ in cleaning skeletons and the like. Finally,
you will receive several boxes for me; leave them unopened till I
come, without even paying the freight upon them,--the most
unsatisfactory of all expenses;--and I do not wish you to have an
unpleasant association with my collections.

My affairs are all in order with Cotta, and I have even concluded
the arrangement more advantageously than I had dared to hope,--a
thousand louis, six hundred payable on the publication of the first
number, and four hundred in installments, as the publication
goeson. If I had not been in haste to close the matter in order to
secure myself against all doubt, I might have done even better. But
I hope I have reconciled you thereby to Natural History. What
remains to be done will be the work of less than half a year,
during which I wish also to get together the materials for my
second work, on the fossils. Of that I have already spoken with my
publisher, and he will take it on more favorable conditions than I
could have dictated. Do your best to find me subscribers, that we
may soon make our typographical arrangements. . .

His father's answer, full of fun as it is, shows, nevertheless,
that the prospect of domesticating not only the naturalist and his
collections, but artist and assistant also, was rather startling.


CONCISE, November 16, 1830.

. . .You speak of Christmas as the moment of your arrival; let us
call it the New Year. You will naturally pass some days at
Neuchatel to be with your brother, to see the Messrs. Coulon, etc.;
from there to Cudrefin for a look at your collection; then to
Concise, then to Montagny, Orbe, Lausanne, Geneva, etc. M. le
Docteur will be claimed and feted by all in turn. And during all
these indispensable excursions, for which, to be within bounds, I
allow a month at least, it is as clear as daylight that regular
work must be set aside, if, indeed, the time be not wholly lost.
Now, for Heaven's sake, what will you do, or rather what shall WE
do, with your painter, in this interval employed by you elsewhere.
Neither is this all. Though the date of Cecile's marriage is not
fixed, it is more than likely to take place in January, so that you
will be here for the wedding. If you will recollect the overturning
of the paternal mansion when your outfit was preparing for Bienne,
Zurich, and other places, you can form an idea of the state of our
rooms above and below, large and small, when the work of the
trousseau begins. Where, in Heaven's name, will you stow away a
painter and an assistant in the midst of half a brigade of
dress-makers, seamstresses, lace-makers, and milliners, without
counting the accompanying train of friends? Where would you, or
where could you, put under shelter your possessions (I dare not
undertake to enumerate them), among all the taffetas and brocades,
linens, muslin, tulles, laces, etc.? But what am I saying? I doubt
if these names are still in existence, for quite other appellations
are sounding in my ears, each one of which, to the number of some
hundred, signifies at least twenty yards in width, to say nothing
of the length. For my part, I have already, notwithstanding the
approach of winter, put up a big nail in the garret, on which to
hang my bands and surplice. Listen, then, to the conclusion of your
father. Give all possible care to your affairs in Munich, put them
in perfect order, leave nothing to be done, and leave nothing
behind EXCEPT THE PAINTER. You can call him in from here, whenever
you think you can make use of him.


MUNICH, November 26, 1830.

. . .When you receive this I shall be no longer in Munich; by means
of a last draft on M. Eichthal I have settled with every one, and I
hope to leave the day after to-morrow. I fully recognize the
justice of your observations, my dear father, but as you start from
a mistaken point of view, they do not coincide altogether with
existing circumstances. I intend to stay with you until the
approach of summer, not only with the aim of working upon the text
of my book, but chiefly in order to take advantage of all the
fossil collections in Switzerland. For that purpose I positively
need a draughtsman, who, thanks to my publisher, is not in my pay,
and who must accompany me in future wherever I go. Since there is
no room at home, please see how he can be lodged in the
neighborhood. I have, at the utmost, to glance each day at what he
has done. I can even give him work for several weeks in which my
presence would be unnecessary. If there is a considerable
collection of fossils at Zurich, I shall leave him there till he
has finished his work, and then he will rejoin me; all that depends
upon circumstances. In any case he must not be a charge to you,
still less interfere with our family privacy. That I may spend all
my time with you, I shall at present bring with me nothing that is
not absolutely necessary. We shall see later where I shall place my
museum. As to visits, they are not to be thought of until the
spring. I could not bear the idea of interruption before the first
number of my "Fishes" is finished.

The artist in question was Mr. Dinkel. His relations with the
family became of a truly friendly character. The connection between
him and Agassiz, most honorable to both parties, lasted for sixteen
years, and was then only interrupted by the departure of Agassiz
for America. During this whole period Mr. Dinkel was occupied as
his draughtsman, living sometimes in Paris, sometimes in England,
sometimes in Switzerland, wherever, in short, there were specimens
to be drawn. In a private letter, written long afterward, he says,
in speaking of the break in their intercourse caused by Agassiz's
removal to America: "For a long time I felt unhappy at that
separation. . .He was a kind, noble-hearted friend; he was very
benevolent, and if he had possessed millions of money he would have
spent them for his researches in science, and have done good to his
fellow-creatures as much as possible."

Some passages from Braun's letters complete the chapter of these
years in Munich, so rich in purpose and in experience, the prelude,
as it were, to the intellectual life of the two friends who had
entered upon them together. These extracts show how seriously, not
without a certain sadness, they near the end.


MUNICH, November 7, 1830.

Were I to leave Munich now, I must separate myself from Agassiz and
Schimper, which would be neither agreeable nor advantageous for me,
nor would it be friendly toward them. We will not shorten the time,
already too scantly measured, which we may still spend so quietly,
so wholly by ourselves, but rather, as long as it lasts, make the
best use of it in a mutual exchange of what we have learned, trying
to encourage each other in the right path, and drawing more closely
together for our whole life to come. Agassiz is to stay till the
end of the month; during this time he will give us lectures in
anatomy, and I shall learn a good deal of zoology. Beside all this
one thing is certain; namely, that we can review our medical work
much more quietly and uninterruptedly here than in Carlsruhe. Add
to this, the advantage we enjoy here of visiting the hospitals. . .
The time passes delightfully with us of late, for Agassiz has
received several baskets of books from Cotta, among others,
Schiller's and Goethe's complete works, the Conversations-Lexicon,
medical works, and works on natural history. How many books a man
may receive in return for writing only one! They are, of course,
deducted from his share of the profits. Yesterday we did nothing
but read Goethe the whole day.

A brief account of Agassiz's university life, dictated by himself,
may fitly close the record of this period. He was often urged to
put together a few reminiscences of his life, but he lived so
intensely in the present, every day bringing its full task, that he
had little time for retrospect, and this sketch remained a
fragment. It includes some facts already told, but is given almost
verbatim, because it forms a sort of summary of his intellectual
development up to this date.

"I am conscious that at successive periods of my life I have
employed very different means and followed very different systems
of study. I may, therefore, be allowed to offer the result of my
experience as a contribution toward the building up of a sound
method for the promotion of the study of nature.

"At first, when a mere boy, twelve years of age, I did what most
beginners do. I picked up whatever I could lay my hands on, and
tried, by such books and authorities as I had at my command, to
find the names of these objects. My highest ambition, at that time,
was to be able to designate the plants and animals of my native
country correctly by a Latin name, and to extend gradually a
similar knowledge in its application to the productions of other
countries. This seemed to me, in those days, the legitimate aim and
proper work of a naturalist. I still possess manuscript volumes in
which I entered the names of all the animals and plants with which
I became acquainted, and I well remember that I then ardently hoped
to acquire the same superficial familiarity with the whole
creation. I did not then know how much more important it is to the
naturalist to understand the structure of a few animals, than to
command the whole field of scientific nomenclature. Since I have
become a teacher, and have watched the progress of students, I have
seen that they all begin in the same way; but how many have grown
old in the pursuit, without ever rising to any higher conception of
the study of nature, spending their life in the determination of
species, and in extending scientific terminology! Long before I
went to the university, and before I began to study natural history
under the guidance of men who were masters in the science during
the early part of this century, I perceived that while nomenclature
and classification, as then understood, formed an important part of
the study, being, in fact, its technical language, the study of
living beings in their natural element was of infinitely greater
value. At that age, namely, about fifteen, I spent most of the time
I could spare from classical and mathematical studies in hunting
the neighboring woods and meadows for birds, insects, and land and
fresh-water shells. My room became a little menagerie, while the
stone basin under the fountain in our yard was my reservoir for all
the fishes I could catch. Indeed, collecting, fishing, and raising
caterpillars, from which I reared fresh, beautiful butterflies,
were then my chief pastimes. What I know of the habits of the
fresh-water fishes of Central Europe I mostly learned at that time;
and I may add, that when afterward I obtained access to a large
library and could consult the works of Bloch and Lacepede, the only
extensive works on fishes then in existence, I wondered that they
contained so little about their habits, natural attitudes, and mode
of action with which I was so familiar.

"The first course of lectures on zoology I attended was given in
Lausanne in 1823. It consisted chiefly of extracts from Cuvier's
'Regne Animal,' and from Lamarck's 'Animaux sans Vertebres.' I now
became aware, for the first time, that the learned differ in their
classifications. With this discovery, an immense field of study
opened before me, and I longed for some knowledge of anatomy, that
I might see for myself where the truth was. During two years spent
in the Medical School of Zurich, I applied myself exclusively to
the study of anatomy, physiology, and zoology, under the guidance
of Professors Schinz and Hirzel. My inability to buy books was,
perhaps, not so great a misfortune as it seemed to me; at least, it
saved me from too great dependence on written authority. I spent
all my time in dissecting animals and in studying human anatomy,
not forgetting my favorite amusements of fishing and collecting. I
was always surrounded with pets, and had at this time some forty
birds flying about my study, with no other home than a large
pine-tree in the corner. I still remember my grief when a visitor,
entering suddenly, caught one of my little favorites between the
floor and the door, and he was killed before I could extricate him.
Professor Schinz's private collection of birds was my daily resort,
and I then described every bird it contained, as I could not afford
to buy even a text-book of ornithology. I also copied with my own
hand, having no means of purchasing the work, two volumes of
Lamarck's 'Animaux sans Vertebres,' and my dear brother copied
another half volume for me. I finally learned that the study of the
things themselves was far more attractive than the books I so much
coveted; and when, at last, large libraries became accessible to
me, I usually contented myself with turning over the leaves of the
volumes on natural history, looking at the illustrations, and
recording the titles of the works, that I might readily consult
them for identification of such objects as I should have an
opportunity of examining in nature.

"After spending in this way two years in Zurich, I was attracted to
Heidelberg by the great reputation of its celebrated teachers,
Tiedemann, Leuckart, Bronn, and others. It is true that I was still
obliged to give up a part of my time to the study of medicine, but
while advancing in my professional course by a steady application
to anatomy and physiology, I attended the lectures of Leuckart in
zoology, and those of Bronn in paleontology. The publication of
Goldfuss's great work on the fossils of Germany was just then
beginning, and it opened a new world to me. Familiar as I was with
Cuvier's 'Regne Animal,' I had not then seen his 'Researches on
Fossil Remains,' and the study of fossils seemed to me only an
extension of the field of zoology. I had no idea of its direct
connection with geology, or of its bearing on the problem of the
successive introduction of animals on the earth. I had never
thought of the larger and more philosophical view of nature as one
great world, but considered the study of animals only as it was
taught by descriptive zoology in those days. At about this time,
however, I made the acquaintance of two young botanists, Braun and
Schimper, both of whom have since become distinguished in the
annals of science. Botany had in those days received a new impulse
from the great conceptions of Goethe. The metamorphosis of plants
was the chief study of my friends, and I could not but feel that
descriptive zoology had not spoken the last word in our science,
and that grand generalizations, such as were opening upon
botanists, must be preparing for zoologists also. Intimate contact
with German students made me feel that I had neglected my
philosophical education; and when, in the year 1827, the new
University of Munich opened, with Schelling as professor of
philosophy, Oken, Schubert, and Wagler as professors of zoology,
Dollinger as professor of anatomy and physiology, Martius and
Zuccarini as professors of botany, Fuchs and Kobell as professors
of mineralogy, I determined to go there with my two friends and
drink new draughts of knowledge. During the years I passed at
Munich I devoted myself almost exclusively to the different
branches of natural science, neglecting more and more my medical
studies, because I began to feel an increasing confidence that I
could fight my way in the world as a naturalist, and that I was
therefore justified in following my strong bent in that direction.
My experience in Munich was very varied. With Dollinger I learned
to value accuracy of observation. As I was living in his house, he
gave me personal instruction in the use of the microscope, and
showed me his own methods of embryological investigation. He had
already been the teacher of Karl Ernst von Baer; and though the
pupil outran the master, and has become the pride of the scientific
world, it is but just to remember that he owed to him his first
initiation into the processes of embryological research. Dollinger
was a careful, minute, persevering observer, as well as a deep
thinker; but he was as indolent with his pen as he was industrious
with his brain. He gave his intellectual capital to his pupils
without stint or reserve, and nothing delighted him more than to
sit down for a quiet talk on scientific matters with a few
students, or to take a ramble with them into the fields outside the
city, and explain to them as he walked the result of any recent
investigation he had made. If he found himself understood by his
listeners he was satisfied, and cared for no farther publication of
his researches. I could enumerate many works of masters in our
science, which had no other foundation at the outset than these
inspiriting conversations. No one has borne warmer testimony to the
influence Dollinger has had in this indirect way on the progress of
our science than the investigator I have already mentioned as his
greatest pupil,--von Baer. In the introduction to his work on
embryology he gratefully acknowledges his debt to his old teacher.

"Among the most fascinating of our professors was Oken. A master in
the art of teaching, he exercised an almost irresistible influence
over his students. Constructing the universe out of his own brain,
deducing from a priori conceptions all the relations of the three
kingdoms into which he divided all living beings, classifying the
animals as if by magic, in accordance with an analogy based on the
dismembered body of man, it seemed to us who listened that the slow
laborious process of accumulating precise detailed knowledge could
only be the work of drones, while a generous, commanding spirit
might build the world out of its own powerful imagination. The
temptation to impose one's own ideas upon nature, to explain her
mysteries by brilliant theories rather than by patient study of the
facts as we find them, still leads us away. With the school of the
physio-philosophers began (at least in our day and generation) that
overbearing confidence in the abstract conceptions of the human
mind as applied to the study of nature, which still impairs the
fairness of our classifications and prevents them from interpreting
truly the natural relations binding together all living beings. And
yet, the young naturalist of that day who did not share, in some
degree, the intellectual stimulus given to scientific pursuits by
physio-philosophy would have missed a part of his training. There
is a great distance between the man who, like Oken, attempts to
construct the whole system of nature from general premises and the
one who, while subordinating his conceptions to the facts, is yet
capable of generalizing the facts, of recognizing their most
comprehensive relations. No thoughtful naturalist can silence the
suggestions, continually arising in the course of his
investigations, respecting the origin and deeper connection of all
living beings; but he is the truest student of nature who, while
seeking the solution of these great problems, admits that the only
true scientific system must be one in which the thought, the
intellectual structure, rises out of and is based upon facts. The
great merit of the physio-philosophers consisted in their
suggestiveness. They did much in freeing our age from the low
estimation of natural history as a science which prevailed in the
last century. They stimulated a spirit of independence among
observers; but they also instilled a spirit of daring, which, from
its extravagance, has been fatal to the whole school. He is lost,
as an observer, who believes that he can, with impunity, affirm
that for which he can adduce no evidence. It was a curious
intellectual experience to listen day after day to the lectures of
Oken, while following at the same time Schelling's courses, where
he was shifting the whole ground of his philosophy from its
negative foundation as an a priori doctrine to a positive basis, as
an historical science. He unfolded his views in a succession of
exquisite lectures, delivered during four consecutive years.

"Among my fellow-students were many young men who now rank among
the highest lights in the various departments of science, and
others, of equal promise, whose early death cut short their work in
this world. Some of us had already learned at this time to work for
ourselves; not merely to attend lectures and study from books. The
best spirit of emulation existed among us; we met often to discuss
our observations, undertook frequent excursions in the
neighborhood, delivered lectures to our fellow-students, and had,
not infrequently, the gratification of seeing our university
professors among the listeners. These exercises were of the highest
value to me as a preparation for speaking, in later years, before
larger audiences. My study was usually the lecture-room. It would
hold conveniently from fifteen to twenty persons, and both students
and professors used to call our quarters "The Little Academy." In
that room I made all the skeletons represented on the plates of
Wagler's "Natural System of Reptiles;" there I once received the
great anatomist, Meckel, sent to me by Dollinger, to examine my
anatomical preparations and especially the many fish-skeletons I
had made from fresh-water fishes. By my side were constantly at
work two artists; one engaged in drawing various objects of natural
history, the other in drawing fossil fishes. I kept always one and
sometimes two artists in my pay; it was not easy, with an allowance
of 250 dollars a year, but they were even poorer than I, and so we
managed to get along together. My microscope I had earned by

"I had hardly finished the publication of the Brazilian Fishes,
when I began to study the works of the older naturalists. Professor
Dollinger had presented me with a copy of Rondelet, which was my
delight for a long time. I was especially struck by the naivete of
his narrative and the minuteness of his descriptions as well as by
the fidelity of his woodcuts, some of which are to this day the
best figures we have of the species they represent. His learning
overwhelmed me; I would gladly have read, as he did, everything
that had been written before my time; but there were authors who
wearied me, and I confess that at that age Linnaeus was among the
number. I found him dry, pedantic, dogmatic, conceited; while I was
charmed with Aristotle, whose zoology I have read and re-read ever
since at intervals of two or three years. I must, however, do
myself the justice to add, that after I knew more of the history of
our science I learned also duly to reverence Linnaeus. But a
student, already familiar with the works of Cuvier, and but
indifferently acquainted with the earlier progress of zoology,
could hardly appreciate the merit of the great reformer of natural
history. His defects were easily perceived, and it required more
familiarity than mine then was with the gradual growth of the
science, from Aristotle onward, to understand how great and
beneficial an influence Linnaeus had exerted upon modern natural

"I cannot review my Munich life without deep gratitude. The city
teemed with resources for the student in arts, letters, philosophy,
and science. It was distinguished at that time for activity in
public as well as in academic life. The king seemed liberal; he was
the friend of poets and artists, and aimed at concentrating all the
glories of Germany in his new university. I thus enjoyed for a few
years the example of the most brilliant intellects, and that
stimulus which is given by competition between men equally eminent
in different spheres of human knowledge. Under such circumstances a
man either subsides into the position of a follower in the ranks
that gather around a master, or he aspires to be a master himself.

"The time had come when even the small allowance I received from
borrowed capital must cease. I was now twenty-four years of age. I
was Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine, and author of a quarto
volume on the fishes of Brazil. I had traveled on foot all over
Southern Germany, visited Vienna, and explored extensive tracts of
the Alps. I knew every animal, living and fossil, in the Museums of
Munich, Stuttgart, Tubingen, Erlangen, Wurzburg, Carlsruhe, and
Frankfort; but my prospects were as dark as ever, and I saw no hope
of making my way in the world, except by the practical pursuit of
my profession as physician. So, at the close of 1830, I left the
university and went home, with the intention of applying myself to
the practice of medicine, confident that my theoretical information
and my training in the art of observing would carry me through the
new ordeal I was about to meet."


1830-1832: AGE 23-25.

Year at Home.
Leaves Home for Paris.
Delays on the Road.
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.

On the 4th of December, 1830, Agassiz left Munich, in company with
Mr. Dinkel, and after a short stay at St. Gallen and Zurich, spent
in looking up fossil fishes and making drawings of them, they
reached Concise on the 30th of the same month. Anxiously as his
return was awaited at home, we have seen that his father was not
without apprehension lest the presence of the naturalist, with
artist, specimens, and apparatus, should be an inconvenience in the
quiet parsonage. But every obstacle yielded to the joy of reunion,
and Agassiz was soon established with his "painter," his fossils,
and all his scientific outfit, under the paternal roof.

Thus quietly engaged in his ichthyological studies, carrying on his
work on the fossil fishes, together with that on the fresh-water
fishes of Central Europe, he passed nearly a year at home. He was
not without patients also in the village and its environs, but had,
as yet, no prospect of permanent professional employment. In the
mean time it seemed daily more and more necessary that he should
carry his work to Paris, to the great centre of scientific life,
where he could have the widest field for comparison and research.
There, also, he could continue and complete to the best advantage
his medical studies. His poverty was the greatest hindrance to any
such move. He was not, however, without some slight independent
means, especially since his publishing arrangements provided in
part for the carrying on of his work. His generous uncle added
something to this, and an old friend of his father's, M.
Christinat, a Swiss clergyman with whom he had been from boyhood a
great favorite, urged upon him his own contribution toward a work
in which he felt the liveliest interest. Still the prospect with
which he left for Paris in September, 1831, was dark enough,
financially speaking, though full of hope in another sense. On the
road he made several halts for purposes of study, combining, as
usual, professional with scientific objects, hospitals with
museums. He was, perhaps, a little inclined to believe that the
most favorable conditions for his medical studies were to be found
in conjunction with the best collections. He had, however, a
special medical purpose, being earnest to learn everything
regarding the treatment and the limitation of cholera, then for the
first time making its appearance in Western Europe with frightful
virulence. Believing himself likely to continue the practice of
medicine for some years at least, he thought his observations upon
this scourge would be of great importance to him. His letters of
this date to his father are full of the subject, and of his own
efforts to ascertain the best means of prevention and defense. The
following answer to an appeal from his mother shows, however, that
his delays caused anxiety at home, lest the small means he could
devote to his studies in Paris should be consumed on the road.


CARLSRUHE, November, 1831.

. . .I returned day before yesterday from my trip in Wurtemberg,
and though I already knew what precautions had been taken
everywhere in anticipation of cholera, I do not think my journey
was a useless one, and am convinced that my observations will not
be without interest,--chiefly for myself, of course, but of utility
to others also I hope. Your letter being so urgent, I will not,
however, delay my departure an instant. Between to-day and
to-morrow I shall put in order the specimens lent me by the Museum,
and then start at once. . .In proportion to my previous anxiety is
my pleasure in the prospect of going to Paris, now that I am better
fitted to present myself there as I could wish. I have collected
for my fossil fishes all the materials I still desired to obtain
from the museums of Carlsruhe, Heidelberg, and Strasbourg, and have
extended my knowledge of geology sufficiently to join, without
embarrassment at least, in conversation upon the more recent
researches in that department. Moreover, Braun has been kind enough
to give me a superb collection, selected by himself, to serve as
basis and guide in my researches. I leave it at Carlsruhe, since I
no longer need it. . .I have also been able to avail myself of the
Museum of Carlsruhe, and of the mineralogical collection of Braun's
father. Beside the drawings made by Dinkel, I have added to my work
one hundred and seventy-one pages of manuscript in French (I have
just counted them), written between my excursions and in the midst
of other occupations. . .I could not have foreseen so rich a

Thus prepared, he arrived in Paris with his artist on the 16th of
December, 1831. On the 18th he writes to his father. . ."Dinkel and
I had a very pleasant journey, though the day after our arrival I
was so fatigued that I could hardly move hand or foot,--that was
yesterday. Nevertheless, I passed the evening very agreeably at the
house of M. Cuvier, who sent to invite me, having heard of my
arrival. To my surprise, I found myself not quite a stranger,
--rather, as it were, among old acquaintances. I have already given
you my address, Rue Copeau (Hotel du Jardin du Roi, Numero 4). As
it happens, M. Perrotet, a traveling naturalist, lives here also,
and has at once put me on the right track about whatever I most
need to know. There are in the house other well-known persons
besides. I am accommodated very cheaply, and am at the same time
within easy reach of many things, the neighborhood of which I can
turn to good account. The medical school, for instance, is within
ten minutes' walk; the Jardin des Plantes not two hundred steps
away; while the Hospital (de la Pitie), where Messieurs Andral and
Lisfranc teach, is opposite, and nearer still. To-day or to-morrow
I shall deliver my letters, and then set to work in good earnest."

Pleased as he was from the beginning with all that concerned his
scientific life in Paris, the next letter shows that the young
Swiss did not at once find himself at home in the great French


PARIS, January 15, 1832.

. . .My expectations in coming here have been more than fulfilled.
In scientific matters I have found all that I knew must exist in
Paris (indeed, my anticipations were rather below than above the
mark), and beside that I have been met everywhere with courtesy,
and have received attentions of all sorts. M. Cuvier and von
Humboldt especially treat me on all occasions as an equal, and
facilitate for me the use of the scientific collections so that I
can work here as if I were at home. And yet it is not the same
thing; this extreme, but formal politeness chills you instead of
putting you at your ease; it lacks cordiality, and, to tell the
truth, I would gladly go away were I not held fast by the wealth of
material of which I can avail myself for instruction. In the
morning I follow the clinical courses at the Pitie. . .At ten
o'clock, or perhaps at eleven, I breakfast, and then go to the
Museum of Natural History, where I stay till dark. Between five and
six I dine, and after that turn to such medical studies as do not
require daylight. So pass my days, one like another, with great
regularity. I have made it a rule not to go out after dinner,--I
should lose too much time. . .On Saturday only I spend the evening
at M. Cuvier's. . .

The homesickness which is easily to be read between the lines of
this letter, due, perhaps, to the writer's want of familiarity with
society in its conventional aspect, yielded to the influence of an
intellectual life, which became daily more engrossing. Cuvier's
kind reception was but an earnest of the affectionate interest he
seems from the first to have felt in him. After a few days he gave
Agassiz and his artist a corner in one of his own laboratories, and
often came to encourage them by a glance at their work as it went

This relation continued until Cuvier's death, and Agassiz enjoyed
for several months the scientific sympathy and personal friendship
of the great master whom he had honored from childhood, and whose
name was ever on his lips till his own work in this world was
closed. The following letter, written two months later, to his
uncle in Lausanne tells the story in detail.


PARIS, February 16, 1832.

. . .I have also a piece of good news to communicate, which will, I
hope, lead to very favorable results for me. I think I told you
when I left for Paris that my chief anxiety was lest I might not be
allowed to examine, and still less to describe, the fossil fishes
and their skeletons in the Museum. Knowing that Cuvier intended to
write a work on this subject, I supposed that he would reserve
these specimens for himself. I half thought he might, on seeing my
work so far advanced, propose to me to finish it jointly with him,
--but even this I hardly dared to hope. It was on this account,
with the view of increasing my materials and having thereby a
better chance of success with M. Cuvier, that I desired so
earnestly to stop at Strasbourg and Carlsruhe, where I knew
specimens were to be seen which would have a direct bearing on my
aim. The result has far surpassed my expectation. I hastened to
show my material to M. Cuvier the very day after my arrival. He
received me with great politeness, though with a certain reserve,
and immediately gave me permission to see everything in the
galleries of the Museum. But as I knew that he had put together in
private collections all that could be of use to himself in writing
his book, and as he had never said a word to me of his plan of
publication, I remained in a painful state of doubt, since the
completion of his work would have destroyed all chance for the sale
of mine. Last Saturday I was passing the evening there, and we were
talking of science, when he desired his secretary to bring him a
certain portfolio of drawings. He showed me the contents; they were
drawings of fossil fishes and notes which he had taken in the
British Museum and elsewhere. After looking it through with me, he
said he had seen with satisfaction the manner in which I had
treated this subject; that I had indeed anticipated him, since he
had intended at some future time to do the same thing; but that as
I had given it so much attention, and had done my work so well, he
had decided to renounce his project, and to place at my disposition
all the materials he had collected and all the preliminary notes he
had taken.

You can imagine what new ardor this has given me for my work, the
more so because M. Cuvier, M. Humboldt, and several other persons
of mark who are interested in it have promised to speak in my
behalf to a publisher (to Levrault, who seems disposed to undertake
the publication should peace be continued), and to recommend me
strongly. To accomplish my end without neglecting other
occupations, I work regularly at least fifteen hours a day,
sometimes even an hour or two more; but I hope to reach my goal in
good time.

This trust from Cuvier proved to be a legacy. Less than three
months after the date of this letter Agassiz went, as often
happened, to work one morning with him in his study. It was Sunday,
and he was employed upon something which Cuvier had asked him to
do, saying, "You are young; you have time enough for it, and I have
none to spare." They worked together till eleven o'clock, when
Cuvier invited Agassiz to join him at breakfast. After a little
time spent over the breakfast table in talk with the ladies of the
family, while Cuvier opened his letters, papers, etc., they
returned to the working room, and were busily engaged in their
separate occupations when Agassiz was surprised to hear the clock
strike five, the hour for his dinner. He expressed his regret that
he had not quite finished his work, but said that as he belonged to
a student's table his dinner would not wait for him, and he would
return soon to complete his task. Cuvier answered that he was quite
right not to neglect his regular hours for meals, and commended his
devotion to study, but added, "Be careful, and remember that WORK
KILLS." They were the last words he heard from his beloved teacher.
The next day, as Cuvier was going up to the tribune in the Chamber
of Deputies, he fell, was taken up paralyzed, and carried home.
Agassiz never saw him again.* (* This warning of Cuvier, "Work
kills," strangely recalls Johannes Muller's "Blood clings to work;"
the one seems the echo of the other. See "Memoir of Johannes
Muller", by Rudolf Virchow, page 38.)

In order to keep intact these few data respecting his personal
relations with Cuvier, as told in later years by Agassiz himself,
the course of the narrative has been anticipated by a month or two.
Let us now return to the natural order. The letter to his uncle of
course gave great pleasure at home. Just after reading it his
father writes (February, 1832), "Now that you are intrusted with
the portfolio of M. Cuvier, I suppose your plan is considerably
enlarged, and that your work will be of double volume; tell me,
then, as much about it as you think I can understand, which will
not be a great deal after all." His mother's letter on the same
occasion is full of tender sympathy and gratitude.

Meanwhile one daily anxiety embittered his scientific happiness.
The small means at his command could hardly be made, even with the
strictest economy, to cover the necessary expenses of himself and
his artist, in which were included books, drawing materials, fees,
etc. He was in constant terror lest he should be obliged to leave
Paris, to give up his investigations on the fossil fishes, and to
stop work on the costly plates he had begun. The truth about his
affairs, which he would gladly have concealed from those at home as
long as possible, was drawn from him by an accidental occurrence.
His brother had written to him for a certain book, and, failing to
receive it, inquired with some surprise why his commission was
neglected. Agassiz's next letter, about a month later than the one
to his uncle, gives the explanation.


PARIS, March, 1832.

. . .Here is the book for which you asked me,--price, 18 francs. I
shall be very sorry if it comes too late, but I could not help it
. . .In the first place I had not money enough to pay for it
without being left actually penniless. You can imagine that after
the fuel bill for the winter is paid, little remains for other
expenses out of my 200 francs a month, five louis of which are
always due to my companion. Far from having anything in advance, my
month's supply is thus taken up at once. . .Beside this cause of
delay, you can have no idea what it is to hunt for anything in Paris
when you are a stranger there. As I go out only in two or three
directions leading to my work, and might not otherwise leave my own
street for a month at a time, I naturally find myself astray when
I am off this beaten track. . .You have asked me several times how
I have been received by those to whom I had introductions. Frankly,
after having delivered a few of my letters, I have never been
again, because I cannot, in my position, spare time for visits. . .
Another excellent reason for staying away now is that I have
no presentable coat. At M. Cuvier's only am I sufficiently at ease
to go in a frock coat. . .Saturday, a week ago, M. de Ferussac
offered me the editorship of the zoological section of the
"Bulletin;" it would be worth to me an additional thousand francs,
but would require two or three hours' work daily. Write me soon
what you think about it. In the midst of all the encouragements
which sustain me and renew my ardor, I am depressed by the reverse
side of my position.

This letter drew forth the following one.


CONCISE, March, 1832.

. . .Much as your letter to your uncle delighted us, that to your
brother has saddened us. It seems, my dear child, that you are
painfully straitened in means. I understand it by personal
experience, and in your case I have foreseen it; it is the cloud
which has always darkened your prospects to me. I want to talk to
you, my dear Louis, of your future, which has often made me
anxious. You know your mother's heart too well to misunderstand her
thought, even should its expression be unacceptable to you. With
much knowledge, acquired by assiduous industry, you are still at
twenty-five years of age living on brilliant hopes, in relation, it
is true, with great people, and known as having distinguished
talent. Now, all this would seem to me delightful if you had an
income of fifty thousand francs; but, in your position, you must
absolutely have an occupation which will enable you to live, and
free you from the insupportable weight of dependence on others.
From this day forward, my dear child, you must look to this end
alone if you would find it possible to pursue honorably the career
you have chosen. Otherwise constant embarrassments will so limit
your genius, that you will fall below your own capacity. If you
follow our advice you will perhaps reach the result of your work in
the natural sciences a little later, but all the more surely. Let
us see how you can combine the work to which you have already
consecrated so much time, with the possibility of self-support. It
appears from your letter to your brother that you see no one in
Paris; the reason seems to me a sad one, but it is unanswerable,
and since you cannot change it, you must change your place of abode
and return to your own country. You have already seen in Paris all
those persons whom you thought it essential to see; unless you are
strangely mistaken in their good-will, you will be no less sure of
it in Switzerland than in Paris, and since you cannot take part in
their society, your relations with them will be the same at the
distance of a hundred leagues as they are now. You must therefore
leave Paris for Geneva, Lausanne, or Neuchatel, or any city where
you can support yourself by teaching. . .This seems to me the most
advantageous course for you. If before fixing yourself permanently
you like to take your place at the parsonage again, you will always
find us ready to facilitate, as far as we can, any arrangements for
your convenience. Here you can live in perfect tranquillity and
without expense.

There are two other subjects which I want to discuss with you,
though perhaps I shall not make myself so easily understood. You
have seen the handsome public building in process of construction
at Neuchatel. It will be finished this year, and I am told that the
Museum will be placed there. I believe the collections are very
incomplete, and the city of Neuchatel is rich enough to expend
something in filling the blanks. It has occurred to me, my dear,
that this would be an excellent opportunity for disposing of your
alcoholic specimens. They form, at present, a capital yielding no
interest, requiring care, and to be enjoyed only at the cost of
endless outlay in glass jars, alcohol, and transportation, to say
nothing of the rent of a room in which to keep them. All this,
beside attracting many visitors, is too heavy a burden for you,
from which you may free yourself by taking advantage of this rare
chance. To this end you must have an immediate understanding with
M. Coulon, lest he should make a choice elsewhere. Your brother,
being on the spot, might negotiate for you. . .Finally, my last
topic is Mr. Dinkel. You are very fortunate to have found in your
artist such a thoroughly nice fellow; nevertheless, in view of the
expense, you must make it possible to do without him. I see you
look at me aghast; but where a sacrifice is to be made we must not
do it by halves; we must pull up the tree by the roots. It is a
great evil to be spending more than one earns. . .


PARIS, March 25, 1832.

. . .It is true, dear mother, that I am greatly straitened; that I
have much less money to spend than I could wish, or even than I
need; on the other hand, this makes me work the harder, and keeps
me away from distractions which might otherwise tempt me. . .With
reference to my work, however, things are not quite as you suppose,
as regards either my stay here or my relations with M. Cuvier.
Certainly, I hope that I should lose neither his good-will nor his
protection on leaving here; on the contrary, I am sure that he
would be the first to advise me to accept any professorship, or any
place which might be advantageous for me, however removed from my
present occupations, and that his counsels would follow me there.
But what cannot follow me, and what I owe quite as much to him, is
the privilege of examining all the collections. These I can have
nowhere but in Paris, since even if he would consent to it I could
not carry away with me a hundred quintals of fossil fish, which,
for the sake of comparison, I must have before my eyes, nor
thousands of fish-skeletons, which would alone fill some fifty
great cases. It is this which compels me to stay here till I have
finished my work. I should add that M. Elie de Beaumont has also
been kind enough to place at my disposition the fossil fishes from
the collection at the Mining School, and that M. Brongniart has
made me the same offer regarding his collection, which is one of
the finest among those owned by individuals in Paris. . .

As to my collections, I had already thought of asking either the
Vaudois government or the city of Neuchatel to receive them into
the Museum, merely on condition that they should provide for the
expenses of exhibition and preservation, making use of them,
meanwhile, for the instruction of the public. I should be sorry to
lose all right to them, because I hope they may have another final
destination. I do not despair of seeing the different parts of
Switzerland united at some future day by a closer tie, and in case
of such a union a truly Helvetic university would become a
necessity; then, my aim would be to make my collection the basis of
that which they would be obliged to found for their courses of
lectures. It is really a shame that Switzerland, richer and more
extensive than many a small kingdom, should have no university,
when some states of not half its size have even two; for instance,
the grand duchy of Baden, one of whose universities, that of
Heidelberg, ranks among the first in all Germany. If ever I attain
a position allowing me so to do, I shall make every effort in my
power to procure for my country the greatest of benefits: namely,
that of an intellectual unity, which can arise only from a high
degree of civilization, and from the radiation of knowledge from
one central point.

I, too, have considered the question about Dinkel, and if, when I
have finished my work here, my position is not changed, and I have
no definite prospect, such as would justify me in keeping him with
me,--well! then we must part! I have long been preparing myself for
this, by employing him only upon what is indispensable to the
publication of my first numbers, hoping that these may procure me
the means of paying for such illustrations as I shall further need.
As my justification for having engaged him in the first instance,
and continued this expense till now, I can truly say that it is in
a great degree through his drawings that M. Cuvier has been able to
judge of my work, and so has been led to make a surrender of all
his materials in my favor. I foresaw clearly that this was my only
chance of competing with him, and it was not without reason that I
insisted so strongly on having Dinkel with me in passing through
Strasbourg and subsequently at Carlsruhe. Had I not done so, M.
Cuvier might still be in advance of me. Now my mind is at rest on
this score; I have already written you all about his kindness in
offering me the work. Could I only be equally fortunate in its

M. Cuvier urges me strongly to present my book to the Academy, in
order to obtain a report upon its contents. I must first finish it,
however, and the task is not a light one. For this reason, above
all, I regret my want of means; but for that I could have the
drawings made at once, and the Academy report, considered as a
recommendation, would certainly help on the publication greatly.
But in this respect I have long been straitened; Auguste knows that
I had at Munich an artist who was to complete what I had left there
for execution, and that I stopped his work on leaving Concise. If
the stagnation of the book-trade continues I shall, perhaps, be
forced to give up Dinkel also; for if I cannot begin the
publication, which will, I hope, bring me some return, I must cease
to accumulate material in advance. Should business revive soon,
however, I may yet have the pleasure of seeing all completed before
I leave Paris.

I think I forgot to mention the arrival of Braun six weeks after
me. I had a double pleasure in his coming, for he brought with him
his younger brother, a charming fellow, and a distinguished pupil
of the polytechnic school of Carlsruhe. He means to be a mining
engineer, and comes to study such collections at Paris as are
connected with this branch. You cannot imagine what happiness and
comfort I have in my relations with Alexander; he is so good, so
cultivated and high-minded, that his friendship is a real blessing
to me. We both feel very much our separation from the elder
Schimper, who, spite of his great desire to join us at Carlsruhe
and accompany us to Paris, was not able to leave Munich. . .

P.S. My love to Auguste. To-day (Sunday) I went again to see M.
Humboldt about Auguste's* (* Concerning a business undertaking in
Mexico.) plan, but did not find him.

Then follow several pages, addressed to his father, in answer to
the request contained in one of his last letters that Louis would
tell him as much as he thinks he can understand of his work. There
is something touching in this little lesson given by the son to the
father, as showing with what delight Louis responded to the least
touch of parental affection respecting his favorite studies, so
long looked upon at home with a certain doubt and suspicion. The
whole letter is not given here, as it is simply an elementary
treatise on geology; but the close is not without interest as
relating to the special investigations on which he was now

"The aim of our researches upon fossil animals is to ascertain what
beings have lived at each one of these (geological) epochs of
creation, and to trace their characters and their relations with
those now living; in one word, to make them live again in our
thought. It is especially the fishes that I try to restore for the
eyes of the curious, by showing them which ones have lived in each
epoch, what were their forms, and, if possible, by drawing some
conclusions as to their probable modes of life. You will better
understand the difficulty of my work when I tell you that in many
species I have only a single tooth, a scale, a spine, as my guide
in the reconstruction of all these characters, although sometimes
we are fortunate enough to find species with the fins and the
skeletons complete. . .

"I ask pardon if I have tired you with my long talk, but you know
how pleasant it is to ramble on about what interests us, and the
pleasure of being questioned by you upon subjects of this kind has
been such a rare one for me, that I have wished to present the
matter in its full light, that you may understand the zeal and the
enthusiasm which such researches can excite."

To this period belongs a curious dream mentioned by Agassiz in his
work on the fossil fishes.* (* "Recherches sur les Poissons
Fossiles". Cyclopoma spinosum Agassiz. Volume 4 tab 1, pages 20,
21.) It is interesting both as a psychological fact and as showing
how, sleeping and waking, his work was ever present with him. He
had been for two weeks striving to decipher the somewhat obscure
impression of a fossil fish on the stone slab in which it was
preserved. Weary and perplexed he put his work aside at last, and
tried to dismiss it from his mind. Shortly after, he waked one
night persuaded that while asleep he had seen his fish with all the
missing features perfectly restored. But when he tried to hold and
make fast the image, it escaped him. Nevertheless, he went early to
the Jardin des Plantes, thinking that on looking anew at the
impression he should see something which would put him on the track
of his vision. In vain,--the blurred record was as blank as ever.
The next night he saw the fish again, but with no more satisfactory
result. When he awoke it disappeared from his memory as before.
Hoping that the same experience might be repeated, on the third
night he placed a pencil and paper beside his bed before going to
sleep. Accordingly toward morning the fish reappeared in his dream,
confusedly at first, but at last with such distinctness that he had
no longer any doubt as to its zoological characters. Still half
dreaming, in perfect darkness, he traced these characters on the
sheet of paper at the bedside. In the morning he was surprised to
see in his nocturnal sketch features which he thought it impossible
the fossil itself should reveal. He hastened to the Jardin des
Plantes, and, with his drawing as a guide, succeeded in chiseling
away the surface of the stone under which portions of the fish
proved to be hidden. When wholly exposed it corresponded with his
dream and his drawing, and he succeeded in classifying it with
ease. He often spoke of this as a good illustration of the
well-known fact, that when the body is at rest the tired brain will
do the work it refused before.


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.
Letter to Humboldt.

AGASSIZ was not called upon to make the sacrifice of giving up his
artist and leaving Paris, although he was, or at least thought
himself, prepared for it. The darkest hour is before the dawn, and
the letter next given announces an unexpected relief from pressing
distress and anxiety.


PARIS, March, 1832.

. . .I am still so agitated and so surprised at what has just
happened that I scarcely believe what my eyes tell me.

I mentioned in a postscript to my last letter that I had called
yesterday on M. de Humboldt, whom I had not seen for a long time,
in order to speak to him concerning Auguste's affair, but that I
did not find him. In former visits I had spoken to him about my
position, and told him that I did not well know what course to take
with my publisher. He offered to write to him, and did so more than
two months ago. Thus far, neither he nor I have had any answer.
This morning, just as I was going out, a letter came from M. de
Humboldt, who writes me that he is very uneasy at receiving no
reply from Cotta, that he fears lest the uncertainty and anxiety of
mind resulting from this may be injurious to my work, and begs me
to accept the inclosed credit of a thousand francs. . .--Oh! if my
mother would forget for one moment that this is the celebrated M.
de Humboldt, and find courage to write him only a few lines, how
grateful I should be to her. I think it would come better from her
than from papa, who would do it more correctly, no doubt, but
perhaps not quite as I should like. Humboldt is so good, so
indulgent, that you should not hesitate, dear mother, to write him
a few lines. He lives Rue du Colombier, Number 22; address, quite
simply, M. de Humboldt. . .

In the agitation of the moment the letter was not even signed.

The following note from Humboldt to Mme. Agassiz, kept by her as a
precious possession, shows that in answer to her son's appeal his
mother took her courage, as the French saying is, "with both
hands," and wrote as she was desired.


PARIS, April 11, 1832.

I should scold your son, Madame, for having spoken to you of the
slight mark of interest I have been able to show him; and yet, how
can I complain of a letter so touching, so noble in sentiment, as
the one I have just received from your hand. Accept my warmest
thanks for it. How happy you are to have a son so distinguished by
his talents, by the variety and solidity of his acquirements, and,
withal, as modest as if he knew nothing,--in these days, too, when
youth is generally characterized by a cold and scornful
amour-propre. One might well despair of the world if a person like
your son, with information so substantial and manners so sweet and
prepossessing, should fail to make his way. I approve highly the
Neuchatel plan, and hope, in case of need, to contribute to its
success. One must aim at a settled position in life.

Pray excuse, Madame, the brevity of these lines, and accept the
assurance of my respectful regard.


The letter which lifted such a load of care from Louis and his
parents was as follows:--


PARIS, March 27, 1832.

I am very uneasy, my dearest M. Agassiz, at being still without any
letter from Cotta. Has he been prevented from writing by business,
or illness perhaps? You know how tardy he always is about writing.
Yesterday (Monday) I wrote him earnestly again concerning your
affair (an undertaking of such moment for science), and urged upon
him the issuing of the fossil and fresh-water fishes in alternate
numbers. In the mean time, I fear that the protracted delay may
weigh heavily on you and your friends. A man so laborious, so
gifted, and so deserving of affection as you are should not be left
in a position where lack of serenity disturbs his power of work.
You will then surely pardon my friendly goodwill toward you, my
dear M. Agassiz, if I entreat you to make use of the accompanying
small credit. You would do more for me I am sure. Consider it an
advance which need not be paid for years, and which I will gladly
increase when I go away or even earlier. It would pain me deeply
should the urgency of my request made in the closest confidence,
--in short, a transaction as between two friends of unequal age,
--be disagreeable to you. I should wish to be pleasantly remembered
by a young man of your character.

Yours, with the most affectionate respect,


With this letter was found the following note of acknowledgment,
scrawled in almost illegible pencil marks. Whether sent exactly as
it stands or not, it is evidently the first outburst of Agassiz's

My benefactor and friend,--it is too much; I cannot find words to
tell you how deeply your letter of to-day has moved me. I have just
been at your house that I might thank you in person with all my
heart; but now I must wait to do so until I have the good fortune
to meet you. At what a moment does your help come to me! I inclose
a letter from my dear mother that you may understand my whole
position. My parents will now readily consent that I should devote
myself entirely to science, and I am freed from the distressing
thought that I may be acting contrary to their wishes and their
will. But they have not the means to help me, and had proposed that
I should return to Switzerland and give lessons either in Geneva or
Lausanne. I had already resolved to follow this suggestion in the
course of next summer, and had also decided to part with Mr.
Dinkel, my faithful companion, as soon as he should have finished
the most indispensable drawings of the fossils on which he is now
engaged here. I meant to tell you of this on Sunday, and now to-day
comes your letter. Imagine what must have been my feeling, after
having resolved on renouncing what till now had seemed to me
noblest and most desirable in life, to find myself unexpectedly
rescued by a kind, helpful hand, and to have again the hope of
devoting my whole powers to science,--you can judge of the state
into which your letter has thrown me. . .

Soon after this event Agassiz made a short excursion with Braun and
Dinkel to the coast of Normandy; worth noting, because he now saw
the sea for the first time. He wrote home: "For five days we
skirted the coast from Havre to Dieppe; at last I have looked upon
the sea and its riches. From this excursion of a few days, which I
had almost despaired of making, I bring back new ideas, more
comprehensive views, and a more accurate knowledge of the great
phenomena presented by the ocean in its vast expanse."

Meanwhile the hope he had always entertained of finding a
professorship of natural history in his own country was ripening
into a definite project. His first letter on this subject to M.
Louis Coulon, himself a well-known naturalist, and afterward one of
his warmest friends in Neuchatel, must have been written just
before he received from Humboldt the note of the same date, which
extricated him from his pecuniary embarrassment.


PARIS, March 27, 1832.

. . .When I had the pleasure of seeing you last summer I several
times expressed my strong desire to establish myself near you, and
my intention of taking some steps toward obtaining the
professorship of natural history to be founded in your Lyceum. The
matter must be more advanced now than it was last year, and you
would oblige me greatly by giving me some information concerning
it. I have spoken of my project to M. de Humboldt, whom I often
see, and who kindly interests himself about my prospects and helps
me with his advice. He thinks that under the circumstances, and
especially in my position, measures should be taken in advance.
There is another point of great importance for me about which I
wished also to speak to you. Though you have seen but a small part
of it, you nevertheless know that in my different journeys, partly
through my relations with other naturalists, partly by exchange, I
have made a very fair collection of natural history, especially
rich in just those classes which are less fully represented in your
museum. My collection might, therefore, fill the gaps in that of
the city of Neuchatel, and make the latter more than adequate for
the illustration of a full course of natural history. Should an
increase of your zoological collection make part of your plans for
the Lyceum, I venture to believe that mine would fully answer your
purpose. In that case I would offer it to you, since the expense of
arranging it, the rent of a room in which to keep it, and, in
short, its support in general, is beyond my means. I must find some
way of relieving myself from this burden, although it will be hard
to part with these companions of my study, upon which I have based
almost all my investigations. I have spoken of this also to M. de
Humboldt, who is good enough to show an interest in the matter, and
will even take all necessary steps with the government to
facilitate this purchase. You would render me the greatest service
by giving me your directions about all this, and especially by
telling me: 1. On whom the nomination to the professorship depends?
2. With whom the purchase of the collection would rest? 3. What you
think I should do with reference to both? Of course you will easily
understand that I cannot give up my collections except under the
condition that I should be allowed the free use of them. . .

The answer was not only courteous, but kind, although some time
elapsed before the final arrangements were made. Meanwhile the
following letter shows us the doubts and temptations which for a
moment embarrassed Agassiz in his decision. The death of Cuvier had


PARIS, May, 1832.

. . .I would not write you until I had definite news from
Neuchatel. Two days ago I received a very delightful letter from M.
Coulon, which I hasten to share with you. I will not copy the
whole, but extract the essential part. He tells me that he has
proposed to the Board of Education the establishment of a
professorship of natural history, to be offered to me. The
proposition met with a cordial hearing. The need of such a
professorship was unanimously recognized, but the President
explained that neither would the condition of the treasury allow
its establishment in the present year, nor could the proposition be
brought before the Council of State until the opening of the new

Monsieur Coulon was commissioned to thank me, and to request me in
the name of the board to keep the place in mind; should I prefer
it, however, he doubts not that whatever the city could not do
might be made good by subscription before next autumn, in which
case I could enter upon office at once. He requests a prompt answer
in order that he may make all needful preparations. Only too gladly
would I have consulted you about various propositions made to me
here in the last few days, and have submitted my course to your
approval, had it not been that here, as in Neuchatel, a prompt
answer was urged. Although guided rather by instinct than by
anything else, I think, nevertheless, that I have chosen rightly.
In such moments, when one cannot see far enough in advance to form
an accurate judgment upon deliberation, feeling is, after all, the
best adviser; that inner impulse, which is a safe guide if other
considerations do not confuse the judgment. This says to me, "Go to
Neuchatel; do not stay in Paris." But I speak in riddles; I must
explain myself more clearly. Last Monday Levrault sent for me in
order to propose that Valenciennes and I should jointly undertake
the publication of the Cuvierian fishes. . .I was to give a
positive answer this week. I have carefully considered it, and have
decided that an unconditional engagement would lead me away from my
nearest aim, and from what I look upon as the task of my life. The
already published volumes of the System of Ichthyology lie too far
from the road on which I intend to pursue my researches. Finally,
it seems to me that in a quiet retired place like Neuchatel,
whatever may be growing up within me will have a more independent
and individual development than in this restless Paris, where
obstacles or difficulties may not perhaps divert me from a given
purpose, but may disturb or delay its accomplishment. I will
therefore so shape my answer to Levrault as to undertake only
single portions of the work, the choice of these, on account of my
interest in the fossil and the fresh-water fishes, being allowed
me, with the understanding, also, that I should be permitted to
have these collections in Switzerland and work them up there. From
Paris, also, it would not be so easy to transfer myself to Germany,
whereas I could consider Neuchatel as a provisional position from
which I might be called to a German university. . .

In the mean time, while waiting hopefully the result of his
negotiations with Neuchatel, Agassiz had organized with his
friends, the two Brauns, a bachelor life very like the one he and
Alexander had led with their classmates in Munich. The little hotel
where they lodged had filled up with young German doctors, who had
come to visit the hospitals in Paris and study the cholera. Some of
these young men had been their fellow-students at the university,
and at their request Agassiz and Braun resumed the practice of
giving private lectures on zoology and botany, the whole being
conducted in the most informal manner, admitting absolute freedom
of discussion, as among intimate companions of the same age. Such
an interchange naturally led to very genial relations between the
amateur professors and their class, and on the eve of Agassiz's
birthday (28th of May) his usual audience prepared for him a very
pleasant surprise. Returning from a walk after dusk he found Braun
in his room. Continuing his stroll within four walls, he and his
friend paced the floor together in earnest talk, when, at a signal,
Braun suddenly drew him to the window, threw it open, and on the
pavement below stood their companions, singing a part song,
composed in honor of Agassiz. Deeply moved, he withdrew from the
window in time to receive them as they trooped up the stairway to
offer their good wishes. They presently led the way to another room
which they had dressed with flowers, Agassiz's name, among other
decorations, being braided in roses beneath two federal flags
crossed on the wall. Here supper was laid, and the rest of the
evening passed gayly with songs and toasts, not only for the hero
of the feast and for friends far and near, but for the progress of
science, the liberty of the people, and the independence of
nations. There could be no meeting of ardent young Germans and
Swiss in those days without some mingling of patriotic aspirations
with the sentiment of the hour.

The friendly correspondence between Agassiz and M. Coulon regarding
the professorship at Neuchatel was now rapidly bringing the matter
to a happy conclusion.


PARIS, June 4, 1832.

I have received your kind letter with great pleasure and hasten to
reply. What you write gives me the more satisfaction because it
opens to me in the near future the hope of establishing myself in
your neighborhood and devoting to my country the fruits of my
labor. It is true, as you suppose, that the death of M. Cuvier has
sensibly changed my position; indeed, I have already been asked to
continue his work on fishes in connection with M. Valenciennes, who
made me this proposition the day after your letter reached me. The
conditions offered me are, indeed, very tempting, but I am too
little French by character, and too anxious to live in Switzerland,
not to prefer the place you can offer me, however small the
appointments, if they do but keep me above actual embarrassment. I
say thus much only in order to answer that clause in your letter
where you touch upon this question. I would add that I leave the
field quite free in this respect, and that I am yours without
reserve, if, indeed, within the fortnight, the urgency of the
Parisians does not carry the day, or, rather, as soon as I write
you that I have been able finally to withdraw. You easily
understand that I cannot bluntly decline offers which seem to those
who make them so brilliant. But I shall hold out against them to
the utmost. My course with reference to my own publications will
have shown you that I do not care for a lucrative position from
personal interest; that, on the contrary, I should always be ready
to use such means as I may have at my disposition for the
advancement of the institution confided to my care.

My work will still detain me for four or five months at Paris,--my
time being after that completely at my disposal. The period at
which I should like to begin my lectures is therefore very near,
and I think if your people are favorably disposed toward the
creation of a new professorship we must not let them grow cold. But
you have shown me so much kindness that I may well leave to your
care, in concert with your friends, the decision of this point; the
more so since you are willing to take charge of my interests, until
you see the success of what you are pleased to look upon as an
advantage to your institution, while for me it is the realization
of a sincere desire to do what I can for the advancement of
science, and the instruction of our youth. . .

The next letter from M. Coulon (June 18, 1832) announces that the
sum of eighty louis having been guaranteed for three years, chiefly
by private individuals, but partly also by the city, they were now
able to offer a chair of natural history at once to their young
countryman. In conclusion, he adds:--

"I can easily understand that the brilliant offers made you in
Paris strongly counterbalance a poor little professorship of
natural history at Neuchatel, and may well cause you to hesitate;
especially since your scientific career there is so well begun. On
the other hand, you cannot doubt our pleasure in the prospect of
having you at Neuchatel, not only because of the friendship felt
for you by many persons here, but also on account of the lustre
which a chair of natural history so filled would shed upon our
institution. Of this our subscribers are well aware, and it
accounts for the rapid filling of the list. I am very anxious, as
are all these gentlemen, to know your decision, and beg you
therefore to let us hear from you as soon as possible."

A letter from Humboldt to M. Coulon, about this time, is an earnest
of his watchful care over the interests of Agassiz.


POTSDAM, July 25, 1832.

. . .I do not write to ask a favor, but only to express my warm
gratitude for your noble and generous dealings with the young
savant, M. Agassiz, who is well worthy your encouragement and the
protection of your government. He is distinguished by his talents,
by the variety and substantial character of his attainments, and by
that which has a special value in these troubled times, his natural
sweetness of disposition.

Through our common friend, M. von Buch, I have known for many years
that you study natural history with a success equal to your zeal,
and that you have brought together fine collections, which you
place at the disposal of others with a noble liberality. It
gratifies me to see your kindness toward a young man to whom I am
so warmly attached; whom the illustrious Cuvier, also, whose loss
we must ever deplore, would have recommended with the same
heartiness, for his faith, like mine, was based on those admirable
works of Agassiz which are now nearly completed. . .

I have strongly advised M. Agassiz not to accept the offers made to
him at Paris since M. Cuvier's death, and his decision has
anticipated my advice. How happy it would be for him, and for the
completion of the excellent works on which he is engaged, could he
this very year be established on the shores of your lake! I have no
doubt that he will receive the powerful protection of your worthy
governor, to whom I shall repeat my requests, and who honors me, as
well as my brother, with a friendship I warmly appreciate. M. von
Buch also has promised me, before leaving Berlin for Bonn and
Vienna, to add his entreaty to mine. . .He is almost as much
interested as myself in M. Agassiz and his work on fossil fishes,
the most important ever undertaken, and equally exact in its
relation to zoological characters and to geological deposits. . .

The next letter from Agassiz to his influential friend is written
after his final acceptance of the Neuchatel professorship.


PARIS, July, 1832.

. . .I would most gladly have answered your delightful letter at
once, and have told you how smoothly all has gone at Neuchatel.
Your letters to M. de Coulon and to General von Pfuel have wrought
marvels; but they are now inclined to look upon me there as a
wonder from the deep,* (* Ein blaues Meerwunder.) and I must exert
myself to the utmost lest my actual presence should give the lie to
fame. It is all right. I shall be the less likely to relax in
devotion to my work.

The real reason of my silence has been that I was unwilling to
acknowledge so many evidences of efficient sympathy and friendly
encouragement by an empty letter. I wished especially to share with
you the final result of my investigations on the fossil fishes, and
for that purpose it was necessary to revise my manuscripts and take
an account of my tables in order to condense the whole in a few
phrases. I have already told you that the investigation of the
living fishes had suggested to me a new classification, in which
families as at present circumscribed respectively received new, and
to my thinking more natural positions, based upon other
considerations than those hitherto brought forward. I did not at
first lay any special stress on my classification. . .My object was
only to utilize certain structural characters which frequently
recur among fossil forms, and which might therefore enable me to
determine remains hitherto considered of little value. . .Absorbed
in the special investigation, I paid no heed to the edifice which
was meanwhile unconsciously building itself up. Having however
completed the comparison of the fossil species in Paris, I wanted,
for the sake of an easy revision of the same, to make a list
according to their succession in geological formations, with a view
of determining the characteristics more exactly and bringing them
by their enumeration into bolder relief. What was my joy and
surprise to find that the simplest enumeration of the fossil fishes
according to their geological succession was also a complete
statement of the natural relations of the families among
themselves; that one might therefore read the genetic development
of the whole class in the history of creation, the representation
of the genera and species in the several families being therein
determined; in one word, that the genetic succession of the fishes
corresponds perfectly with their zoological classification, and
with just that classification proposed by me. The question
therefore in characterizing formations is no longer that of the
numerical preponderance of certain genera and species, but of
distinct structural relations, carried through all these formations
according to a definite direction, following each other in an
appointed order, and recognizable in the organisms as they are
brought forth. . .If my conclusions are not overturned or modified
through some later discovery, they will form a new basis for the
study of fossils. Should you communicate my discovery to others I
shall be especially pleased, because it may be long before I can
begin to publish it myself, and many may be interested in it. This
seems to me the most important of my results, though I have also,
partly from perfect specimens, partly from fragments, identified
some five hundred extinct species, and more than fifty extinct
genera, beside reestablishing three families no longer represented.

Cotta has written me in very polite terms that he could not
undertake anything new at present; he would rather pay, without regard
to profit, for what has been done thus far, and lets me have fifteen
hundred francs. This makes it possible for me to leave Dinkel in Paris
to complete the drawings. Although it often seems to me hard, I must
reconcile myself to the thought of leaving investigations which are
actually completed, locked up in my desk. . .


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.
Invitation from Charpentier.
Invitation to visit England.
Wollaston Prize.
First Number of "Poissons Fossiles."
Review of the Work.

THE following autumn Agassiz assumed the duties of his
professorship at Neuchatel. His opening lecture "Upon the Relations
between the different branches of Natural History and the then
prevailing tendencies of all the Sciences" was given on the 12th of
November, 1832, at the Hotel de Ville. Judged by the impression
made upon the listeners as recorded at the time, this introductory
discourse must have been characterized by the same broad spirit of
generalization which marked Agassiz's later teaching. Facts in his
hands fell into their orderly relation as parts of a connected
whole, and were never presented merely as special or isolated
phenomena. From the beginning his success as an instructor was
undoubted. He had, indeed, now entered upon the occupation which
was to be from youth to old age the delight of his life. Teaching
was a passion with him, and his power over his pupils might be
measured by his own enthusiasm. He was intellectually, as well as
socially, a democrat, in the best sense. He delighted to scatter
broadcast the highest results of thought and research, and to adapt
them even to the youngest and most uninformed minds. In his later
American travels he would talk of glacial phenomena to the driver
of a country stage-coach among the mountains, or to some workman,
splitting rock at the road-side, with as much earnestness as if he
had been discussing problems with a brother geologist; he would
take the common fisherman into his scientific confidence, telling
him the intimate secrets of fish structure or fish-embryology, till
the man in his turn grew enthusiastic, and began to pour out
information from the stores of his own rough and untaught habits of
observation. Agassiz's general faith in the susceptibility of the
popular intelligence, however untrained, to the highest truths of
nature, was contagious, and he created or developed that in which
he believed.

In Neuchatel the presence of the young professor was felt at once
as a new and stimulating influence. The little town suddenly became
a centre of scientific activity. A society for the pursuit of the
natural sciences, of which he was the first secretary, sprang into
life. The scientific collections, which had already attained, under
the care of M. Louis Coulon, considerable value, presently assumed
the character and proportions of a well-ordered museum. In M.
Coulon Agassiz found a generous friend and a scientific colleague
who sympathized with his noblest aspirations, and was ever ready to
sustain all his efforts in behalf of scientific progress. Together
they worked in arranging, enlarging, and building up a museum of
natural history which soon became known as one of the best local
institutions of the kind in Europe.

Beside his classes at the gymnasium, Agassiz collected about him,
by invitation, a small audience of friends and neighbors, to whom
he lectured during the winter on botany, on zoology, on the
philosophy of nature. The instruction was of the most familiar and
informal character, and was continued in later years for his own
children and the children of his friends. In the latter case the
subjects were chiefly geology and geography in connection with
botany, and in favorable weather the lessons were usually given in
the open air. One can easily imagine what joy it must have been for
a party of little playmates, boys and girls, to be taken out for
long walks in the country over the hills about Neuchatel, and
especially to Chaumont, the mountain which rises behind it, and
thus to have their lessons, for which the facts and scenes about
them furnished subject and illustration, combined with pleasant
rambles. From some high ground affording a wide panoramic view
Agassiz would explain to them the formation of lakes, islands,
rivers, springs, water-sheds, hills, and valleys. He always
insisted that physical geography could be better taught to children
in the vicinity of their own homes than by books or maps, or even
globes. Nor did he think a varied landscape essential to such
instruction. Undulations of the ground, some contrast of hill and
plain, some sheet of water with the streams that feed it, some
ridge of rocky soil acting as a water-shed, may be found
everywhere, and the relation of facts shown perhaps as well on a
small as on a large scale.

When it was impossible to give the lessons out of doors, the
children were gathered around a large table, where each one had
before him or her the specimens of the day, sometimes stones and
fossils, sometimes flowers, fruits, or dried plants. To each child
in succession was explained separately what had first been told to
all collectively. When the talk was of tropical or distant
countries pains were taken to procure characteristic specimens, and
the children were introduced to dates, bananas, cocoa-nuts, and
other fruits, not easily to be obtained in those days in a small
inland town. They, of course, concluded the lesson by eating the
specimens, a practical illustration which they greatly enjoyed. A
very large wooden globe, on the surface of which the various
features of the earth as they came up for discussion could be
shown, served to make them more clear and vivid. The children took
their own share in the instruction, and were themselves made to
point out and describe that which had just been explained to them.
They took home their collections, and as a preparation for the next
lesson were often called upon to classify and describe some unusual
specimen by their own unaided efforts. There was no tedium in the
class. Agassiz's lively, clear, and attractive method of teaching
awakened their own powers of observation in his little pupils, and
to some at least opened permanent sources of enjoyment.

His instructions to his older pupils were based on the same
methods, and were no less acceptable to them than to the children.
In winter his professional courses to the students were chiefly
upon zoology and kindred topics; in the summer he taught them
botany and geology, availing himself of the fine days for
excursions and practical instruction in the field. Professor Louis
Favre, speaking of these excursions, which led them sometimes into
the gorges of the Seyon, sometimes into the forests of Chaumont,
says: "They were fete days for the young people, who found in their
professor an active companion, full of spirits, vigor, and gayety,
whose enthusiasm kindled in them the sacred fire of science."

It was not long before his growing reputation brought him
invitations from elsewhere. One of the first of these was from


HEIDELBERG, December 4, 1832.

. . .Last autumn, when I had the pleasure of meeting you in
Carlsruhe, I proposed to you to give some lectures on Natural
History at this university. Professor Leuckart, who till now
represented zoology here, is called to Freiburg, and you would
therefore be the only teacher in that department. The university
being so frequented, a numerous audience may be counted upon. The
zoological collection, by no means an insignificant one, is open to
your use. Professor Leuckart received a salary of five hundred
florins. This is now unappropriated, and I do not doubt that the
government, conformably to the proposition of the medical faculty,
would give you the appointment on the same terms. By your knowledge
you are prepared for the work of an able academical teacher. My
advice is, therefore, that you should not bind yourself to any
lyceum or gymnasium, as a permanent position; such a place would
not suit a cultivated scientific man, nor does it offer a field for
an accomplished scholar. Consider carefully, therefore, a question
which concerns the efficiency of your life, and give me the result
of your deliberation as soon as possible. Should it be favorable to
the acceptance of my proposition, I hope you will find yourself
here at Easter as full professor, with a salary of five hundred
florins, and a fitting field of activity for your knowledge. The
fees for lectures and literary work might bring you in an
additional fifteen hundred gulden yearly. If you accede to this
offer send me your inaugural dissertation, and make me acquainted
with your literary work, that I may take the necessary steps with
the Curatorio. Consider this proposition as a proof of my high
appreciation of your literary efforts and of my regard for you

Agassiz's next letter to Humboldt is to consult him with respect to
the call from Heidelberg, while it is also full of pleasure at the
warm welcome extended to him in Neuchatel.


December, 1832.

. . .At last I am in Neuchatel, having, indeed, begun my lectures
some weeks ago. I have been received in a way I could never have
anticipated, and which can only be due to your good-will on my
behalf and your friendly recommendation. You have my warmest thanks
for the trouble you have taken about me, and for your continued
sympathy. Let me show you by my work in the years to come, rather
than by words, that I am in earnest about science, and that my
spirit is not irresponsive to a noble encouragement such as you
have given me.

You will have received my letter from Carlsruhe. Could I only tell
you all that I have since thought and observed about the history of
our earth's development, the succession of the animal populations,
and their genetic classification! It cannot easily be compressed
within letter limits; I will, nevertheless, attempt it when my
lectures make less urgent claim upon me, and my eyes are less
fatigued. I should defer writing till then were it not that to-day
I have something of at least outside interest to announce. It
concerns the inclosed letter received to-day. (The offer of a
professorship at Heidelberg.) Should you think that I need not take
it into consideration, and you have no time to answer me, let me
know your opinion by your silence. I will tell you the reasons
which would induce me to remain for the present in Neuchatel, and I
think you will approve them. First, as my lectures do not claim a
great part of my time I shall have the more to bestow on other
work; add to this the position of Neuchatel, so favorable for
observations such as I propose making on the history of development
in several classes of animals; then the hope of freeing myself from
the burden of my collections; and next, the quiet of my life here
with reference to my somewhat overstrained health. Beside my wish
to remain, these favorable circumstances furnish a powerful motive,
and then I am satisfied that people here would assist me with the
greatest readiness should my publications not succeed otherwise. As
to the publication of my fishes, I can, after all, better direct
the lithographing of the plates here. I have just written to Cotta
concerning this, proposing also that he should advance the cost of
the lithographs. I shall attend to it all carefully, and be content
for the present with my small means. From the gradual sale he can,
little by little, repay my expenses, and I shall ask no profit
until the success of the work warrants it. I await his answer. This
proposal seems to me the best and the most likely to advance the
publication of this work.

Since I arrived here some scientific efforts have been made with
the help of M. Coulon. We have already founded a society of Natural
History,* (* Societe des Sciences Naturelles de Neuchatel.) and I
hope, should you make your promised visit next year, you will find
this germ between foliage and flower at least, though perhaps not
yet ripened into seed. . .

M. Coulon told me the day before yesterday that he had spoken with
M. de Montmollin, the Treasurer, who would write to M. Ancillon
concerning the purchase of my collection. . .Will you have the
kindness, when occasion offers, to say a word to M. Ancillon about
it?. . .Not only would this collection be of the greatest value to
the museum here, but its sale would also advance my farther
investigations. With the sum of eighty louis, which is all that is
subscribed for my professorship, I cannot continue them on any
large scale.

I await now with anxiety Cotta's answer to my last proposition; but
whatever it be, I shall begin the lithographing of the plates
immediately after the New Year, as they must be carried on under my
own eye and direction. This I can well do since my uncle, Dr. Mayor
in Lausanne, gives me fifty louis toward it, the amount of one
year's pay to Weber, my former lithographer in Munich. I have
therefore written him to come, and expect him after New Year. With
my salary I can also henceforth keep Dinkel, who is now in Paris,
drawing the last fossils which I described. . .

No answer to this letter has been found beyond such as is implied
in the following to M. Coulon.


BERLIN, January 21, 1833.

. . .It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the flattering
welcome offered by you and your fellow-citizens to M. Agassiz, who
stands so high in science, and whose intellectual qualities are
enhanced by his amiable character. They write me from Heidelberg
that they intend the place of M. Leuckart in zoology for my young
friend. The choice is proposed by M. Tiedemann, and certainly
nothing could be more honorable to M. Agassiz. Nevertheless, I hope
that he will refuse it. He should remain for some years in your
country, where a generous encouragement facilitates the publication
of his work, which is of equal importance to zoology and geology.

I have spoken with M. Ancillon, and have left with him an official
notice respecting the purchase of the Agassiz collection. The
difficulty will be found, as in all human affairs, in the prose of
life, in money. M. Ancillon writes me this morning: "Your paper in
favor of M. Agassiz is a scientific letter of credit which we shall
try to honor. The acquisition of a superior man and a superior
collection at the same time would be a double conquest for the
principality of Neuchatel. I have requested a report from the
Council of State on the means of accomplishing this, and I hope
that private individuals may do something toward it." Thus you see
the affair is at least on the right road. I do not think, however,
that the royal treasury will give at present more than a thousand
Prussian crowns toward it. . .

Regarding the invitation to Heidelberg, Agassiz's decision was
already made. A letter to his brother toward the close of December
mentions that he is offered a professorship at the University of
Heidelberg, but that, although his answer has not actually gone, he
has resolved to decline it; adding that the larger salary is
counterbalanced in his mind by the hope of selling his collection
at Neuchatel, and thus freeing himself from a heavy burden.

Agassiz was now threatened with a great misfortune. Already, in
Paris, his eyes had begun to suffer from the strain of microscopic
work. They now became seriously impaired; and for some months he
was obliged to abate his activity, and to refrain even from writing
a letter. During this time, while he was shut up in a darkened
room, he practiced the study of fossils by touch alone, using even
the tip of the tongue to feel out the impression, when the fingers
were not sufficiently sensitive. He said he was sure at the time
that he could bring himself in this way to such delicacy of touch
that the loss of sight would not oblige him to abandon his work.
After some months his eyes improved, and though at times threatened
with a return of the same malady, he was able, throughout life, to
use his eyes more uninterruptedly than most persons. His lectures,
always delivered extemporaneously, do not seem to have been
suspended for any length of time.

The following letter from Agassiz to Humboldt is taken from a rough
and incomplete draught, which was evidently put aside (perhaps on
account of the trouble in his eyes), and only completed in the
following May. Although imperfect, it explains Humboldt's answer,
which is not only interesting in itself, but throws light on
Agassiz's work at this period.


NEUCHATEL, January 27, 1833.

. . .A thousand thanks for your last most welcome letter. I can
hardly tell you what pleasure it gave me, or how I am cheered and
stimulated to new activity by intercourse with you on so intimate a
footing. Since I wrote you, some things have become more clear to
me, as, for instance, my purpose of publishing the "Fossil Fishes"
here. Certain doubts remain in my mind, however, about which, as
well as about other matters, I would ask your advice. Now that
Cotta is dead, I cannot wait till I have made an arrangement with
his successor. I therefore allow the "Fresh-Water Fishes" to lie by
and drive on the others. Upon careful examination I have found, to
my astonishment, that all necessary means for the publication of
such a work are to be had here: two good lithographers and two
printing establishments, both of which have excellent type. I have
sent for Weber to engrave the plates, or draw them on stone; he
will be here at the end of the month. Then I shall begin at once,
and hope in May to send out the first number. The great difficulty
remains now in the distribution of the numbers, and in finding a
sufficient sale so that they may follow each other with regularity.
I think it better to begin the publication as a whole than to send
out an abridgment in advance. The species can be characterized only
by good illustrations. A summary always requires farther
demonstration, whereas, if I give the plates at once I can shorten
the text and present the general results as an introduction to the
first number. With twelve numbers, of twenty plates each, followed
by about ten pages of text, I can tell all that I have to say. The
cost of one hundred and fifty copies printed here would, according
to careful inquiry, be covered by seventy subscriptions if the
price were put at one louis-d'or the number.

Now comes the question whether I should print more than one hundred
and fifty copies. On account of the expense I shall not preserve
the stones. For the distribution of the copies and the collecting
of the money could you, perhaps, recommend me to some house in
Berlin or Leipzig, who would take the work for sale in Germany on
commission under reasonable conditions? For England, I wrote
yesterday to Lyell, and to-morrow I shall write to Levrault and

Both the magistrates and private individuals here are now much
interested in public instruction, and I am satisfied that sooner or
later my collection will be purchased, though nothing has been said
about it lately.* (* His collection was finally purchased by the
city of Neuchatel in the spring of 1833.)

For a closer description of my family of Lepidostei, to which
belong all the ante-chalk bony fishes, I am anxious to have for
dissection a Polypterus Bichir and a Lepidosteus osseus, or any
other species belonging exclusively to the present creation.
Hitherto, I have only been able to examine and describe the
skeleton and external parts. If you could obtain a specimen of both
for me you would do me the greatest service. If necessary, I will
engage to return the preparations. I beg for this most earnestly.
Forgive the many requests contained in this letter, and see in it
only my ardent desire to reach my aim, in which you have already
helped me so often and so kindly.


SANS SOUCI, July 4, 1833.

. . .I am happy in your success, my dear Agassiz, happy in your
charming letter of May 22nd, happy in the hope of having been able
to do something that may be useful to you for the subscription. The
Prince Royal's name seemed to me rather important for you. I have
delayed writing, not because I am one of the most persecuted men in
Europe (the persecution goes on crescendo; there is not a scholar
in Prussia or Germany having anything to ask of the King, or of M.
d'Altenstein, who does not think it necessary to make me his agent,
with power of attorney), but because it was necessary to await the
Prince Royal's return from his military circuit, and the
opportunity of speaking to him alone, which does not occur when I
am with the King.

Your prospectus is full of interest, and does ample justice to
those who have provided you with materials. To name me among them
was an affectionate deceit, the ruse of a noble soul like yours; I
am a little vexed with you about it.* (* The few words which called
forth this protest from Humboldt were as follows. After naming all
those from whom he had received help in specimens or otherwise,
Agassiz concludes:--"Finally, I owe to M. de Humboldt not only
important notes on fossil fishes, but so many kindnesses in
connection with my work that in enumerating them I should fear to
wound the delicacy of the giver." This will hardly seem an
exaggeration to those who know the facts of the case.)

Here is the beginning of a list. I think the Department of the
Mines de Province will take three or four more copies. We have not
their answer yet. Do not be frightened at the brevity of the list
. . .I am, however, the least apt of all men in collecting
subscriptions, seeing no one but the court, and forced to be out of
town three or four days in the week. On account of this same
inaptitude, I beg you to send me, through the publisher, only my
own three copies, and to address the others, through the publisher
also, to the individuals named on the list, merely writing on each
copy that the person has subscribed on the list of M. de Humboldt.

With all my affection for you, my dear friend, it would be
impossible for me to take charge of the distribution of your
numbers or the returns. The publishing houses of Dummler or of
Humblot and Dunker would be useful to you at Berlin. I find it
difficult to believe that you will navigate successfully among
these literary corsairs! I have had a short eulogium of your work
inserted in the Berliner Staats-Zeitung. You see that I do not
neglect your interests, and that, for love of you, I even turn
journalist. You have omitted to state in your prospectus whether
your plates are lithographed, as I fear they are, and also whether
they are colored, which seems to me unnecessary. Have your superb
original drawings remained in your possession, or are they included
in the sale of your collection?. . .

I could not make use of your letter to the King, and I have
suppressed it. You have been ill-advised as to the forms.
"Erhabener Konig" has too poetical a turn; we have here the most
prosaic and the most degrading official expressions. M. de Pfuel
must have some Arch-Prussian with him, who would arrange the
formula of a letter for you. At the head there must be "Most
enlightened, most powerful King,--all gracious sovereign and lord."
Then you begin, "Your Royal Majesty, deeply moved, I venture to lay
at your feet most humbly my warmest thanks for the support so
graciously granted to the purchase of my collection for the
Gymnasium in Neuchatel. Did I know how to write," etc. The rest of
your letter was very good; put only "so much grace as to answer"
instead of "so much kindness." You should end with the words, "I
remain till death, in deepest reverence, the most humble and
faithful servant of your Royal Majesty." The whole on small folio,
sealed, addressed outside, "To the King's Majesty, Berlin." Send
the letter, not through me, but officially, through M. de Pfuel.*
(* At the head there must be "Allerdurchlauchtigster,
grossmachtigster Konig,--allergnadigster Konig und Herr." Then you
begin, "Euer koniglichen Majestat, wage ich meinen lebhaftesten
Dank fur die allergnadigst bewilligte Unterstutzung zum Ankauf
meiner Sammlung fur das Gymnasium in Neuchatel tief geruhrt
allerunterthanigst zu Fussen zu legen. Wusste ich zu schreiben,"
etc. The rest of your letter was very good,--put only, "so vieler
Gnade zu entsprechen" instead of "so vieler Gute." You should end
with the words, "Ich ersterbe in tiefster Ehrfurcht Euer
koniglicher Majestat aller onter thanigsten getreuester." The whole
in small folio, sealed, addressed outside, "An des Konig's
Majestat, Berlin." These forms are no longer in use. They belong to
a past generation.)

The letter to the King is not absolutely necessary, but it will
give pleasure, for the King likes any affectionate demonstration
from the country that has now become yours.* (* It may not be known
to all readers that Neuchatel was then under Prussian sovereignty.)
It will be useful, also, with reference to our request for the
purchase of some copies, which we will make to the King as soon as
the first number has appeared. Had I obtained the King's name for
you to-day (which would have been difficult, since the King detests
subscriptions), we should have spoiled the sequence. It seems to me
that a letter of acknowledgment from you to M. Ancillon would be
very suitable also. Do not think it is too late. One addresses him
as "Monsieur et plus votre Excellence." I am writing the most
pedantic letter in the world in answer to yours, so full of charm.
It must seem to you absurd that I write you in French, when you,
French by origin, or rather by language, prefer to write me in
German. Pray tell me, did you learn German, which you write with
such purity, as a child?

I am happy to see that you publish the whole together. The
parceling out of such a work would have led to endless delays; but,
for mercy's sake, take care of your eyes; they are OURS. I have not
neglected the subscriptions in Russia, but I have, as yet, no
answer. At a venture, I have placed the name of M. von Buch on my
list. He is absent; it is said that he will go to Greece this
summer. Pray make it a rule not to give away copies of your work.
If you follow that inclination you will be pecuniarily ruined.

I wish I could have been present at your course of lectures. What
you tell me of them delights me, though I am ready to do battle
with you about those metamorphoses of our globe which have even
slipped into your title. I see by your letter that you cling to the
idea of internal vital processes of the earth, that you regard the
successive formations as different phases of life, the rocks as
products of metamorphosis. I think this symbolical language should
be employed with great reserve, I know that point of view of the
old "Naturphilosophie;" I have examined it without prejudice, but
nothing seems to me more dissimilar than the vital action of the
metamorphosis of a plant in order to form the calyx or the flower,
and the successive formation of beds of conglomerate. There is
order, it is true, in the superposed beds, sometimes an alternation
of the same substance, an interior cause,--sometimes even a
successive development, starting from a central heat; but can the
term "life" be applied to this kind of movement? Limestone does not
generate sandstone. I do not know that there exists what
physiologists call a vital force, different from, or opposed to,
the physical forces which we recognize in all matter; I think the
vital process is only a particular mode of action, of limitation of
those physical forces; action, the nature of which we have not yet
fully sounded. I believe there are nervous storms (electric) like
those which set fire to the atmosphere, but that special action
which we call organic, in which every part becomes cause or effect,
seems to me distinct from the changes which our planet has
undergone. I pause here, for I feel that I must annoy you, and I
care for you too much to run that risk. Moreover, a superior man
like yourself, my dear friend, floats above material things and
leaves a margin for philosophic doubt.

Farewell; count on the little of life that remains to me, and on my
affectionate devotion. At twenty-six years of age, and possessed of
so much knowledge, you are only entering upon life, while I am
preparing to depart; leaving this world far different from what I
hoped it would be in my youth. I will not forget the Bichir and the
Lepidosteus. Remember always that your letters give me the greatest
pleasure. . .

[P.S.] Look carefully at the new number of Poggendorf, in which you
will find beautiful discoveries of Ehrenberg (microscopical) on the
difference of structure between the brain and the nerves of motion,
also upon the crystals forming the silvered portion of the
peritoneum of Esox lucius.

In October, 1833, Agassiz's marriage to Cecile Braun, the sister of
his life-long friend, Alexander Braun, took place. He brought his
wife home to a small apartment in Neuchatel, where they began their
housekeeping after the simplest fashion, with such economy as their
very limited means enforced. Her rare artistic talent, hitherto
devoted to her brother's botanical pursuits, now found a new field.
Trained to accuracy in drawing objects of Natural History, she had
an artist's eye for form and color. Some of the best drawings in
the Fossil Fishes and the Fresh-Water Fishes are from her hand.
Throughout the summer, notwithstanding the trouble in his eyes,
Agassiz had been still pressing on these works. His two artists,
Mr. Dinkel and Mr. Weber, the former in Paris, the latter in
Neuchatel, were constantly busy on his plates.

Although Agassiz was at this time only twenty-six years of age, his
correspondence already shows that the interest of scientific men,
all over Europe, was attracted to him and to his work. From
investigators of note in his own country, from those of France,
Italy, and Germany, from England, and even from America, the
distant El Dorado of naturalists in those days, came offers of
cooperation, accompanied by fossil fishes or by the drawings of
rare or unique specimens. He was known in all the museums of Europe
as an indefatigable worker and collector, seeking everywhere
materials for comparison.

Among the letters of this date is one from Charpentier, one of the
pioneers of glacial investigation, under whose auspices, two years
later, Agassiz began his inquiries into glacial phenomena. He
writes him from the neighborhood of Bex, his home in the valley of
the Rhone, the classic land of glacial work; but he writes of
Agassiz's special subjects, inviting him to come and see such
fossils as were to be found in his neighborhood, and to investigate
certain phenomena of upheaval and of plutonic action in the same
region, little dreaming that the young zoologist was presently to
join him in his own chosen field of research.

Agassiz now began also to receive pressing invitations from the
English naturalists, from Buckland, Lyell, Murchison, and others,
to visit England, and examine their wonderful collections of fossil


OXFORD, December 25, 1833.

. . .I should very much like to put into your hands what few
materials I possess in the Oxford Museum relating to fossil fishes,
and am also desirous that you should see the fossil fish in the
various provincial museums of England, as well as in London. Sir
Philip Egerton has a very large collection of fishes from Engi and
Oeningen, which he wishes to place at your disposition. Like
myself, he would willingly send you drawings, but drawings made
without knowledge of the anatomical details which you require,
cannot well represent what the artist himself does not perceive. I
would willingly lend you my specimens, if I could secure them
against the barbarous hands of the custom-house officials. What I
would propose to you as a means of seeing all the collections of
England, and gaining at the same time additional subscriptions for
your work, is, that you should come to England and attend the
British Association for the Advancement of Science in September
next. There you will meet all the naturalists of England, and I do
not doubt that among them you will find a good many subscribers.
You will likewise see a new mine of fossil fishes in the clayey
schist of the coal formation at Newhaven, on the banks of the
Forth, near Edinburgh. You can also make arrangements to visit the
museums of York, Whitby, Scarborough, and Leeds, as well as the
museum of Sir Philip Egerton, on your way to and from Edinburgh.
You may, likewise, visit the museums of London, Cambridge, and
Oxford; everywhere there are fossil fishes; and traveling by coach
in England is so rapid, easy, and cheap, that in six weeks or less
you can accomplish all that I have proposed. As I seriously hope
that you will come to England for the months of August and
September, I say nothing at present of any other means of putting
into your hands the drawings or specimens of our English fossil
fishes. I forgot to mention the very rich collection of fossil
fishes in the Museum of Mr. Mantell, at Brighton, where, I think,
you could take the weekly steam-packet for Rotterdam as easily as
in London, and thus arrive in Neuchatel from London in a very few
days. . .


. . .I thank you most warmly for the very important information you
have so kindly given me respecting the rich collections of England;
I will, if possible, make arrangements to visit them this year, and
in that case I will beg you to let me have a few letters of
recommendation to facilitate my examination of them in detail. Not
that I question for a moment the liberality of the English
naturalists. All the continental savants who have visited your
museums have praised the kindness shown in intrusting to them the
rarest objects, and I well know that the English rival other
nations in this respect, and even leave them far behind. But one
must have merited such favors by scientific labors; to a beginner
they are always a free gift, wholly undeserved. . .

A few months later Agassiz received a very gratifying and
substantial mark of the interest felt by English naturalists in his


SOMERSET HOUSE, LONDON, February 4, 1834.

. . .It is with the greatest pleasure that I announce to you good
news. The Geological Society of London desires me to inform you
that it has this year conferred upon you the prize bequeathed by
Dr. Wollaston. He has given us the sum of one thousand pounds
sterling, begging us to expend the interest, or about seven hundred
and fifty francs every year, for the encouragement of the science
of geology. Your work on fishes has been considered by the Council
and the officers of the Geological Society worthy of this prize,
Dr. Wollaston having said that it could be given for unfinished
works. The sum of thirty guineas, or 31 pounds 10 shillings
sterling, has been placed in my hands, but I would not send you the
money before knowing exactly where you were and learning from you
where you wish it to be paid. You will probably like an order on
some Swiss banker.

I cannot yet give you the extract from the address of the President
in which your work is mentioned, but I shall have it soon. In the
mean time I am desired to tell you that the Society declines to
receive your magnificent work as a gift, but wishes to subscribe
for it, and has already ordered a copy from the publishers. . .


NEUCHATEL, March 25, 1834.

. . .You cannot imagine the joy your letter has given me. The prize
awarded to me is at once so unexpected an honor and so welcome an
aid that I could hardly believe my eyes when, with tears of relief
and gratitude, I read your letter. In the presence of a savant, I
need not be ashamed of my penury, since I have spent the little I
had, wholly in scientific researches. I do not, therefore, hesitate
to confess to you that at no time could your gift have given me
greater pleasure. Generous friends have helped me to bring out the
first number of my "Fossil Fishes;" the plates of the second are
finished, but I was greatly embarrassed to know how to print a
sufficient number of copies before the returns from the first
should be paid in. The text is ready also, so that now, in a
fortnight, I can begin the distribution, and, the rotation once
established, I hope that preceding numbers will always enable me to
publish the next in succession without interruption. I even count
upon this resource as affording me the means of making a journey to
England before long. If no obstacle arises I hope to accomplish
this during the coming summer, and to be present at the next
meeting of the English naturalists.

I do not live the less happily on account of my anxieties, but I am
sometimes obliged to work more than I well can, or ought in reason
to do. . .The second number of my "Fossil Fishes" contains the
beginning of the anatomy of the fishes, but only such portions as
are to be found in the fossil state. I have begun with the scales;
later, I treat of the bones and the teeth. Then comes the
continuation of the description of the Ganoids and the Scomberoids,
and an additional sheet contains a sketch of my ichthyological
classification. The plates are even more successful than those of
the first number. If all goes well the third number will appear
next July. I long to visit your rich collections; I hope that
whenever it becomes possible for me to do so, I shall have the good
fortune to find you in London. . .

I have thought a letter addressed to the President of the Society
in particular, and to the members in general, would be fitting.
Will you have the kindness to deliver it for me to Mr. Murchison?

The first number of the "Fossil Fishes" had already appeared, and
had been greeted with enthusiasm by scientific men. Elie de
Beaumont writes Agassiz in June, 1834: "I have read with great
pleasure your first number; it promises us a work as important for
science as it is remarkable in execution. Do not let yourself be
discouraged by obstacles of any kind; they will give way before the
concert of approbation which so excellent a work will awaken. I
shall always be glad to aid in overcoming any one of them."

Perhaps it is as well to give here a slight sketch of this work,
the execution of which was carried on during the next ten years
(1833-1843). The inscription tells, in few words, the author's
reverence for Humboldt and his personal gratitude to him. "These
pages owe to you their existence; accept their dedication." The
title gives in a broad outline the comprehensive purpose of the

"Researches on the Fossil Fishes: comprising an Introduction to the
Study of these Animals; the Comparative Anatomy of Organic Systems
which may contribute to facilitate the Determination of Fossil
Species; a New Classification of Fishes expressing their Relations
to the Series of Formations; the Explanation of the Laws of their
Succession and Development during all the Changes of the
Terrestrial Globe, accompanied by General Geological
Considerations; finally, the Description of about a thousand
Species which no longer exist, and whose Characters have been
restored from Remains contained in the Strata of the Earth."

The most novel results comprised in this work were: first, the
remodeling of the classification of the whole type of fishes,
fossil and living, and especially the separation of the Ganoids
from all other fishes, under the rank of a distinct order; second,
the recognition of those combinations of reptilian and bird-like
characters in the earlier geological fishes, which led the author
to call them prophetic types; and third, his discovery of an
analogy between the embryological phases of the higher present
fishes and the gradual introduction of the whole type on earth, the
series in growth and the series in time revealing a certain mutual
correspondence. As these comprehensive laws have thrown light upon
other types of the animal kingdom beside that of fishes, their
discovery may be said to have advanced general zoology as well as

The Introduction presents, as it were, the prelude to this vast
chapter of natural history in the simultaneous appearance of the
four great types of the animal kingdom: Radiates, Mollusks,
Articulates, and Vertebrates. Then comes the orderly development of
the class by which the vertebrate plan was first expressed, namely,
the fishes. Underlying all its divisions and subdivisions, is the
average expression of the type in the past and present; the
Placoids and Ganoids, with their combination of reptilian and
fishlike features, characterizing the earlier geological epochs,
while in the later the simple bony fishes, the Cycloids and
Ctenoids, take the ascendancy. Here, for the first time, Agassiz
presents his "synthetic or prophetic types," namely, early types
embracing, as it were, in one large outline, features afterward
individualized in special groups, and never again reunited. No less
striking than these general views of structural relations are the
clearness and simplicity with which the distribution of the whole
class of fishes in relation to the geological formations, or, in
other words, to the physical history of the earth, is shown. In
reading this introductory chapter, one familiar with Agassiz as a
public teacher will almost hear his voice marshaling the long
procession of living beings, as he was wont to do, in their gradual
introduction upon the earth. Indeed, his whole future work in
ichthyology, and one might almost say in general zoology, was here

The technicalities of this work, at once so comprehensive in its
combinations and so minute in its details, could interest only the
professional reader, but its generalizations may well have a
certain attraction for every thoughtful mind. It treats of the
relations, anatomical, zoological, and geological, between the
whole class of fishes, fossil and living, illustrated by numerous
plates, while additional light is thrown on the whole by the
revelations of embryology.

"Notwithstanding these striking differences," says the author in
the opening of the fifth chapter on the relations of fishes in
general, "it is none the less evident to the attentive observer
that one single idea has presided over the development of the whole
class, and that all the deviations lead back to a primary plan, so
that even if the thread seem broken in the present creation, one
can reunite it on reaching the domain of fossil ichthyology."* (*
Volume 1 chapter 5 pages 92, 93.)

Having shown how the present creation has given him the key to past
creations, how the complete skeleton of the living fishes has
explained the scattered fragments of the ancient ones, especially
those of which the soft cartilaginous structure was liable to
decay, he presents two modes of studying the type as a whole;
either in its comparative anatomy, including in the comparison the
whole history of the type, fossil and living, or in its comparative
embryology. "The results," he adds, "of these two methods of study
complete and control each other." In all his subsequent researches
indeed, the history of the individual in its successive phases went
hand in hand with the history of the type. He constantly tested his
zoological results by his embryological investigations.

After a careful description of the dorsal chord in its
embryological development, he shows that a certain parallelism
exists between the comparative degrees of development of the
vertebral column in the different groups of fishes, and the phases
of its embryonic development in the higher fishes. Farther on he
shows a like coincidence between the development of the system of
fins in the different groups of fishes, and the gradual growth and
differentiation of the fins in the embryo of the higher living
fishes.* (* "Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles", volume 1
chapter 5 page 102.) "There is, then," he concludes, "as we have
said above, a certain analogy, or rather a certain parallelism, to
be established between the embryological development of the
Cycloids and Ctenoids, and the genetic or paleontological
development of the whole class. Considered from this point of view,
no one will dispute that the form of the caudal fin is of high
importance for zoological and paleontological considerations, since
it shows that the same thought, the same plan, which presides
to-day over the formation of the embryo, is also manifested in the
successive development of the numerous creation which have formerly
peopled the earth." Agassiz says himself in his Preface: "I have
succeeded in expressing the laws of succession and of the organic
development of fishes during all geological epochs; and science may
henceforth, in seeing the changes of this class from formation to
formation, follow the progress of organization in one great
division of the animal kingdom, through a complete series of the
ages of the earth." This is not inconsistent with his position as
the leading opponent of the development or Darwinian theories. To
him, development meant development of plan as expressed in
structure, not the change of one structure into another. To his
apprehension the change was based upon intellectual, not upon
material causes. He sums up his own conviction with reference to
this question as follows:* (* "Recherches sur les Poissons
Fossiles" volume 1 chapter 6 pages 171, 172. "Essay on the
Classification of Fishes.") "Such facts proclaim aloud principles
not yet discussed in science, but which paleontological researches
place before the eyes of the observer with an ever-increasing
persistency. I speak of the relations of the creation with the
creator. Phenomena closely allied in the order of their succession,
and yet without sufficient cause in themselves for their
appearance; an infinite diversity of species without any common
material bond, so grouping themselves as to present the most
admirable progressive development to which our own species is
linked,--are these not incontestable proofs of the existence of a
superior intelligence whose power alone could have established such
an order of things?. . ."

"More than fifteen hundred species of fossil fishes, which I have
learned to know, tell me that species do not pass insensibly one
into another, but that they appear and disappear unexpectedly,
without direct relations with their precursors; for I think no one
will seriously pretend that the numerous types of Cycloids and
Ctenoids, almost all of which are contemporaneous with one an
other, have descended from the Placoids and Ganoids. As well might
one affirm that the Mammalia, and man with them, have descended
directly from fishes. All these species have a fixed epoch of
appearance and disappearance; their existence is even limited to an
appointed time. And yet they present, as a whole, numerous
affinities more or less close, a definite coordination in a given
system of organization which has intimate relations with the mode
of existence of each type, and even of each species. An invisible
thread unwinds itself throughout all time, across this immense
diversity, and presents to us as a definite result, a continual
progress in the development of which man is the term, of which the
four classes of vertebrates are intermediate forms, and the
totality of invertebrate animals the constant accessory

The difficulty of carrying out comparisons so rigorous and
extensive as were needed in order to reconstruct the organic
relations between the fossil fishes of all geological formations
and those of the present world, is best told by the author.* (*
"Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles" volume 1. Addition a la
Preface.) "Possessing no fossil fishes myself, and renouncing
forever the acquisition of collections so precious, I have been
forced to seek the materials for my work in all the collections of
Europe containing such remains; I have, therefore, made frequent
journeys in Germany, in France, and in England, in order to
examine, describe, and illustrate the objects of my researches. But
notwithstanding the cordiality with which even the most precious
specimens have been placed at my disposition, a serious
inconvenience has resulted from this mode of working, namely, that
I have rarely been able to compare directly the various specimens
of the same species from different collections, and that I have
often been obliged to make my identification from memory, or from
simple notes, or, in the more fortunate cases, from my drawings
only. It is impossible to imagine the fatigue, the exhaustion of
all the faculties, involved in such a method. The hurry of
traveling, joined to the lack of the most ordinary facilities for
observation, has not rendered my task more easy. I therefore claim
indulgence for such of my identifications as a later examination,
made at leisure, may modify, and for descriptions which sometimes
bear the stamp of the precipitation with which they have been

It was, perhaps, this experience of Agassiz's earlier life which
made him so anxious to establish a museum of comparative zoology in
this country,--a museum so abundant and comprehensive in material,
that the student should not only find all classes of the animal
kingdom represented within its walls, but preserved also in such
numbers as to allow the sacrifice of many specimens for purposes of
comparison and study. He was resolved that no student should stand
there baffled at the door of knowledge, as he had often done
himself, when shown the one precious specimen, which could not be
removed, or even examined on the spot, because unique.


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.

In August, 1834, according to his cherished hope, Agassiz went to
England, and was received by the scientific men with a cordial
sympathy which left not a day or an hour of his short sojourn there
unoccupied. The following letter from Buckland is one of many
proffering hospitality and friendly advice on his arrival.


OXFORD, August 26, 1834.

. . .I am rejoiced to hear of your safe arrival in London, and
write to say that I am in Oxford, and that I shall be most happy to
receive you and give you a bed in my house if you can come here
immediately. I expect M. Arago and Mr. Pentland from Paris tomorrow
(Wednesday) afternoon. I shall be most happy to show you our Oxford
Museum on Thursday or Friday, and to proceed with you toward
Edinburgh. Sir Philip Egerton has a fine collection of fossil
fishes near Chester, which you should visit on your road. I have
partly engaged myself to be with him on Monday, September 1st, but
I think it would be desirable for you to go to him Saturday, that
you may have time to take drawings of his fossil fishes.

I cannot tell certainly what day I shall leave Oxford until I see
M. Arago, whom I hope you will meet at my house, on your arrival in
Oxford. I shall hope to see you Wednesday evening or Thursday
morning. Pray come to my house in Christ Church, with your baggage,
the moment you reach Oxford. . .

Agassiz always looked back with delight on this first visit to
Great Britain. It was the beginning of his life-long friendship
with Buckland, Sedgwick, Murchison, Lyell, and others of like
pursuits and interests. Made welcome in many homes, he could
scarcely respond to all the numerous invitations, social and
scientific, which followed the Edinburgh meeting.

Guided by Dr. Buckland, to whom not only every public and private
collection, but every rare specimen in the United Kingdom, seems to
have been known, he wandered from treasure to treasure. Every day
brought its revelation, until, under the accumulation of new facts,
he almost felt himself forced to begin afresh the work he had
believed well advanced. He might have been discouraged by a wealth
of resources which seemed to open countless paths, leading he knew
not whither, but for the generosity of the English naturalists who
allowed him to cull, out of sixty or more collections, two thousand
specimens of fossil fishes, and to send them to London, where, by
the kindness of the Geological Society, he was permitted to deposit
them in a room in Somerset House. The mass of materials once sifted
and arranged, the work of comparison and identification became
comparatively easy. He sent at once for his faithful artist, Mr.
Dinkel, who began, without delay, to copy all such specimens as
threw new light on the history of fossil fishes, a work which
detained him in England for several years.

Agassiz made at this time two friends, whose sympathy and
cooperation in his scientific work were invaluable to him for the
rest of his life. Sir Philip Egerton and Lord Cole (Earl of
Enniskillen) owned two of the most valuable collections of fossil
fishes in Great Britain.* (* Now the property of the British
Museum.) To aid him in his researches, their most precious
specimens were placed at Agassiz's disposition; his artist was
allowed to work for months on their collections, and even after
Agassiz came to America, they never failed to share with him, as
far as possible, the advantages arising from the increase of their
museums. From this time his correspondence with them, and
especially with Sir Philip Egerton, is closely connected with the
ever-growing interest as well as with the difficulties of his
scientific career. Reluctantly, and with many a backward look, he
left England in October, and returned to his lectures in Neuchatel,
taking with him such specimens as were indispensable to the
progress of his work. Every hour of the following winter which
could be spared from his lectures was devoted to his fossil fishes.

A letter of this date from Professor Silliman, of New Haven,
Connecticut, marks the beginning of his relations with his future
New England home, and announces his first New England subscribers.


. . .From Boston, March 6th, I had the honor to thank you for your
letter of January 5th, and for your splendid present of your great
work on fossil fishes--livraison 1-22--received, with the plates. I
also gave a notice of the work in the April number of the Journal*
(* "The American Journal of Science and Arts".) (this present
month), and republished Mr. Bakewell's account of your visit to Mr.
Mantell's museum.

In Boston I made some little efforts in behalf of your work, and
have the pleasure of naming as follows:--

Harvard University, Cambridge (Cambridge is only four miles from
Boston), by Hon. Josiah Quincy, President.

Boston Athenaeum, by its Librarian.

Benjamin Green, Esquire, President of the Boston Natural History

I shall make application to some other institutions or individuals,
but do not venture to promise anything more than my best exertions
. . .

Agassiz little dreamed, as he read this letter, how familiar these
far-off localities would become to him, or how often, in after
years, he would traverse by day and by night the four miles which
lay between Boston and his home in Cambridge.

Agassiz still sought and received, as we see by the following
letter, Humboldt's sympathy in every step of his work.


BERLIN, May, 1835.

I am to blame for my neglect of you, my dear friend, but when you
consider the grief which depresses me,* (* Owing to the death of
his brother, William von Humboldt.) and renders me unfit to keep up
my scientific connections, you will not be so unkind as to bear me
any ill-will for my long silence. You are too well aware of my high
esteem for your talents and your character--you know too well the
affectionate friendship I bear you--to fear for a moment that you
could be forgotten.

I have seen the being I loved most, and who alone gave me some
interest in this arid land, slowly decline. For four long years my
brother had suffered from a weakness of all the muscles, which made
me always fear that the seat of the trouble was the medulla
oblongata. Yet his step was firm; his head was entirely clear. The
higher intellectual faculties retained all their energy. He was
engaged from twelve to thirteen hours a day on his works, reading
or rather dictating, for a nervous trembling of the hand prevented
him from using a pen. Surrounded by a numerous family; living on a
spot created, so to speak, by himself, and in a house which he had
adorned with antique statues; withdrawn also from affairs, he was
still attached to life. The illness which carried him off in ten
days--an inflammation of the chest--was but a secondary symptom of
his disease. He died without pain, with a strength of character and
a serenity of mind worthy of the greatest admiration. It is cruel
to see so noble an intelligence struggle during ten long days
against physical destruction. We are told that in great grief we
should turn with redoubled energy to the study of nature. The
advice is easy to give; but for a long time even the wish for
distraction is wanting.

My brother leaves two works which we intend to publish: one upon
the languages and ancient Indian civilization of the Asiatic
archipelago, and the other upon the structure of languages in
general, and the influence of that structure upon the intellectual
development of nations. This last work has great beauty of style.
We shall soon begin the publication of it. My brother's extensive
correspondence with all those countries over which his philological
studies extended brings upon me just at present, such a
multiplicity of occupations and duties that I can only write you
these few lines, my dear friend, as a pledge of my constant
affection, and, I may also add, my admiration of your eminent
works. It is a pleasure to watch the growing renown of those who
are dear to us; and who should merit success more than you, whose
elevation of character is proof against the temptations of literary
self-love? I thank you for the little you have told me of your home
life. It is not enough to be praised and recognized as a great and
profound naturalist; to this one must add domestic happiness as
well. . .

I am about finishing my long and wearisome work of (illegible); a
critical examinationinto the geography of the Middle Ages, of which
fifty sheets are already printed. I will send you the volumes as
soon as they appear, in octavo. I devoured your fourth number; the
plates are almost finer than the previous ones; and the text,
though I have only looked it through hastily, interested me deeply,
especially the analytical catalogue of Bolca, and the more general
and very philosophical views of fishes in general, pages 57-64. The
latter is also remarkable in point of style. . .

M. von Buch, who has just left me, sends you a warm greeting. None
the less does he consider the method of issuing your text in
fragments from different volumes, altogether diabolical. I also
complain a little, though in all humility; but I suppose it to be
connected with the difficulty of concluding any one family, when
new materials are daily accumulating on your hands. Continue then
as before. In my judgment, M. Agassiz never does wrong. . .

The above letter, though written in May, did not reach Agassiz
until the end of July, when he was again on his way to England,
where his answer is dated.


(LONDON), October--, 1835.

. . .I cannot express to you my pleasure in reading your letter of
May 10th (which was, unhappily, only delivered to me on my passage
through Carlsruhe, at the end of July). . .To know that I have
occupied your thoughts a moment, especially in days of trial and
sorrow such as you have had to bear, raises me in my own eyes, and
redoubles my hope for the future. And just now such encouragement
is particularly cheering under the difficulties which I meet in
completing my task in England. I have now been here nearly two
months, and I hope before leaving to finish the description of all
that I brought together at the Geological Society last year.
Knowing that you are in Paris, however, I cannot resist the
temptation of going to see you; indeed, should your stay be
prolonged for some weeks, it would be my most direct path for home.
I should like to tell you a little of what I have done, and how the
world has gone with me since we last met. . .I have certainly
committed an imprudence in throwing myself into an enterprise so
vast in proportion to my means as my "Fossil Fishes." But, having
begun it, I have no alternative; my only safety is in success. I
have a firm conviction that I shall bring my work to a happy issue,
though often in the evening I hardly know how the mill is to be
turned to-morrow. . .

By a great good fortune for me, the British Association, at the
suggestion of Buckland, Sedgwick, and Murchison, has renewed, for
the present year, its vote of one hundred guineas toward the
facilitating of researches upon the fossil fishes of England, and I
hope that a considerable part of this sum may be awarded to me, in
which case I may be able to complete the greater number of the
drawings I need. If I had obtained in France only half the
subscriptions I have had in England, I should be afloat; but thus
far M. Bailliere has only disposed of some fifteen copies. . .My
work advances fairly; I shall soon have described all the species I
know, numbering now about nine hundred. I need some weeks in Paris
for the comparison of several tertiary species with living ones in
order to satisfy myself of their specific identity, and then my
task will be accomplished. Next comes the putting in order of all
my notes. My long vacations will give me time to do this with the
greatest care. . .

His second visit to England, during which the above letter was
written, was chiefly spent in reviewing the work of his artist,
whom he now reinforced with a second draughtsman, M. Weber, the
same who had formerly worked with him in Munich. He also attended
the meeting of the British Association in Dublin, stayed a few days
at Oulton Park for another look at the collections of Sir Philip
Egerton, made a second grand tour among the other fossil fishes of
England and Ireland, and returned to Neuchatel, leaving his two
artists in London with their hands more than full.

While Agassiz thus pursued his work on fossil fishes with ardor and
an almost perilous audacity, in view of his small means, he found
also time for various other investigations. During the year 1836,
though pushing forward constantly the publication of the "Poissons
Fossiles," his "Prodromus of the Class of Echinodermata" appeared
in the Memoirs of the Natural History Society of Neuchatel, as well
as his paper on the fossil Echini belonging to the Neocomian group
of the Neuchatel Jura, accompanied by figures. Not long after, he
published in the Memoirs of the Helvetic Society his descriptions
of fossil Echini peculiar to Switzerland, and issued also the first
number of a more extensive work, "Monographie d'Echinodermes."
During this year he received a new evidence of the sympathy of the
English naturalists, in the Wollaston medal awarded to him by the
London Geological Society.

The summer of 1836 was an eventful one for Agassiz,--the opening,
indeed, of a new and brilliant chapter in his life. The attention
of the ignorant and the learned had alike been called to the
singular glacial phenomena of movement and transportation in the
Alpine valleys. The peasant had told his strange story of boulders
carried on the back of the ice, of the alternate retreat and
advance of glaciers, now shrinking to narrower limits, now plunging
forward into adjoining fields, by some unexplained power of
expansion and contraction. Scientific men were awake to the
interest of these facts, but had considered them only as local
phenomena. Venetz and Charpentier were the first to detect their
wider significance. The former traced the ancient limits of the
Alpine glaciers as defined by the frame-work of debris or loose
material they had left behind them; and Charpentier went farther,
and affirmed that all the erratic boulders scattered over the plain
of Switzerland and on the sides of the Jura had been thus
distributed by ice and not by water, as had been supposed.

Agassiz was among those who received this hypothesis as improbable
and untenable. Still, he was anxious to see the facts in place, and
Charpentier was glad to be his guide. He therefore passed his
vacation, during this summer of 1836, at the pretty town of Bex, in
the valley of the Rhone. Here he spent a number of weeks in
explorations, which served at the same time as a relaxation from
his more sedentary work. He went expecting to confirm his own
doubts, and to disabuse his friend Charpentier of his errors. But
after visiting with him the glaciers of the Diablerets, those of
the valley of Chamounix, and the moraines of the great valley of
the Rhone and its principal lateral valleys, he came away satisfied
that a too narrow interpretation of the phenomena was Charpentier's
only mistake.

During this otherwise delightful summer, he was not without renewed
anxiety lest he should be obliged to suspend the publication of the
Fossil Fishes for want of means to carry it on. On this account he
writes from Bex to Sir Philip Egerton in relation to the sale of
his original drawings, the only property he possessed. "It is
absolutely impossible," he says, "for me to issue even another
number until this sale is effected. . .I shall consider myself more
than repaid if I receive, in exchange for the whole collection of
drawings, simply what I have expended upon them, provided I may
keep those which have yet to be lithographed until that be done."

Sir Philip made every effort to effect a sale to the British
Museum. He failed at the moment, but the collection was finally
purchased and presented to the British Museum by a generous
relative of his own, Lord Francis Egerton. In the mean time, Sir
Philip and Lord Cole, in order to make it possible for Agassiz to
retain the services of Mr. Dinkel, proposed to pay his expenses
while he was drawing such specimens from their own collections as
were needed for the work. These drawings were, of course, finally
to remain their own property.

During his sojourn at Bex, Agassiz's intellect and imagination had
been deeply stirred by the glacial phenomena. In the winter of
1837, on his return to Neuchatel, he investigated anew the slopes
of the Jura, and found that the facts there told the same story.
Although he resumed with unabated ardor his various works on
fishes, radiates, and mollusks, a new chapter of nature was all the
while unfolding itself in his fertile brain. When the Helvetic
Association assembled at Neuchatel in the following summer, the
young president, from whom the members had expected to hear new
tidings of fossil fishes, startled them by the presentation of a
glacial theory, in which the local erratic phenomena of the Swiss
valleys assumed a cosmic significance. It is worthy of remark here
that the first large outlines in which Agassiz, when a young man,
planned his intellectual work gave the key-note to all that
followed. As the generalizations on which all his future zoological
researches were based, are sketched in the Preface to his "Poissons
Fossiles," so his opening address to the Helvetic Society in 1837
unfolds the glacial period as a whole, much as he saw it at the
close of his life, after he had studied the phenomena on three
continents. In this address he announced his conviction that a
great ice-period, due to a temporary oscillation of the temperature
of the globe, had covered the surface of the earth with a sheet of
ice, extending at least from the north pole to Central Europe and
Asia. "Siberian winter," he says, "established itself for a time
over a world previously covered with a rich vegetation and peopled
with large mammalia, similar to those now inhabiting the warm
regions of India and Africa. Death enveloped all nature in a
shroud, and the cold, having reached its highest degree, gave to
this mass of ice, at the maximum of tension, the greatest possible
hardness." In this novel presentation the distribution of erratic
boulders, instead of being classed among local phenomena, was
considered "as one of the accidents accompanying the vast change
occasioned by the fall of the temperature of our globe before the
commencement of our epoch."

This was, indeed, throwing the gauntlet down to the old expounders
of erratic phenomena upon the principle of floods, freshets, and
floating ice. Many well-known geologists were present at the
meeting, among them Leopold von Buch, who could hardly contain his
indignation, mingled with contempt, for what seemed to him the view
of a youthful and inexperienced observer. One would have liked to
hear the discussion which followed, in special section, between Von
Buch, Charpentier, and Agassiz. Elie de Beaumont, who should have
made the fourth, did not arrive till later. Difference of opinion,
however, never disturbed the cordial relation which existed between
Von Buch and his young opponent. Indeed, Agassiz's reverence and
admiration for Von Buch was then, and continued throughout his
life, deep and loyal.

Not alone from the men who had made these subjects their special
study, did Agassiz meet with discouragements. The letters of his
beloved mentor, Humboldt, in 1837, show how much he regretted that
any part of his young friend's energy should be diverted from
zoology, to a field of investigation which he then believed to be
one of theory rather than of precise demonstration. He was,
perhaps, partly influenced by the fact that he saw through the
prejudiced eyes of his friend Von Buch. "Over your and
Charpentier's moraines," he says, in one of his letters, "Leopold
von Buch rages, as you may already know, considering the subject,
as he does, his exclusive property. But I too, though by no means
so bitterly opposed to new views, and ready to believe that the
boulders have not all been moved by the same means, am yet inclined
to think the moraines due to more local causes."

The next letter shows that Humboldt was seriously anxious lest this
new field of activity, with its fascinating speculations, should
draw Agassiz away from his ichthyological researches.


BERLIN, December 2, 1837.

I have this moment received, my dear friend, by the hand of M. de
Werther, the cabinet minister, your eighth and ninth numbers, with
a fine pamphlet of text. I hasten to express my warm thanks, and I
congratulate the public on your somewhat tardy resolution to give a
larger proportion of text. One should flatter neither the king, nor
the people, nor one's dearest friend. I maintain, therefore, that
no one has told you forcibly enough how the very persons who justly
admire your work, constantly complain of this fragmentary style of
publication, which is the despair of those who have not the leisure
to place your scattered sheets where they belong and disentangle
the skein.* (* Owing to the irregularity with which he received and
was forced to work up his material, Agassiz was often either in
advance or in arrears with certain parts of his subject, so that
his plates and his text did not keep pace with each other, thus
causing his readers much annoyance.)

I think you would do well to publish for a while more text than
plates. You could do this the better because your text is
excellent, full of new and important ideas, expressed with
admirable clearness. The charming letter (again without a date)
which preceded your package impressed me painfully. I see you are
ill again; you complain of congestion of the head and eyes. For
mercy's sake take care of your health which is so dear to us. I am
afraid you work too much, and (shall I say it frankly?) that you
spread your intellect over too many subjects at once. I think that
you should concentrate your moral and also your pecuniary strength
upon this beautiful work on fossil fishes. In so doing you will
render a greater service to positive geology, than by these general
considerations (a little icy withal) on the revolutions of the
primitive world; considerations which, as you well know, convince
only those who give them birth. In accepting considerable sums from
England, you have, so to speak, contracted obligations to be met
only by completing a work which will be at once a monument to your
own glory and a landmark in the history of science. Admirable and
exact as your researches on other fossils are, your contemporaries
claim from you the fishes above all. You will say that this is
making you the slave of others; perfectly true, but such is the
pleasing position of affairs here below. Have I not been driven for
thirty-three years to busy myself with that tiresome America, and
am I not, even yet, daily insulted because, after publishing
thirty-two volumes of the great edition in folio and in quarto, and
twelve hundred plates, one volume of the historical section is
wanting? We men of letters are the servants of an arbitrary master,
whom we have imprudently chosen, who flatters and pets us first,
and then tyrannizes over us if we do not work to his liking. You
see, my dear friend, I play the grumbling old man, and, at the risk
of deeply displeasing you, place myself on the side of the despotic
public. . .

With reference to the general or periodical lowering of the
temperature of the globe, I have never thought it necessary, on
account of the elephant of the Lena, to admit that sudden frost of
which Cuvier used to speak. What I have seen in Siberia, and what
has been observed in Captain Beechey's expedition on the northwest
coast of America, simply proves that there exists a layer of frozen
drift, in the fissures of which (even now) the muscular flesh of
any animal which should accidentally fall into them would be
preserved intact. It is a slight local phenomenon. To me, the
ensemble of geological phenomena seems to prove, not the prevalence
of this glacial surface on which you would carry along your
boulders, but a very high temperature spreading almost to the
poles, a temperature favorable to organizations resembling those
now living in the tropics. Your ice frightens me, and gladly as I
would welcome you here, my dear friend, I think, perhaps, for the
sake of your health, and also that you may not see this country,
always so hideous, under a sheet of snow and ice (in February), you
would do better to come two months later, with the first verdure.
This is suggested by a letter received yesterday by M. d'O--, which
alarmed me a little, because the state of your eyes obliged you to
write by another hand. Pray do not think of traveling before you
are quite well. I close this letter, feeling sure that it does not
contain a line which is not an expression of friendship and of the
high esteem I bear you. The magnificence of your last numbers,
eight and nine, cannot be told. How admirably executed are your
Macropoma, the Ophiopris procerus, Mantell's great beast, the
minute details of the Dercetis, Psammodus,. . .the skeletons. . .
There is nothing like it in all that we possess upon vertebrates. I
have also begun to study your text, so rich in well arranged facts;
the monograph of the Lepidostei, the passage upon the bony rays,
and, dear Agassiz, I could hardly believe my eyes, sixty-five
continuous pages of the third volume, without interruption! You
will spoil the public. But, my good friend, you have already
information upon a thousand species; "claudite jam rivos!" You say
your work can go on if you have two hundred subscribers; but if you
continue to support two traveling draughtsmen, I predict, as a
practical man, that it cannot go on. You cannot even publish what
you have gathered in the last five years. Consider that in
attempting to give a review of all the fossil fishes which now
exist in collections, you pursue a phantom which ever flies before
you. Such a work would not be finished in less than fifteen years,
and besides, this NOW is an uncertain element. Cannot you conquer
yourself so far as to finish what you have in your possession at
present? Recall your artists. With the reputation you enjoy in
Europe, whatever might essentially change your opinion on certain
organisms would willingly be sent to you. If you continue to keep
two ambassadors in foreign lands, the means you destine for the
engraving and printing will soon be absorbed. You will struggle
with domestic difficulties, and at sixty years of age (tremble at
the sight of this number!) you will be as uncertain as you are
to-day, whether you possess, even in your collection of drawings,
all that is to be found among amateurs. How exhaust an ocean in
which the species are indefinitely increasing? Finish, first, what
you have this December, 1837, and then, if the subject does not
weary you, publish the supplements in 1847. You must not forget
that these supplements will be of two kinds: 1st. Ideas which
modify some of your old views. 2nd. New species. Only the first
kind of supplement would be really desirable. Furthermore, you must
regain your intellectual independence and not let yourself be
scolded any more by M. de Humboldt. Little will it avail you should
I vanish from the scene of this world with your fourteenth number!
When I am a fossil in my turn I shall still appear to you as a
ghost, having under my arm the pages you have failed to interpolate
and the volume of that eternal America which I owe to the public. I
close with a touch of fun, in order that my letter may seem a
little less like preaching. A thousand affectionate remembrances.
No more ice, not much of echinoderms, plenty of fish, recall of
ambassadors in partibus, and great severity toward the
book-sellers, an infernal race, two or three of whom have been
killed under me.


I sigh to think of the trouble my horrible writing will give you.

A letter of about the same date from Von Buch shows that, however
he might storm at Agassiz's heterodox geology, he was in full
sympathy with his work in general.


December 22, 1837.

. . .Pray reinstate me in the good graces of my unknown benefactor
among you. By a great mistake the reports of the Society forwarded
to me from Neuchatel have been sent back. As it is well known at
the post-office that I do not keep the piles of educational
journals sent to me from France, the postage on them being much too
heavy for my means, they took it for granted that this journal, the
charges on which amounted to several crowns, was of the number. I
am very sorry. I do not even know the contents of the journal, but
I suppose it contained papers of yours, full of genius and ardor. I
like your way of looking at nature, and I think you render great
service to science by your observations. A right spirit will
readily lead you to see that this is the true road to glory, far
preferable to the one which leads to vain analogies and
speculations, the time for which is long past. I am grieved to hear
that you are not well, and that your eyes refuse their service. M.
de Humboldt tells me that you are seeking a better climate here, in
the month of February. You may find it, perhaps, thanks to our
stoves. But as we shall still have plenty of ice in the streets,
your glacial opinions will not find a market at that season. I
should like to present you with a memoir or monograph of mine, just
published, on Spirifer and Orthis, but I will take good care to let
no one pay postage on a work which, by its nature, can have but a
very limited interest. . .I will await your arrival to give you
these descriptions. I am expecting the numbers of your Fossil
Fishes, which have not yet come. Humboldt often speaks of them to
me. Ah! how much I prefer you in a field which is wholly your own
than in one where you break in upon the measured and cautious
tread, introduced by Saussure in geology. You, too, will reconsider
all this, and will yet treat the views of Saussure and Escher with
more respect. Everything here turns to infusoria. Ehrenberg has
just discovered that an apparently sandy deposit, twenty feet in
thickness, under the "Luneburgerheyde," is composed entirely of
infusoria of a kind still living in the neighborhood of Berlin.
This layer rests upon a brown deposit known to be ten feet in
thickness. The latter consists, for one fifth of the depth, of pine
pollen, which burns. The rest is of infusoria. Thus these animals,
which the naked eye has not power to discern, have themselves the
power to build up mountain chains. . .


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."

Although Agassiz's daring treatment of the glacial phenomena had
excited much opposition and angry comment, it had also made a
powerful impression by its eloquence and originality. To this may
be partly due the fact that about this time he was strongly urged
from various quarters to leave Neuchatel for some larger field. One
of the most seductive of these invitations, owing to the
affectionate spirit in which it was offered, came through Monsieur
de la Rive, in Geneva.


GENEVA, May 12, 1836.

. . .I have not yet received your address. I hope you will send it
to me without delay, for I am anxious to bring it before our
readers. I hope also that you will not forget what you have
promised me for the "Bibliotheque Universelle." I am exceedingly
anxious to have your cooperation; the more so that it will
reinforce that of several distinguished savants whose assistance I
have recently secured.

If I weary you with a second letter, however, it is not only to
remind you of your promise about the "Bibliotheque Universelle,"
but for another object still more important and urgent. The matter
stands thus. Our academic courses have just opened under favorable
auspices. The number of students is much increased, and,
especially, we have a good many from Germany and England. This
circumstance makes us feel more strongly the importance of
completing our organization, and of doing this wisely and quickly.
I will not play the diplomat with you, but will frankly say,
without circumlocution, that you seem to me the one essential, the
one indispensable man. After having talked with some influential
persons here, I feel sure that if you say to me, "I will come," I
can obtain for you the following conditions: 1st. A regular salary
of three thousand francs, beside the student fees, which, in view
of the character of your instruction, your reputation, and the
novelty of your course, I place too low at a thousand francs; of
this I am convinced. 2nd. The vacant professorship is one of
geology and mineralogy, but should you wish it De la Planche will
continue to teach the mineralogy, and you will replace it by
paleontology, or any other subject which may suit you. . .Add to
this resource that of a popular course for the world outside,
ladies and others, which you might give in the winter, as at
Neuchatel. The custom here is to pay fifty francs for the course of
from twenty-five to thirty lectures. You will easily see that for
such a course you would have at least as large an audience here as
at Neuchatel. This is the more likely because there is a demand for
these courses, Pictet being dead, and M. Rossi and M. de Castella
having ceased to give them. No one has come forward as their heir,
fine as the inheritance is; some are too busy, others have not the
kind of talent needed, and none have attempted to replace these
gentlemen in this especial line, one in which you excel, both by
your gifts and your fortunate choice of a subject more in vogue
just now than any other. Come then, to work in this rich vein
before others present themselves for the same purpose. Finally,
since I must make up your budget, the "Bibliotheque Universelle,"
which pays fifty francs a sheet, would be always open to you; there
you could bring the fruits of your productive leisure. Certainly it
would be easy for you to make in this way an additional thousand

Here, then, is a statement, precise and full, of the condition of
things, and of what you may hope to find here. The moment is
propitious; there is a movement among us just now in favor of the
sciences, and this winter the plan of a large building for our
museum and library will be presented to our common council. The
work should begin next summer; you well know how much we should
value your ideas and your advice on this subject. There may also be
question of a director for the museum, and of an apartment for him
in the new edifice; you will not doubt to whom such a place would
be offered. But let us not draw upon the future; let us limit
ourselves to the present, and see whether what I propose suits you
. . .Come! let yourself be persuaded. Sacrifice the capital to a
provincial town. At Berlin, no doubt, you would be happy and
honored; at Geneva, you would be the happiest, the most honored.
Look at--, who shone as a star of the first magnitude at Geneva,
and who is but a star of second or third rank in Paris. This, to be
sure, would not be your case; nevertheless, I am satisfied that at
Geneva, where you would be a second de Saussure, your position
would be still more brilliant. I know that these motives of
scientific self-love have little weight with you; nevertheless,
wishing to omit nothing, I give them for what they are worth. But
my hope rests far more on the arguments I have first presented;
they come from the heart, and with you the heart responds as
readily as the genius. But enough! I will not fatigue you with
farther considerations. I think I have given you all the points
necessary for your decision. Be so kind as to let me know as soon
as possible what you intend to do. Have the kindness also not to
speak of the contents of this letter, and remember that it is not
the Rector of the Academy of Geneva, but the Professor Auguste de
la Rive, who writes in his own private person. Promptitude and
silence, then, are the two recommendations which I make to you
while we await the Yes we so greatly desire. . .

More tempting still must have been the official invitation received
a few months later to a professorship at Lausanne, strengthened as
it was by the affectionate entreaties of relations and friends,
urging him for the sake of family ties and patriotism to return to
the canton where he had passed his earlier years. But he had cast
in his lot with the Neuchatelois and was proof against all
arguments. He remained faithful to the post he had chosen until he
left it, temporarily as he then believed, to come to America. The
citizens of his adopted town expressed their appreciation of his
loyalty to them in a warm letter of thanks, begging, at the same
time, his acceptance of the sum of six thousand francs, payable by
installments during three years.

The summer of 1837 was a sad one to Agassiz and to his whole
family; his father died at Concise, carried off by a fever while
still a comparatively young man. The pretty parsonage, to which
they were so much attached, passed into other hands, and
thenceforward the home of Madame Agassiz was with her children,
among whom she divided her time.

In 1838 Agassiz founded a lithographic printing establishment in
Neuchatel, which was carried on for many years under his direction.
Thus far his plates had been lithographed in Munich. Their
execution at such a distance involved constant annoyance, and
sometimes great waste of time and money, in sending the proofs to
and fro for correction. The scheme of establishing a lithographic
press, to be in a great degree at his charge, was certainly an
imprudent one for a poor man; but Agassiz hoped not only to
facilitate his own publications by this means, but also to raise
the standard of execution in works of a purely scientific
character. Supported partly by his own exertions, partly by the
generosity of others, the establishment was almost exclusively
dependent upon him for its unceasing activity. He was fortunate in
securing for its head M. Hercule Nicolet, a very able lithographic
artist, who had had much experience in engraving objects of natural
history, and was specially versed in the recently invented art of
chromatic lithography.

Agassiz was now driving all his steeds abreast. Beside his duties
as professor, he was printing at the same time his "Fossil Fishes,"
his "Fresh-Water Fishes," and his investigations on fossil
Echinoderms and Mollusks,--the illustrations for all these various
works being under his daily supervision. The execution of these
plates, under M. Nicolet's care, was admirable for the period.
Professor Arnold Guyot, in his memoir of Agassiz, says of the
plates for the "Fresh-Water Fishes": "We wonder at their beauty,
and at their perfection of color and outline, when we remember that
they were almost the first essays of the newly-invented art of
lithochromy, produced at a time when France and Belgium were
showering rewards on very inferior work of the kind, as the
foremost specimens of progress in the art."

All this work could hardly be carried on single handed. In 1837 M.
Edouard Desor joined Agassiz in Neuchatel, and became for many
years his intimate associate in scientific labors. A year or two
later M. Charles Vogt also united himself to the band of
investigators and artists who had clustered about Agassiz as their
central force. M. Ernest Favre says of this period of his life: "He
displayed during these years an incredible energy, of which the
history of science offers, perhaps, no other example."

Among his most important zoological researches at this time were
those upon mollusks. His method of studying this class was too
original and too characteristic to be passed by without notice. The
science of conchology had heretofore been based almost wholly upon
the study of the empty shells. To Agassiz this seemed superficial.
Longing to know more of the relation between the animal and its
outer covering, he bethought himself that the inner moulding of the
shell would give at least the form of its old inhabitant. For the
practical work he engaged an admirable moulder, M. Stahl, who
continued to be one of his staff at the lithographic establishment
until he became permanently employed at the Jardin des Plantes.
With his help and that of M. Henri Ladame, professor of physics and
chemistry at Neuchatel, who prepared the delicate metal alloys in
which the first mould was taken, Agassiz obtained casts in which
the form of the animals belonging to the shells was perfectly
reproduced. This method has since passed into universal use. By its
aid he obtained a new means of ascertaining the relations between
fossil and living mollusks. It was of vast service to him in
preparing his "Etudes critiques sur les Mollusques fossiles,"--a
quarto volume with nearly one hundred plates.

The following letter to Sir Philip Egerton gives some account of
his undertakings at this time, and of the difficulties entailed
upon him by their number and variety.


NEUCHATEL, August 10, 1838.

. . .These last months have been a time of trial to me, and I have
been forced to give up my correspondence completely in order to
meet the ever-increasing demands of my work. You know how difficult
it is to find a quiet moment and an easy mind for writing, when one
is pursued by printing or lithographic proofs, and forced besides
to prepare unceasing occupation for numerous employees. Add to this
the close research required by the work of editing, and you surely
will find an excuse for my delay. I think I have already written
you that in order to have everything under my own eye, I had
founded a lithographic establishment at Neuchatel in the hope of
avoiding in future the procrastinations to which my proofs were
liable when the work was done at Munich. . .I hope that my new
publications will be sufficiently well received to justify me in
supporting an establishment unique of its kind, which I have
founded solely in the interest of science and at the risk of my
peace and my health. If I give you all these details, it is simply
to explain my silence, which was caused not by pure negligence, but
by the demands of an undertaking in the success of which my very
existence is involved. . .This week I shall forward to the
Secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science
all that I have been able to do thus far, being unable to bring it
myself, as I had hoped. You would oblige me greatly if you would
give a look at these different works, which may, I hope, have
various claims on your interest. First, there is the tenth number
of the "Fossil Fishes," though the whole supply of publisher's
copies will only be sent a few weeks later. Then there are the
seven first plates of my sea-urchins, engraved with much care and
with many details. A third series of plates relates to critical
studies on fossil mollusks, little or erroneously known, and on
their internal casts. This is a quite novel side of the study of
shells, and will throw light on the organization of animals known
hitherto only by the shell. I have made a plaster collection of
them for the Geological Society. They have been packed some time,
but my late journey to Paris has prevented me from forwarding them
till now. As soon as I have a moment, I shall make out the
catalogue and send it on. When you go to London, do not fail to
examine them; the result is curious enough. Finally, the plates for
the first number of my "Fresh-Water Fishes" are in great part
finished, and also included in my package for Newcastle. . .The
plates are executed by a new process, and printed in various tints
on different stones, resulting in a remarkable uniformity of
coloring in all the impressions. . .

Such are the new credentials with which I present myself, as I
bring my thanks for the honor paid to me by my nomination for the
vacancy in the Royal Society of London. If unbounded devotion to
the interests of science constituted a sufficient title to such a
distinction, I should be the less surprised at the announcement
contained in your last letter. The action of the Royal Society, so
flattering to the candidate of your choice, has satisfied a desire
which I should hardly have dared to form for many a year,--that of
becoming a member of a body so illustrious as the Royal Society of
London. . .

Each time I write I wish I could close with the hope of seeing you
soon; but I must work incessantly; that is my lot, and the
happiness I find in it gives a charm to my occupations however
numerous they may be. . .

While Agassiz's various zoological works were thus pressed with
unceasing activity, the glaciers and their attendant phenomena,
which had so captivated his imagination, were ever present to his
thought. In August of the year 1838, a year after he had announced
at the meeting of the Helvetic Society his comprehensive theory
respecting the action of ice over the whole northern hemisphere, he
made two important excursions in the Alps. The first was to the
valley of Hassli, the second to the glaciers of Mont Blanc. In both
he was accompanied by his scientific collaborator, M. Desor, whose
intrepidity and ardor hardly fell short of his own; by Mr. Dinkel
as artist, and by one or two students and friends. These excursions
were a kind of prelude to his more prolonged sojourns on the Alps,
and to the series of observations carried on by him and his
companions, which attracted so much attention in later years. But
though Agassiz carried with him, on these first explorations, only
the simplest means of investigation and experiment, they were no
amateur excursions. On these first Alpine journeys he had in his
mind the sketch he meant to fill out. The significance of the
phenomena was already clear to him. What he sought was the
connection. Following the same comparative method, he intended to
track the footsteps of the ice as he had gathered and put together
the fragments of his fossil fishes, till the scattered facts should
fall into their natural order once more and tell their story from
beginning to end.

In his explorations of 1838 he found everywhere the same phenomena;
the grooved and polished and graven surfaces and the rounded and
modeled rocks, often lying far above and beyond the present limits
of the glaciers; the old moraines, long deserted by the ice, but
defining its ancient frontiers; the erratic blocks, transported far
from their place of origin and disposed in an order and position
unexplained by the agency of water.

These excursions, though not without their dangers and fatigues,
were full of charm for men who, however serious their aims, were
still young enough to enter like boys into the spirit of adventure.
Agassiz himself was but thirty-one; an ardent pedestrian, he
delighted in feats of walking and climbing. His friend Dinkel
relates that one day, while pausing at Grindelwald for refreshment,
they met an elderly traveler who asked him, after listening awhile
to their gay talk, in which appeals were constantly made to
"Agassiz," if that was perhaps the son of the celebrated professor
of Neuchatel. The answer amazed him; he could hardly believe that
the young man before him was the naturalist of European reputation.
In connection with this journey occurs the first attempt at an
English letter found among Agassiz's papers. It is addressed to
Buckland, and contains this passage: "Since I saw the glaciers I am
quite of a snowy humor, and will have the whole surface of the
earth covered with ice, and the whole prior creation dead by cold.
In fact, I am quite satisfied that ice must be taken [included] in
every complete explanation of the last changes which occurred at
the surface of Europe." Considered in connection with their
subsequent work together in the ancient ice-beds and moraines of
England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, it is curious to find
Buckland answering: "I am sorry that I cannot entirely adopt the
new theory you advocate to explain transported blocks by moraines;
for supposing it adequate to explain the phenomena of Switzerland,
it would not apply to the granite blocks and transported gravel of
England, which I can only explain by referring to currents of
water." During the same summer Mrs. Buckland writes from
Interlaken, in the course of a journey in Switzerland with her
husband. . ."We have made a good tour of the Oberland and have seen
glaciers, etc., but Dr. Buckland is as far as ever from agreeing
with you." We shall see hereafter how completely he became a
convert to Agassiz's glacial theory in its widest acceptation.

One friend, scarcely mentioned thus far in this biography, was yet,
from the beginning, the close associate of Agassiz's glacier work.
Arnold Guyot and he had been friends from boyhood. Their university
life separated them for a time, Guyot being at Berlin while Agassiz
was at Munich, and they became colleagues at Neuchatel only after
Agassiz had been for some years established there. From that time
forward there was hardly any break in their intercourse; they came
to America at about the same time, and finally settled as
professors, the one at Harvard College, in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and the other at the College of New Jersey, in
Princeton. They shared all their scientific interests; and when
they were both old men, Guyot brought to Agassiz's final
undertaking, the establishment of a summer school at Penikese, a
cooperation as active and affectionate as that he had given in his
youth to his friend's scheme for establishing a permanent
scientific summer station in the high Alps.

In a short visit made by Agassiz to Paris in the spring of 1838 he
unfolded his whole plan to Guyot, then residing there, and
persuaded him to undertake a certain part of the investigation.
During this very summer of 1838, therefore, while Agassiz was
tracing the ancient limits of the ice in the Bernese Oberland and
the Haut Valais, and later, in the valley of Chamounix, Guyot was
studying the structure and movement of the ice during a six weeks'
tour in the central Alps. At the conclusion of their respective
journeys they met to compare notes, at the session of the
Geological Society of France, at Porrentruy, where Agassiz made a
report upon the general results of his summer's work; while Guyot
read a paper, the contents of which have never been fully
published, upon the movement of glaciers and upon their internal
features, including the laminated structure of the ice, the
so-called blue bands, deep down in the mass of the glacier.* (* See
"Memoir of Louis Agassiz" by Arnold Guyot, written for the United
States National Academy of Sciences, page 38.) In the succeeding
years of their glacial researches together, Guyot took for his
share the more special geological problems, the distribution of
erratic boulders and of the glacial drift, as connected with the
ancient extension of the glaciers. This led him away from the
central station of observation to remoter valleys on the northern
and southern slopes of the Alps, where he followed the descent of
the glacial phenomena to the plains of central Europe on the one
side and to those of northern Italy on the other. We therefore
seldom hear of him with the band of workers who finally settled on
the glacier of the Aar, because his share of the undertaking became
a more isolated one. It was nevertheless an integral part of the
original scheme, which was carried on connectedly to the end, the
results of the work in the different departments being constantly
reported and compared. So much was this the case, that the
intention of Agassiz had been to embody the whole in a publication,
the first part of which should contain the glacial system of
Agassiz; the second the Alpine erratics, by Guyot; while the third
and final portion, by E. Desor, should treat of the erratic
phenomena outside of Switzerland. The first volume alone was
completed. Unlooked for circumstances made the continuation of the
work impossible, and the five thousand specimens of the erratic
rocks of Switzerland collected by Professor Guyot, in preparation
for his part of the publication, are now deposited in the College
of New Jersey, at Princeton.

In the following summer of 1839 Agassiz took the chain of Monte
Rosa and Matterhorn as the field of a larger and more systematic
observation. On this occasion, the usual party consisting of
Agassiz, Desor, M. Bettanier, an artist, and two or three other
friends, was joined by the geologist Studer. Up to this time he had
been a powerful opponent of Agassiz's views, and his conversion to
the glacial theory during this excursion was looked upon by them
all as a victory greater than any gained over the regions of ice
and snow. Some account of this journey occurs in the following


NEUCHATEL, September 10, 1839.

. . .Under these circumstances, I thought I could not do better
than to pass some weeks in the solitude of the high Alps; I lived
about a fortnight in the region of the glaciers, ascending some new
field of ice every day, and trying to scale the sides of our
highest peaks. I thus examined in succession all the glaciers
descending from the majestic summits of Monte Rosa and the
Matterhorn, whose numerous crests form a most gigantic
amphitheatre, which lifts itself above the everlasting snow.
Afterward I visited the sea of ice which, under the name of the
glacier of Aletsch, flows from the Jungfrau, the Monch, and the
Eiger toward Brieg; thence I went to the glacier of the Rhone, and
from there, establishing my headquarters at the Hospice of the
Grimsel, I followed the glacier of the Aar to the foot of the
Finsteraarhorn. There I ascertained the most important fact that I
now know concerning the advance of glaciers, namely, that the cabin
constructed by Hugi in 1827, at the foot of the Abschwung, is now
four thousand feet lower down. Slight as is the inclination of the
glacier, this cabin has been carried on by the ice with astonishing
rapidity, and still more important is it that this rapidity has
been on the increase; for in 1830 the cabin was only some hundred
feet from the rock, in 1836 it had already passed over a distance
from [word torn away] of two thousand feet, and in the last three
years it has again doubled that distance. Not only have I confirmed
my views upon glaciers and their attendant phenomena, on this new
ground, but I have completed my examination of a number of details,
and have had besides the satisfaction of convincing one of my most
severe opponents of the exactness of my observations, namely, M.
Studer, who accompanied me on a part of these excursions. . .

The winter of 1840 was fully occupied by the preparation for the
publication of the "Etudes sur les Glaciers," which appeared before
the year was out, accompanied by an atlas of thirty-two plates. The
volume of text consisted of an historical resume of all that had
previously been done in the study of glaciers, followed by an
account of the observations of Agassiz and his companions during
the last three or four years upon the glaciers of the Alps. Their
structure, external aspect, needles, tables, perched blocks, gravel
cones, rifts, and crevasses, as well as their movements, mode of
formation, and internal temperature, were treated in succession.
But the most interesting chapters, from the author's own point of
view, and those which were most novel for his readers, were the
concluding ones upon the ancient extension of the Swiss glaciers,
and upon the former existence of an immense, unbroken sheet of ice,
which had once covered the whole northern hemisphere. No one before
had drawn such vast conclusions from the local phenomena of the
Alpine valleys. "The surface of Europe," says Agassiz, "adorned
before by a tropical vegetation and inhabited by troops of large
elephants, enormous hippopotami, and gigantic carnivora, was
suddenly buried under a vast mantle of ice, covering alike plains,
lakes, seas and plateaus. Upon the life and movement of a powerful
creation fell the silence of death. Springs paused, rivers ceased
to flow, the rays of the sun, rising upon this frozen shore (if,
indeed, it was reached by them), were met only by the breath of the
winter from the north and the thunders of the crevasses as they
opened across the surface of this icy sea."* (* "Etudes sur les
Glaciers" Chapter 8 page 35.) The author goes on to state that on
the breaking up of this universal shroud the ice must have lingered
longest in mountainous strongholds, and that all these fastnesses
of retreat became, as the Alps are now, centres of distribution for
the broken debris and rocky fragments which are found scattered
with a kind of regularity along certain lines, and over given areas
in northern and central Europe. How he followed out this idea in
his subsequent investigations will be seen hereafter.


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.

In the summer of 1840 Agassiz made his first permanent station on
the Alps. Hitherto the external phenomena, the relation of the ice
to its surroundings, and its influence upon them, had been the
chief study. Now the glacier itself was to be the main subject of
investigation, and he took with him a variety of instruments for
testing temperatures: barometers, thermometers, hygrometers, and
psychometers; beside a boring apparatus, by means of which
self-registering thermometers might be lowered into the heart of
the glacier. To these were added microscopes for the study of such
insects and plants as might be found in these ice-bound regions.
The Hospice of the Grimsel was selected as his base of supplies,
and as guides Jacob Leuthold and Johann Wahren were chosen. Both of
these had accompanied Hugi in his ascension of the Finsteraarhorn
in 1828, and both were therefore thoroughly familiar with all the
dangers of Alpine climbing. The lower Aar glacier was to be the
scene of their continuous work, and the centre from which their
ascents of the neighboring summits would be made. Here, on the
great median moraine, stood a huge boulder of micaceous schist. Its
upper surface projected so as to form a roof, and by closing it in
on one side with a stone wall, leveling the floor by a judicious
arrangement of flat slabs, and rigging a blanket in front to serve
as a curtain across the entrance, the whole was presently
transformed into a rude hut, where six persons could find
sleeping-room. A recess, sheltered by the rock outside, served as
kitchen and dining-room; while an empty space under another large
boulder was utilized as a cellar for the keeping of provisions.
This was the abode so well known afterward as the Hotel des
Neuchatelois. Its first occupants were Louis Agassiz, Edouard
Desor, Charles Vogt, Francois de Pourtales, Celestin Nicolet, and
Henri Coulon. It afforded, perhaps, as good a shelter as they could
have found in the old cabin of Hugi, where they had hoped to make
their temporary home. In this they were disappointed, for the cabin
had crumbled on its last glacial journey. The wreck was lying two
hundred feet below the spot where they had seen the walls still
standing the year before.

The work was at once distributed among the different members of the
party,--Agassiz himself, assisted by his young friend and favorite
pupil, Francois de Pourtales, retaining for his own share the
meteorological observations, and especially those upon the internal
temperature of the glaciers.* (* See "Tables of Temperature,
Measurements" etc., in Agassiz's "Systeme Glaciaire". These results
are also recorded in a volume entitled "Sejours dans les Glaciers",
by Edouard Desor, a collection of very bright and entertaining
articles upon the excursions and sojourns made in the Alps, during
successive summers, by Agassiz and his scientific staff.) To M.
Vogt fell the microscopic study of the red snow and the organic
life contained in it; to M. Nicolet, the flora of the glaciers and
the surrounding rocks; to M. Desor, the glacial phenomena proper,
including those of the moraines. He had the companionship and
assistance of M. Henri Coulon in the long and laborious excursions
required for this part of the work.

This is not the place for scientific details. For the results of
Agassiz's researches on the Alpine glaciers, to which he devoted
much of his time and energy during ten years, from 1836 to 1846,
the reader is referred to his two larger works on this subject, the
"Etudes sur les Glaciers," and the "Systeme Glaciaire." Of the work
accomplished by him and his companions during these years this
slight summary is given by his friend Guyot.* (* See Biographical
Sketch, published by Professor A. Guyot, under the auspices of the
United States National Academy.) "The position of eighteen of the
most prominent rocks on the glacier was determined by careful
triangulation by a skillful engineer, and measured year after year
to establish the rate of motion of every part. The differences in
the rate of motion in the upper and lower part of the glacier, as
well as in different seasons of the year, was ascertained; the
amount of the annual melting was computed, and all the phenomena
connected with it studied. All the surrounding peaks,--the
Jungfrau, the Schreckhorn, the Finsteraarhorn, most of them until
then reputed unscalable,--were ascended, and the limit of glacial
action discovered; in short all the physical laws of the glacier
were brought to light."

We now return to the personal narrative. After a number of days
spent in the study of the local phenomena, the band of workers
turned their attention to the second part of their programme,
namely, the ascent of the Strahleck, by crossing which and
descending on the other side, they intended to reach Grindelwald.
One morning, then, toward the end of August, their guides,
according to agreement, aroused them at three o'clock,--an hour
earlier than their usual roll-call. The first glance outside spread
a general chill of disappointment over the party, for they found
themselves beleaguered by a wall of fog on every side. But
Leuthold, as he lighted the fire and prepared breakfast, bade them
not despair,--the sun might make all right. In a few moments, one
by one, the summits of the Schreckhorn, the Finsteraarhorn, the
Oberaarhorn, the Altmaner, the Scheuchzerhorn, lighted by the first
rays of the sun, came out like islands above the ocean of mist,
which softly broke away and vanished with the advancing light. In
about three hours they reached the base of the Strahleck. Their two
guides, Leuthold and Wahren, had engaged three additional men for
this excursion, so that they now had five guides, none of whom were
superfluous, since they carried with them various barometric
instruments which required careful handling. They began the ascent
in single file, but the slopes soon became so steep and the light
snow (in which they floundered to the knees at every step) so deep,
that the guides resorted to the usual method in such cases of tying
them all together. The two head guides alone, Leuthold and Wahren,
remained detached, clearing the snow in front of them, cutting
steps in the ice, and giving warning, by cry and gesture, of any
hidden danger in the path. At nine o'clock, after an hour's
climbing, they stepped upon the small plateau, evenly covered with
unbroken snow, formed by the summit of the Strahleck.

The day had proved magnificent. With a clear sky above them, they
looked down upon the valley of Grindelwald at their feet, while
around and below them gathered the Scheideck and the Faulhorn, the
pyramidal outline of the Niesen, and the chain of the Stockhorn. In
front lay the great masses of the Eiger and the Monch, while to the
southwest the Jungfrau rose above the long chain of the
Viescherhorner. The first pause of silent wonder and delight, while
they released themselves from their cords and arranged their
instruments, seems to have been succeeded by an outburst of
spirits; for in the journal of the youngest of the party, Francois
de Pourtales, then a lad of seventeen, we read: "The guides began
to wrestle and we to dance, when suddenly we saw a female chamois,
followed by her young, ascending a neighboring slope, and presently
four or five more stretched their necks over a rock, as if to see
what was going on. Breathless the wrestlers and the dancers paused,
fearing to disturb by the slightest movement creatures so shy of
human approach. They drew nearer until within easy gunshot
distance, and then galloping along the opposite ridge disappeared
over the summit."

The party passed more than an hour on the top of the Strahleck,
making observations and taking measurements. Then having rested and
broken their fast with such provisions as they had brought, they
prepared for a descent, which proved the more rapid, since much of
it was a long slide. Tied together once more, they slid, wherever
they found it possible to exchange the painful and difficult
walking for this simpler process. "Once below these slopes of
snow," says the journal of young de Pourtales again, "rocks almost
vertical, or narrow ledges covered with grass, served us as a road
and brought us to the glacier of the Grindelwald. To reach the
glacier itself we traversed a crevasse of great depth, and some
twenty feet wide; on a bridge of ice, one or two feet in width, and
broken toward the end, where we were obliged to spring across. Once
on the glacier the rest was nothing. The race was to the fastest,
and we were soon on the path of the tourists." Reaching the village
of Grindelwald at three o'clock in the afternoon, they found it
difficult to persuade the people at the inn that they had left the
glacier of the Aar that morning. From Grindelwald they returned by
the Scheideck to the Grimsel, visiting on their way the upper
glacier of Grindelwald, the glacier of Schwartzwald, and that of
Rosenlaui, in order to see how far these had advanced since their
last visit to them. After a short rest at the Hospice of the
Grimsel, Agassiz returned with two or three of his companions to
their hut on the Aar glacier for the purpose of driving stakes into
the holes previously bored in the ice. He hoped by means of these
stakes to learn the following year what had been the rate of
movement of the glacier. The summer's work closed with the ascent
of the Siedelhorn. In all these ascents, the utmost pains was taken
to ascertain how far the action of the ice might be traced upon
these mountain peaks and the limits determined at which the
polished surfaces ceased, giving place to the rough, angular rock
which had never been modeled by the ice.

Agassiz had hardly returned from the Alps when he started for
England. He had long believed that the Highlands of Scotland, the
hilly Lake Country of England, and the mountains of Wales and
Ireland, would present the same phenomena as the valleys of the
Alps. Dr. Buckland had offered to be his guide in this search after
glacier tracks, as he had formerly been in the hunt after fossil
fishes in Great Britain. When, therefore, the meeting of the
British Association at Glasgow, at which they were both present,
was over, they started together for the Highlands. In a lecture
delivered by Agassiz, at his summer school at Penikese, a few
months before his death, he recurred to this journey with the
enthusiasm of a young man. Recalling the scientific isolation in
which he then stood, opposed as he was to all the prominent
geologists of the day, he said: "Among the older naturalists, only
one stood by me. Dr. Buckland, Dean of Westminster, who had come to
Switzerland at my urgent request for the express purpose of seeing
my evidence, and who had been fully convinced of the ancient
extension of ice there, consented to accompany me on my glacier
hunt in Great Britain. We went first to the Highlands of Scotland,
and it is one of the delightful recollections of my life that as we
approached the castle of the Duke of Argyll, standing in a valley
not unlike some of the Swiss valleys, I said to Buckland: 'Here we
shall find our first traces of glaciers;' and, as the stage entered
the valley, we actually drove over an ancient terminal moraine,
which spanned the opening of the valley." In short, Agassiz found,
as he had anticipated, that in the mountains of Scotland, Wales,
and the north of England, the valleys were in many instances
traversed by terminal moraines and bordered by lateral ones, as in
Switzerland. Nor were any of the accompanying phenomena wanting.
The characteristic traces left by the ice, as well known to him now
as the track of the game to the hunter; the peculiar lines,
furrows, and grooves; the polished surfaces, the roches moutonnees;
the rocks, whether hard or soft, cut to one level, as by a rigid
instrument; the unstratified drift and the distribution of loose
material in relation to the ancient glacier beds,--all agreed with
what he already knew of glacial action. He visited the famous
"roads of Glen Roy" in the Grampian Hills, where so many geologists
had broken a lance in defense of their theories of subsidence and
upheaval, of ancient ocean-levels and sea-beaches, formed at a time
when they believed Glen Roy and the adjoining valleys to have been
so many fiords and estuaries. To Agassiz, these parallel terraces
explained themselves as the shores of a glacial lake, held back in
its bed for a time by neighboring glaciers descending from more
sheltered valleys. The terraces marked the successively lower
levels at which the water stood, as these barriers yielded, and
allowed its gradual escape.* (* For details, see a paper by Agassiz
on "The Glacial Theory and its Recent Progress" in the "Edinburgh
New Philosophical Journal" October 1842, accompanied by a map of
the Glen Roy region, and also an article entitled "Parallel Roads
of Glen Roy, in Scotland," in the second volume of Agassiz's
"Geological Sketches".) The glacial action in the whole
neighborhood was such as to leave no doubt in the mind of Agassiz
that Glen Roy and the adjoining glens, or valleys, had been the
drainage-bed for the many glaciers formerly occupying the western
ranges of the Grampian Hills. He returned from his tour satisfied
that the mountainous districts of Great Britain had all been
centres of glacial distribution, and that the drift material and
the erratic boulders, scattered over the whole country, were due to
exactly the same causes as the like phenomena in Switzerland. On
the 4th of November, 1840, he read a paper before the Geological
Society of London, giving a summary of the scientific results of
their excursion, followed by one from Dr. Buckland, who had become
an ardent convert to his views. Apropos of this meeting, Dr.
Buckland writes in advance as follows:--

TAYMOUTH CASTLE, October 15, 1840.

. . .Lyell has adopted your theory in toto!!! On my showing him a
beautiful cluster of moraines, within two miles of his father's
house, he instantly accepted it, as solving a host of difficulties
that have all his life embarrassed him. And not these only, but
similar moraines and detritus of moraines, that cover half of the
adjoining counties are explicable on your theory, and he has
consented to my proposal that he should immediately lay them all
down on a map of the county and describe them in a paper to be read
the day after yours at the Geological Society. I propose to give in
my adhesion by reading, the same day with yours, as a sequel to
your paper, a list of localities where I have observed similar
glacial detritus in Scotland, since I left you, and in various
parts of England.

There are great reefs of gravel in the limestone valleys of the
central bog district of Ireland. They have a distinct name, which I
forget. No doubt they are moraines; if you have not, ere you get
this, seen one of them, pray do so.* (* Agassiz was then staying at
Florence Court, the seat of the Earl of Enniskillen, in County
Fermanagh, Ireland. While there he had an opportunity of studying
most interesting glacial phenomena. ) But it will not be worth
while to go out of your way to see more than one; all the rest must
follow as a corollary. I trust you will not fail to be at Edinboro'
on the 20th, and at Sir W. Trevelyan's on the 24th. . .

A letter of later date in the same month shows that Agassiz felt
his views to be slowly gaining ground among his English friends.


LONDON, November 24, 1840.

. . .Our meeting on Wednesday passed off very well; none of my
facts were disturbed, though Whewell and Murchison attempted an
opposition; but as their objections were far-fetched, they did not
produce much effect. I was, however, delighted to have some
appearance of serious opposition, because it gave me a chance to
insist upon the exactness of my observations, and upon the want of
solidity in the objections brought against them. Dr. Buckland was
truly eloquent. He has now full possession of this subject; is,
indeed, completely master of it.

I am happy to tell you that everything is definitely arranged with
Lord Francis,* (* Apropos of the sale of his original drawings of
fossil fishes to Lord Francis Egerton.) and that I now feel within
myself a courage which doubles my strength. I have just written to
thank him. To-morrow I shall devote to the fossils sent me by Lord
Enniskillen, a list of which I will forward to you. . .

We append here, a little out of the regular course, a letter from
Humboldt, which shows that he too was beginning to look more
leniently upon Agassiz's glacial conclusions.


BERLIN, August 15, 1840.

I am the most guilty of mortals, my dear friend. There are not
three persons in the world whose remembrance and affection I value
more than yours, or for whom I have a warmer love and admiration,
and yet I allow half the year to pass without giving you a sign of
life, without any expression of my warm gratitude for the
magnificent gifts I owe to you.* (* Probably the plates of the
"Fresh-Water Fishes" and other illustrated publications.)

I am a little like my republican friend who no longer answers any
letters because he does not know where to begin. I receive on an
average fifteen hundred letters a year. I never dictate. I hold
that resort in horror. How dictate a letter to a scholar for whom
one has a real regard? I allow myself to be drawn into answering
the persons I know least, whose wrath is the most menacing. My
nearer friends (and none are more dear to me than yourself) suffer
from my silence. I count with reason upon their indulgence. The
tone of your excellent letters shows that I am right. You spoil me.
Your letters continue to be always warm and affectionate. I receive
few like them. Since two thirds of the letters addressed to me
(partly copies of letters written to the king or the ministers)
remain unanswered, I am blamed, charged with being a parvenu
courtier, an apostate from science. This bitterness of individual
claims does not diminish my ardent desire to be useful. I act
oftener than I answer. I know that I like to do good, and this
consciousness gives me tranquillity in spite of my over burdened
life. You are happy, my dear Agassiz, in the more simple and yet
truly proud position which you have created for yourself. You ought
to take satisfaction in it as the father of a family, as an
illustrious savant, as the originator and source of so many new
ideas, of so many great and noble conceptions.

Your admirable work on the fossil fishes draws to a close. The last
number, so rich in discoveries, and the prospectus, explaining the
true state of this vast publication, have soothed all irritation
regarding it. It is because I am so attached to you that I rejoice
in the calmer atmosphere you have thus established about you. The
approaching completion of the fossil fishes delivers me also from
the fear that a too great ardor might cause you irreparable losses.
You have shown not only what a talent like yours can accomplish,
but also how a noble courage can triumph over seemingly
insurmountable obstacles.

In what words shall I tell you how greatly our admiration is
increased by this new work of yours on the Fresh-Water Fishes?
Nothing has appeared more admirable, more perfect in drawing and
color. This chromatic lithography resembles nothing we have had
thus far. What taste has directed the publication! Then the short
descriptions accompanying each plate add singularly to the charm
and the enjoyment of this kind of study. Accept my warm thanks, my
dear friend. I not only delivered your letter and the copy with it
to the king, but I added a short note on the merit of such an
undertaking. The counselor of the Royal Cabinet writes me
officially that the king has ordered the same number of copies of
the Fresh-Water Fishes as of the Fossil Fishes; that is to say, ten
copies. M. de Werther has already received the order. This is, to
be sure, but a slight help; still, it is all that I have been able
to obtain, and these few copies, with the king's name as
subscriber, will always be useful to you.

I cannot close this letter without asking your pardon for some
expressions, too sharp, perhaps, in my former letters, about your
vast geological conceptions. The very exaggeration of my
expressions must have shown you how little weight I attached to my
objections. . .My desire is always to listen and to learn. Taught
from my youth to believe that the organization of past times was
somewhat tropical in character, and startled therefore at these
glacial interruptions, I cried "Heresy!" at first. But should we
not always listen to a friendly voice like yours? I am interested
in whatever is printed on these topics; so, if you have published
anything at all complete lately on the ensemble of your geological
ideas, have the great kindness to send it to me through a
book-seller. . .

Shall I tell you anything of my own poor and superannuated works?
The sixth volume is wanting to my "Geography of the Fifteenth
Century" (Examen Critique). It will appear this summer. I am also
printing the second volume of a new work to be entitled "Central
Asia." It is not a second edition of "Asiatic Fragments," but a new
and wholly different work. The thirty-five sheets of the last
volume are printed, but the two volumes will only be issued
together. You can judge of the difficulty of printing at Paris and
correcting proofs here,--at Poretz or at Toplitz. I am just now
beginning to print the first number of my physics of the world,
under the title of "Cosmos:" in German, "Ideen zur erner physischen
Weltbeschreibung." It is in no sense a reproduction of the lectures
I gave here. The subject is the same, but the presentation does not
at all recall the form of a popular course. As a book, it has a
somewhat graver and more elevated style. A "spoken book" is always
a poor book, just as lectures read are poor however well prepared.
Published courses of lectures are my detestation. Cotta is also
printing a volume of mine in German, "Physikalische geographische
Erinnerungen." Many unpublished things concerning the volcanoes of
the Andes, about currents, etc. And all this at the age when one
begins to petrify! It is very rash! May this letter prove to you
and to Madame Agassiz that I am petrifying only at the extremities,
--the heart is still warm. Retain for me the affection which I hold
so dear.


In the following winter, or, rather, in the early days of March,
1841, Agassiz visited, in company with M. Desor, the glacier of the
Aar and that of Rosenlaui. He wished to examine the stakes planted
the summer before on the glacier of the Aar, and to compare the
winter and summer temperature within as well as without the mass of
ice. But his chief object was to ascertain whether water still
flowed from beneath the glaciers during the frosts of winter. This
fact would have a direct bearing upon the theory which referred the
melting and movement of the glaciers chiefly to their lower
surface, explaining them by the central heat of the earth as their
main cause. Satisfied as he was of the fallacy of this notion,
Agassiz still wished to have the evidence of the glacier itself.
The journey was, of course, a difficult one at such a season, but
the weather was beautiful, and they accomplished it in safety,
though not without much suffering. They found no water except the
pure and limpid water from springs that never freeze. The glacier
lay dead in the grasp of winter. The results of this journey,
tables of temperature, etc., are recorded in the "Systeme

In E. Desor's "Sejours dans les Glaciers" is found an interesting
description of the incidents of this excursion and the appearance
of the glaciers in winter. In ascending the course of the Aar they
frequently crossed the shrunken river on natural snow bridges, and
approaching the Handeck over fearfully steep slopes of snow they
had some difficulty in finding the thread of water which was all
that remained of the beautiful summer cascade. On the glacier of
the Aar they found the Hotel des Neuchatelois buried in snow, while
the whole surface of the glacier as well as the surrounding peaks,
from base to summit, wore the same spotless mantle. The
Finsteraarhorn alone stood out in bold relief, black against a
white world, its abrupt slopes affording no foothold for the snow.
The scene was far more monotonous than in summer. Crevasses, with
their blue depths of ice, were closed; the many-voiced streams were
still; the moraines and boulders were only here and there visible
through the universal shroud. The sky was without a cloud, the air
transparent, but the glitter of the uniform white surface was
exquisitely painful to the eyes and skin, and the travelers were
obliged to wrap their heads in double veils. They found the glacier
of Rosenlaui less enveloped in snow than that of the Aar; and
though the magnificent ice-cave, so well known to travelers for its
azure tints, was inaccessible, they could look into the vault and
see that the habitual bed of the torrent was dry. The journey was
accomplished in a week without any untoward accident.

In the summer of 1841 Agassiz made a longer Alpine sojourn than
ever before. The special objects of the season's work were the
internal structure of these vast moving fields of ice, the
essential conditions of their origin and continued existence, the
action of water within them as influencing their movement, and
their own agency in direct contact with the beds and walls of the
valleys they occupied. The fact of their former extension and their
present oscillations might be considered as established. It
remained to explain these facts with reference to the conditions
prevailing within the mass itself. In short, the investigation was
passing from the domain of geology to that of physics. Agassiz, who
was as he often said of himself no physicist, was the more anxious
to have the cooperation of the ablest men in that department, and
to share with them such facilities for observation and such results
as he had thus far accumulated. In addition to his usual
collaborators, M. Desor and M. Vogt, he had, therefore, invited as
his guest, during part of the season, the distinguished physicist,
Professor James D. Forbes, of Edinburgh, who brought with him his
friend, Mr. Heath, of Cambridge.* (* As the impressions of Mr.
Forbes were only made known in connection with his own later and
independent researches it is unnecessary to refer to them here.) M.
Escher de la Linth took also an active part in the work of the
later summer. To his working corps Agassiz had added the foreman of
M. Kahli, an engineer at Bienne, to whom he had confided his plans
for the summer, and who furnished him with a skilled workman to
direct the boring operations, assist in measurements, etc. The
artist of this year was M. Jacques Burkhardt, a personal friend of
Agassiz, and his fellow-student at Munich, where he had spent some
time at the school of art. As a draughtsman he was subsequently
associated with Agassiz in his work at various times, and when they
both settled in America Mr. Burkhardt became a permanent member of
Agassiz's household, accompanied him on his journeys, and remained
with him in relations of uninterrupted and affectionate regard till
his own death in 1867. He was a loyal friend and a warm-hearted
man, with a thread of humor running through his dry good sense,
which made him a very amusing and attractive companion.

As it was necessary, in view of his special programme of work, to
penetrate below the surface of the glacier, and reach, if possible,
its point of contact with the valley bottom, Agassiz had caused a
larger boring apparatus than had been used before, to be
transported to the old site on the Aar glacier. The results of
these experiments are incorporated in the "Systeme Glaciaire,"
published in 1846, with twenty-four folio plates and two maps. They
were of the highest interest with reference to the internal
structure and temperature of the ice and the penetrability of its
mass, pervious throughout, as it proved, to air and water. On one
occasion the boring-rod, having been driven to a depth of one
hundred and ten feet, dropped suddenly two feet lower, showing that
it had passed through an open space hidden in the depth of the ice.
The release of air-bubbles at the same time gave evidence that this
glacial cave, so suddenly broken in upon, was not hermetically
sealed to atmospheric influences from without.

Agassiz was not satisfied with the report of his instruments from
these unknown regions. He determined to be lowered into one of the
so-called wells in the glacier, and thus to visit its interior in
person. For this purpose he was obliged to turn aside the stream
which flowed into the well into a new bed which he caused to be dug
for it. This done, he had a strong tripod erected over the opening,
and, seated upon a board firmly attached by ropes, he was then let
down into the well, his friend Escher lying flat on the edge of the
precipice, to direct the descent and listen for any warning cry.
Agassiz especially desired to ascertain how far the laminated or
ribboned structure of the ice (the so-called blue bands) penetrated
the mass of the glacier. This feature of the glacier had been
observed and described by M. Guyot (see page 292), but Mr. Forbes
had called especial attention to it, as in his belief connected
with the internal conditions of the glacier. It was agreed, as
Agassiz bade farewell to his friends on this curious voyage of
discovery, that he should be allowed to descend until he called out
that they were to lift him. He was lowered successfully and without
accident to a depth of eighty feet. There he encountered an
unforeseen difficulty in a wall of ice which divided the well into
two compartments. He tried first the larger one, but finding it
split again into several narrow tunnels, he caused himself to be
raised sufficiently to enter the smaller, and again proceeded on
his downward course without meeting any obstacle. Wholly engrossed
in watching the blue bands, still visible in the glittering walls
of ice, he was only aroused to the presence of approaching danger
by the sudden plunge of his feet into water. His first shout of
distress was misunderstood, and his friends lowered him into the
ice-cold gulf instead of raising him. The second cry was effectual,
and he was drawn up, though not without great difficulty, from a
depth of one hundred and twenty-five feet. The most serious peril
of the ascent was caused by the huge stalactites of ice, between
the points of which he had to steer his way. Any one of them, if
detached by the friction of the rope, might have caused his death.
He afterward said: "Had I known all its dangers, perhaps I should
not have started on such an adventure. Certainly, unless induced by
some powerful scientific motive, I should not advise any one to
follow my example." On this perilous journey he traced the
laminated structure to a depth of eighty feet, and even beyond,
though with less distinctness.

The summer closed with their famous ascent of the Jungfrau. The
party consisted of twelve persons Agassiz, Desor, Forbes, Heath,
and two travelers who had begged to join them,--M. de Chatelier, of
Nantes, and M. de Pury, of Neuchatel, a former pupil of Agassiz.
The other six were guides; four beside their old and tried friends,
Jacob Leuthold and Johann Wahren. They left the hospice of the
Grimsel on the 27th of August, at four o'clock in the morning.
Crossing the Col of the Oberaar they descended to the snowy plateau
which feeds the Viescher glacier. In this grand amphitheatre,
walled in by the peaks of the Viescherhorner, they rested for their
midday meal. In crossing these fields of snow, while walking with
perfect security upon what seemed a solid mass, they observed
certain window-like openings in the snow. Stooping to examine one
of them, they looked into an immense open space, filled with soft
blue light. They were, in fact, walking on a hollow crust, and the
small window was, as they afterward found, opposite a large
crevasse on the other side of this ice-cavern, through which the
light entered, flooding the whole vault and receiving from its icy
walls its exquisite reflected color.* (* The effect is admirably
described by M. Desor in his account of this excursion, "Sejours
dans les Glaciers" page 367.)

Once across the fields of snow and neve, a fatiguing walk of five
hours brought them to the chalets of Meril,* (* Sometimes Moril,
but I have retained the spelling of M. Desor.--E.C.A.) where they
expected to sleep. The night which should have prepared them for
the fatigue of the next day was, however, disturbed by an untoward
accident. The ladder left by Jacob Leuthold when last here with
Hugi in 1832, nine years before, and upon which he depended, had
been taken away by a peasant of Viesch. Two messengers were sent in
the course of the night to the village to demand its restoration.
The first returned unsuccessful; the second was the bearer of such
threats of summary punishment from the whole party that he carried
his point, and appeared at last with the recovered treasure on his
back. They had, in the mean while, lost two hours. They should have
been on their road at three o'clock; it was now five. Jacob warned
them therefore that they must make all speed, and that any one who
felt himself unequal to a forced march should stay behind. No one
responded to his suggestion, and they were presently on the road.

Passing Lake Meril, with its miniature icebergs, they reached the
glacier of the Aletsch and its snow-fields, where the real
difficulties and dangers of the ascent were to begin. In this great
semicircular space, inclosed by the Jungfrau, the Monch, and the
lesser peaks of this mountain group, lies the Aletsch reservoir of
snow or neve. As this spot presented a natural pause between the
laborious ascent already accomplished and the immense declivities
which lay before them yet to be climbed, they named it Le Repos,
and halted there for a short rest. Here they left also every
needless incumbrance, taking only a little bread and wine, in case
of exhaustion, some meteorological instruments, and the inevitable
ladder, axe, and ropes of the Alpine climber. On their left, to the
west of the amphitheatre, a vast passage opened between the
Jungfrau and the Kranzberg, and in this could be distinguished a
series of terraces, one above the other. The story is the usual
one, of more or less steep slopes, where they sank in the softer
snow or cut their steps in the icy surfaces; of open crevasses,
crossed by the ladder, or the more dangerous ones, masked by snow,
over which they trod cautiously, tied together by the rope. But
there was nothing to appall the experienced mountaineer with firm
foot and a steady head, until they reached a height where the
summit of the Jungfrau detached itself in apparently inaccessible
isolation from all beneath or around it. To all but the guides
their farther advance seemed blocked by a chaos of precipices,
either of snow and ice or of rock. Leuthold remained however
quietly confident, telling them he clearly saw the course he meant
to follow. It began by an open gulf of unknown depth, though not
too wide to be spanned by their ladder twenty-three feet in length.
On the other side of this crevasse, and immediately above it, rose
an abrupt wall of icy snow. Up this wall Leuthold and another guide
led the way, cutting steps as they went. When half way up they
lowered the rope, holding one end, while their companions fastened
the other to the ladder, so that it served them as a kind of
hand-rail, by which to follow. At the top they found themselves on
a terrace, beyond which a far more moderate slope led to the Col of
Roththal, overlooking the Aletsch valley on one side, the Roththal
on the other. From this point the ascent was more and more steep
and very slow, as every step had to be cut. Their difficulties were
increased, also, by a mist which gathered around them, and by the
intense cold. Leuthold kept the party near the border of the ridge,
because there the ice yielded more readily to the stroke of the
axe; but it put their steadiness of nerve to the greatest test, by
keeping the precipice constantly in view, except when hidden by the
fog. Indeed, they could drive their alpenstocks through the
overhanging rim of frozen snow, and look sheer down through the
hole thus made to the amphitheatre below. One of the guides left
them, unable longer to endure the sight of these precipices so
close at hand. As they neared their goal they feared lest the mist
might, at the last, deprive them of the culminating moment for
which they had braved such dangers. But suddenly, as if touched by
their perseverance, says M. Desor, the veil of fog lifted, and the
summit of the Jungfrau, in its final solitude, rose before them.
There was still a certain distance to be passed before they
actually reached the base of the extreme peak. Here they paused,
not without a certain hesitation, for though the summit lay but a
few feet above them, they were separated from it by a sharp and
seemingly inaccessible ridge. Even Agassiz, who was not easily
discouraged, said, as he looked up at this highest point of the
fortress they had scaled "We can never reach it." For all answer,
Jacob Leuthold, their intrepid guide, flinging down everything
which could embarrass his movements, stretched his alpenstock over
the ridge as a grappling pole, and, trampling the snow as he went,
so as to flatten his giddy path for those who were to follow, was
in a moment on the top. To so steep an apex does this famous peak
narrow, that but one person can stand on the summit at a time, nor
was even this possible till the snow was beaten down. Returning on
his steps, Leuthold, whose quiet, unflinching audacity of success
was contagious, assisted each one to stand for a few moments where
he had stood. The fog, the effect of which they had so much feared,
now lent something to the beauty of the view from this sublime
foothold. Masses of vapor rolled up from the Roththal on the
southwest, but, instead of advancing to envelop them, paused at a
little distance arrested by some current from the plain. The
temperature being below freezing point, the drops of moisture in
this wall of vapor were congealed into ice-crystals, which
glittered like gold in the sunlight and gave back all the colors of
the rainbow.

When all the party were once more assembled at the base of the
peak, Jacob, whose resources never failed, served to each one a
little wine, and they rested on the snow before beginning their
perilous descent. Of living things they saw only a hawk, poised in
the air above their heads; of plants, a few lichens, where the
surface of the rock was exposed. It was four o'clock in the
afternoon before they started on their downward path, turning their
faces to the icy slope, and feeling for the steps behind them, some
seven hundred in all, which had been cut in ascending. In about an
hour they reached the Col of the Roththal, where the greatest
difficulties of the ascent had begun and the greatest dangers of
the descent were over. So elated were they by the success of the
day, and so regardless of lesser perils after those they had passed
through, that they were now inclined to hurry forward incautiously.
Jacob, prudent when others were rash, as he was bold when others
were intimidated, constantly called them to order with his:
"Hubschle! nur immer hubschle!" ("Gently! always gently!")

At six o'clock they were once more at Le Repos, having retraced
their steps in two hours over a distance which had cost them six in
going. Evening was now falling, but daylight was replaced by
moonlight, and when they reached the glacier its whole surface
shone with a soft silvery lustre, broken here and there by the
gigantic shadow of some neighboring mountain thrown black across
it. At about nine o'clock, just as they had passed that part of the
glacier which was, on account of the frequent crevasses, the most
dangerous, they were cheered by the sound of a distant yodel. It
was the call of a peasant who had been charged to meet them with
provisions, at a certain distance above Lake Meril, in case they
should be overcome by hunger and fatigue. The most acceptable thing
he brought was his great wooden bucket, filled with fresh milk. The
picture of the party, as they stood around him in the moonlight,
dipping eagerly into his bucket, and drinking in turn until they
had exhausted the supply, is so vivid, that one shares their good
spirits and their enjoyment. Thus refreshed, they started on the
last stage of their journey, three leagues of which yet lay before
them, and at half-past eleven arrived at the chalets of Meril,
which they had left at dawn.

On the morrow the party broke up, and Agassiz and Desor,
accompanied by their friend, M. Escher de la Linth, returned to the
Grimsel, and after a day's rest there repaired once more to the
Hotel des Neuchatelois. They remained on the glacier until the 5th
of September, spending these few last days in completing their
measurements, and in planting the lines of stakes across the
glacier, to serve as a means of determining its rate of movement
during the year, and the comparative rapidity of that movement at
certain fixed points. Thus concluded one of the most eventful
seasons Agassiz and his companions had yet passed upon the Alps.*
(* Though quoting his exact language only in certain instances, the
account of this and other Alpine ascensions described above has
been based upon M. E. Desor's "Sejours dans les Glaciers". His very
spirited narratives, added to my own recollections of what I had
heard from Mr. Agassiz himself on the same subject, have given me
my material.--E.C.A.)


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.

Although his glacier work was now so prominent a feature of
Agassiz's scientific life, his zoological studies, especially his
ichthyological researches, and more especially his work on fossil
fishes, went on with little interruption. His publications upon
Fossil Mollusks,* (* "Etudes Critiques sur les Mollusques Fossiles"
4 numbers quarto with 100 plates.) upon Tertiary Shells,* (*
"Iconographie des Coquilles Tertiaires reputees identiques sur les
vivans" 1 number quarto 14 plates.) upon Living and Fossil
Echinoderms,* (* "Monographie d'Echinodermes vivans et fossiles" 4
numbers quarto with 37 plates.) with many smaller monographs on
special subjects, were undertaken and completed during the most
active period of his glacial investigations. More surprising is it
to find him, while pursuing new lines of investigation with
passionate enthusiasm, engaged at the same time upon works
seemingly so dry and tedious as his "Nomenclator Zoologicus," and
his "Bibliographia Zoologiae et Geologiae."

The former work, a large quarto volume with an Index,* (* The Index
was also published separately as an octavo.) comprised an
enumeration of all the genera of the animal kingdom, with the
etymology of their names, the names of those who had first proposed
them, and the date of their publication. He obtained the
cooperation of other naturalists, submitting each class as far as
possible for revision to the leaders in their respective

In his letter of presentation to the library of the Neuchatel
Academy, addressed to M. le Baron de Chambrier, President of the
Academic Council, Agassiz thus describes the Nomenclator.

. . ."Have the kindness to accept for the library of the Academy
the fifth number of a work upon the sources of zoological
criticism, the publication of which I have just begun. It is a work
of patience, demanding long and laborious researches. I had
conceived the plan in the first years of my studies, and since then
have never lost sight of it. I venture to believe it will be a
barrier against the Babel of confusion which tends to overwhelm the
domain of zoological synonymy. My book will be called 'Nomenclator
Zoologicus.'". . .

The Bibliographia (4 volumes, octavo) was in some measure a
complement of the Nomenclator, and contained a list of all the
authors named in the latter, with notices of their works. It
appeared somewhat later, and was published by the Ray Society in
England, in 1848, after Agassiz had left Europe for the United
States. The material for this work also had been growing upon his
hands for years. Feeling more and more the importance of such a
register as a guide for students, he appealed to naturalists in all
parts of Europe for information upon the scientific bibliography of
their respective countries, and at last succeeded in cataloguing,
with such completeness as was possible, all known works and all
scattered memoirs on zoology and geology. Unable to publish this
costly but unremunerative material, he was delighted to give it up
to the Ray Society. The first three volumes were edited with
corrections and additions by Mr. H.E. Strickland, who died before
the appearance of the fourth volume, which was finally completed
under the care of his father-in-law, Sir William Jardine.

The ability, so eminently possessed by Agassiz of dealing with a
number of subjects at once, was due to no superficial versatility.
To him his work had but one meaning. It was never disconnected in
his thought, and therefore he turned from his glaciers to his
fossils, and from the fossil to the living world, with the feeling
that he was always dealing with kindred problems, bound together by
the same laws. Nowhere is this better seen than in the records of
the scientific society of Neuchatel, the society he helped to found
in the first months of his professorship, and to which he always
remained strongly attached, being a constant attendant at its
sessions from 1833 to 1846. Here we find him from month to month,
with philosophic breadth of thought, treating of animals in their
widest relations, or describing minute structural details with the
skill of a specialist. He presents organized beings in their
geological succession, in their geographical distribution, in their
embryonic development. He reviews and remodels laws of
classification. Sometimes he illustrates the fossil by the living
world, sometimes he finds the key to present phenomena in the
remote past. He reconstructs the history of the glacial period, and
points to its final chapter in the nearest Alpine valleys,
connecting these facts again with like phenomena in distant parts
of the globe. But however wide his range and however various his
topics, under his touch they are all akin, all coordinate parts of
a whole which he strives to understand in its entirety. A few
extracts from his correspondence will show him in his different
lines of research at this time.

The following letter is from Edward Forbes, one of the earliest
explorers of the deep-sea fauna. Agassiz had asked him for some
help in his work upon echinoderms.


21 LOTHIAN ST., EDINBURGH, February 13, 1841.

. . .A letter from you was to me one of the greatest of pleasures,
and with great delight (though, I fear, imperfectly) I have
executed the commission you gave me. It should have been done much
sooner had not the storms been so bad in the sea near this that,
until three days ago, I was not able to procure a living sea-urchin
from which to make the drawings required. . .You have made all the
geologists glacier-mad here, and they are turning Great Britain
into an ice-house. Some amusing and very absurd attempts at
opposition to your views have been made by one or two
pseudo-geologists; among others, poor--, who has read a paper at
the Royal Society here, maintaining that all the appearances you
refer to glaciers were caused by blocks of ice which floated this
way in the Deluge! and that the fossils of the pleistocene strata
were mollusks, etc., which, climbing upon the ice-blocks, were
carried to warmer seas against their will!! To my mind, one of the
best proofs of the truth of your views lies in the decidedly arctic
character of the pleistocene fauna, which must be referred to the
glacier time, and by such reference is easily understood. I mean
during the summer to collect data on that point, in order to
present a mass of geological proofs of your theory.

Dr. Traill tells me you are proposing to visit England again during
the coming summer. If you do, I hope we shall meet, when I shall
have many things to show you, which time did not permit when you
were here. I look anxiously for the forth-coming number of your
history of the Echinodermata. . .


June 13, 1842.

. . .Your letters have given me great pleasure: first, in assuring
me that your zeal in ichthyology is undiminished, and that you are
about to give such striking proofs of it to the British
Association; and next that you still pursue with enthusiasm your
admirable researches upon the glaciers. I should be charmed to put
myself under your guidance for a walk on the glaciers of the Aar,
but I hardly dare promise it yet. . .Even were I to make every
haste, I doubt if it be possible to reach your Swiss meeting in
time. It is just possible that I may find you in your glacial
cantonment after your return, but even this will depend upon
circumstances over which I have no control.

I send this letter to you by my friend, Admiral Sir Charles
Malcolm, who passes through Neuchatel on his way to Geneva.
Accompanying it is a copy of my last discourse, which I request you
to accept and to read all parts of it. You will see that I have
grappled honestly and according to my own faith with your ice, but
have never lost sight of your great merit. My concluding paragraph
will convince you and all your friends that if I am wrong it is not
from any preconceived notions, but only because I judge from what
you will call incomplete evidence. Your "Venez voir!" still sounds
in my ears. . .

Murchison remained for many years an opponent of the glacial theory
in its larger application. In the discourse to which the above
letter makes allusion (Address at the Anniversary Meeting of the
Geological Society of London, 1842.* (* Extract from Report in
volume 33 of the "Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal".)) is this
passage: "Once grant to Agassiz that his deepest valleys of
Switzerland, such as the enormous Lake of Geneva, were formerly
filled with snow and ice, and I see no stopping place. From that
hypothesis you may proceed to fill the Baltic and the northern
seas, cover southern England and half of Germany and Russia with
similar icy sheets, on the surfaces of which all the northern
boulders might have been shot off. So long as the greater number of
the practical geologists of Europe are opposed to the wide
extension of a terrestrial glacial theory, there can be little risk
that such a doctrine should take too deep a hold of the mind. . .
The existence of glaciers in Scotland and England (I mean in the
Alpine sense) is not, at all events, established to the
satisfaction of what I believe to be by far the greater number of
British geologists."

Twenty years later, with rare candor, Murchison wrote to Agassiz as
follows; by its connection, though not by its date, the extract is
in place here: "I send you my last anniversary address, which I
wrote entirely myself; and I beg you to believe that in the part of
it that refers to the glacial period, and to Europe as it was
geographically, I have had the sincerest pleasure in avowing that I
was wrong in opposing as I did your grand and original idea of my
native mountains. Yes! I am now convinced that glaciers did descend
from the mountains to the plains as they do now in Greenland."

During the summer of 1842, at about the same date with Murchison's
letter disclaiming the glacial theory, Agassiz received, on the
other hand, a new evidence, and one which must have given him
especial pleasure, of the favorable impression his views were
making in some quarters in England.


OXFORD, July 22, 1842.

You will, I am sure, rejoice with me at the adhesion of C. Darwin
to the doctrine of ancient glaciers in North Wales, of which I send
you a copy, and which was communicated to me by Dr. Tritten, during
the late meeting at Manchester, in time to be quoted by me versus
Murchison, when he was proclaiming the exclusive agency of floating
icebergs in drifting erratic blocks and making scratched and
polished surfaces. It has raised the glacial theory fifty per cent,
as far as relates to glaciers descending inclined valleys; but
Hopkins and the Cantabrigians are still as obstinate as ever
against allowing the power of expansion to move ice along great
distances on horizontal surfaces. . .

The following is the letter referred to above.


Yesterday (and the previous days) I had some most interesting work
in examining the marks left by EXTINCT glaciers. I assure you, an
extinct volcano could hardly leave more evident traces of its
activity and vast powers. I found one with the lateral moraine
quite perfect, which Dr. Buckland did not see. Pray if you have any
communication with Dr. Buckland give him my warmest thanks for
having guided me, through the published abstract of his memoir, to
scenes, and made me understand them, which have given me more
delight than I almost remember to have experienced since I first
saw an extinct crater. The valley about here and the site of the
inn at which I am now writing must once have been covered by at
least 800 or 1,000 feet in thickness of solid ice! Eleven years ago
I spent a whole day in the valley where yesterday everything but
the ice of the glaciers was palpably clear to me, and I then saw
nothing but plain water and bare rock. These glaciers have been
grand agencies. I am the more pleased with what I have seen in
North Wales, as it convinces me that my view of the distribution of
the boulders on the South American plains, as effected by floating
ice, is correct. I am also more convinced that the valleys of Glen
Roy and the neighboring parts of Scotland have been occupied by
arms of the sea, and very likely (for in that point I cannot, of
course, doubt Agassiz and Buckland) by glaciers also.

It continued to be a grief to Agassiz that Humboldt, the oldest of
all his scientific friends, and the one whose opinion he most
reverenced, still remained incredulous. Humboldt's letters show
that Agassiz did not willingly renounce the hope of making him a
convert. Agassiz's own letters to Humboldt are missing from this
time onward. Overwhelmed with occupation, and more at his ease in
his relations with the older scientific men, he had ceased to make
the rough drafts in which his earlier correspondence is recorded.


BERLIN, March 2, 1842.

. . .When one has been so long separated, even accidentally, from a
friend as I have been from you, my dear Agassiz, it is difficult to
find beginning or end to a letter. The kindly remembrance which you
send me is evidence that my long silence has not seemed strange to
you. . .It would be wasting words to tell you how I have been
prevented, by the distractions of my life, always increasing with
old age, from acknowledging the admirable things received from you,
--upon living and fossil fishes, echinoderms, and glaciers. My
admiration of your boundless activity, of your beautiful
intellectual life, increases with every year. This admiration for
your work and your bold excursions is based upon the most careful
reading of all the views and investigations, for which I have to
thank you. This very week I have read with great satisfaction your
truly philosophical address, and your long treatise in Cotta's
fourth "Jahresschrift." Even L. von Buch confessed that the first
half of your treatise, the living presentation of the succession of
organized beings, was full of truth, sagacity, and novelty.

I in no way reproach you, my dear friend, for the urgent desire
expressed in all your letters, that your oldest friends should
accept your comprehensive geological view of your ice-period. It is
very noble and natural to wish that what has impressed us as true
should also be recognized by those we love. . .I believe I have
read and compared all that has been written for and against the
ice-period, and also upon the transportation of boulders, whether
pushed along or carried by floods or gliding over slopes. My own
opinion, as you know, can have no weight or authority, since I have
not myself seen the most decisive points. Indeed I am, perhaps
wrongly, inclined to look upon all geological theories as having
their being in a mythical region, in which, with the progress of
physics, the phantasms are modified century by century. But the
"elephants caught in the ice," and Cuvier's "instantaneous change
of climate," seem to me no more intelligible today than when I
wrote my Asiatic fragments. According to all that we know of the
decrease of heat in the earth, I cannot understand such a change of
temperature in a space of time which does not also allow for the
decaying of flesh. I understand much better how wolves, hares, and
dogs, should they fall to-day into clefts of the frozen regions of
Northern Siberia (and the so-called "elephant-ice" is in plain
prose only porphyritic drift mixed with ice-crystals, true drift
material), might retain their flesh and muscles. . .But I am only a
grumbling rebellious subject in your kingdom. . .Do not be vexed
with a friend who is more than ever impressed with your services to
geology, your philosophical views of nature, your profound
knowledge of organized beings. . .

With old attachment and the warmest friendship, your


In the same strain is this extract from another letter of
Humboldt's, written two or three months later.

. . ."'Grace from on high,' says Madame de Sevigne, 'comes slowly.'
I especially desire it for the glacial period and for that fatal
cap of ice which frightens me, child of the equator that I am. My
heresy, of little importance, since I have seen nothing, does not,
I assure you, my dear Agassiz, diminish my ardent desire that all
your observations should be published. . .I rejoice in the good
news you give me of the fishes. I should pain you did I add that
this work of yours, by the light it has shed on the organic
development of animals, makes the true foundation of your glory.".
. .


NEUCHATEL, June, 1842.

. . .I am hard at work on the fishes of the "Old Red," and will
send you at Manchester a part at least of the plates, with a
general summary of the species of that formation. I aim to finish
the work with such care that it shall mark a sensible advance in
ichthyology. I hope it will satisfy you. . .You ask me how I intend
to finish my Fossil Fishes? As follows: As soon as the number on
the species of the "Old Red" is finished, I shall complete the
general outline of the work as I did with volume 4, in order that
the arrangement and character of all the families in the four
orders may be studied in their zoological affinities, with their
genera and principal species. But as this outline can no longer
contain the innumerable species now known to me, I take up
monographically the species from the different geological
formations in the order of the deposits, and publish as many
supplements as there are great formations rich in fossil fishes. I
shall limit myself to the species described in the body of the
work, merely adding the description of the new species in each
deposit, and such additions as I may have to make for those already
known. In this way, those who wish to study fossil fishes from the
zoological stand-point can turn to the work in the original form,
while those who wish to study them in their geological relations
can confine themselves to the supplements. By means of double
registers at the end of each volume, these two distinct parts of
the work will be again united as a complete whole. This is the only
plan I have been able to devise by which I could publish in
succession all my materials without burdening my first subscribers,
who will thus be free to accept the supplements or not, as they
prefer. Should you have occasion to mention this arrangement to the
friends of fossil ichthyology, pray do so; it seems to me for the
interest of the matter that it should be known. . .I propose to
resume with new zeal my researches upon the fossil fishes as soon
as I return from an excursion I wish to make in July and August to
the glacier of the Aar, where I hope, by a last visit this year, to
conclude my labors on this subject. You will be glad to learn that
the beautiful barometer you gave me has been my faithful companion
in the Alps. . .I have the pleasure to tell you that the King of
Prussia has made me a handsome gift of nearly 200 pounds for the
continuance of my glacial work. I feel, therefore, the greater
certainty of completing what remains for me to do. . .

The campaign of 1842 opened on the 4th of July. The boulder had
ceased to be a safe shelter, and was replaced by a rough frame
cabin covered with canvas. If the party had some regrets in leaving
their picturesque hut beneath the rock, the greater comfort of the
new abode consoled them. It had several divisions. A sleeping-place
for the guides and workmen was partitioned off from a middle room
occupied by Agassiz and his friends, while the front space served
as dining-room, sitting-room, and laboratory. This outer apartment
boasted a table and one or two benches; even a couple of chairs
were kept as seats of honor for occasional guests. A shelf against
the wall and a few pegs accommodated books, instruments, coats,
etc., and a plank floor, on which to spread their blankets at
night, was a good exchange for the frozen surface of the glacier.*
(* In bidding farewell to the boulder which had been the first
"Hotel des Neuchatelois" we may add a word of its farther fortunes.
It had begun to split in 1841, and was completely rent asunder in
1844, after which frost and rain completed its dismemberment.
Strange to say, during the last summer (1884) certain fragments of
the mass have been found, inscribed with the names of some of the
party; one of the blocks bearing beside names, the mark "Number 2".
The account says "The middle stone, the one numbered 2, was at the
intersecting point of two lines drawn from the Pavilion Dollfuss to
the Scheuchzerhorn on the one part, and from the Rothhorn to the
Thierberg on the other." According to the measurements taken by
Agassiz, the Hotel des Neuchatelois in 1840 stood at 797 metres
from the promontory of Abschwung. We are thus enabled, by referring
to the large glacier map of Wild and Stengel, to compare the
present with the then position of the stone, and thereby ascertain
the progress of the glacier since the time in question. Thus the
boulder still contributes something toward the sequel of the work
begun by those who once found shelter beneath it.--E.C.A.)

Mr. Wild, an engineer of known ability, was now a member of their
party, as a topographical survey was to be one of the chief objects
of the summer's work. The results of this survey, which was
continued during two summers, are embodied in the map accompanying
Agassiz's "Systeme Glaciaire." Experiments upon the extent and
connection of the net-work of capillary fissures that admitted
water into the interior of the glaciers, occupied Agassiz's own
attention during a great part of the summer. In order to ascertain
this, colored liquids were introduced into the glacier by means of
boring, and it was found that they threaded their way through the
mass of the ice and reappeared at lower points with astonishing
rapidity. A gallery was cut at a depth of ten metres below the
surface, through a wall of ice intervening between two crevasses.
The colored liquid poured into a hole above soon appeared on the
ceiling of the gallery. The experimenters were surprised to find
that at night the same result was obtained, and that the liquid
penetrated from the surface to the roof of the gallery even more
quickly than during the day. This was explained by the fact that
the fissures were then free from any moisture arising from surface
melting, so that the passage through them was unimpeded.* (*
Distrust has been thrown upon these results by the failure of more
recent attempts to repeat the same experiments. In reference to
this, Agassiz himself says "The infiltration has been denied in
consequence of the failure of some experiments in which an attempt
was made to introduce colored fluids into the glacier. To this I
can only answer that I succeeded completely myself in the self-same
experiment which a later investigator found impracticable, and that
I see no reason why the failure of the latter attempt should cast a
doubt upon the success of the former. The explanation of the
difference in the result may perhaps be found in the fact that as a
sponge gorged with water can admit no more fluid than it already
contains, so the glacier, under certain circumstances, and
especially at noonday in summer, may be so soaked with water that
all attempts to pour colored fluids into it would necessarily
fail."--See "Geological Sketches" by L. Agassiz, page 236.)

The comparative rate of advance in the different parts of the
glacier was ascertained this summer with greater precision than
before. The rows of stakes planted in a straight line across the
glacier by Agassiz and Escher de la Linth, in the previous
September, now described a crescent with the curve turned toward
the terminus of the glacier, showing, contrary to the expectation
of Agassiz, that the centre moved faster than the sides. The
correspondence of the curve in the stratification with that of the
line of stakes confirmed this result. The study of the
stratification of the snow was a marked feature of the season's
work, and Agassiz believed, as will be seen by a later letter, that
he had established this fact of glacial structure beyond a doubt.

The origin and mode of formation of the crevasses also especially
occupied the observers. On the 7th of August, Agassiz had an
opportunity of watching this phenomenon in its initiation.
Attracted to a certain spot on the glacier by a commotion among his
workmen, he found them alarmed at the singular noises and movements
in the ice. "I heard," he says, "at a little distance a sound like
the simultaneous discharge of fire-arms; hurrying in the direction
of the noise, it was repeated under my feet with a movement like
that of a slight earthquake; the ground seemed to shift and give
way under me, but now the sound differed from the preceding, and
resembled a crumbling of rocks, without, however, any perceptible
sinking of the surface. The glacier actually trembled,
nevertheless; for a block of granite three feet in diameter,
perched on a pedestal two feet high, suddenly fell down. At the
same instant a crack opened between my feet and ran rapidly across
the glacier in a straight line."* (* Extract from a letter of Louis
Agassiz to M. Arago dated from the Hotel des Neuchatelois, Glacier
of the Aar, August 7, 1842.) On this occasion Agassiz saw three
crevasses formed in an hour and a half, and heard others opening at
a greater distance from him. He counted eight new fissures in a
space of one hundred and twenty-five feet. The phenomenon continued
throughout the evening, and recurred, though with less frequency,
during the night. The cracks were narrow, the largest an inch and a
half in width, and their great depth was proved by the rapidity
with which they drained any standing water in their immediate
vicinity. "A boring-hole," says Agassiz, "one hundred and thirty
feet deep and six inches in diameter, full of water, was completely
emptied in a few minutes, showing that these narrow cracks
penetrated to great depths."

The summer's work included observations also on the comparative
movement of the glacier during the day and night, on the surface
waste of the mass, its reparation, on the neve and snow of the
upper regions, on the meridian holes, the sun-dials of the
glaciers, as they have been called.* (* "Here and there on the
glacier there are patches of loose material, dust, sand, or gravel,
accumulated by diminutive water-rills and small enough to become
heated during the day. They will, of course, be warmed first on
their eastern side, then still more powerfully on their southern
side, and, in the afternoon, with less force again, on their
western side, while the northern side will remain comparatively
cool. Thus around more than half of their circumference they melt
the ice in a semicircle, and the glacier is covered with little
crescent-shaped troughs of this description, with a steep wall on
one side and a shallow one on the other, and a little heap of loose
materials in the bottom. They are the sun-dials of the glacier,
recording the hour by the advance of the sun's rays upon them."--"
Geological Sketches" by L. Agassiz page 293.) On the whole, the
most important result of the campaign was the topographical survey
of the glacier, recorded in the map published in Agassiz's second
work on the glacier.

At about this time there begin to be occasional references in his
correspondence to a journey of exploration in the United States.
Especially was this plan in frequent discussion between him and
Charles Bonaparte, Prince of Canino, a naturalist almost as ardent
as himself, with whom he had long been in intimate scientific
correspondence. In April, 1842, the prince writes him: "I indulge
myself in dreaming of the journey to America in which you have
promised to accompany me. What a relaxation! and at the same time
what an amount of useful work!" Again, a few months later, "You
must keep me well advised of your plans, and I, in my turn, will
try so to arrange my affairs as to find myself free in the spring
of 1844 for a voyage, the chief object of which will be to show my
oldest son the country where he was born, and where man may develop
free of shackles. The mere anticipation of this journey is
delightful to me, since I shall have you at my side, and may thus
feel sure that it will make an epoch in science." This letter is
answered from the glacier; the first part refers to the
Nomenclator, in regard to which he often consulted the prince.


GLACIER OF THE AAR, September 1, 1842.

. . .I thank you most sincerely for the pains you have so kindly
taken with my proof, and for pointing out the faults and omissions
you have noticed in my register of birds. I made the corrections at
once, and have taken the liberty of mentioning on the cover of this
number the share you have consented to take in my Nomenclator. I
shall try to do better and better in the successive classes, but
you well know the impossibility of avoiding grave errors in such a
work, and that they can be wholly weeded out only in a second and
third edition. I should have written sooner in answer to your last,
had not your letter reached me on the Glacier of the Aar, where I
have been since the beginning of July, following up observations,
the results of which become every day more important and more
convincing. The most striking fact, one which I think I have placed
beyond the reach of doubt, is the primitive stratification of the
neve, or fields of snow,--stratified from the higher regions across
the whole course of the glacier to its lower extremity. I have
prepared a general map, with transverse sections, showing how the
layers lift themselves on the borders of the glacier and also at
their junction, where two glaciers meet at the outlet of adjoining
valleys; and how, also, the waving lines formed by the layers on
the surface change to sharper concentric curves with a marked axis,
as the glacier descends to lower levels. For a full demonstration
of the matter, I ought to send you my map and plans, of which I
have, as yet, no duplicates; but the fact is incontestable, and you
will oblige me by announcing it in the geological section at Padua.
M. Charpentier, who is going to your meeting, will contest it, but
you can tell him from me that it is as evident as the
stratification of the Neptunic rocks. To see and understand it
fully, however, one must stand well above the glacier, so as to
command the surface as a whole in one view. I would add that I am
not now alluding to the blue and white bands in the ice of which I
spoke to you last year; this is a quite distinct phenomenon.

I wish I could accept your kind invitation, but until I have gone
to the bottom of the glacier question and terminated my "Fossil
Fishes," I do not venture to move. It is no light task to finish
all this before our long journey, to which I look forward, as it
draws nearer, with a constantly increasing interest. I am very
sorry not to join you at Florence. It would have been a great
pleasure for me to visit the collections of northern Italy in your
company. . .I write you on a snowy day, which keeps me a prisoner
in my tent; it is so cold that I can hardly hold my pen, and the
water froze at my bedside last night. The greatest privation is,
however, the lack of fruit and vegetables. Hardly a potato once a
fortnight, but always and every day, morning and night, mutton,
everlasting mutton, and rice soup. As early as the end of July we
were caught for three days by the snow; I fear I shall be forced to
break up our encampment next week without having finished my work.
What a contrast between this life and that of the plain! I am
afraid my letter may be long on the road before reaching the mail,
and I pause here that I may not miss the chance of forwarding it by
a man who has just arrived with provisions and is about to return
to the hospice of the Grimsel, where some trustworthy guide will
undertake to deliver it at the first post-office.

No sooner is Agassiz returned from the glacier than we meet him
again in the domain of his fossil fishes.


NEUCHATEL, December 15, 1842.

. . .In the last few months I have made an important step in the
identification of fossil fishes. The happy idea occurred to me of
applying the microscope to the study of fragments of their bones,
especially those of the head, and I have found in their structure
modifications as remarkable and as numerous as those which Mr. Owen
discovered in the structure of teeth. Here there is a vast new
field to explore. I have already applied it to the identification
of the fossil fishes in the Old Red of Russia sent me for that
purpose by Mr. Murchison. You will find more ample details about it
in my report to him. I congratulate myself doubly on the results;
first, because of their great importance in paleontology, and also
because they will draw more closely my relations with Mr. Owen,
whom I always rejoice to meet on the same path with myself, and
whom I believe incapable of jealousy in such matters. . .The only
point indeed, on which I think I may have a little friendly
difference with him, is concerning the genus Labyrinthodon, which I
am firmly resolved, on proofs that seem to me conclusive, to claim
for the class of fishes.* (* On seeing Owen's evidence some years
later, Agassiz at once acknowledged himself mistaken on this point.
) As soon as I have time I will write to Mr. Owen, but this need
not prevent you from speaking to him on the subject if you have an
early opportunity to do so. I am now exclusively occupied with the
fossil fishes, which at any cost I wish to finish this winter. . .
Before even returning to my glacier work, I will finish my
monograph of the Old Red, so that you may present it at the Cork
meeting, which it will be impossible for me to attend. . .I am
infinitely grateful to you and Lord Enniskillen for your
willingness to trust your Sheppy fishes to me; I shall thus be
prepared in advance for a strict determination of these fossils.
Having them for some time before my eyes, I shall become familiar
with all the details. When I know them thoroughly, and have
compared them with the collections of skeletons in the Museums of
Paris, of Leyden, of Berlin, and of Halle, I will then come to
England to see what there may be in other collections which I
cannot have at my disposal here.

The winter of 1843, apart from his duties as professor, was devoted
to the completion of the various zoological works on which he was
engaged, and to the revision of materials he had brought back from
the glacier. His habits with reference to physical exercise were
very irregular. He passed at once from the life of the mountaineer
to that of the closet student. After weeks spent on the snow and
ice of the glacier, constantly on foot and in the open air, he
would shut himself up for a still longer time in his laboratory,
motionless for hours at his microscope by day, and writing far into
the night, rarely leaving his work till long after midnight. He was
also forced at this time to press forward his publications in the
hope that he might have some return for the sums he had expended
upon them. This was indeed a very anxious period of his life. He
could never be brought to believe that purely intellectual aims
were not also financially sound, and his lithographic
establishment, his glacier work, and his costly researches in
zoology had proved far beyond his means. The prophecies of his old
friend Humboldt were coming true. He was entangled in obligations,
and crushed under the weight of his own undertakings. He began to
doubt the possibility of carrying out his plan of a scientific
journey to the United States.


NEUCHATEL, April, 1843.

. . .I have worked like a slave all winter to finish my fossil
fishes; you will presently receive my fifteenth and sixteenth
numbers, forwarded two days since, with more than forty pages of
text, containing many new observations. I shall allow myself no
interruption until this work is finished, hoping thereby to obtain
a little freedom, for if my position here is not changed I shall be
forced to seek the means of existence elsewhere. Meantime,
extravagant projects present themselves, as is apt to be the case
when one is in difficulties. That of accompanying you to the United
States was so tempting, that I am bitterly disappointed to think
that its execution becomes impossible in my present circumstances.
All my projects for further publications must also be adjourned, or
perhaps renounced. . .Possibly, when my work on the fossil fishes
is completed, the sale of some additional copies may help me to
rise again. And yet I have not much hope of this, since all the
attempts of my friends to obtain subscriptions for me in France and
Russia have failed: because the French government takes no interest
in what is done out of Paris; and in Russia such researches, having
little direct utility, are looked upon with indifference. Do you
think any position would be open to me in the United States, where
I might earn enough to enable me to continue the publication of my
unhappy books; which never pay their way because they do not meet
the wants of the world?. . .

In the following July we find him again upon the glacier. But the
campaign of 1843 opened sadly for the glacial party. Arriving at
Meiringen they heard that Jacob Leuthold was ill and would probably
be unable to accompany them. They went to his house, and found him,
indeed, the ghost of his former self, apparently in a rapid
decline. Nevertheless, he welcomed them gladly to his humble home,
and would have kept them for some refreshment. Fearing to fatigue
him, however, they stayed but a few moments. As they left, one of
the party pointed to the mountains, adding a hope that he might
soon join them. His eyes filled with tears; it was his only answer,
and he died three days later. He was but thirty-seven years of age,
and at that time the most intrepid and the most intelligent of the
Oberland guides. His death was felt as a personal grief by the band
of workers whose steps he had for years guided over the most
difficult Alpine passes.

The summer's work continued and completed that of the last season.
On leaving the glacier the year before they had marked a network of
loose boulders, such as travel with the ice, and also a number of
fixed points in the valley walls, comparing and registering their
distance from each other. They had also sunk a line of stakes
across the glacier. The change in the relative position of the two
sets of signals and the curve in their line of stakes gave them,
self-recorded, as it were, the rate of advance of the glacier as a
whole, and also the comparative rate of progression in its
different parts. Great pains was also taken during the summer to
measure the advance in every twenty-four hours, as well as to
compare the diurnal with the nocturnal movement, and to ascertain
the amount of surface waste. The season was an unfavorable one,
beginning so late and continuing so cold that the period of work
was shortened.


1843-1846: AGE 36-39.

Completion of Fossil Fishes.
Followed by Fossil Fishes of the Old Red Sandstone.
Review of the Later Work.
Identification of Fishes by the Skull.
Renewed Correspondence with Prince Canino about Journey
   to the United States.
Change of Plan owing to the Interest of the King of Prussia
   in the Expedition.
Correspondence between Professor Sedgwick and Agassiz on
   Development Theory.
Final Scientific Work in Neuchatel and Paris.
Publication of "Systeme Glaciaire."
Short Stay in England.
Farewell Letter from Humboldt.
Sails for United States.

In 1843 the "Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles" was completed,
and fast upon its footsteps, in 1844, followed the author's
"Monograph on the Fossil Fishes of the Old Red Sandstone, or the
Devonian System of Great Britain and Russia," a large quarto volume
of text, accompanied by forty-one plates. Nothing in his
paleontological studies ever interested Agassiz more than this
curious fauna of the Old Red, so strange in its combinations that
even well-informed naturalists had attributed its fossil remains to
various classes of the animal kingdom in turn, and, indeed, long
remained in doubt as to their true nature. Agassiz says himself in
his Preface: "I can never forget the impression produced upon me by
the sight of these creatures, furnished with appendages resembling
wings, yet belonging, as I had satisfied myself, to the class of
fishes. Here was a type entirely new to us, about to reenter (for
the first time since it had ceased to exist) the series of beings;
nor could anything, thus far revealed from extinct creations, have
led us to anticipate its existence. So true is it that observation
alone is a safe guide to the laws of development of organized
beings, and that we must be on our guard against all those systems
of transformation of species so lightly invented by the

The author goes on to state that the discovery of these fossils was
mainly due to Hugh Miller, and that his own work had been confined
to the identification of their character and the determination of
their relations to the already known fossil fishes. This work, upon
a type so extraordinary, implied, however, innumerable and
reiterated comparisons, and a minute study of the least fragments
of the remains which could be procured. The materials were chiefly
obtained in Scotland; but Sir Roderick Murchison also contributed
his own collection from the Old Red of Russia, and various other
specimens from the same locality. Not only on account of their
peculiar structure were the fishes of the Old Red interesting to
Agassiz, but also because, with this fauna, the vertebrate type
took its place for the first time in what were then supposed to be
the most ancient fossiliferous beds. When Agassiz first began his
researches on fossil fishes, no vertebrate form had been discovered
below the coal. The occurrence of fishes in the Devonian and
Silurian beds threw the vertebrate type back, as he believed, into
line with all the invertebrate classes, and seemed to him to show
that the four great types of the animal kingdom, Radiates,
Mollusks, Articulates, and Vertebrates, had appeared together.* (*
Introduction to the "Poissons Fossiles de Vieux Gres Rouge" page
22.) "It is henceforth demonstrated," says Agassiz, "that the
fishes were included in the plan of the first organic combinations
which made the point of departure for all the living inhabitants of
our globe in the series of time."

In his opinion this simultaneity of appearance, as well as the
richness and variety displayed by invertebrate classes from the
beginning, made it* (* Introduction to the "Poissons Fossiles du
Vieux Gres Rouge" page 21.) "impossible to refer the first
inhabitants of the earth to a few stocks, subsequently
differentiated under the influence of external conditions of
existence.". . .He adds:* (* Introduction to the "Poissons Fossiles
de Vieux Gres Rouge" page 24.) "I have elsewhere presented my views
upon the development through which the successive creations have
passed during the history of our planet. But what I wish to prove
here, by a careful discussion of the facts reported in the
following pages, is the truth of the law now so clearly
demonstrated in the series of vertebrates, that the successive
creations have undergone phases of development analogous to those
of the embryo in its growth and similar to the gradations shown by
the present creation in the ascending series, which it presents as
a whole. One may consider it as henceforth proved that the embryo
of the fish during its development, the class of fishes as it at
present exists in its numerous families, and the type of fish in
its planetary history, exhibit analogous phases through which one
may follow the same creative thought like a guiding thread in the
study of the connection between organized beings." Following this
comparison closely, he shows how the early embryonic condition of
the present fishes is recalled by the general disposition of the
fins in the fishes of the Old Red Sandstone, and especially by the
caudal fin, making the unevenly lobed tail, so characteristic of
these ancient forms. This so called heterocercal tail is only known
to exist, as a permanent adult feature, in the sturgeons of to-day.
The form of the head and the position of the mouth and eyes in the
fishes of the Old Red were also shown to be analogous with
embryonic phases of our present fishes. From these analogies, and
also from the ascendancy of fishes as the only known vertebrate,
and therefore as the highest type in those ancient deposits,
Agassiz considered this fauna as representing "the embryonic age of
the reign of fishes;" and he sums up his results in conclusion in
the following words: "The facts, taken as a whole, seem to me to
show, not only that the fishes of the Old Red constitute an
independent fauna, distinct from those of other deposits, but that
they also represent in their organization the most remarkable
analogy with the first phases of embryonic development in the bony
fishes of our epoch, and a no less marked parallelism with the
lower degrees of certain types of the class as it now exists on the
surface of the earth."

It has been said by one of the biographers of Agassiz,* (* "Louis
Agassiz: Notice biographique" par Ernest Favre.) in reference to
this work upon the fishes of the Old Red Sandstone: "It is
difficult to understand why the results of these admirable
researches, and of later ones made by him, did not in themselves
lead him to support the theory of transformation, of which they
seem the natural consequence." It is true that except for the
frequent allusion to a creative thought or plan, this introduction
to the Fishes of the Old Red might seem to be written by an
advocate of the development theory rather than by its most
determined opponent, so much does it deal with laws of the organic
world, now used in support of evolution. These comprehensive laws,
announced by Agassiz in his "Poissons Fossiles," and afterward
constantly reiterated by him, have indeed been adopted by the
writers on evolution, though with a wholly different
interpretation. No one saw more clearly than Agassiz the relation
which he first pointed out, between the succession of animals of
the same type in time and the phases of their embryonic growth
to-day, and he often said, in his lectures, "the history of the
individual is the history of the type." But the coincidence between
the geological succession, the embryonic development, the
zoological gradation, and the geographical distribution of animals
in the past and the present, rested, according to his belief, upon
an intellectual coherence and not upon a material connection. So,
also, the variability, as well as the constancy, of organized
beings, at once so plastic and so inflexible, seemed to him
controlled by something more than the mechanism of self-adjusting
forces. In this conviction he remained unshaken all his life,
although the development theory came up for discussion under so
many various aspects during that time. His views are now in the
descending scale; but to give them less than their real prominence
here would be to deprive his scientific career of its true basis.
Belief in a Creator was the keynote of his study of nature.

In summing up the comprehensive results of Agassiz's
paleontological researches, and especially of his "Fossil Fishes,"
Arnold Guyot says:* (* See "Biographical Memoir of Louis Agassiz"
page 28.)--"Whatever be the opinions which many may entertain as to
the interpretation of some of these generalizations, the vast
importance of these results of Agassiz's studies may be appreciated
by the incontestable fact, that nearly all the questions which
modern paleontology has treated are here raised and in great
measure solved. They already form a code of general laws which has
become a foundation for the geological history of the life-system,
and which the subsequent investigations of science have only
modified and extended, not destroyed. Nowhere did the mind of
Agassiz show more power of generalization, more vigor, or more
originality. The discovery of these great truths is truly his work;
he derived them immediately from nature by his own observations.
Hence it is that all his later zoological investigations tend to a
common aim, namely, to give by farther studies, equally
conscientious but more extensive, a broader and more solid basis to
those laws which he had read in nature and which he had proclaimed
at that early date in his immortal work, 'Poissons Fossiles.' Let
us not be astonished that he should have remained faithful to these
views to the end of his life. It is because he had SEEN that he
BELIEVED, and such a faith is not easily shaken by new hypotheses."


NEUCHATEL, September 7, 1844.

. . .I write in all haste to ask for any address to which I can
safely forward my report on the Sheppy fishes, so that they may
arrive without fail in time for the meeting at York. Since my last
letter I have made progress in this kind of research. I have
sacrificed all my duplicates of our present fishes to furnish
skeletons. I have prepared more than a hundred since I last wrote
you, and I can now determine the family, and even the genus, simply
by seeing the skull. There remains nothing impossible now in the
determination of fishes, and if I can obtain certain exotic genera,
which I have not as yet, I can make an osteology of fishes as
complete as that which we possess for the other classes of
vertebrates. Every family has its special type of skull. All this
is extremely interesting. I have already corrected a mass of
inaccurate identifications established upon external characters;
and as for fossils, I have recognized and characterized seventeen
new genera among the less perfect undetermined specimens you have
sent me. Several families appear now for the first time among the
fossils. I have been able to determine to what family all the
doubtful genera belong; indeed Sheppy will prove as rich in species
as Mont Bolca. When you see your specimens again you will hardly
recognize them, they are so changed; I have chiseled and cleaned
them, until they are almost like anatomical preparations. Try to
procure as many more specimens as possible and send them to me. I
cannot stir from Neuchatel, now that I am so fully in the spirit of
work, and besides it would be a useless expense. . .You will
receive with my report the three numbers which complete my
monograph of the Fishes of the Old Red. I feel sure, in advance,
that you will be satisfied with them. . .


TOLLY HOUSE, ALNESS, ROSS-SHIRE. September 15, 1844.

. . .I have only this day received your letter of the 6th, and I
fear much you will scarcely receive this in time to make it
available. I shall not be able to reach York for the commencement
of the meeting, but hope to be there on Saturday, September 28th. A
parcel will reach me in the shortest possible time addressed Sir P.
Egerton, Donnington Rectory, York. I am delighted with the bright
results of your comparison of the Sheppy fossils with recent forms.
You appear to have opened out an entirely new field of
investigation, likely to be productive of most brilliant results.
Should any accident delay the arrival of your monograph for the
York meeting, I shall make a point of communicating to our
scientific friends the contents of your letter, as I know they will
rejoice to hear of the progress of fossil ichthyology in your
masterly hands. When next you come, I wish you could spend a few
days here. We are surrounded on all sides by the debris of the
moraines of the ancient glaciers that descended the flank of Ben
Wyvis, and I think you would find much to interest you in tracing
their relations. We have also the Cromarty Fish-beds within a few
miles, and many other objects of geological interest. . .I shall
see Lord Enniskillen at York, and will tell him of your success. We
shall, of course, procure all the Sheppy fish we can either by
purchase or exchange. . .

The pressure of work upon his various publications detained Agassiz
at home during the summer of 1844. For the first time he was unable
to make one of the glacial party this year, but the work was
carried on uninterruptedly, and the results reported to him.
Meantime his contemplated journey to the United States flitted
constantly before him.


NEUCHATEL, November 19, 1844.

. . .Your idea of an illustrated American ichthyology is admirable.
But for that we ought to have with us an artist clever enough to
paint fishes rapidly from the life. Work but half done is no longer
permissible in our days. . .In this matter I think there is a
justice due to Rafinesque. However poor his descriptions, he
nevertheless first recognized the necessity of multiplying genera
in ichthyology, and that at a time when the thing was far more
difficult than now. Several of his genera have even the priority
over those now accepted, and I think in the United States it would
be easier than elsewhere to find again a part of the materials on
which he worked. We must not neglect from this time forth to ask
Americans to put us in the way of extending this work throughout
North America. If you accept me for your collaborator, I will at
once do all that I can on my side to bring together notes and
specimens. I will write to several naturalists in the United
States, and tell them that as I am to accompany you on your voyage
I should be glad to know in advance what they have done in
ichthyology, so that we may be the better prepared to profit by our
short sojourn in their country. However, I will do nothing before
having your directions, which, for the sake of the matter in hand,
I should be glad to receive as early as possible. . .

The next letter announces a new aspect of the projected journey. In
explanation, it should be said that finding Agassiz might be
prevented by his poverty from going, the prince had invited him to
be his guest for a summer in the United States.


NEUCHATEL, January 7, 1845.

. . .I have received an excellent piece of news from Humboldt,
which I hasten to share with you. I venture to believe that it will
please you also. . .I had written to Humboldt of our plans, and of
your kind offer to take me with you to the United States, telling
him at the same time how much I regretted that I should be unable
to visit the regions which attracted me the most from a geological
point of view, and asking him if it would be possible to interest
the king in this journey and obtain means from his majesty for a
longer stay on the other side of the Atlantic. I have just received
a delightful and most unexpected reply. The king will grant me 15,
000 francs for this object, so that I shall, in any event, be able
to make the journey. All the more do I desire to make it in your
society, and I think by combining our forces we shall obtain more
important results; but I am glad that I can do it without being a
burden to you. Before answering Humboldt, I am anxious to know
whether your plans are definitely decided upon for this summer, and
whether this arrangement suits you. . .

The pleasant plan so long meditated was not to be fulfilled. The
prince was obliged to defer the journey and never accomplished it.
This was a great disappointment to Agassiz.

"Am I then to go without you," he writes; "is this irrevocable? If
I were to defer my departure till September would it then be
possible for you to leave Rome? It would be too delightful if we
could make this journey together. I wish also, before starting, to
review everything that has been done of late in paleontology,
zoology, and comparative anatomy, that I may, in behalf of all
these sciences, take advantage of the circumstances in which I
shall be placed. . .Whatever befalls me, I feel that I shall never
cease to consecrate my whole energy to the study of nature; its all
powerful charm has taken such possession of me that I shall always
sacrifice everything to it; even the things which men usually value

Agassiz had determined, before starting on his journey, to complete
all his unfinished works, and to put in order his correspondence
and collections, including the vast amount of specimens sent him
for identification or for his own researches. The task of "setting
his house in order" for a change which, perhaps, he dimly felt to
be more momentous than it seemed, proved long and laborious. From
all accounts, he performed prodigies of work, but the winter and
spring passed, and the summer of 1845 found him still at his post.

Humboldt writes him not without anxiety lest his determination to
complete all the tasks he had undertaken, including the
Nomenclator, should involve him in endless delays and perplexities.


BERLIN, September 16, 1845.

. . .Your Nomenclator frightens me with its double entries. The
Milky Way must have crossed your path, for you seem to be dealing
with nebulae which you are trying to resolve into stars. For pity's
sake husband your strength. You treat this journey as if it were
for life. As to finishing,--alas! my friend, one does not finish.
Considering all that you have in your well-furnished brain beside
your accumulated papers, half the contents of which you do not
yourself know, your expression "aufraumen,"--to put in final order,
is singularly inappropriate. There will always remain some
burdensome residue,--last things not yet accounted for. I beg you,
then, not to abuse your strength. Be content to finish only what
seems to you nearest completion,--the most advanced of your work.

Your letter reached me, unaccompanied, however, by the books it
announces. They are to come, no doubt, in some other way. Spite of
the demands made upon me by the continuation of my "Cosmos," I
shall find time to read and profit by your introduction to the Old
Red. I am inclined to sing hymns of praise to the Hyperboreans who
have helped you in this admirable work. What you say of the
specific difference in vertical line and of the increased number of
biological epochs is full of interest and wisdom. No wonder you
rebel against the idea that the Baltic contains microscopic animals
identical with those of the chalk! I foresee, however, a new battle
of Waterloo between you and my friend Ehrenberg, who accompanied me
lately, just after the Victoria festivals, to the volcanoes of the
Eifel with Dechen. Not an inch of ground without infusoria in those
regions! For Heaven's sake do not meddle with the infusoria before
you have seen the Canada Lakes and completed your journey. Defer
them till some more tranquil period of your life. . .I must close
my letter with the hope that you will never doubt my warm
affection. Assuredly I shall find no fault with any course of
lectures you may give in the new world, nor do I see the least
objection to giving them for money. You can thus propagate your
favorite views and spread useful knowledge, while at the same time
you will, by most honorable and praiseworthy means, provide
additional funds for your traveling expenses. . .

The following correspondence with Professor Adam Sedgwick is of
interest, as showing his attitude and that of Agassiz toward
questions which have since acquired a still greater scientific




The British Association is to meet here about the middle of June,
and I trust that the occasion will again bring you to England and
give me the great happiness of entertaining you in Trinity College.
Indeed, I wish very much to see you; for many years have now
elapsed since I last had that pleasure. May God long preserve your
life, which has been spent in promoting the great ends of truth and
knowledge! Your great work on fossil fishes is now before me, and I
also possess the first number of your monograph upon the fishes of
the Old Red Sandstone. I trust the new numbers will follow the
first in rapid succession. I love now and then to find a
resting-place; and your works always give me one. The opinions of
Geoffroy St. Hilaire and his dark school seem to be gaining some
ground in England. I detest them, because I think them untrue. They
shut out all argument from DESIGN and all notion of a Creative
Providence, and in so doing they appear to me to deprive physiology
of its life and strength, and language of its beauty and meaning. I
am as much offended in taste by the turgid mystical bombast of
Geoffroy as I am disgusted by his cold and irrational materialism.
When men of his school talk of the elective affinity of organic
types, I hear a jargon I cannot comprehend, and I turn from it in
disgust; and when they talk of spontaneous generation and
transmutation of species, they seem to me to try nature by an
hypothesis, and not to try their hypothesis by nature. Where are
their facts on which to form an inductive truth? I deny their
starting condition. "Oh! but" they reply, "we have progressive
development in geology." Now, I allow (as all geologists must do) a
KIND OF PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT. For example, the first fish are
below the reptiles; and the first reptiles older than man. I say,
we have successive forms of animal life adapted to successive
conditions (so far, proving design), and not derived in natural
succession in the ordinary way of generation. But if no single fact
in actual nature allows us to suppose that the new species and
orders were produced successively in the natural way, how did they
begin? I reply, by a way out of and above common known, material
nature, and this way I call CREATION. Generation and creation are
two distinct ideas, and must be described by two distinct words,
unless we wish to introduce utter confusion of thought and
language. In this view I think you agree with me; for I spoke to
you on the subject when we met (alas, TEN years since!) at Dublin.
Would you have the great kindness to give me your most valuable
opinion on one or two points?

(1.) Is it possible, according to the known laws of actual nature,
or is it probable, on any analogies of nature, that the vast series
of fish, from those of the Ludlow rock and the Old Red Sandstone to
those of our actual seas, lakes, and rivers, are derived from one
common original low type, in the way of development and by
propagation or natural breeding? I should say, NO. But my knowledge
is feeble and at second-hand. Yours is strong and from the

(2.) Is the organic type of fish higher now than it was during the
carboniferous period, when the Sauroids so much abounded? If the
progressive theory of Geoffroy be true, in his sense, each class of
animals ought to be progressive in its organic type. It appears to
me that this is not true. Pray tell me your own views on this

(3.) There are "ODD FISH" (as we say in jest) in the Old Red
Sandstone. Do these so graduate into crustaceans as to form
anything like such an organic link that one could, by generation,
come naturally from the other? I should say, NO, being instructed
by your labors. Again, allowing this, for the sake of argument, are
there not much higher types of fish which are contemporaneous with
the lower types (if, indeed, they be lower), and do not these
nobler fish of the Old Red Sandstone stultify the hypothesis of
natural generative development?

(4.) Will you give me, in a few general words, your views of the
scale occupied by the fish of the Old Red, considered as a natural
group? Are they so rudimentary as to look like abortions or
creatures derived from some inferior class, which have not yet by
development reached the higher type of fish? Again, I should say,
NO; but I long for an answer from a great authority like yours. I
am most anxious for a good general conception of the fish of the
Old Red, with reference to some intelligible scale.

(5.) Lastly, is there the shadow of ground for supposing that by
any natural generative development the Ichthyosaurians and other
kindred forms of reptile have come from Sauroid, or any other type
of fish? I believe you will say, NO. At any rate, the facts of
geology lend no support to such a view, for the nobler forms of
Reptile appear in strata below those in which the Ichthyosaurians,
etc., are first seen. But I must not trouble you with more
questions. Professor Whewell is now Master of Trinity College. We
shall all rejoice to see you.

Ever, my dear Professor, your most faithful and most grateful



NEUCHATEL, June, 1845.

. . .I reproach myself for not acknowledging at once your most
interesting letter of April 10th. But you will easily understand
that in the midst of the rush of work consequent upon my
preparation for a journey of several years' duration I have not
noticed the flight of time since I received it, until to-day, when
the sight of the date fills me with confusion. And yet, for years,
I have not received a letter which has given me greater pleasure or
moved me more deeply. I have felt in it and have received from it
that vigor of conviction which gives to all you say or write a
virile energy, captivating alike to the listener or the reader.
Like you, I am pained by the progress of certain tendencies in the
domain of the natural sciences; it is not only the arid character
of this philosophy of nature (and by this I mean, not NATURAL
PHILOSOPHY, but the "Natur-philosophie" of the Germans and French)
which alarms me. I dread quite as much the exaggeration of
religious fanaticism, borrowing fragments from science, imperfectly
or not at all understood, and then making use of them to prescribe
to scientific men what they are allowed to see or to find in
Nature. Between these two extremes it is difficult to follow a safe
road. The reason is, perhaps, that the domain of facts has not yet
received a sufficiently general recognition, while traditional
beliefs still have too much influence upon the study of the

Wishing to review such ideas as I had formed upon these questions,
I gave a public course this winter upon the plan of creation as
shown in the development of the animal kingdom. I wish I could send
it to you, for I think it might please you. Unhappily, I had no
time to write it out, and have not even an outline of it. But I
intend to work further upon this subject and make a book upon it
one of these days. If I speak of it to-day it is because in this
course I have treated all the questions upon which you ask my
opinion. Let me answer them here after a somewhat aphoristic

I find it impossible to attribute the biological phenomena, which
have been and still are going on upon the surface of our globe, to
the simple action of physical forces. I believe they are due, in
their entirety, as well as individually, to the direct intervention
of a creative power, acting freely and in an autonomic way. . .I
have tried to make this intentional plan in the organization of the
animal kingdom evident, by showing that the differences between
animals do not constitute a material chain, analogous to a series
of physical phenomena, bound together by the same law, but present
themselves rather as the phases of a thought, formulated according
to a definite aim. I think we know enough of comparative anatomy to
abandon forever the idea of the transformation of the organs of one
type into those of another. The metamorphoses of certain animals,
and especially of insects, so often cited in support of this idea,
prove, by the fixity with which they repeat themselves in
innumerable species, exactly the contrary. In the persistency of
these metamorphoses, distinct for each species and known to repeat
themselves annually in a hundred thousand species, and to have done
so ever since the present order of things was established on the
earth, have we not the most direct proof that the diversity of
types is not due to external natural influences? I have followed
this idea in all the types of the animal kingdom. I have also tried
to show the direct intervention of a creative power in the
geographical distribution of organized beings on the surface of the
globe when the species are definitely circumscribed. As evidence of
the fixity of generic types and the existence of a higher and free
causal power, I have made use of a method which appears to me new
as a process of reasoning. The series of reptiles, for instance, in
the family of lizards, shows apodal forms, forms with rudimentary
feet, then with a successively larger number of fingers until we
reach, by seemingly insensible gradations, the genera Anguis,
Ophisaurus, and Pseudopus, the Chamosauria, Chirotes, Bipes, Sepo,
Scincus, and at last the true lizards. It would seem to any
reasonable man that these types are the transformations of a single
primitive type, so closely do the modifications approach each
other; and yet I now reject any such supposition, and after having
studied the facts most thoroughly, I find in them a direct proof of
the creation of all these species. It must not be forgotten that
the genus Anguis belongs to Europe, the Ophisaurus to North
America, the Pseudopus to Dalmatia and the Caspian steppe, the Sepo
to Italy, etc. Now, I ask how portions of the earth so absolutely
distinct could have combined to form a continuous zoological
series, now so strikingly distributed, and whether the idea of this
development could have started from any other source than a
creative purpose manifested in space? These same purposes, this
same constancy in the employment of means toward a final end, may
be read still more clearly in the study of the fossils of the
different creations. The species of all the creations are
materially and genealogically as distinct from each other as those
of the different points on the surface of the globe. I have
compared hundreds of species reputed identical in various
successive deposits,--species which are always quoted in favor of a
transition, however indirect, from one group of species to another,
--and I have always found marked specific differences between them.
In a few weeks I will send you a paper which I have just printed on
this subject, where it seems to me this view is very satisfactorily
proved. The idea of a procreation of new species by preceding ones
is a gratuitous supposition opposed to all sound physiological
notions. And yet it is true that, taken as a whole, there is a
gradation in the organized beings of successive geological
formations, and that the end and aim of this development is the
appearance of man. But this serial connection of all successive
creatures is not material; taken singly these groups of species
show no relation through intermediate forms genetically derived one
from the other. The connection between them becomes evident only
when they are considered as a whole emanating from a creative
power, the author of them all. To your special questions I may now
very briefly reply.

Have fishes descended from a primitive type? So far am I from
thinking this possible, that I do not believe there is a single
specimen of fossil or living fish, whether marine or fresh-water,
that has not been created with reference to a special intention and
a definite aim, even though we may be able to detect but a portion
of these numerous relations and of the essential purpose.

Are the present fishes superior to the older ones? As a general
proposition, I would say, NO; it seems to me even that the fishes
which preceded the appearance of reptiles in the plan of creation
were higher in certain characters than those which succeeded them;
and it is a strange fact that these ancient fishes have something
analogous with reptiles, which had not then made their appearance.
One would say that they already existed in the creative thought,
and that their coming, not far removed, was actually anticipated.

Can the fishes of the Old Red be considered the embryos of those of
later epochs? Of course they are the first types of the vertebrate
series, including the most ancient of the Silurian system; but they
each constitute an independent fauna, as numerous in the places
where these earlier fishes are found, as the present fishes in any
area of similar extent on our sea-shore to-day. I now know one
hundred and four species of fossil fish from the Old Red, belonging
to forty-four genera, comprised under seven families, between
several of which there is but little analogy as to organization. It
is therefore impossible to look upon them as coming from one
primitive stock. The primitive diversity of these types is quite as
remarkable as that of those belonging to later epochs. It is
nevertheless true that, regarded as part of the general plan of
creation, this fauna presents itself as an inferior type of the
vertebrate series, connecting itself directly in the creative
thought with the realization of later forms, the last of which (and
this seems to me to have been the general end of creation) was to
place man at the head of organized beings as the key-stone and term
of the whole series, the final point in the premeditated intention
of the primitive plan which has been carried out progressively in
the course of time. I would even say that I believe the creation of
man has closed creation on this earth, and I draw this conclusion
from the fact that the human genus is the first cosmopolite type in
Nature. One may even affirm that man is clearly announced in the
phases of organic development of the animal kingdom as the final
term of this series.

Lastly: Is there any reason to believe that the Ichthyosaurians are
descendants of the Sauroid fishes which preceded the appearance of
these reptiles? Not the least. I should consider any naturalist who
would seriously present the question in this light as incapable of
discussing it or judging it. He would place himself outside of the
facts and would reason from a basis of his own creating. . .

In the "Revue Suisse" of April, 1845, there is a notice of the
course of lectures to which reference is made in the above letter.

"A numerous audience assembled on the 26th of March for the opening
of a course by Professor Agassiz on the 'Plan of Creation.' It is
with an ever new pleasure that our public come together to listen
to this savant, still so young and already so celebrated. Not
content with pursuing in seclusion his laborious scientific
investigations, he makes a habit of communicating, almost annually,
to an audience less restricted than that of the Academy the general
result of some of his researches. All the qualities to which Mr.
Agassiz has accustomed his listeners were found in the opening
prelude; the fullness and freedom of expression which give to his
lectures the character of a scientific causerie; the dignified ease
of bearing, joined with the simplicity and candor of a savant who
teaches neither by aphorisms nor oracles, but who frankly admits
the public to the results of his researches; the power of
generalization always based upon a patient study of facts, which he
knows how to present with remarkable clearness in a language that
all can understand. We will not follow the professor in tracing the
outlines of his course. Suffice it to say that he intends to show
in the general development of the animal kingdom the existence of a
definite preconceived plan, successively carried out; in other
words, the manifestation of a higher thought,--the thought of God.
This creative thought may be studied under three points of view: as
shown in the relations which, spite of their manifold diversity,
connect all the species now living on the surface of the globe; in
their geographical distribution; and in the succession of beings
from primitive epochs until the present condition of things."

The summer of 1845 was the last which Agassiz passed at home. It
was broken by a short and hurried visit to the glacier of the Aar,
respecting which no details have been preserved. He did not then
know that he was taking a final leave of his cabin among the rocks
and ice. Affairs connected with the welfare of the institution in
Neuchatel, with which he had been so long connected, still detained
him for a part of the winter, and he did not leave for Paris until
the first week in March, 1846. His wife and daughters had already
preceded him to Germany, where he was to join them again on his way
to Paris, and where they were to pass the period of his absence,
under the care of his brother-in-law, Mr. Alexander Braun, then
living at Carlsruhe. His son was to remain at school at Neuchatel.

It was two o'clock at night when he left his home of so many years.
There had been a general sadness at the thought of his departure,
and every testimony of affection and respect accompanied him. The
students came in procession with torch-lights to give him a parting
serenade, and many of his friends and colleagues were also present
to bid him farewell. M. Louis Favre says in his Memoir, "Great was
the emotion at Neuchatel when the report was spread abroad that
Agassiz was about to leave for a long journey. It is true he
promised to come back, but the New World might shower upon him such
marvels that his return could hardly be counted upon. The young
people, the students, regretted their beloved professor not only
for his scientific attainments, but for his kindly disposition, the
charm of his eloquence, the inspiration of his teaching; they
regretted also the gay, animated, untiring companion of their
excursions, who made them acquainted with nature, and knew so well
how to encourage and interest them in their studies."

Pausing at Carlsruhe on his journey, he proceeded thence to Paris,
where he was welcomed with the greatest cordiality by scientific
men. In recognition of his work on the "Fossil Fishes" the Monthyon
Prize of Physiology was awarded him by the Academy. He felt this
distinction the more because the bearing of such investigations
upon experimental physiology had never before been pointed out, and
it showed that he had succeeded in giving a new direction and a
more comprehensive character to paleontological research. He passed
some months in Paris, busily occupied with the publication of the
"Systeme Glaciaire," his second work on the glacial phenomena. The
"Etudes sur les Glaciers" had simply contained a resume of all the
researches undertaken upon the Alpine fields of ice and the results
obtained up to 1840, inclusive of the author's own work and his
wider interpretation of the facts. The "Systeme Glaciaire" was, on
the contrary, an account of a connected plan of investigation
during a succession of years, upon a single glacier, with its
geodetic and topographic features, its hydrography, its internal
structure, its atmospheric conditions, its rate of annual and
diurnal progress, and its relations to surrounding glaciers. All
the local phenomena, so far as they could be observed, were
subjected to a strict scrutiny, and the results corrected by
careful comparison, during five seasons. As we have seen, and as
Agassiz himself says in his Preface, this band of workers had
"lived in the intimacy of the glacier, striving to draw from it the
secret of its formation and its annual advance." The work was
accompanied by three maps and nine plates. In such a volume of
detail there is no room for picturesque description, and little is
told of the wonderful scenes they witnessed by day and night,
nothing of personal peril and adventure.

This task concluded, he went to England, where he was to spend the
few remaining days previous to his departure. Among the last words
of farewell which reached him just as he was leaving the Old World,
little thinking then that he was to make a permanent home in
America, were these lines from Humboldt, written at Sans Souci: "Be
happy in this new undertaking, and preserve for me the first place
under the head of friendship in your heart. When you return I shall
be here no more, but the king and queen will receive you on this
'historic hill' with the affection which, for so many reasons, you
merit. . ."

"Your illegible but much attached friend,


So closed this period of Agassiz's life. The next was to open in
new scenes, under wholly different conditions. He sailed for
America in September, 1846.




1846: AGE 39.

Arrival at Boston.
Previous Correspondence with Charles Lyell and Mr. John A. Lowell
   concerning Lectures at the Lowell Institute.
Relations with Mr. Lowell.
First Course of Lectures.
Character of Audience.
Home Letter giving an Account of his first Journey
   in the United States.
Impressions of Scientific Men, Scientific Institutions
   and Collections.

AGASSIZ arrived in Boston during the first week of October, 1846.
He had not come to America without some prospect of employment
beside that comprised in his immediate scientific aims. In 1845,
when his plans for a journey in the United States began to take
definite shape, he had written to ask Lyell whether,
notwithstanding his imperfect English, he might not have some
chance as a public lecturer, hoping to make in that way additional
provision for his scientific expenses beyond the allowance he was
to receive from the King of Prussia. Lyell's answer, written by his
wife, was very encouraging.

LONDON, February 28, 1845.

. . .My husband thinks your plan of lecturing a very good one, and
sure to succeed, for the Americans are fond of that kind of
instruction. We remember your English was pleasant, and if you have
been practicing since, you have probably gained facility in
expression, and a little foreign accent would be no drawback. You
might give your lectures in several cities, but he would like very
much if you could give a course at the Lowell Institute at Boston,
an establishment which pays very highly. . .In six weeks you might
earn enough to pay for a twelve months' tour, besides passing an
agreeable time at Boston, where there are several eminent
naturalists. . .As my husband is writing to Mr. Lowell to-morrow
upon other matters, he will ask him whether there is any course still
open, for he feels sure in that case they would be glad to have
you. . .Mr. Lowell is sole trustee of the Institute, and can nominate
whom he pleases. It was very richly endowed for the purpose of
lectures by a merchant of Boston, who died a few years ago. You
will get nothing like the same remuneration anywhere else. . .

Lyell and Mr. Lowell soon arranged all preliminaries, and it was
understood that Agassiz should begin his tour in the United States
by a course of lectures in Boston before the Lowell Institute. A
month or two before sailing he writes as follows to Mr. Lowell.

PARIS, July 6, 1846.

. . .Time is pressing, summer is running away, and I feel it a duty
to write to you about the contemplated lectures, that you may not
be uncertain about them. So far as the subject is concerned, I am
quite ready; all the necessary illustrations are also completed,
and if I am not mistaken they must by this time be in your hands
. . .I understand from Mr. Lyell that you wish me to lecture in
October. For this also I am quite prepared, as I shall, immediately
after my arrival in Boston, devote all my time to the consideration
of my course. If a later date should suit your plans better, I have
no objection to conform to any of your arrangements, as I shall at
all events pass the whole winter on the shores of the Atlantic, and
be everywhere in reach of Boston in a very short time. . .With your
approbation, I would give to my course the title of "Lectures on
the Plan of the Creation, especially in the Animal Kingdom."

Thus was Agassiz introduced to the institution under whose auspices
he first made acquaintance with his American audiences. There he
became a familiar presence during more than a quarter of a century.
The enthusiastic greeting accorded to him, as a stranger whose
reputation had preceded him, ripened with years into an
affectionate welcome from friends and fellow-citizens, whenever he
appeared on the platform. In the director of the institution, Mr.
John A. Lowell, he found a friend upon whose sympathy and wise
counsels he relied in all his after years. The cordial reception he
met from him and his large family circle made him at once at home
in a strange land.

Never was Agassiz's power as a teacher, or the charm of his
personal presence more evident than in his first course of Lowell
Lectures. He was unfamiliar with the language, to the easy use of
which his two or three visits in England, where most of his
associates understood and spoke French, had by no means accustomed
him. He would often have been painfully embarrassed but for his own
simplicity of character. Thinking only of his subject and never of
himself, when a critical pause came, he patiently waited for the
missing word, and rarely failed to find a phrase which was
expressive if not technically correct. He often said afterward that
his sole preparation for these lectures consisted in shutting
himself up for hours and marshaling his vocabulary, passing in
review, that is, all the English words he could recall. As the
Lyells had prophesied, his foreign accent rather added a charm to
his address, and the pauses in which he seemed to ask the
forbearance of the audience, while he sought to translate his
thought for them, enlisted their sympathy. Their courtesy never
failed him. His skill in drawing with chalk on the blackboard was
also a great help both to him and to them. When his English was at
fault he could nevertheless explain his meaning by illustrations so
graphic that the spoken word was hardly missed. He said of himself
that he was no artist, and that his drawing was accurate simply
because the object existed in his mind so clearly. However this may
be, it was always pleasant to watch the effect of his drawings on
the audience. When showing, for instance, the correspondence of the
articulate type, as a whole, with the metamorphoses of the higher
insects, he would lead his listeners along the successive phases of
insect development, talking as he drew and drawing as he talked,
till suddenly the winged creature stood declared upon the
blackboard, almost as if it had burst then and there from the
chrysalis, and the growing interest of his hearers culminated in a
burst of delighted applause.

After the first lecture in Boston there was no doubt of his
success. He carried his audience captive. His treatment of the
animal kingdom on the broad basis of the comparative method, in
which the great types were shown in their relation to each other
and to the physical history of the world, was new to his hearers.
Agassiz had also the rare gift of divesting his subject of
technicalities and superfluous details. His special facts never
obscured the comprehensive outline, which they were intended to
fill in and illustrate.

This simplicity of form and language was especially adapted to the
audience he had now to address, little instructed in the facts or
the nomenclature of science, though characterized by an eager
curiosity. A word respecting the quality of the Lowell Institute
audience of those days, as new to the European professor as he to
them, is in place here. The institution was intended by its founder
to fertilize the general mind rather than to instruct the selected
few. It was liberally endowed, the entrance was free, and the
tickets were drawn by lot. Consequently the working men and women
had as good an opportunity for places as their employers. As the
remuneration, however, was generous, and the privilege of lecturing
there was coveted by literary and scientific men of the first
eminence, the instruction was of a high order, and the tickets, not
to be had for money, were as much in demand with the more
cultivated and even with the fashionable people of the community as
with their poorer neighbors. This audience, composed of strongly
contrasted elements and based upon purely democratic principles,
had, from the first, a marked attraction for Agassiz. A teacher in
the widest sense, he sought and found his pupils in every class.
But in America for the first time did he come into contact with the
general mass of the people on this common ground, and it influenced
strongly his final resolve to remain in this country. Indeed, the
secret of his greatest power was to be found in the sympathetic,
human side of his character. Out of his broad humanity grew the
genial personal influence, by which he awakened the enthusiasm of
his audiences for unwonted themes, inspired his students to
disinterested services like his own, delighted children in the
school-room, and won the cordial interest as well as the
cooperation in the higher aims of science, of all classes whether
rich or poor.

His first course was to be given in December. Having, therefore, a
few weeks to spare, he made a short journey, stopping at New Haven
to see the elder Silliman, with whom he had long been in
correspondence. Shortly before leaving Europe he had written him,
"I can hardly tell you with what pleasure I look forward to seeing
you, and making the personal acquaintance of the distinguished
savans of your country, whose works I have lately been studying
with especial care. There is something captivating in the
prodigious activity of the Americans, and the thought of contact
with the superior men of your young and glorious republic renews my
own youth." Some account of this journey, including his first
impressions of the scientific men as well as the scientific
societies and collections of the United States, is given in the
following letter. It is addressed to his mother, and with her to a
social club of intimate friends and neighbors in Neuchatel, at
whose meetings he had been for years an honored guest.

BOSTON, December, 1846.

. . .Having no time to write out a complete account of my journey
of last month, I will only transcribe for you some fugitive notes
scribbled along the road in stages or railroad carriages. They bear
the stamp of hurry and constant interruption.

Leaving Boston the 16th of October, I went by railroad to New
Haven, passing through Springfield. The rapidity of the locomotion
is frightful to those who are unused to it, but you adapt yourself
to the speed, and soon become, like all the rest of the world,
impatient of the slightest delay. I well understand that an
antipathy for this mode of travel is possible. There is something
infernal in the irresistible power of steam, carrying such heavy
masses along with the swiftness of lightning. The habits growing
out of continued contact with railroads, and the influence they
exert on a portion of the community, are far from agreeable until
one is familiar with them. You would cry out in dismay did you see
your baggage flung about pell-mell like logs of wood, trunks,
chests, traveling-bags, hat-boxes, all in the same mill, and if
here and there something goes to pieces no one is astonished; never
mind! we go fast,--we gain time,--that is the essential thing.

The manners of the country differ so greatly from ours that it
seems to me impossible to form a just estimate regarding them, or,
indeed, to pronounce judgment at all upon a population so active
and mobile as that of the Northern States of the Union, without
having lived among them for a long time. I do not therefore attempt
any such estimate. I can only say that the educated Americans are
very accessible and very pleasant. They are obliging to the utmost
degree; indeed, their cordiality toward strangers exceeds any that
I have met elsewhere. I might even add that if I could complain of
anything it would be of an excess, rather than a lack, of
attention. I have often found it difficult to make it understood
that the hotel, where I can work at my ease, suits me better than
the proffered hospitality. . .

But what a country is this! all along the road between Boston and
Springfield are ancient moraines and polished rocks. No one who had
seen them upon the track of our present glaciers could hesitate as
to the real agency by which all these erratic masses, literally
covering the country, have been transported. I have had the
pleasure of converting already several of the most distinguished
American geologists to my way of thinking; among others, Professor
Rogers, who will deliver a public lecture upon the subject next
Tuesday before a large audience.

A characteristic feature of American life is to be found in the
frequent public meetings where addresses are delivered. Shortly
after my arrival in Boston I was present at a meeting of some three
thousand workmen, foremen of workshops, clerks, and the like. No
meeting could have been more respectable and well-conducted. All
were neatly dressed; even the simplest laborer had a clean shirt.
It was a strange sight to see such an assemblage, brought together
for the purpose of forming a library, and listening attentively in
perfect quiet for two hours to an address on the advantages of
education, of reading, and the means of employing usefully the
leisure moments of a workman's life. The most eminent men vie with
each other in instructing and forming the education of the
population at large. I have not yet seen a man out of employment or
a beggar, except in New York, which is a sink for the emptyings of
Europe. Yet do not think that I forget the advantages of our old
civilization. Far from it. I feel more than ever the value of a
past which belongs to you and in which you have grown up.
Generations must pass before America will have the collections of
art and science which adorn our cities, or the establishments for
public instruction, sanctuaries as it were, consecrated by the
devotion of those who give themselves wholly to study. Here all the
world works to gain a livelihood or to make a fortune. Few
establishments (of learning) are old enough, or have taken
sufficiently deep root in the habits of the people, to be safe from
innovation; very few institutions offer a combination of studies
such as, in its ensemble, meets the demands of modern civilization.
All is done by the single efforts of individuals or of
corporations, too often guided by the needs of the moment. Thus
American science lacks the scope which is characteristic of higher
instruction in our old Europe. Objects of art are curiosities but
little appreciated and usually still less understood. On the other
hand, the whole population shares in the advanced education
provided for all. . .From Springfield the railroad follows the
course of the Connecticut as far as Hartford, turning then directly
toward the sea-coast. The valley strikingly resembles that of the
Rhine between Carlsruhe and Heidelberg. The same rock, the same
aspect of country, and gres bigarre* (* Trias.) everywhere. The
forest reminds one of Odenwald and of Baden-Baden. Nearer the coast
are cones of basalt like those of Brissac and the Kaiserstuhl. The
erratic phenomena are also very marked in this region; polished
rocks everywhere, magnificent furrows on the sandstone and on the
basalt, and parallel moraines defining themselves like ramparts
upon the plain.

At New Haven I passed several days at the house of Professor
Silliman, with whom I have been in correspondence for several
years. The University (Yale) owes to the efforts of the Professor a
fine collection of minerals and extensive physical and chemical
apparatus. Silliman is the patriarch of science in America. For
thirty years he has edited an important scientific journal, the
channel through which, ever since its foundation, European
scientific researches have reached America. . .One of his
sons-in-law, Mr. Shepard,* (* An error: Mr. Shepard was not the
son-in-law of Professor Silliman.--ED.) is also chemical professor
in the University of South Carolina. Another, Mr. Dana, still a
very young man, strikes me as likely to be the most distinguished
naturalist of the United States. He was a member of the expedition
around the world under the command of Captain Wilkes, and has just
published a magnificent volume containing monographs of all the
species of polyps and corals, with curious observations on their
mode of growth and on the coral islands. I was surprised to find in
the collection at New Haven a fine specimen of the great fossil
salamander of Oeningen, the "Homo diluvii testis" of Scheuchzer.

From New Haven I went to New York by steamboat. The Sound, between
Long Island and the coast of Connecticut, presents a succession of
cheerful towns and villages, with single houses scattered over the
country, while magnificent trees overhang the sea; we constantly
disturbed numbers of aquatic birds which, at our approach,
fluttered up around the steamer, only to alight farther on. I have
never seen such flocks of ducks and gulls.

At New York I hastened to see Auguste Mayor, of whom my uncle will
no doubt have given you news, since I wrote to him. Obliged to
continue my road in order to join Mr. Gray at Princeton I stopped
but one day in New York, the greater part of which I passed with
Mr. Redfield, author of a paper on the fossil fishes of
Connecticut. His collection, which he has placed at my disposal,
has great interest for me; it contains a large number of fossil
fishes of different kinds, from a formation in which but one
species has been found in Europe. The new red sandstone of
Connecticut will also fill a gap in the history of fossil fishes,
and this acquisition is so much the more important, because, at the
epoch of the gres bigarre, a marked change took place in the
anatomical character of fishes. It presents an intermediate type
between the primitive fishes of the ancient deposits and the more
regular forms of the jurassic deposits.

Mr. Asa Gray, professor of botany at Cambridge, near Boston, had
offered to accompany me on my journey to Washington. We were to
meet at the house of Professor Torrey, at Princeton, a small town
half a day's journey from New York, and the seat of a considerable
university, one of the oldest in the United States. The physical
department, under the direction of Professor Henry, is remarkably
rich in models of machinery and in electrical apparatus, to which
the professor especially devotes himself. The museum contains a
collection of animals and fossil remains. In the environs of the
town, in the ditches, is found a rare kind of turtle, remarkable
for the form of the jaws and the length of the tail. I wish very
much to procure one, were it only to oblige Professor Johannes
Muller, of Berlin, who especially desires one for investigation.
But I have failed thus far; the turtles are already withdrawn into
their winter quarters. Mr. Torrey promises me some, however, in the
spring. It is not easy to get them because their bite is dreaded.

After this I passed four days in Philadelphia. Here,
notwithstanding my great desire to see the beautiful country along
the shores of the rich bay of Delaware and the banks of the
Schuylkill, between which the city lies, I was entirely occupied
with the magnificent collections of the Academy of Science and of
the Philosophical Society. The zoological collections of the
Academy of Science are the oldest in the United States, the only
ones, except those of the Wilkes Expedition, which can equal in
interest those of Europe. There are the collections of Say, the
earliest naturalist of distinction in the United States; there are
also the fossil remains and the animals described by Harlan, by
Godman, and by Hayes, and the fossils described by Conrad and
Morton. Dr. Morton's unique collection of human skulls is also to
be found in Philadelphia. Imagine a series of six hundred skulls,
mostly Indian, of all the tribes who now inhabit or formerly
inhabited America. Nothing like it exists elsewhere. This
collection alone is worth a journey to America. Dr. Morton has had
the kindness to give me a copy of his great illustrated work
representing all the types of his collection. Quite recently a
generous citizen of Philadelphia has enriched this museum with the
fine collection of birds belonging to the Duke of Rivoli. He bought
it for 37,000 francs, and presented it to his native city.

The number of fossil remains comprised in these collections is very
considerable; mastodons especially, and fossils of the cretaceous
and jurassic deposits. . .Imagine that all this is at my full
disposal for description and illustration, and you will understand
my pleasure. The liberality of the American naturalists toward me
is unparalleled.

I must not omit to mention Mr. Lea's collection of fresh-water
shells,--a series of the magnificent Unios of the rivers and lakes
of America, comprising four hundred species, represented by some
thirty specimens of each. Mr. Lea has promised me specimens of all
the species. Had I not been bound by an engagement at Washington,
and could I have remained three or four days longer in order to
label and pack them, I might have taken at once these valuable
objects, which will be of great importance in verifying and
rectifying the synonyms of European conchologists. After having
seen the astonishing variations undergone by these shells in their
growth, I am satisfied that all which European naturalists have
written on this subject must be revised. Only with the help of a
very full series of individuals can one fully understand these
animals, and we have only single specimens in our collections. If I
had time and means to have drawings made of all these forms, the
collection of Mr. Lea would be at my command for the purpose, and
the work would be a very useful one for science.

There are several other private and public collections at
Philadelphia, which I have only seen cursorily; that of the Medical
School, for instance, and that of the older Peale, who discovered
the first mastodon found in the United States, now mounted in his
museum. Beside these, there is the collection of Dr. Griffith, rich
in skulls from the Gulf of Mexico; that of Mr. Ord, and others.
During my stay in Philadelphia, there was also an exhibition of
industrial products at the Franklin Institute, where I especially
remarked the chemical department. There are no less than three
professors of chemistry in Philadelphia,--Mr. Hare, Mr. Booth, and
Mr. Frazer. The first is, I think, the best known in Europe.

How a nearer view changes the aspect of things! I thought myself
tolerably familiar with all that is doing in science in the United
States, but I was far from anticipating so much that is interesting
and important. What is wanting to all these men is neither zeal nor
knowledge. In both, they seem to compete with us, and in ardor and
activity they even surpass most of our savans. What they need is
leisure. I have never felt more forcibly what I owe to the king for
enabling me to live for science alone, undisturbed by anxieties and
distractions. Here, I do not lose a moment, and when I receive
invitations outside the circle of men whom I care particularly to
know, I decline, on the ground that I am not free to dispose for my
pleasure of time which does not belong to me. For this no one can
quarrel with me, and so far as I myself am concerned, it is much

I stopped at Baltimore only long enough to see the city. It was
Sunday, and as I could make no visits, and was anxious to arrive in
good time at Washington, I took advantage of the first train. The
capital of the United States is laid out upon a gigantic scale,
and, consequently, portions of the different quarters are often to
be traced only by isolated houses here and there,--a condition
which has caused it to be called the "City of Magnificent
Distances." Some of the streets are very handsome, and the capitol
itself is really imposing. Their profound veneration for the
founder of their liberty and their republic is a noble trait of the
American people. The evidences of this are to be seen everywhere.
No less than two hundred towns, villages, and counties bear his
name, rather to the inconvenience of the postal administration.

After having visited the capitol and the presidential mansion, and
delivered my letters for the Prussian Minister, I went to the
Museum of the National Institute. I was impatient to satisfy myself
as to the scientific value of the results obtained in the field of
my own studies by the voyage of Captain Wilkes around the world,
--this voyage having been the object of equally exaggerated praise
and criticism. I confess that I was agreeably surprised by the
richness of the zoological and geological collections; I do not
think any European expedition has done more or better; and in some
departments, in that of the Crustacea, for example, the collection
at Washington surpasses in beauty and number of specimens all that
I have seen. It is especially to Dr. Pickering and Mr. Dana that
these collections are due. As the expedition did not penetrate to
the interior of the continents in tropical regions, the collections
of birds and mammals, which fell to the charge of Mr. Peale, are
less considerable. Mr. Gray tells me, however, that the botanical
collections are very large. More precious, perhaps, than all the
collections are the magnificent drawings of mollusks, zoophytes,
fishes, and reptiles, painted from life by Mr. Drayton. All these
plates, to the number of about six hundred, are to be engraved, and
indeed are already, in part, executed. I can only compare them to
those of the Astrolabe, although they are very superior in variety
of position and naturalness of attitude to those of the French
Expedition. This is particularly true of the mollusks and fishes.
The zoophytes are to be published; they are admirable in detail.
The hydrographic portion and the account of the voyage, edited by
Captain Wilkes (unhappily he was absent and I did not see him), has
been published for some time, and comprises an enormous mass of
information, its chief feature being charts to the number of two
hundred. It is amazing; the number of soundings extraordinarily
large.* (* Agassiz subsequently took some part in working up the
fish collections from this expedition, but the publication was
stopped for want of means to carry it on.)

At Washington are also to be seen the headquarters of the Coast
Survey, where the fine charts of the coasts and harbors now making
under direction of Dr. Bache are executed. These charts are
admirably finished. Dr. Bache, the superintendent, was in camp, so
that I could not deliver my letters for him. I saw, however,
Colonel Abert, the head of the topographic office, who gave me
important information about the West for the very season when I am
likely to be there. I am indebted to him also for a series of
documents concerning the upper Missouri and Mississippi, California
and Oregon, printed by order of the government, and for a
collection of fresh-water shells from those regions. I should like
to offer him, in return, such sheets of the Federal Map as have
appeared. I beg Guyot to send them to me by the first occasion.

As I was due in Boston on an appointed day I was obliged to defer
my visit to Richmond, Charleston, and other places in the South. I
had, beside, gathered so much material that I had need of a few
quiet weeks to consider and digest it all. Returning therefore to
Philadelphia, I made there the acquaintance of Mr. Haldeman, author
of a monograph on the fresh-water shells of the United States. I
had made an appointment to meet him at Philadelphia, being unable
to make a detour of fifty leagues in order to visit him at his own
home, which is situated beyond the lines of rapid transit. He is a
distinguished naturalist, equally well versed in several branches
of our science. He has made me acquainted, also, with a young
naturalist from the interior of Pennsylvania, Mr. Baird, professor
at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who offered me
duplicates from his collections of birds and other animals. In
order to avail myself more promptly of this and like acquisitions,
I wish that M. Coulon would send me at the close of the winter all
that he can procure of the common European birds, of our small
mammalia, and some chamois skins, adding also the fish that Charles
put aside for me before his departure. It would be safest to send
them to the care of Auguste Mayor.

At Philadelphia I separated from my traveling companion, Mr. Gray,
who was obliged to return to his home. From Philadelphia, Mr.
Haldeman and Mr. Lea accompanied me to Bristol, where Mr. Vanuxem
possesses an important collection of fossils from ancient deposits,
duplicates of which he promises me. Mr. Vanuxem is one of the
official geologists of the State of New York, and author of one of
a series of volumes upon the geology of the State, about which I
shall presently have something to say. To gain time I took the
night train from Bristol to New York, and arrived at Mayor's at
midnight, having written him to expect me.

The next day I visited the market, and in five days I had filled a
great barrel with different kinds of fish and fresh-water turtles,
beside making several skeletons and various dissections of
mollusks. Wishing to employ my time as usefully as possible, I
postponed my visits to the savans of the city, and the delivery of
my letters, till I was on the eve of departure, that I might avoid
all invitations. I had especial pleasure in making the acquaintance
of the two Le Contes, father and son, who own the finest collection
of insects in the United States. I can easily make some thousand
exchanges with them when I receive those that M. Coulon has put
aside for me, with a view to exchange. . .Every morning Auguste
Mayor went with me to the market before going to his office and
helped me to carry my basket when it was too heavy. One day I
brought back no less than twenty-four turtles, taken in one draught
of the net. I made four skeletons, and dissected several others.
Under such conditions the day ought to have thirty-six working

Were I an artist, instead of describing my voyage from New York to
Albany, I would draw you a panorama of the shores of the Hudson. I
know nothing except the banks of the Rhine to compare with those of
this magnificent river. The resemblance between them is striking;
the sites, the nature of the rocks, the appearance of the towns and
villages, the form of the Albany bridges, even the look of the
inhabitants, of whom the greater number are of Dutch or German
origin,--all are similar.

I stopped at West Point to make the acquaintance of Professor
Bailey of the Military School there. I already knew him by
reputation. He is the author of very detailed and interesting
researches upon the microscopic animalcules of America. I had a
pamphlet to deliver to him from Ehrenberg, who has received from
him a great deal of material for his large work on fossil
Infusoria. I spent three most delightful days with him, passed
chiefly in examining his collections, from which he gave me many
specimens. We also made several excursions in the neighborhood, in
order to study the erratic phenomena and the traces of glaciers,
which everywhere cover the surface of the country. Polished rocks,
as distinct as possible; moraines continuous over large spaces;
stratified drift, as on the borders of the glacier of Grindelwald;
in short, all the usual accompaniments of the glaciers are there,
and one may follow the "roches moutonnees" with the eye to a great

Albany is the seat of government of the State of New York. It has a
medical school, an agricultural society, a geological museum, an
anatomical museum, and a museum of natural history. The government
has just completed the publication of a work, unique of its kind, a
natural history of the State in sixteen volumes, quarto, with
plates; twenty-five hundred copies have been printed, only five
hundred of which are for sale, the rest being distributed
throughout the State. Four volumes are devoted to geology and
mining alone, the others to zoology, botany, and agriculture. Yes,
twenty-five hundred copies of a work in sixteen volumes, quarto,
scattered throughout the State of New York alone! When I think that
I began my studies in natural history by copying hundreds of pages
from a Lamarck which some one had lent me, and that to-day there is
a State in which the smallest farmer may have access to a costly
work, worth a library to him in itself, I bless the efforts of
those who devote themselves to public instruction. . .I have not
neglected the opportunity offered by the North River (the Hudson)
for the study of the fresh-water fishes of this country. I have
filled a barrel with them. The species differ greatly from ours,
with the exception of the perch, the eel, the pike, and the sucker,
in which only a practiced eye could detect the difference; all the
rest belong to genera unknown in Europe, or, at least, in
Switzerland. . .

I was fortunate enough to procure also, in the few days of my stay,
all the species taken in the lakes and rivers around Albany.
Several others have been given me from Lake Superior. Since my
return to Boston I have been collecting birds and comparing them
with those of Europe. If M. Coulon could obtain for me a collection
of European eggs, even the most common, I could exchange them for
an admirable series of the native species here. I have also
procured several interesting mammals; among others, two species of
hares different from those I brought from Halifax, striped
squirrels, etc.

I will tell you another time something of the collections of Boston
and Cambridge, the only ones in the United States which can rival
those of Philadelphia. To-day I have made my first attempt at
lecturing. Of that, also, I will tell you more in my next letter,
when I know how it has been liked. It is no small matter to satisfy
an audience of three thousand people in a language with which you
are but little familiar. . .


1846-1847: AGE 39-40.

Course of Lectures in Boston on Glaciers.
Correspondence with Scientific Friends in Europe.
House in East Boston.
Household and Housekeeping.
Letter to Elie de Beaumont.
Letter to James D. Dana.

THE course at the Lowell Institute was immediately followed by one
upon glaciers, the success of which was guaranteed by private
subscription,--an unnecessary security, since the audience,
attracted by the novelty and picturesqueness of the subject, as
well as by the charm of presentation and fullness of illustration,
was large and enthusiastic.

Agassiz was evidently encouraged himself by his success, for toward
the close of his Lowell Lectures he writes as follows:--


BOSTON, December 31, 1846.

. . .Beside my lecture course, now within a few days of its
conclusion, and the ever-increasing work which grows on my hands in
proportion as I become familiar with the environs of Boston, where
I shall still remain a few weeks longer, I have so much to do in
keeping up my journals, notes, and observations that I have not
found a moment to write you since the last steamer. . .Never did
the future look brighter to me than now. If I could for a moment
forget that I have a scientific mission to fulfill, to which I will
never prove recreant, I could easily make more than enough by
lectures which would be admirably paid and are urged upon me, to
put me completely at my ease hereafter. But I will limit myself to
what I need in order to repay those who have helped me through a
difficult crisis, and that I can do without even turning aside from
my researches. Beyond that all must go again to science,--there
lies my true mission. I rejoice in what I have been able to do thus
far, and I hope that at Berlin they will be satisfied with the
results which I shall submit to competent judges on my return. If I
only have time to finish what I have begun! You know my plans are
not wont to be too closely restricted.

Why do you not write to me? Am I then wholly forgotten in your
pleasant circle while my thoughts are every day constantly with my
Neuchatel friends?. . .

Midnight, January 1st. A happy new year to you and to all members
of the Tuesday Club. Bonjour et bon an. . .

Some portions of Agassiz's correspondence with his European friends
and colleagues during the winter and summer of 1847 give a clew to
the occupations and interests of his new life, and keep up the
thread of the old one.


February, 1847.

. . .I write only to thank you for the pleasure your note gave me.
When one is far away, as I am, from everything belonging to one's
past life, the merest sign of friendly remembrance is a boon. Do
not infer from this that America does not please me. On the
contrary, I am delighted with my stay here, although I do not quite
understand all that surrounds me; or I should perhaps rather say
that many principles which, theoretically, we have been wont to
think perfect in themselves, seem in their application to involve
results quite contrary to our expectations. I am constantly asking
myself which is better,--our old Europe, where the man of
exceptional gifts can give himself absolutely to study, opening
thus a wider horizon for the human mind, while at his side
thousands barely vegetate in degradation or at least in
destitution; or this new world, where the institutions tend to keep
all on one level as part of the general mass,--but a mass, be it
said, which has no noxious elements. Yes, the mass here is
decidedly good. All the world lives well, is decently clad, learns
something, is awake and interested. Instruction does not, as in some
parts of Germany for instance, furnish a man with an intellectual
tool and then deny him the free use of it. The strength of America
lies in the prodigious number of individuals who think and work at
the same time. It is a severe test of pretentious mediocrity, but
I fear it may also efface originality . . .You are right in
believing that one works, or at least that one CAN work, better
in Paris than elsewhere, and I should esteem myself happy if I had
my nest there, but who will make it for me? I am myself incapable
of making efforts for anything but my work. . .


May 31, 1847.

. . .After six weeks of an illness which has rendered me unfit for
serious work I long to be transported into the circle of my Paris
friends, to find myself again among the men whose devotion to
science gives them a clear understanding of its tendency and
influence. Therefore I take my way quite naturally to the Rue
Cuvier and mount your stairs, confident that there I shall find
this chosen society. Question upon question greets me regarding
this new world, on the shore of which I have but just landed, and
yet about which I have so much to say that I fear to tire my

Naturalist as I am, I cannot but put the people first,--the people
who have opened this part of the American continent to European
civilization. What a people! But to understand them you must live
among them. Our education, the principles of our society, the
motives of our actions, differ so greatly from what I see here,
that I should try in vain to give you an idea of this great nation,
passing from childhood to maturity with the faults of spoiled
children, and yet with the nobility of character and the enthusiasm
of youth. Their look is wholly turned toward the future; their
social life is not yet irrevocably bound to exacting antecedents,
and thus nothing holds them back, unless, perhaps, a consideration
for the opinion in which they may be held in Europe. This deference
toward England (unhappily, to them, Europe means almost exclusively
England) is a curious fact in the life of the American people. They
know us but little, even after having made a tour in France, or
Italy, or Germany. From England they receive their literature, and
the scientific work of central Europe reaches them through English
channels. . .Notwithstanding this kind of dependence upon England,
in which American savans have voluntarily placed themselves, I have
formed a high opinion of their acquirements, since I have learned
to know them better, and I think we should render a real service to
them and to science, by freeing them from this tutelage, raising
them in their own eyes, and drawing them also a little more toward
ourselves. Do not think that these remarks are prompted by the
least antagonism toward English savans, whom no one more than
myself has reason to regard with affection and esteem. But since
these men are so worthy to soar on their own wings, why not help
them to take flight? They need only confidence, and some special
recognition from Europe would tend to give them this. . .

Among the zoologists of this country I would place Mr. Dana at the
head. He is still very young, fertile in ideas, rich in facts,
equally able as geologist and mineralogist. When his work on corals
is completed, you can better judge of him. One of these days you
will make him a correspondent of the Institute, unless he kills
himself with work too early, or is led away by his tendency to
generalization. Then there is Gould, author of the malacologic
fauna of Massachusetts, and who is now working up the mollusks of
the Wilkes Expedition. De Kay and Lea, whose works have long been
known, are rather specialists, I should say. I do not yet know
Holbrook personally. Pickering, of the Wilkes Expedition, is a well
of science, perhaps the most erudite naturalist here. Haldeman
knows the fresh-water gasteropods of this country admirably well,
and has published a work upon them. Le Conte is a critical
entomologist who seems to me thoroughly familiar with what is doing
in Europe. In connection with Haldeman he is working up the
articulates of the Wilkes Expedition. Wyman, recently made
professor at Cambridge, is an excellent comparative anatomist, and
the author of several papers on the organization of fishes. . .The
botanists are less numerous, but Asa Gray and Dr. Torrey are known
wherever the study of botany is pursued. Gray, with his
indefatigable zeal, will gain upon his competitors. . .The
geologists and mineralogists form the most numerous class among the
savans of the country. The fact that every state has its corps of
official geologists has tended to develop study in this direction
to the detriment of other branches, and will later, I fear, tend to
the detriment of science itself; for the utilitarian tendency thus
impressed on the work of American geologists will retard their
progress. With us, on the contrary, researches of this kind
constantly tend to assume a more and more scientific character.
Still, the body of American geologists forms, as a whole, a most
respectable contingent. The names of Charles T. Jackson, James
Hall, Hitchcock, Henry and William Rogers (two brothers), have long
been familiar to European science. After the geologists, I would
mention Dr. Morton, of Philadelphia, well known as the author of
several papers upon fossils, and still better by his great work
upon the indigenous races of America. He is a man of science in the
best sense; admirable both as regards his knowledge and his
activity. He is the pillar of the Philadelphia Academy.

The chemists and physicists, again, form another utilitarian class
of men in this country. As with many of them purely scientific work
is not their sole object, it is difficult for an outsider to
distinguish between the clever manipulators and those who have
higher aims. . .

The mathematicians have also their culte, dating back to Bowditch,
the translator of the "Mecanique celeste," and the author of a work
on practical navigation. He died in Boston, where they are now
erecting a magnificent monument to his memory. Mr. Peirce,
professor at Cambridge, is considered here the equal of our great
mathematicians. It is not for me, who cannot do a sum in addition,
to pretend to a judgment in the matter.* (* Though Agassiz was no
mathematician, and Peirce no naturalist, they soon found that their
intellectual aims were the same, and they became very close

You are familiar, no doubt, with the works of Captain Wilkes and
the report of his journey around the world. His charts are much
praised. The charts of the coasts and harbors of the United States,
made under the direction of Dr. Bache and published at government
expense, are admirable. The reports of Captain Fremont concerning
his travels are also most interesting and instructive; to botanists
especially so, on account of the scientific notes accompanying

I will not speak at length of my own work,--my letter is already
too long. During the winter I have been chiefly occupied in making
collections of fishes and birds, and also of the various woods. The
forests here differ greatly from ours in the same latitude. I have
even observed that they resemble astonishingly the forests of the
Molasse epoch, and the analogy is heightened by that between the
animals of this country and those of the eastern coasts of Asia as
compared with those of the Molasse, such as the chelydras, andreas,
etc. I will send a report upon this to M. Brongniart as soon as I
have the time to prepare it. On the erratic phenomena, also, I have
made numerous observations, which I am anxious to send to M. de
Beaumont. These phenomena, so difficult of explanation with us,
become still more complicated here, both on account of their
contact with the sea and of the vast stretches of flat country over
which they extend.

For the last few days I have been especially occupied with the
development of the medusae. In studying the actiniae I have made a
striking discovery, and I should be glad if you would communicate
it to the Academy in advance of the illustrated paper on the same
subject, which I hope soon to send you. Notwithstanding their
star-like appearance, the star-fishes have, like the sea-urchins,
indications by no means doubtful, of a symmetrical disposition of
their organs in pairs, and an anterior and posterior extremity
easily recognized by the special form of their oral opening. I have
now satisfied myself that the madrepores have something analogous
to this in the arrangement of their partitions, so that I am
tempted to believe that this tendency to a symmetrical arrangement
of parts in pairs, is a general character of polyps, disguised by
their radiating form. Among the medusae something similar exists in
the disposition of the marginal appendages and the ocelli. I attach
the more importance to these observations, because they may lead to
a clearer perception than we have yet reached of the natural
relations between the radiates and the other great types of the
animal kingdom.

This summer I hope to explore the lower lakes of Canada, and also
the regions lying to the eastward as far as Nova Scotia; in the
autumn I shall resume my excursions on the coast and in the
Alleghenies, and shall pass a part of the winter in the Carolinas.
I will soon write to Monsieur Brongniart concerning my plans for
next year. If the Museum were desirous to aid me in my
undertakings, I should like to make a journey of exploration next
summer in a zone thus far completely neglected by naturalists, the
region, namely, of the small lakes to the west of Lake Superior,
where the Mississippi takes its rise, and also of that lying
between this great basin of fresh water and the southern arm of
Hudson Bay. I would employ the autumn in exploring the great valley
of the Mississippi, and would pass the winter on the borders of the
Gulf of Mexico.

To carry out such projects, however, I have need of larger
resources than I can create by my own efforts, and I shall soon be
at the end of the subsidy granted me by the King of Prussia. I
shall, however, subordinate all these projects to the possibilities
of which you kindly tell me. Notwithstanding the interest offered
by the exploration of a country so rich as this, notwithstanding
the gratifying welcome I have received here, I feel, after all,
that nowhere can one work better than in our old Europe, and the
friendship you have shown me is a more than sufficient motive,
impelling me to return as soon as possible to Paris. Remember me
to our common friends. I have made some sufficiently interesting
collections which I shall forward to the Museum; they will show
you that I have done my best to fulfill my promises, forgetting
no one. . .

In the summer of 1847 Agassiz established himself in a small house
at East Boston, sufficiently near the sea to be a convenient
station for marine collections. Here certain members of his old
working corps assembled about him, and it soon became, like every
place he had ever inhabited, a hive of industry. Chief among his
companions were Count Francois de Pourtales, who had accompanied
him to this country; Mr. E. Desor, who soon followed him to
America; and Mr. Jacques Burkhardt, who had preceded them all, and
was now draughtsman in chief to the whole party. To his labors were
soon added those of Mr. A. Sonrel, the able lithographic artist,
who illustrated the most important works subsequently published by
Agassiz. To an exquisite skill in his art he added a quick,
intelligent perception of structural features from the naturalist's
point of view, which made his work doubly valuable. Besides those
above-mentioned, there were several assistants who shared the
scientific work in one department or another.

It must be confessed that this rather original establishment had
the aspect of a laboratory rather than a home, domestic comfort
being subordinate to scientific convenience. Every room served in
some sort the purposes of an aquarium or a studio, while garret and
cellar were devoted to collections. The rules of the household were
sufficiently elastic to suit the most erratic student. A sliding
scale for meals allowed the greatest freedom for excursions along
the neighboring shores and beaches, and punctuality in work was the
only punctuality demanded.

Agassiz himself was necessarily often absent, for the maintenance
of the little colonydepended in great degree upon his exertions.
During the winter of 1847, while continuing his lectures in Boston
and its vicinity, he lectured in other places also. It is difficult
to track his course at this time; but during the winters of 1847
and 1848 he lectured in all the large eastern cities, New York,
Albany, Philadelphia, and Charleston, S.C. Everywhere he drew large
crowds, and in those days his courses of lectures were rarely
allowed to close without some public expression of gratitude and
appreciation from the listeners. Among his papers are preserved
several sets of resolutions from medical and scientific societies,
from classes of students, and from miscellaneous audiences,
attesting the enthusiasm awakened by his instruction. What he
earned in this way enabled him to carry on his work and support his
assistants. Still, the strain upon his strength, combined with all
that he was doing beside in purely scientific work, was severe, and
before the twelvemonth was out he was seriously ill. At this time
Dr. B.E. Cotting, a physician whose position as curator of the
Lowell Institute had brought him into contact with Agassiz, took
him home to his house in the country, where he tended him through
some weeks of tedious illness, hastening his convalescence by
excursions in all the neighboring country, from which they returned
laden with specimens,--plants, birds, etc. In this hospitable home
he passed his fortieth birthday, the first in this country. His
host found him standing thoughtful and abstracted by the window.
"Why so sad?" he asked. "That I am so old, and have done so
little," was the answer.

After a few weeks he was able to return to his work, and the next
letter gives some idea of his observations, especially upon the
traces of glacial action in the immediate vicinity of Boston and
upon the shores of Massachusetts Bay. Indeed, he never lost sight
of these features, which had caught his attention the moment he
landed on the continent. In one of his later lectures he gives a
striking account of this first impression.

"In the autumn of 1846," he says, "six years after my visit to
Great Britain in search of glaciers, I sailed for America. When the
steamer stopped at Halifax, eager to set foot on the new continent
so full of promise for me, I sprang on shore and started at a brisk
pace for the heights above the landing. On the first undisturbed
ground, after leaving the town, I was met by the familiar signs,
the polished surfaces, the furrows and scratches, the LINE
ENGRAVING, so well known in the Old World; and I became convinced
of what I had already anticipated as the logical sequence of my
previous investigations, that here also this great agent had been
at work." The incident seems a very natural introduction to the
following letter, written a few months later:--


BOSTON, August 31, 1847.

. . .I have waited to write until I should have some facts
sufficiently important to claim your attention. In truth, the study
of the marine animals, which I am, for the first time, able to
observe in their natural conditions of existence, has engrossed me
almost exclusively since I came to the United States, and only
incidentally, as it were, I have turned my attention to
paleontology and geology. I must, however, except the glacial
phenomena, a problem, the solution of which always interests me
deeply. This great question, far from presenting itself more simply
here, is complicated by peculiarities never brought to my notice in
Europe. Happily for me, Mr. Desor, who had been in Scandinavia
before joining me here, called my attention at once to certain
points of resemblance between the phenomena there and those which I
had seen in the neighborhood of Boston. Since then, we have made
several excursions together, have visited Niagara, and, in short,
have tried to collect all the special facts of glacial phenomena in
America. . .You are, no doubt, aware that the whole rocky surface
of the ground here is polished. I do not think that anywhere in the
world there exist polished and rounded rocks in better preservation
or on a larger scale. Here, as elsewhere, erratic debris are
scattered over these surfaces, scratched pebbles impacted in mud,
forming unstratified masses mixed with and covered by large erratic
boulders, more or less furrowed or scratched, the upper ones being
usually angular and without marks. The absence of moraines,
properly so-called, in a country so little broken, is not
surprising; I have, however, seen very distinct ones in some
valleys of the White Mountains and in Vermont. Up to this time
there had been nothing very new in the aspect of the phenomena as a
whole; but on examining attentively the internal arrangement of all
these materials, especially in the neighborhood of the sea, one
soon becomes convinced that the ocean has partially covered and
more or less remodeled them. In certain places there are patches of
stratified sand interposed between masses of glacial drift-deposit;
elsewhere, banks of sand and pebbles crown the irregularities of
the glacial deposit, or fill in its depressions; in other
localities the glacial pebbles may be washed and completely cleared
of mud, retaining, however, their markings; or again, these
markings may have disappeared, and the material is arranged in
lines or ramparts, as it were, of diverse conformation, in which
Mr. Desor recognized all the modifications of the "oesars" of
Scandinavia. The disposition of the oesars, as seen here, is
evidently due entirely to the action of the waves, and their
frequency along the coast is a proof of this. In a late excursion
with Captain Davis on board a government vessel I learned to
understand the mode of formation of the submarine dikes bordering
the coast at various distances, which would be oesars were they
elevated; with the aid of the dredge I satisfied myself of their
identity. With these facts before me I cannot doubt that the oesars
of the United States consist essentially of glacial material
remodeled by the sea; while farther inland, though here and there
reaching the sea-coast, we have unchanged glacial drift deposit. At
some points the alteration is so slight as to denote only a
momentary rise of the sea. Under these circumstances one would
naturally look for fossils in the drift, and M. Desor, in company
with M. de Pourtales, was the first to find them, at Brooklyn, in
Long Island, which lies to the south of New York. They were
imbedded in a glacial clay deposit, having all the ordinary
character of such deposits, with only slight traces of stratified
sand. It is true that the greater number of these fossils (all
belonging to species now living on the coast) were broken into
angular fragments, not excepting even the thick tests of the Venus
mercenaria. . .

The suburb of Boston where I am living (East Boston) is built on an
island, one kilometer and a half long, extending from north to
southeast, and varying in width at different points from two to six
or seven hundred metres. Its height above the sea-level is about
sixty feet. This little island is composed entirely of glacial
muddy deposit, containing scratched pebbles mixed with larger
boulders or blocks, and covered also with a considerable number of
boulders of divers forms and dimensions. At East Boston you cannot
see what underlies this deposit; but no doubt it rests upon a
rounded mass of granite, polished and grooved like several others
in Boston harbor. . .

In our journey to Niagara, Mr. Desor and I assured ourselves that
the river deposits, in which, among other things, the mastodon is
found with the fresh-water shells of Goat Island, are posterior to
the drift. It is a fact worth consideration that the mastodons
found in Europe are buried in true tertiary formations, while the
great mastodon of the United States is certainly posterior to the
drift. . .In another letter I will tell you something of my
observations upon the geographical distribution of marine animals
at different depths and on different bottoms, and also upon the
relations between this distribution and that of the fossils in the
tertiary deposits. . .* (* I have left out a portion of this letter
which appeared in the first edition of the book, because I learned
that the facts there given concerning the deposit of Zostera marina
were not substantiated, and that Agassiz consequently did not
forward the letter in its first form. The remainder of this chapter
appears in this edition for the first time.--E.C.A.)

Although so deeply interested by the geological features of the
country, Agassiz was nevertheless drawn even more strongly to the
study of the marine animals for which his position on the sea-coast
gave him such opportunities as he had never before had. The next
letter shows how fully his time was occupied, and how fascinating
this new field of observation was to him. The English is still a
little foreign. He was not yet quite at home in the language which
he afterward wrote and spoke with such fluency.


EAST BOSTON, September, 1847.

. . .What have you thought of me all this time, not having written
a single line neither to you nor to Professor Silliman after the
kind reception I have met with by your whole family? Pray excuse me
and consider, if you please, the difficulty under which I labor,
having every day to look after hundreds of new things which always
carry me beyond usual hours of working, when I am then so much
tired that I can think of nothing. Nevertheless, it is a delightful
life to be allowed to examine in a fresh state so many things of
which I had but an imperfect knowledge from books. The Boston
market supplies me with more than I can examine.

Since I had the pleasure of seeing you I have been very successful
in collecting specimens, especially in New York and Albany. In
Washington I have been delighted to see the collections of the
Exploring Expedition. They entitle you to the highest thanks from
all scientific naturalists, and I hope it will be also felt in the
same manner by your countrymen at large. . .I long for the
opportunity of studying your fossil shells. As soon as I have gone
over my Lowell lectures I hope to be able to move. I shall only
pack up what I have already collected; but I cannot yet tell you
precisely the time.

I began studying your "Zoophytes," but it is so rich a book that I
proceed slowly. For years I have not learned so much from a book as
from yours. As I soon saw I would not be able to go through in a
short time, I sent a short preliminary report to one of our most
widely diffused papers, "Preussische Staats Zeitung," giving only
the general impression of your work, and I shall send to Erichson a
fuller scientific report after I have done with the whole volume.

As I happen to have a lithograph of the original specimen of the
Homo deluvii testis of Scheuchzer, I will forward it to Professor
Silliman with this letter. I expect you will find it the
counterpart of the specimen in your museum; or very nearly in the
same state of preservation.

Having just lately received my books, I also inclose a pamphlet
from Ehrenberg, which he desired me to leave with you, and also
the books Professor Silliman has had the kindness to lend me. . .
I have made many observations which I wish to publish, but I can
find no time to write them for you now. I must wait till the
weather is so dull as to bring nothing into the hands of gunners
and fishermen. . .

So closed his first year in America. The second unfolded events
both in the home he had left and in the one to which he had
unconsciously come, which were to shape his future career, and
exert the most powerful influence upon his whole life.


1847-1850: AGE 40-43.

Excursions on Coast Survey Steamer.
Relations with Dr. Bache, the Superintendent of the Coast Survey.
Political Disturbances in Switzerland.
Change of Relations with Prussia.
Scientific School established in Cambridge.
Chair of Natural History offered to Agassiz.
Removal to Cambridge.
Literary and Scientific Associations there and in Boston.
Household in Cambridge.
Beginning of Museum.
Journey to Lake Superior.
"Report, with Narration."
"Principles of Zoology," by Agassiz and Gould.
Letters from European Friends respecting these Publications.
Letter from Hugh Miller.
Second Marriage.
Arrival of his Children in America.

One of Agassiz's great pleasures in the summer of 1847 consisted in
excursions on board the Coast Survey steamer Bibb, then employed in
the survey of the harbor and bay of Boston, under command of
Captain (afterward Admiral) Charles Henry Davis. Under no more
kindly auspices could Agassiz's relations with this department of
government work have been begun. "My cabin," writes Captain Davis,
after their first trip together, "seems lonely without you."

Hitherto the sea-shore had been a closed book to the Swiss
naturalist, and now it opened to him a field of research almost as
stimulating as his own glaciers. Born and bred among the mountains,
he knew marine animals only as they can be known in dried and
alcoholic specimens, or in a fossil state. From the Bibb he writes
to a friend on shore: "I learn more here in a day than in months
from books or dried specimens. Captain Davis is kindness itself.
Everything I can wish for is at my disposal so far as it is

Dr. Bache was at this time Superintendent of the Coast Survey, and
he saw at once how the work of the naturalist might ally itself
with the professional work of the Survey to the greater usefulness
of both. From the beginning to the end of his American life,
therefore, the hospitalities of the United States Coast Survey were
open to Agassiz. As a guest on board her vessels he studied the
reefs of Florida and the Bahama Banks, as well as the formations of
our New England shores. From the deck of the Bibb, in connection
with Count de Pourtales, his first dredging experiments were
undertaken; and his last long voyage around the continent, from
Boston to San Francisco, was made on board the Hassler, a Coast
Survey vessel fitted out for the Pacific shore. Here was another
determining motive for his stay in this country. Under no other
government, perhaps, could he have had opportunities so invaluable
to a naturalist.

But events were now passing in Europe which made his former
position there, as well as that of many of his old friends, wholly
unstable. In February, 1848, the proclamation of the French
republic broke upon Europe like a clap of thunder from a clear sky.
The news created great disturbances in Switzerland, and especially
in the canton of Neuchatel, where a military force was immediately
organized by the republican party in opposition to the
conservatives, who would fain have continued loyal to the Prussian
king. For the moment all was chaos, and the prospects of
institutions of learning were seriously endangered. The republican
party carried the day; the canton of Neuchatel ceased to be a
dependence of the Prussian monarchy, and became merged in the
general confederation of Switzerland.

At about the same time that Agassiz, in consequence of this change
of conditions, was honorably discharged from the service of the
Prussian king, a scientific school was organized at Cambridge,
Massachusetts, in direct connection with Harvard University. This
school, known as the Lawrence Scientific School, owed its existence
to the generosity of Abbott Lawrence, formerly United States
Minister at the Court of St. James. He immediately offered the
chair of Natural History (Zoology and Geology) to Agassiz, with a
salary of fifteen hundred dollars, guaranteed by Mr. Lawrence
himself, until such time as the fees of the students should be
worth three thousand dollars to their professor. This time never
came. Agassiz's lectures, with the exception of the more technical
ones addressed to small classes, were always fully attended, but
special students were naturally very few in a department of pure
science, and their fees never raised the salary of the professor
perceptibly. This was, however, counterbalanced in some degree by
the clause in his contract which allowed him entire freedom for
lectures elsewhere, so that he could supplement his restricted
income from other sources.

In accordance with this new position Agassiz now removed his
bachelor household to Cambridge, where he opened his first course
in April, 1848. He could hardly have come to Harvard at a more
auspicious moment, so far as his social and personal relations were
concerned. The college was then on a smaller scale than now, but
upon its list of professors were names which would have given
distinction to any university. In letters, there were Longfellow
and Lowell, and Felton, the genial Greek scholar, of whom
Longfellow himself wrote, "In Attica thy birthplace should have
been." In science, there were Peirce, the mathematician, and Dr.
Asa Gray, then just installed at the Botanical Garden, and Jeffries
Wyman, the comparative anatomist, appointed at about the same time
with Agassiz himself. To these we might almost add, as influencing
the scientific character of Harvard, Dr. Bache, the Superintendent
of the Coast Survey, and Charles Henry Davis, the head of the
Nautical Almanac, since the kindly presence of the former was
constantly invoked as friend and counselor in the scientific
departments, while the latter had his residence in Cambridge, and
was as intimately associated with the interests of Harvard as if he
had been officially connected with the university.

A more agreeable set of men, or one more united by personal
relations and intellectual aims, it would have been difficult to
find. In connection with these names, those of Prescott, Ticknor,
Motley, and Holmes also arise most naturally, for the literary men
and scholars of Cambridge and Boston were closely united; and if
Emerson, in his country home at Concord, was a little more
withdrawn, his influence was powerful in the intellectual life of
the whole community, and acquaintance readily grew to friendship
between him and Agassiz. Such was the pleasant and cultivated
circle into which Agassiz was welcomed in the two cities, which
became almost equally his home, and where the friendships he made
gradually transformed exile into household life and ties.

In Cambridge he soon took his share in giving as well as receiving
hospitalities, and his Saturday evenings were not the less
attractive because of the foreign character and somewhat unwonted
combination of the household. Over its domestic comforts now
presided an old Swiss clergyman, Monsieur Christinat. He had been
attached to Agassiz from childhood, had taken the deepest interest
in his whole career, and, as we have seen, had assisted him to
complete his earlier studies. Now, under the disturbed condition of
things at home, he had thrown in his lot with him in America. "If
your old friend," he writes, "can live with his son Louis, it will
be the height of his happiness." To Agassiz his presence in the
house was a benediction. He looked after the expenses, and acted as
commissary in chief to the colony. Obliged, as Agassiz was,
frequently to be absent on lecturing tours, he could, with perfect
security, intrust the charge of everything connected with the
household to his old friend, from whom he was always sure of an
affectionate welcome on his return. In short, so far as an old man
could, "papa Christinat," as he was universally called in this
miscellaneous family, strove to make good to him the absence of
wife and children.

The make-up of the settlement was somewhat anomalous. The house,
though not large, was sufficiently roomy, and soon after Agassiz
was established there he had the pleasure of receiving under his
roof certain friends and former colleagues, driven from their
moorings in Europe by the same disturbances which had prevented him
from returning there. The arrival among them of Mr. Guyot, with
whom his personal and scientific intimacy was of such long
standing, was a great happiness. It was especially a blessing at
this time, for troubles at home weighed upon Agassiz and depressed
him. His wife, always delicate in health, had died, and although
his children were most affectionately provided for in her family
and his own, they were separated from each other, as well as from
him; nor did he think it wise to bring them while so young, to
America. The presence, therefore, of one who was almost like a
brother in sympathy and companionship, was now more than welcome.
His original staff of co-workers and assistants still continued
with him, and there were frequent guests besides, chiefly
foreigners, who, on arriving in a new country, found their first
anchorage and point of departure in this little European

The house stood in a small plot of ground, the cultivation of which
was the delight of papa Christinat. It soon became a miniature
zoological garden, where all sorts of experiments in breeding and
observations on the habits of animals, were carried on. A tank for
turtles and a small alligator in one corner, a large hutch for
rabbits in another, a cage for eagles against the wall, a tame bear
and a family of opossums, made up the menagerie, varied from time
to time by new arrivals.

But Agassiz could not be long in any place without beginning to
form a museum. When he accepted the chair offered him at Cambridge,
there were neither collections nor laboratories belonging to his
department. The specimens indispensable to his lectures were
gathered almost by the day, and his outfit, with the exception of
the illustrations he had brought from Europe, consisted of a
blackboard and a lecture-room. There was no money for the necessary
objects, and the want of it had to be supplied by the professor's
own industry and resources. On the banks of the Charles River, just
where it is crossed by Brighton Bridge, was an old wooden shanty
set on piles; it might have served perhaps, at some time, as a
bathing or a boat house. The use of this was allowed Agassiz for
the storing of such collections as he had brought together. Pine
shelves nailed against the walls served for cases, and with a table
or two for dissection this rough shelter was made to do duty as a
kind of laboratory. The fact is worth noting, for here was the
beginning of the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, now
admitted to a place among the great institutions of its kind in the

In the summer of 1848 Agassiz organized an expedition entirely
after his own heart, inasmuch as it combined education with
observation in the field. The younger portion of the party
consisted of several of his special pupils, and a few other Harvard
students who joined the expedition from general interest. Beside
these, there were several volunteer members, who were either
naturalists or had been attracted to the undertaking by their love
of nature and travel. Their object was the examination of the
eastern and northern shores of Lake Superior from Sault Ste. Marie
to Fort William, a region then little known to science or to
tourists. Agassiz taught along the road. At evening, around the
camp-fire, or when delayed by weather or untoward circumstances, he
would give to his companions short and informal lectures, it might
be on the forest about them, or on the erratic phenomena in the
immediate neighborhood,--on the terraces of the lake shore, or on
the fish of its waters. His lecture-room, in short, was everywhere;
his apparatus a traveling blackboard and a bit of chalk; while his
illustrations and specimens lay all around him, wherever the party
chanced to be.

To Agassiz himself the expedition was of the deepest interest.
Glacial phenomena had, as we have seen, met him at every turn since
his arrival in the United States, but nowhere had he found them in
greater distinctness than on the shores of Lake Superior. As the
evidence accumulated about him, he became more than ever satisfied
that the power which had modeled and grooved the rocks all over the
country, and clothed it with a sheet of loose material reaching to
the sea, must have been the same which had left like traces in
Europe. In a continent of wide plains and unbroken surfaces, and,
therefore, with few centres of glacial action, the phenomena were
more widely and uniformly scattered than in Europe. But their
special details, down to the closest minutiae, were the same, while
their definite circumscription and evenness of distribution forbade
the idea of currents or floods as the moving cause. Here, as
elsewhere, Agassiz recognized at once the comprehensive scope of
the phenomena. The whole history reconstructed itself in his mind,
to the time when a sheet of ice clothed the land, reaching the
Atlantic sea-board, as it now does the coast of Spitzbergen and the
Arctic shores.

He made also a careful survey of the local geology of Lake
Superior, and especially of the system of dykes, by the action of
which he found that its bed had been excavated, and the outline of
its shores determined. But perhaps the inhabitants of the lake
itself occupied him even more than its conformation or its
surrounding features. Not only for its own novelty and variety, but
for its bearing on the geographical distribution of animals, the
fauna of this great sheet of fresh water interested him deeply. On
this journey he saw at Niagara for the first time a living
gar-pike, the only representative among modern fishes of the fossil
type of Lepidosteus. From this type he had learned more perhaps
than from any other, of the relations between the past and the
present fishes. When a student of nineteen years of age, his first
sight of a stuffed skin of a gar-pike in the Museum of Carlsruhe
told him that it stood alone among living fishes. Its true alliance
with the Lepidosteus of the early geological ages became clear to
him only later in his study of the fossil fishes. He then detected
the reptilian character of the type, and saw that from the
articulation of the vertebrae the head must have moved more freely
on the trunk than that of any fish of our days. To his great
delight, when the first living specimen of the gar-pike, or modern
Lepidosteus, was brought to him, it moved its head to the right and
left and upward, as a Saurian does and as no other fish can.

The result of this expedition was a valuable collection of fishes
and a report upon the fauna and the geology of Lake Superior,
comprising the erratic phenomena. A narrative written by James
Elliot Cabot formed the introduction to the report, and it was also
accompanied by two or three shorter contributions on special
subjects from other members of the party. The volume was
illustrated by a number of plates exquisitely drawn and colored on
stone by A. Sonrel.

This was not Agassiz's first publication in America. His
"Principles of Zoology" (Agassiz and Gould) was published in 1848.
The book had a large sale, especially for schools. Edition followed
edition, but the sale of the first part was checked by the want of
the second, which was never printed. Agassiz was always swept along
so rapidly by the current of his own activity that he was sometimes
forced to leave behind him unfinished work. Before the time came
for the completion of the second part of the zoology, his own
knowledge had matured so much, that to be true to the facts, he
must have remodeled the whole of the first part, and for this he
never found the time. Apropos of these publications the following
letters are in place.


BELGRAVE SQUARE, October 3, 1849.

. . .I thank you very sincerely for your most captivating general
work on the "Principles of Zoology." I am quite in love with it. I
was glad to find that you had arranged the nummulites with the
tertiary rocks, so that the broad generalization I attempted in my
last work on the Alps, Apennines, and Carpathians is completely
sustained zoologically, and you will not be sorry to see the
stratigraphical truth vindicated (versus E. de Beaumont and--). I
beseech you to look at my memoir, and especially at my reasoning
about the miocene and pliocene divisions of the Alps and Italy. It
seems to me manifest that the percentage system derived from marine
life can never be applied to tertiary TERRESTRIAL successions. . .

My friends have congratulated me much on this my last effort, and
as Lyell and others most interested in opposing me have been
forward in approval, I begin to hope that I am not yet quite done
up; and that unlike the Bishop of Oviedo, my last sermon "ne sent
pas de l'apoplexie." I have, nevertheless, been desperately out of
sorts and full of gout and liver and all kinds of irritation this
summer, which is the first for many a long year in which I have
been unable to take the field. The meeting at Birmingham, however,
revived me. Professor W. Rogers will have told you all about our
doings. Buckland is up to his neck in "sewage," and wishes to
change all underground London into a fossil cloaca of pseudo
coprolites. This does not quite suit the chemists charged with
sanitary responsibilities; for they fear the Dean will poison half
the population in preparing his choice manures! But in this as in
everything he undertakes there is a grand sweeping view.

When are we to meet again? And when are we to have a "stand-up
fight" on the erratics of the Alps? You will see by the abstract of
my memoir appended to my Alpine affair that I have taken the field
against the extension of the Jura! In a word, I do not believe that
great trunk glaciers ever filled the valleys of the Rhone, etc.
Perhaps you will be present at our next meeting of the British
Association at Edinburgh, August, 1850. Olim meminisse juvabit! and
then, my dear and valued and most enlightened friend, we may study
once more together the surface of my native rocks for "auld lang
syne.". . .


DOWN, FARNBOROUGH, KENT, June 15 [1850, probably].


I have seldom been more deeply gratified than by receiving your
most kind present of "Lake Superior." I had heard of it, and had
much wished to read it, but I confess it was the very great honor
of having in my possession a work with your autograph, as a
presentation copy, that has given me such lively and sincere
pleasure. I cordially thank you for it. I have begun to read it
with uncommon interest, which I see will increase as I go on.

The Cirripedia, which you and Dr. Gould were so good as to send me,
have proved of great service to me. The sessile species from
Massachusetts consist of five species. . .Of the genus Balanus, on
the shores of Britain, we have ONE species (B. perforata
Bruguiere), which you have not in the United States, in the same
way as you exclusively have B. eburneus. All the above species
attain a somewhat larger average size on the shores of the United
States than on those of Britain, but the specimens from the glacial
beds of Uddevalla, Scotland, and Canada, are larger even than those
of the United States.

Once again allow me to thank you with cordiality for the pleasure
you have given me.

Believe me, with the highest respect, your truly obliged,


The following letter from Hugh Miller concerning Agassiz's
intention of introducing "The Footprints of the Creator" to the
American public by a slight memoir of Miller is of interest here.
It is to be regretted that with this exception no letters have been
found from him among Agassiz's papers, though he must have been in
frequent correspondence with him, and they had, beside their
scientific sympathy, a very cordial personal relation.



I was out of town when your kind letter reached here, and found
such an accumulation of employment on my return that it is only now
I find myself able to devote half an hour to the work of reply, and
to say how thoroughly sensible I am of the honor you propose doing
me. It never once crossed my mind when, in writing my little
volume, the "Footprints," I had such frequent occasion to refer to
my master, our great authority in ichthyic history, that he himself
would have associated his name with it on the other side of the
Atlantic, and referred in turn to its humble writer.

In the accompanying parcel I send you two of my volumes, which you
may not yet have seen, and in which you may find some materials for
your proposed introductory memoir. At all events they may furnish
you with amusement in a leisure hour. The bulkier of the two,
"Scenes and Legends," of which a new edition has just appeared, and
of which the first edition was published, after lying several years
beside me, in 1835, is the earliest of my works to which I attached
my name. It forms a sort of traditionary history of a district of
Scotland, about two hundred miles distant from the capital, in
which the character of the people has been scarce at all affected
by the cosmopolitanism which has been gradually modifying and
altering it in the larger towns; and as it has been frequently
remarked,--I know not with what degree of truth,--that there is a
closer resemblance between the Scotch and Swiss than between any
other two peoples of Europe, you may have some interest in
determining whether the features of your own country-folk are not
sometimes to be seen in those of mine, as exhibited in my legendary
history. Certainly both countries had for many ages nearly the same
sort of work to do; both had to maintain a long and ultimately
successful war of independence against nations greatly more
powerful than themselves; and as their hills produced little else
than the "soldier and his sword," both had to make a trade abroad
of that art of war which they were compelled in self-defense to
acquire at home. Even in the laws of some nations we find them
curiously enough associated together. In France, under the old
regime, the personal property of all strangers dying in the
country, SWISS AND SCOTS EXCEPTED, was forfeited to the king.

The other volume, "First Impressions of England and its People,"
contains some personal anecdotes and some geology. But the
necessary materials you will chiefly find in the article from the
"North British Review" which I also inclose. It is from the pen of
Sir David Brewster, with whom for the last ten years I have spent a
few very agreeable days every year at Christmas, under the roof of
a common friend,--one of the landed proprietors of Fifeshire. Sir
David's estimate of the writer is, I fear, greatly too high, but
his statement of facts regarding him is correct; and I think you
will find it quite full enough for the purposes of a brief memoir.
With his article I send you one of my own, written about six years
ago for the same periodical, as the subject is one in which, from
its connection with your master study,--the natural history of
fishes,--you may take more interest than most men. It embodies,
from observation, what may be regarded as THE NATURAL HISTORY OF
THE FISHERMAN, and describes some curious scenes and appearances
which I witnessed many years ago when engaged, during a truant
boyhood, in prosecuting the herring fishery as an amateur. Many of
my observations of natural phenomena date from this idle, and yet
not wholly wasted, period of my life.

With the volumes I send also a few casts of my less fragile
specimens of Asterolepis. Two of the number, those of the external
and internal surfaces of the creature's cranial buckler, are really
very curious combinations of plates, and when viewed in a slant
light have a decidedly sculpturesque and not ungraceful effect. I
have seen on our rustic tombstones worse representations of angels,
winged and robed, than that formed by the central plates of the
interior surface when the light is made to fall along their higher
protuberances, leaving the hollows in the shade. You see how truly
your prediction regarding the flatness of the creature's head is
substantiated by these casts; it is really not easy to know how,
placed on so flat a surface, the eyes could have been very
available save for star-gazing; but as nature makes no mistakes in
such matters, it is possible that the creature, like the
flatfishes, may have lived much at the bottom, and that most of the
seeing it had use for may have been seeing in an upward direction.
None of my other specimens of bucklers are so entire and in so good
a state of keeping as the two from which I have taken the casts,
but they are greatly larger. One specimen, nearly complete,
exhibits an area about four times as great as the largest of these
two, and I have fragments of others which must have belonged to
fish still more gigantic. The two other casts are of specimens of
gill covers, which in the Asterolepis, as in the sturgeon,
consisted each of a single plate. In both the exterior surface of
the buckler and of the operculum the tubercles are a good deal
enveloped in the stone, which is of a consistency too hard to be
removed without injuring what it overlies; but you will find them
in the smaller cast which accompanies the others, and which, as
shown by the thickness of the plate in the original, indicates
their size and form in a large individual, very characteristically
shown. So coral-like is their aspect, that if it was from such a
cast, not a fossil (which would, of course, exhibit the
peculiarities of the bone), that Lamarck founded his genus
Monticularia, I think his apology for the error might almost be
maintained as good. I am sorry I cannot venture on taking casts
from some of my other specimens; but they are exceedingly fragile,
and as they are still without duplicates I am afraid to hazard
them. Since publishing my little volume I have got several new
plates of Asterolepis,--a broad palatal plate, covered with
tubercles, considerably larger than those of the creature's
external surface,--a key-stone shaped plate, placed, when in situ,
in advance of the little plate between the eyes, which form the
head and face of the effigy in the centre of the buckler,--and a
side-plate, into which the condyloid processes of the lower jaw
were articulated, and which exhibited the processes on which these
hinged. There are besides some two or three plates more, whose
places I have still to find. The small cast, stained yellow, is
taken from an instructive specimen of the jaws of coccosteus, and
exhibits a peculiarity which I had long suspected and referred to
in the first edition of my volume on the Old Red Sandstone in
rather incautious language, but which a set of my specimens now
fully establishes. Each of the under jaws of the fish was furnished
with two groups of teeth: one group in the place where, in
quadrupeds, we usually find the molars; and another group in the
line of the symphyses. And how these both could have acted is a
problem which our anatomists here--many of whom have carefully
examined my specimen--seem unable, and in some degree, indeed,
afraid to solve.

I have written to the Messrs. Gould, Kendall & Lincoln to say that
the third edition of the "Footprints" differs from the first and
second only by the addition of a single note and an illustrative
diagram, both of which I have inclosed to them in my communication.
I anticipate much pleasure from the perusal of your work on Lake
Superior, when it comes to hand, which, as your publishers have
intrusted it to the care of a gentleman visiting this country,
will, I think, be soon. It is not often that a region so remote and
so little known as that which surrounds the great lake of America
is visited by a naturalist of the first class. From such a terra
incognita, at length unveiled to eyes so discerning, I anticipate
strange tidings.

I am, my dear sir, with respect and admiration, very truly yours,


In the spring of 1850 Agassiz married Elizabeth Cabot Cary,
daughter of Thomas Graves Cary, of Boston. This marriage confirmed
his resolve to remain, at least for the present, in the United
States. It connected him by the closest ties with a large family
circle, of which he was henceforth a beloved and honored member,
and made him the brother-in-law of one of his most intimate friends
in Cambridge, Professor C.C. Felton. Thus secure of favorable
conditions for the care and education of his children, he called
them to this country. His son (then a lad of fifteen years of age)
had joined him the previous summer. His daughters, younger by
several years than their brother, arrived the following autumn, and
home built itself up again around him.

The various foreign members of his household had already scattered.
One or two had returned to Europe, others had settled here in
permanent homes of their own. Among the latter were Professor Guyot
and M. de Pourtales, who remained, both as scientific colleagues
and personal friends, very near and dear to him all his life. "Papa
Christinat" had also withdrawn. While Agassiz was absent on a
lecturing tour, the kind old man, knowing well the opposition he
should meet, and wishing to save both himself and his friend the
pain of parting, stole away without warning and went to New
Orleans, where he had obtained a place as pastor. This was a great
disappointment to Agassiz, who had urged him to make his home with
him, a plan in which his wife and children cordially concurred, but
which did not approve itself to the judgment of his old friend. M.
Christinat afterward returned to Switzerland, where he ended his
days. He wrote constantly until his death, and was always kept
advised of everything that passed in the family at Cambridge. Of
the old household, Mr. Burkhardt alone remained a permanent member
of the new one.


1850-1852: AGE 43-45.

Proposition from Dr. Bache.
Exploration of Florida Reefs.
Letter to Humboldt concerning Work in America.
Appointment to Professorship of Medical College in Charleston, S.C.
Life at the South.
Views concerning Races of Men.
Prix Cuvier.

THE following letter from the Superintendent of the Coast Survey
determined for Agassiz the chief events of the winter of 1851.


WEBB'S HILL, October 30, 1850.


Would it be possible for you to devote six weeks or two months to
the examination of the Florida reefs and keys in connection with
their survey? It is extremely important to ascertain what they are
and how formed. One account treats them as growing corals, another
as masses of something resembling oolite, piled together,
barrier-wise. You see that this lies at the root of the progress of
the reef, so important to navigation, of the use to be made of it
in placing our signals, of the use as a foundation for
light-houses, and of many other questions practically important and
of high scientific interest. I would place a vessel at your
disposal during the time you were on the reef, say six weeks.

The changes at or near Cape Florida, from the Atlantic coast and
its siliceous sand, to the Florida coast and its coral sand, must
be curious. You will be free to move from one end of the reef to
the other, which will be, say one hundred and fifty miles. Motion
to eastward would be slow in the windy season, though favored by
the Gulf Stream as the winds are "trade." Whatever collections you
might make would be your own. I would only ask for the survey such
information and such specimens as would be valuable to its
operations, especially to its hydrography, and some report on these
matters. As this will, if your time and engagements permit, lead to
a business arrangement, I must, though reluctantly, enter into
that. I will put aside six hundred dollars for the two months,
leaving you to pay your own expenses; or, if you prefer it, will
pay all expenses of travel, including subsistence, to and from Key
West, and furnish vessel and subsistence while there, and four
hundred dollars.

What results would flow to science from your visit to that region!
You have spoken of the advantage of using our vessels when they
were engaged in their own work. Now I offer you a vessel the
motions of which you will control, and the assistance of the
officers and crew of which you will have. You shall be at no
expense for going and coming, or while there, and shall choose your
own time. . .

Agassiz accepted this proposal with delight, and at once made
arrangements to take with him a draughtsman and an assistant, in
order to give the expedition such a character as would make it
useful to science in general, as well as to the special objects of
the Coast Survey. It will be seen that Dr. Bache gladly concurred
in all these views.


WASHINGTON, December 18, 1850.


On the basis of our former communications I have been, as the time
served, raising a superstructure. I have arranged with Lieutenant
Commander Alden to send the schooner W.A. Graham, belonging to the
Coast Survey, under charge of an officer who will take an interest
in promoting the great objects in which you will be engaged, to Key
West, in time to meet you on your arrival in the Isabel of the
15th, from Charleston to Key West. The vessel will be placed at
your absolute disposal for four to six weeks, as you may find
desirable, doing just such things as you require, and going to such
places as you direct. If you desire more than a general direction,
I will give any specific ones which you may suggest. . .

I have requested that room be made in the cabin for you and for two
aids, as you desire to take a draughtsman with you; and in
reference to your enlarged plan of operating, of which I see the
advantage, I have examined the financial question, and propose to
add two hundred dollars to the six hundred in my letter of October
30th, to enable you to execute it. I would suggest that you stop a
day in Washington on your way to Charleston, to pick up the
topographical and geographical information which you desire, and to
have all matters of a formal kind arranged to suit your convenience
and wishes, which, I am sure, will all be promotive of the objects
in view from your visit to Florida. . .You say I shall smile AT
your plans,--instead of which, they have been smiled ON; now, there
is a point for you,--a true Saxon distinction.

If you succeed (and did you ever fail!?) in developing for our
Coast Survey the nature, structure, growth, and all that, of the
Florida reefs, you will have conferred upon the country a priceless
favor. . .

The Superintendent of the Coast Survey never had cause to regret
the carte-blanche he had thus given. A few weeks, with the
facilities so liberally afforded, gave Agassiz a clew to all the
phenomena he had been commissioned to examine, and enabled him to
explain the relation between the keys and the outer and inner
reefs, and the mud swamps, or more open channels, dividing them,
and to connect these again with the hummocks and everglades of the
main-land. It remains to be seen whether his theory will hold good,
that the whole or the greater part of the Florida peninsula has,
like its southern portion, been built up of concentric reefs. But
his explanation of the present reefs, their structure, laws of
growth, relations to each other and to the main-land, as well as to
the Gulf Stream and its prevailing currents, was of great practical
service to the Coast Survey. It was especially valuable in
determining how far the soil now building up from accumulations of
mud and coral debris was likely to remain for a long time shifting
and uncertain, and how far and in what localities it might be
relied upon as affording a stable foundation. When, at the meeting
of the American Association in the following spring, Agassiz gave
an account of his late exploration, Dr. Bache, who was present,
said that for the first time he understood the bearing of the whole
subject, though he had so long been trying to unravel it.

The following letter was written immediately after Agassiz's


CAMBRIDGE, April 26, 1851.

. . .I have spent a large part of the winter in Florida, with a
view of studying the coral reefs. I have found that they constitute
a new class of reefs, distinct from those described by Darwin and
Dana under the name of fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls. I
have lately read a paper upon that subject before the American
Academy, which I shall send you as soon as it is printed. The case
is this. There are several concentric reefs separated by deep
channels; the peninsula of Florida itself is a succession of such
reefs, the everglades being the filled-up channels, while the
hummocks were formerly little intervening islands, like the
mangrove islands in the present channels. But what is quite
remarkable, all these concentric reefs are upon one level, above
that of the sea, and there is no indication whatever of upheaval.
You will find some observations upon upheavals, etc., in Silliman,
by Tuomey; it is a great mistake, as I shall show. The Tortugas are
a real atoll, but formed without the remotest indication of

Of course this does not interfere in the least with the views of
Darwin, for the whole ground presents peculiar features. I wish you
would tell him something about this. One of the most remarkable
peculiarities of the rocks in the reefs of the Tortugas consists in
their composition; they are chiefly made up of CORALLINES,
limestone algae, and, to a small extent only, of real corals. . .

Agassiz's report to the Coast Survey upon the results of this first
investigation made by him upon the reefs of Florida was not
published in full at the time. The parts practically most important
to the Coast Survey were incorporated in their subsequent charts;
the more general scientific results, as touching the physical
history of the peninsula as a whole, appeared in various forms,
were embodied in Agassiz's lectures, and were printed some years
after in his volume entitled "Methods of Study." The original
report, with all the plates prepared for it, was published in the
"Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology," under the
supervision of Alexander Agassiz, after the death of his father. It
forms a quarto volume, containing some sixty pages of text, with
twenty-two plates, illustrative of corals and coral structure, and
a map of Southern Florida with its reefs and keys.

This expedition was also of great importance to Agassiz's
collections, and to the embryo museum in Cambridge. It laid the
foundation of a very complete collection of corals of all varieties
and in all stages of growth. All the specimens, from huge coral
heads and branching fans down to the most minute single corals,
were given up to him, the value of the whole being greatly enhanced
by the drawings taken on the spot from the living animals.

To this period belongs also the following fragment of a letter to


[Probably 1852,--date not given.]

. . .What a time has passed since my last letter! Had you not been
constantly in my thoughts, and your counsels always before me as my
guide, I should reproach myself for my silence. I hope my two
papers on the medusae, forwarded this year, have reached you, and
also one upon the classification of insects, as based upon their
development. I have devoted myself especially to the organization
of the invertebrate animals, and to the facts bearing upon the
perfecting of their classification. I have succeeded in tracing the
same identity of structure between the three classes of radiates,
and also between those of mollusks, as has already been recognized
in the vertebrates, and partially in the articulates. It is truly a
pleasure for me now to be able to demonstrate in my lectures the
insensible gradations existing between polyps, medusae, and
echinoderms, and to designate by the same name organs seemingly so
different. Especially has the minute examination of the thickness
of the test in echinoderms revealed to me unexpected relations
between the sea-urchin and the medusa. No one suspects, I fancy, at
this moment, that the solid envelope of the Scutellae and the
Clypeasters is traversed by a net-work of radiating tubes,
corresponding to those of the medusae, so well presented by
Ehrenberg in Aurelia aurita. If the Berlin zoologists will take the
trouble to file off the surface of the test of an Echinarachnius
parma, they will find a circular canal as large and as continuous
as that of the medusae. The aquiferous tubes specified above open
into this canal. But the same thing may be found under various
modifications in other genera of the family. Since I have succeeded
in injecting colored liquid into the beroids, for instance, and
keeping them alive with it circulating in their transparent mass, I
am able to show the identity of their zones of locomotive fringes
(combs), from which they take their name of Ctenophorae, with the
ambulacral (locomotive) apparatus of the echinoderms. Furnished
with these facts, it is not difficult to recognize true beroidal
forms in the embryos of sea-urchins and star-fishes, published by
Muller in his beautiful plates, and thus to trace the medusoid
origin of the echinoderms, as the polypoid origin of the medusae
has already been recognized. I do not here allude to their
primitive origin, but simply to the general fact that among
radiates the embryos of the higher classes represent, in miniature,
types of the lower classes, as, for instance, those of the
echinoderms resemble the medusae, those of the medusae the polyps.
Having passed the greater part of last winter in Florida, where I
was especially occupied in studying the coral reefs, I had the best
opportunity in the world for prosecuting my embryological
researches upon the stony corals. I detected relations among them
which now enable me to determine the classification of these
animals according to their mode of development with greater
completeness than ever before, and even to assign a superior or
inferior rank to their different types, agreeing with their
geological succession, as I have already done for the fishes. I am
on the road to the same results for the mollusks and the
articulates, and can even now say in general terms, that the most
ancient representatives of all the families belonging to these
great groups, strikingly recall the first phases in the embryonic
development of their successors in more recent formations, and even
that the embryos of comparatively recent families recall families
belonging to ancient epochs. You will find some allusion to these
results in my Lectures on Embryology, given in my "Lake Superior,"
of which I have twice sent you a copy, that it might reach you the
more surely; but these first impressions have assumed greater
coherence now, and I constantly find myself recurring to my fossils
for light upon the embryonic forms I am studying and vice versa,
consulting my embryological drawings in order to decipher the
fossils with greater certainty.

The proximity of the sea and the ease with which I can visit any
part of the coast within a range of some twenty degrees give me
inexhaustible resources for the whole year, which, as time goes on,
I turn more and more to the best account. On the other hand, the
abundance and admirable state of preservation of the fossils found
in our ancient deposits, as well as the regular succession of the
beds containing them, contribute admirable material for this kind
of comparative study. . .

In the summer of 1851 Agassiz was invited to a professorship at the
Medical College in Charleston, S.C. This was especially acceptable
to him, because it substituted a regular course of instruction to
students, for the disconnected lectures given to miscellaneous
audiences, in various parts of the country, by which he was obliged
to eke out his small salary and provide for his scientific
expenses. While more fatiguing than class-room work, these
scattered lectures had a less educational value, though, on the
other hand, they awakened a very wide-spread interest in the study
of nature. The strain of constant traveling for this purpose, the
more harassing because so unfavorable to his habits of continuous
work, had already told severely upon his health; and from this
point of view also the new professorship was attractive, as
promising a more quiet, though no less occupied, life. The lectures
were to be given during the three winter months, thus occupying the
interval between his autumn and spring courses at Cambridge.

He assumed his new duties at Charleston in December, 1851, and by
the kindness of his friend Mrs. Rutledge, who offered him the use
of her cottage for the purpose, he soon established a laboratory on
Sullivan's Island, where the two or three assistants he had brought
with him could work conveniently. The cottage stood within hearing
of the wash of the waves, at the head of the long, hard sand beach
which fringed the island shore for some three or four miles. There
could hardly be a more favorable position for a naturalist, and
there, in the midst of their specimens, Agassiz and his band of
workers might constantly be found. His studies here were of the
greater interest to him because they connected themselves with his
previous researches, not only upon the fishes, but also upon the
lower marine animals of the coast of New England and of the Florida
reefs; so that he had now a basis for comparison of the fauna
scattered along the whole Atlantic coast of the United States. The
following letter gives some idea of his work at this time.


CHARLESTON, January 26, 1852.


You should at least know that I think of you often on these shores.
And how could I do otherwise when I daily find new small crustacea,
which remind me of the important work you are now preparing on that

Of course, of the larger ones there is nothing to be found after
Professor Gibbes has gone over the ground, but among the lower
orders there are a great many in store for a microscopic observer.
I have only to regret that I cannot apply myself more steadily. I
find my nervous system so over-excited that any continuous exertion
makes me feverish. So I go about as much as the weather allows, and
gather materials for better times.

Several interesting medusae have been already observed; among
others, the entire metamorphosis and alternate generation of a new
species of my genus tiaropsis. You will be pleased to know that
here, as well as at the North, tiaropsis is the medusa of a
campanularia. Mr. Clark, one of my assistants, has made very good
drawings of all its stages of growth, and of various other hydroid
medusae peculiar to this coast. Mr. Stimpson, another very
promising young naturalist, who has been connected with me for some
time in the same capacity, draws the crustacea and bryozoa, of
which there are also a good many new ones here. My son and my old
friend Burkhardt are also with me (upon Sullivan's Island), and
they look after the larger species, so that I shall probably have
greatly increased my information upon the fauna of the Atlantic
coast by the time I return to Cambridge.

In town, where I go three times a week to deliver lectures at the
Medical College (beside a course just now in the evening also
before a mixed audience), I have the rest of my family, so that
nothing would be wanting to my happiness if my health were only
better. . .What a pity that a man cannot work as much as he would
like; or at least accomplish what he aims at. But no doubt it is
best it should be so; there is no harm in being compelled by
natural necessities to limit our ambition,--on the contrary, the
better sides of our nature are thus not allowed to go to sleep.
However, I cannot but regret that I am unable at this time to trace
more extensively subjects for which I should have ample
opportunities here, as for instance the anatomy of the echinoderms,
and also the embryology of the lower animals in general. . .

This winter, notwithstanding the limitations imposed upon his work
by the state of his health, was a very happy one to Agassiz. As
mentioned in the above letter his wife and daughters had
accompanied him to Charleston, and were established there in
lodgings. Their holidays and occasional vacations were passed at
the house of Dr. John E. Holbrook (the "Hollow Tree"), an
exquisitely pretty and picturesque country place in the
neighborhood of Charleston. Here Agassiz had been received almost
as one of the family on his first visit to Charleston, shortly
after his arrival in the United States. Dr. Holbrook's name, as the
author of the "Herpetology of South Carolina," had long been
familiar to him, and he now found a congenial and affectionate
friend in the colleague and fellow-worker, whose personal
acquaintance he had been anxious to make. Dr. Holbrook's wife, a
direct descendant of John Rutledge of our revolutionary history,
not only shared her husband's intellectual life, but had herself
rare mental qualities, which had been developed by an unusually
complete and efficient education. The wide and various range of her
reading, the accuracy of her knowledge in matters of history and
literature, and the charm of her conversation, made her a
delightful companion. She exercised the most beneficent influence
upon her large circle of young people, and without any effort to
attract, she drew to herself whatever was most bright and clever in
the society about her. The "Hollow Tree," presided over by its
hospitable host and hostess was, therefore, the centre of a
stimulating and cultivated social intercourse, free from all gene
or formality. Here Agassiz and his family spent many happy days
during their southern sojourn of 1852. The woods were yellow with
jessamine, and the low, deep piazza was shut in by vines and roses;
the open windows and the soft air full of sweet, out-of-door
fragrance made one forget, spite of the wood fire on the hearth,
that it was winter by the calendar. The days, passed almost wholly
in the woods or on the veranda, closed with evenings spent not
infrequently in discussions upon the scientific ideas and theories
of the day, carried often beyond the region of demonstrated facts
into that of speculative thought. An ever-recurring topic was that
of the origin of the human race. It was Agassiz's declared belief
that man had sprung not from a common stock, but from various
centres, and that the original circumscription of these primordial
groups of the human family corresponded in a large and general way
with the distribution of animals and their combination into faunae.
* (* See "Sketch of the Natural Provinces of the Animal World and
their Relation to the Different Types of Man" included in Nott &
Gliddon's "Types of Mankind".) His special zoological studies were
too engrossing to allow him to follow this line of investigation
closely, but it was never absent from his view of the animal
kingdom as a whole. He valued extremely Mrs. Holbrook's thoughtful
sympathy, and as the following letter connects itself with the
winter evening talks by the "Hollow Tree" fireside, and was
suggested by them, it may be given here, though in date it is a
little in advance of the present chapter.


CAMBRIDGE, July, 1852.

. . .I am again working at the human races, and have opened another
line of investigation in that direction. The method followed by
former investigators does not seem to me to have been altogether
the best, since there is so little agreement between them. The
difficulty has, no doubt, arisen on one side from the circumstance
that the inquirer sought for evidence of the unity of all races,
expecting the result to agree with the prevailing interpretation of
Genesis; and on the other from too zoological a point of view in
weighing the differences observed. Again, both have almost set
aside all evidence not directly derived from the examination of the
races themselves. It has occurred to me that as a preliminary
inquiry we ought to consider the propriety of applying to man the
same rules as to animals, examining the limits within which they
obtain, and paying due attention to all circumstances bearing upon
the differences observed among men, from whatever quarter in the
study of nature they may be gathered. What do the monkeys say to
this? or, rather, what have they to tell in reference to it? There
are among them as great, and, indeed, even greater, differences
than among men, for they are acknowledged to constitute different
genera, and are referred to many, indeed to more than a hundred,
species; but they are the nearest approach to the human family, and
we may at least derive some hints from them. How much mixture there
is among these species, if any, is not at all ascertained; indeed,
we have not the least information respecting their intercourse; but
one point is certain,--zoologists agree as little among themselves
respecting the limits of these species as they do respecting the
affinities of the races of men. What some consider as distinct
species, others consider as mere varieties, and these varieties or
species differ in particulars neither more constant nor more
important than those which distinguish the human races. The fact
that they are arranged in different genera, species, and varieties
does not lessen the value of the comparison; for the point in
question is just to know whether nations, races, and what have also
been called families of men, such as the Indo-Germanic, the
Semitic, etc., do not in reality correspond to the families,
genera, and species of monkeys. Now the first great subdivisions
among the true monkeys (excluding Makis and Arctopitheci) are
founded upon the form of the nose, those of the new world having a
broad partition between the nostrils, while those of the old world
have it narrow. How curious that this fact, which has been known to
naturalists for half a century, as presenting a leading feature
among monkeys, should have been overlooked in man, when, in
reality, the negroes and Australians differ in precisely the same
manner from the other races; they having a broad partition, and
nostrils opening sideways, like the monkeys of South America, while
the other types of the human family have a narrow partition and
nostrils opening downward, like the monkeys of Asia and Africa.
Again, the minor differences, such as the obliquity of the anterior
teeth, the thickness of the lips, the projection of the
cheek-bones, the position of the eyes, the characteristic hair, or
wool, afford as constant differences as those by which the
chimpanzees, orangs, and gibbons are separated into distinct
genera; and their respective species differ no more than do the
Greeks, Germans, and Arabs,--or the Chinese, Tartars, and Finns,
--or the New Zealanders and Malays, which are respectively referred
to the same race. The truth is, that the different SPECIES admitted
by some among the orangs are in reality RACES among monkeys, or
else the races among men are nothing more than what are called
species among certain monkeys. . .Listen for a moment to the
following facts, and when you read this place a map of the world
before you. Upon a narrow strip of land along the Gulf of Guinea,
from Cape Palmas to the Gaboon, live two so-called species of
chimpanzee; upon the islands of Sumatra and Borneo live three or
four orangs; upon the shores of the Gulf of Bengal, including the
neighborhood of Calcutta, Burmah, Malacca, Sumatra, Borneo, and
Java together, ten or eleven species of gibbons, all of which are
the nearest relatives to the human family, some being as large as
certain races of men; altogether, fifteen species of anthropoid
monkeys playing their part in the animal population of the world
upon an area not equaling by any means the surface of Europe. Some
of these species are limited to Borneo, others to Sumatra, others
to Java alone, others to the peninsula of Malacca; that is to say
to tracts of land similar in extent to Spain, France, Italy, and
even to Ireland; distinct animals, considered by most naturalists
as distinct species, approaching man most closely in structural
eminence and size, limited to areas not larger than Spain or Italy.
Why, then, should not the primitive theatre of a nation of men have
been circumscribed within similar boundaries, and from the
beginning have been as independent as the chimpanzee of Guinea, or
the orangs of Borneo and Sumatra? Of course, the superior powers of
man have enabled him to undertake migrations, but how limited are
these, and how slight the traces they have left behind them. . .
Unfortunately for natural history, history so-called has recorded
more faithfully the doings of handfuls of adventurers than the real
history of the primitive nations with whom the migrating tribes
came into contact. But I hope it will yet be possible to dive under
these waves of migration, to remove, as it were, the trace of their
passage, and to read the true history of the past inhabitants of
the different parts of the world, when it will be found, if all
analogies are not deceptive, that every country equaling in extent
those within the limits of which distinct nationalities are known
to have played their part in history, has had its distinct
aborigines, the character of which it is now the duty of
naturalists to restore, if it be not too late, in the same manner
as paleontologists restore fossil remains. I have already made some
attempts, by studying ancient geography, and I hope the task may
yet be accomplished. . .Look, for instance, at Spain. The Iberians
are known as the first inhabitants, never extending much beyond the
Pyrenees to the Garonne, and along the gulfs of Lyons and Genoa. As
early as during the period of Phoenician prosperity they raised
wool from their native sheep, derived from the Mouflon, still found
wild in Spain, Corsica, and Sardinia; they had a peculiar breed of
horses, to this day differing from all other horses in the world.
Is this not better evidence of their independent origin, than is
the fancied lineage with the Indo-Germanic family of their Oriental
descent? For we must not forget, in connection with this, that the
Basque language was once the language of all Spain, that which the
Iberian spoke, and which has no direct relation to Sanskrit.

I have alluded but slightly to the negro race, and not at all to
the Indians. I would only add with reference to these that I begin
to perceive the possibility of distinguishing different centres of
growth in these two continents. If we leave out of consideration
fancied migrations, what connection can be traced, for instance,
between the Eskimos, along the whole northern districts of this
continent, and the Indians of the United States, those of Mexico,
those of Peru, and those of Brazil? Is there any real connection
between the coast tribes of the northwest coast, the mound
builders, the Aztec civilization, the Inca, and the Gueranis? It
seems to me no more than between the Assyrian and Egyptian
civilization. And as to negroes, there is, perhaps, a still greater
difference between those of Senegal, of Guinea, and the Caffres and
Hottentots, when compared with the Gallahs and Mandingoes. But
where is the time to be taken for the necessary investigations
involved in these inquiries? Pray write to me soon what you say to
all this, and believe me always your true friend,


In the spring of 1852, while still in Charleston, Agassiz heard
that the Prix Cuvier, now given for the first time, was awarded to
him for the "Poissons Fossiles." This gratified him the more
because the work had been so directly bequeathed to him by Cuvier
himself. To his mother, through whom he received the news in
advance of the official papers, it also gave great pleasure. "Your
fossil fishes," she says, "which have cost you so much anxiety, so
much toil, so many sacrifices, have now been estimated at their
true value by the most eminent judges. . .This has given me such
happiness, dear Louis, that the tears are in my eyes as I write it
to you." She had followed the difficulties of his task too closely
not to share also its success.


1852-1855: AGE 45-48.

Return to Cambridge.
Anxiety about Collections.
Purchase of Collections.
Second Winter in Charleston.
Letter to James D. Dana concerning Geographical Distribution
   and Geological Succession of Animals.
Resignation of Charleston Professorship.
Propositions from Zurich.
Letter to Oswald Heer.
Decision to remain in Cambridge.
Letters to James D. Dana, S.S. Haldeman, and Others respecting
   Collections illustrative of the Distribution of Fishes, Shells,
   etc., in our Rivers.
Establishment of School for Girls.

Agassiz returned from Charleston to Cambridge in the early spring,
pausing in Washington to deliver a course of lectures before the
Smithsonian Institution. By this time he had become intimate with
Professor Henry, at whose hospitable house he and his family were
staying during their visit at Washington. He had the warmest
sympathy not only with Professor Henry's scientific work and
character, but also with his views regarding the Smithsonian
Institution, of which he had become the Superintendent shortly
after Agassiz arrived in this country. Agassiz himself was soon
appointed one of the Regents of the Institution and remained upon
the Board until his death.

Agassiz now began to feel an increased anxiety about his
collections. During the six years of his stay in the United States
he had explored the whole Atlantic sea-board as well as the lake
and river system of the Eastern and Middle States, and had amassed
such materials in natural history as already gave his collections,
in certain departments at least, a marked importance. In the lower
animals, and as illustrating the embryology of the marine
invertebrates, they were especially valuable. It had long been a
favorite idea with him to build up an embryological department in
his prospective museum; the more so because such a provision on any
large scale had never been included in the plan of the great
zoological institutions, and he believed it would have a direct and
powerful influence on the progress of modern science. The
collections now in his possession included ample means for this
kind of research, beside a fair representation of almost all
classes of the animal kingdom. Packed together, however, in the
narrowest quarters, they were hardly within his own reach, much
less could they be made available for others. His own resources
were strained to the utmost, merely to save these precious
materials from destruction. It is true that in 1850 the sum of four
hundred dollars, to be renewed annually, was allowed him by the
University for their preservation, and a barrack-like wooden
building on the college grounds, far preferable to the bath-house
by the river, was provided for their storage. But the cost of
keeping them was counted by thousands, not by hundreds, and the
greater part of what Agassiz could make by his lectures outside of
Cambridge was swallowed up in this way. It was, perhaps, the
knowledge of this which induced certain friends, interested in him
and in science, to subscribe twelve thousand dollars for the
purchase of his collections, to be thus permanently secured to
Cambridge. This gave him back, in part, the sum he had already
spent upon them, and which he was more than ready to spend again in
their maintenance and increase.

The next year showed that his over-burdened life was beginning to
tell upon his health. Scarcely had he arrived in Charleston and
begun his course at the Medical College when he was attacked by a
violent fever, and his life was in danger for many days.
Fortunately for him his illness occurred at the "Hollow Tree,"
where he was passing the Christmas holidays. Dr. and Mrs. Holbrook
were like a brother and sister to him, and nothing could exceed the
kindness he received under their roof. One young friend who had
been his pupil, and to whom he was much attached, Dr. St. Julian
Ravenel, was constantly at his bedside. His care was invaluable,
for he combined the qualities of physician and nurse. Under such
watchful tending, Agassiz could hardly fail to mend if cure were
humanly possible. The solicitude of these nearer friends seemed to
be shared by the whole community, and his recovery gave general
relief. He was able to resume his lectures toward the end of
February. Spite of the languor of convalescence his elastic mind
was at once ready for work, as may be seen by the following extract
from one of his first letters.



. . .It seems, indeed, to me as if in the study of the geographical
distribution of animals the present condition of the animal kingdom
was too exclusively taken into consideration. Whenever it can be
done, and I hope before long it may be done for all classes, it
will be desirable to take into account the relations of the living
to the fossil species. Since you are as fully satisfied as I am
that the location of animals, with all their peculiarities, is not
the result of physical influences, but lies within the plans and
intentions of the Creator, it must be obvious that the successive
introduction of all the diversity of forms which have existed from
the first appearance of any given division of the animal kingdom up
to the present creation, must have reference to the location of
those now in existence. For instance, if it be true among mammalia
that the highest types, such as quadrumana, are essentially
tropical, may it not be that the prevailing distribution of the
inferior pachyderms within the same geographical limits is owing to
the circumstance that their type was introduced upon earth during a
warmer period in the history of our globe, and that their present
location is in accordance with that fact, rather than related to
their degree of organization? The pentacrinites, the lowest of the
echinoderms, have only one living representative in tropical
America, where we find at the same time the highest and largest
spatangi and holothuridae. Is this not quite a parallel case with
the monkeys and pachyderms? for once crinoids were the only
representatives of the class of echinoderms. May we not say the
same of crocodiles when compared with the ancient gigantic
saurians? or are the crocodiles, as an order, distinct from the
other saurians, and really higher than the turtles? Innumerable
questions of this kind, of great importance for zoology, are
suggested at every step, as soon as we compare the present
distribution of animals with that of the inhabitants of former
geological periods. Among crustacea, it is very remarkable that
trilobites and limulus-like forms are the only representatives of
the class during the paleozoic ages; that macrourans prevailed in
the same manner during the secondary period; and that brachyurans
make their appearance only in the tertiary period. Do you discover
in your results any connection between such facts and the present
distribution of crustacea? There is certainly one feature in their
classification which must appear very striking,--that, taken on a
large scale, the organic rank of these animals agrees in the main
with their order of succession in geological times; and this fact
is of no small importance when it is found that the same
correspondence between rank and succession obtains through all
classes of the animal kingdom, and that similar features are
displayed in the embryonic growth of all types so far as now known.

But I feel my head is growing dull, and I will stop here. Let me
conclude by congratulating you on having completed your great work
on crustacea. . .

Agassiz returned to the North in the spring of 1853 by way of the
Mississippi, stopping to lecture at Mobile, New Orleans, and St.
Louis. On leaving Charleston he proffered his resignation with deep
regret, for, beside the close personal ties he had formed, he was
attached to the place, the people, and to his work there. He had
hoped to establish a permanent station for sustained observations
in South Carolina, and thus to carry on a series of researches
which, taken in connection with his studies on the New England
coast and its vicinity, and on the Florida reefs and shores, would
afford a wide field of comparison. This was not to be, however. The
Medical College refused, indeed, to accept his resignation,
granting him, at the same time, a year of absence. But it soon
became evident that his health was seriously shaken, and that he
needed the tonic of the northern winter. He was, indeed, never
afterward as strong as he had been before this illness.

The winter of 1854 was passed in Cambridge with such quiet and rest
as the conditions of his life would allow. In May of that year he
received an invitation to the recently established University of
Zurich, in Switzerland. His acceptance was urged upon the ground of
patriotism as well as on that of a liberal endowment both for the
professor, and for the museum of which he was to have charge. The
offer was tempting, but Agassiz was in love (the word is not too
strong) with the work he had undertaken and the hopes he had formed
in America. He believed that by his own efforts, combined with the
enthusiasm for science which he had aroused and constantly strove
to keep alive and foster in the community, he should at last
succeed in founding a museum after his own heart in the United
States,--a museum which should not be a mere accumulation, however
vast or extensive, of objects of natural history, but should have a
well-combined and clearly expressed educational value. As we shall
see, neither the associations of his early life nor the most
tempting scientific prizes in the gift of the old world could
divert him from this settled purpose. The proposition from Zurich
was not official, but came through a friend and colleague, for whom
he had the deepest sympathy and admiration,--Oswald Heer. To work
in his immediate neighborhood would have been in itself a


CAMBRIDGE, January 9, 1855.


How shall I make you understand why your kind letter, though it
reached me some months ago, has remained till now unanswered. It
concerns a decision of vital importance to my whole life, and in
such a case one must not decide hastily, nor even with too
exclusive regard for one's own preference in the matter. You cannot
doubt that the thought of joining an institution of my native
country, and thus helping to stimulate scientific progress in the
land of my birth, my home, and my early friends, appeals to all I
hold dear and honorable in life. On the other side I have now been
eight years in America, have learned to understand the advantages
of my position here, and have begun undertakings which are not yet
brought to a conclusion. I am aware also how wide an influence I
already exert upon this land of the future,--an influence which
gains in extent and intensity with every year,--so that it becomes
very difficult for me to discern clearly where I can be most useful
to science. Among my privileges I must not overlook that of passing
much of my time on the immediate sea-shore, where the resources for
the zoologist and embryologist are inexhaustible. I have now a
house distant only a few steps from an admirable locality for these
studies, and can therefore pursue them uninterruptedly throughout
the whole year, instead of being limited, like most naturalists, to
the short summer vacations. It is true I miss the larger museums,
libraries, etc., as well as the stimulus to be derived from
association with a number of like-minded co-workers, all striving
toward the same end. With every year, however, the number of able
and influential investigators increases here, and among them are
some who might justly claim a prominent place anywhere. . .

Neither are means for publication lacking. The larger treatises
with costly illustrations appear in the Smithsonian Contributions,
in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, in those
of the Academy of Natural Sciences, and in the Memoirs of the
American Academy; while the smaller communications find a place in
Silliman's Journal, in the Journal of the Boston Natural History
Society, and in the proceedings of other scientific societies.
Museums also are already founded;. . .and beside these there are a
number of private collections in single departments of zoology. . .
Better than all this, however, is the lively and general interest
taken in the exploration of the country itself. Every scientific
expedition sent out by the government to the interior, or to the
Western States of Oregon and California, is accompanied by a
scientific commission,--zoologists, geologists, and botanists. By
this means magnificent collections, awaiting only able
investigators to work them up, have been brought together. Indeed,
I do not believe that as many new things are accumulated anywhere
as just here, and it is my hope to contribute hereafter to the more
critical and careful examination of these treasures. Under these
circumstances I have asked myself for months past how I ought to
decide; not what were my inclinations, for that is not the
question,--but what was my duty toward science? After the most
careful consideration I am no longer in doubt, and though it
grieves me to do so, I write to beg that you will withdraw from any
action which might bring me a direct call to the professorship in
Zurich. I have decided to remain here for an indefinite time, under
the conviction that I shall exert a more advantageous and more
extensive influence on the progress of science in this country than
in Europe.

I regret that I cannot accept your offer of the Oeningen fossils.
In the last two years I have spent more than 20,000 francs on my
collection, and must not incur any farther expense of that kind at
present. As soon, however, as I have new means at my command such a
collection would be most welcome, and should it remain in your
hands I may be very glad to take it. Neither can I make any
exchange of duplicates just now, as I have not yet been able to
sort my collections and set aside the specimens which may be
considered only as materials for exchange. Can you procure for me
Glarus fishes in any considerable number? I should like to purchase
them for my collection, and do not care for single specimens of
every species, but would prefer whole suites that I may revise my
former identifications in the light of a larger insight.

Remember me kindly to all my Zurich friends, and especially to
Arnold Escher. . .

Agassiz's increasing and at last wholly unmanageable correspondence
attests the general sympathy for and cooperation with his
scientific aims in the United States. In 1853, for instance, he had
issued a circular, asking for collections of fishes from various
fresh-water systems of the United States, in order that he might
obtain certain data respecting the laws of their distribution and
localization. To this he had hundreds of answers coming from all
parts of the country, many of them very shrewd and observing,
giving facts respecting the habits of fishes, as well as concerning
their habitat, and offering aid in the general object. Nor were
these empty promises. A great number and variety of collections,
now making part of the ichthyological treasures of the Museum at
Cambridge, were forwarded to him in answer to this appeal. Indeed,
he now began to reap, in a new form, the harvest of his wandering
lecture tours. In this part of his American experience he had come
into contact with all classes of people, and had found some of his
most intelligent and sympathetic listeners in the working class.
Now that he needed their assistance he often found his co-laborers
among farmers, stock-raisers, sea-faring men, fishermen, and
sailors. Many a New England captain, when he started on a cruise,
had on board collecting cans, furnished by Agassiz, to be filled in
distant ports or nearer home, as the case might be, and returned to
the Museum at Cambridge. One or two letters, written to scientific
friends at the time the above-mentioned circular was issued, will
give an idea of the way in which Agassiz laid out such


CAMBRIDGE, July 8, 1853.

. . .I have been lately devising some method of learning how far
animals are truly autochthones, and how far they have extended
their primitive boundaries. I will attempt to test that question
with Long Island, the largest of all the islands along our coast.
For this purpose I will for the present limit myself to the
fresh-water fishes and shells, and for the sake of comparison I
will try to collect carefully all the species living in the rivers
of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, and see whether they are
identical with those of the island. Whatever may come out of such
an investigation it will, at all events, furnish interesting data
upon the local distribution of the species. . .I am almost
confident that it will lead to something interesting, for there is
one feature of importance in the case; the present surface of Long
Island is not older than the drift period; all its inhabitants
must, therefore, have been introduced since that time. I shall see
that I obtain similar collections from the upper course of the
Connecticut, so as to ascertain whether there, as in the
Mississippi, the species differ at different heights of the river
basin. . .


CAMBRIDGE, July 9, 1853.

. . .While ascending the great Mississippi last spring I was struck
with the remarkable fact that the fishes differ essentially in the
different parts of that long water-course,--a fact I had already
noticed in the Rhine, Rhone, and Danube, though there the
difference arises chiefly from the occurrence, in the higher Alpine
regions, of representatives of the trout family which are not found
in the main river course. In the Mississippi, however, the case is
otherwise and very striking, inasmuch as we find here, at separate
latitudes, distinct species of the same genera, somewhat like the
differences observed in distinct water-basins; and yet the river is
ever flowing on past these animals, which remain, as it were,
spell-bound to the regions most genial to them. The question at
once arises, do our smaller rivers present similar differences? I
have already taken steps to obtain complete collections of fishes,
shells, and crayfishes from various stations on the Connecticut and
the Hudson, and their tributaries; and I should be very happy if I
could include the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Ohio in my
comparisons. My object in writing now is to inquire whether you
could assist me in making separate collections, as complete as
possible, of all these animals from the north and west branches of
the Susquehanna, from the main river either at Harrisburg or
Columbia, and from the Juniata, also from the Schuylkill, Lehigh,
and Delaware, and from the Allegheny and Monongahela. I have Swiss
friends in the State of New York who have promised me to collect
the fishes from the head-waters of the Delaware and Susquehanna
within the limits of the State of New York. I cannot, of course,
expect you to survey your State for me, but among your acquaintance
in various parts of your State are there not those who, with proper
directions, could do the work for me? I would, of course, gladly
repay all their expenses. The subject seems to me so important as
to justify any effort in that direction. Little may be added to the
knowledge of the fishes themselves, for I suppose most of the
species have been described either by De Kay, Kirtland, or Storer;
but a careful study of their special geographical distribution may
furnish results as important to zoology as the knowledge of the
species themselves. If you cannot write yourself, will you give me
the names of such persons as might be persuaded to aid in the
matter. I know from your own observations in former times that you
have already collected similar facts for the Unios, so that you
will at once understand and appreciate my object. . .

He writes in the same strain and for the same object to Professor
Yandell, of Kentucky, adding: "In this respect the State of
Kentucky is one of the most important of the Union, not only on
account of the many rivers which pass through its territory, but
also because it is one of the few States the fishes of which have
been described by former observers, especially by Rafinesque in his
"Ichthyologia Ohioensis," so that a special knowledge of all his
original types is a matter of primary importance for any one who
would compare the fishes of the different rivers of the West. . .Do
you know whether there is anything left of Rafinesque's collection
of fishes in Lexington, and if so, whether the specimens are
labeled, as it would be very important to identify his species from
his own collection and his own labels? I never regretted more than
now that circumstances have not yet allowed me to visit your State
and make a stay in Louisville."

In 1854 Agassiz moved to a larger house, built for him by the
college. Though very simple, it was on a liberal scale with respect
to space; partly in order to accommodate his library, consisting of
several thousand volumes, now for the first time collected and
arranged in one room. He became very fond of this Cambridge home,
where, with few absences, he spent the remainder of his life. The
architect, Mr. Henry Greenough, was his personal friend, and from
the beginning the house adapted itself with a kindly readiness to
whatever plans developed under its roof. As will be seen, these
were not few, and were sometimes of considerable moment. For his
work also the house was extremely convenient. His habits in this
respect were, however, singularly independent of place and
circumstance. Unlike most studious men, he had no fixed spot in the
house for writing. Although the library, with the usual outfit of
well-filled shelves, maps, large tables, etc., held his materials,
he brought what he needed for the evening by preference to the
drawing-room, and there, with his paper on his knee, and his books
for reference on a chair beside him, he wrote and read as busily as
if he were quite alone. Sometimes when dancing and music were going
on among the young people of the family and their guests, he drew a
little table into the corner of the room, and continued his
occupations as undisturbed and engrossed as if he had been in
complete solitude,--only looking up from time to time with a
pleased smile or an apt remark, which showed that he did not lose
but rather enjoyed what was going on about him.

His children's friends were his friends. As his daughters grew up,
he had the habit of inviting their more intimate companions to his
library for an afternoon weekly. On these occasions there was
always some subject connected with the study of nature under
discussion, but the talk was so easy and so fully illustrated that
it did not seem like a lesson. It is pleasant to remember that in
later years Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson revived this custom for his own
daughters; and their friends (being, indeed, with few changes, the
same set of young people as had formerly met in Agassiz's library)
used to meet in Mr. Emerson's study at Concord for a similar
object. He talked to them of poetry and literature and philosophy
as Agassiz had talked to them of nature. Those were golden days,
not to be forgotten by any who shared their happy privilege.

In the winter of 1855 Agassiz endeavored to resume his public
lectures as a means of increasing his resources. He was again,
however, much exhausted when spring came, and it seemed necessary
to seek some other means of support, for without considering
scientific expenses, his salary of fifteen hundred dollars did not
suffice for the maintenance of his family. Under these
circumstances it occurred to his wife and his two older children,
now of an age to assist her in such a scheme, that a school for
young ladies might be established in the upper part of the new and
larger house. By the removal of one or two partitions, ample room
could be obtained for the accommodation of a sufficient number of
pupils, and if successful such a school would perhaps make good in
a pecuniary sense the lecturing tours which were not only a great
fatigue to Agassiz, but an interruption also to all consecutive
scientific work. In consultation with friends these plans were
partly matured before they were confided to Agassiz himself. When
the domestic conspirators revealed their plot, his surprise and
pleasure knew no bounds. The first idea had been simply to
establish a private school on the usual plan, only referring to his
greater experience for advice and direction in its general
organization. But he claimed at once an active share in the work.
Under his inspiring influence the outline enlarged, and when the
circular announcing the school was issued, it appeared under his
name, and contained these words in addition to the programme of
studies: "I shall myself superintend the methods of instruction and
tuition, and while maintaining that regularity and precision in the
studies so important to mental training shall endeavor to prevent
the necessary discipline from falling into a lifeless routine,
alike deadening to the spirit of teacher and pupil. It is farther
my intention to take the immediate charge of the instruction in
Physical Geography, Natural History, and Botany, giving a lecture
daily, Saturdays excepted, on one or other of these subjects,
illustrated by specimens, models, maps, and drawings."

In order not to interrupt the course of the narrative, the history
of this undertaking in its sequence and general bearing on his life
and work may be completed here in a few words. This school secured
to him many happy and comparatively tranquil years. It enabled him
to meet both domestic and scientific expenses, and to pay the heavy
debt he had brought from Europe as the penalty of his "Fossil
Fishes" and his investigations on the glaciers. When the school
closed after eight years he was again a free man. With an increased
salary from the college, and with such provision for the Museum
(thanks to the generosity of the State and of individuals) as
rendered it in a great degree independent, he was never again
involved in the pecuniary anxieties of his earlier career. The
occupation of teaching was so congenial to him that his part in the
instruction of the school did not at any time weigh heavily upon
him. He never had an audience more responsive and more eager to
learn than the sixty or seventy girls who gathered every day at the
close of the morning to hear his daily lecture; nor did he ever
give to any audience lectures more carefully prepared, more
comprehensive in their range of subjects, more lofty in their tone
of thought. As a teacher he always discriminated between the
special student, and the one to whom he cared to impart only such a
knowledge of the facts of nature, as would make the world at least
partially intelligible to him. To a school of young girls he did
not think of teaching technical science, and yet the subjects of
his lectures comprised very abstruse and comprehensive questions.
It was the simplicity and clearness of his method which made them
so interesting to his young listeners. "What I wish for you," he
would say, "is a culture that is alive, active, susceptible of
farther development. Do not think that I care to teach you this or
the other special science. My instruction is only intended to show
you the thoughts in nature which science reveals, and the facts I
give you are useful only, or chiefly, for this object."

Running over the titles of his courses during several consecutive
years of this school instruction they read: Physical Geography and
Paleontology; Zoology; Botany; Coral Reefs; Glaciers; Structure and
Formation of Mountains; Geographical Distribution of Animals;
Geological Succession of Animals; Growth and Development of
Animals; Philosophy of Nature, etc. With the help of drawings,
maps, bas-reliefs, specimens, and countless illustrations on the
blackboard, these subjects were made clear to the pupils, and the
lecture hour was anticipated as the brightest of the whole morning.
It soon became a habit with friends and neighbors, and especially
with the mothers of the scholars, to drop in for the lectures, and
thus the school audience was increased by a small circle of older
listeners. The corps of teachers was also gradually enlarged. The
neighborhood of the university was a great advantage in this
respect, and Agassiz had the cooperation not only of his
brother-in-law, Professor Felton, but of others among his
colleagues, who took classes in special departments, or gave
lectures in history and literature.

This school opened in 1855 and closed in 1863. The civil war then
engrossed all thoughts, and interfered somewhat also with the
success of private undertakings. Partly on this account, partly
also because it had ceased to be a pecuniary necessity, it seemed
wise to give up the school at this time. The friendly relations
formed there did not, however, cease with it. For years afterward
on the last Thursday of June (the day of the annual closing of the
school) a meeting of the old pupils was held at the Museum, which
did not exist when the school began, but was fully established
before its close. There Agassiz showed them the progress of his
scientific work, told them of his future plans for the institution,
and closed with a lecture such as he used to give them in their
school-days. The last of these meetings took place in 1873, the
last year of his own life. The memory of it is connected with a
gift to the Museum of four thousand and fifty dollars from a number
of the scholars, now no longer girls, but women with their own
cares and responsibilities. Hearing that there was especial need of
means for the care of the more recent collections, they had
subscribed this sum among themselves to express their affection for
their old teacher, as well as their interest in his work, and in
the institution he had founded. His letter of acknowledgment to the
one among them who had acted as their treasurer makes a fitting
close to this chapter.

. . .Hardly anything in my life has touched me more deeply than the
gift I received this week from my school-girls. From no source in
the world could sympathy be more genial to me. The money I shall
appropriate to a long-cherished scheme of mine, a special work in
the Museum which must be exclusively my own,--the arrangement of a
special collection illustrating in a nutshell, as it were, all the
relations existing among animals,--which I have deferred because
other things were more pressing, and our means have been
insufficient. The feeling that you are all working with me will be
even more cheering than the material help, much needed as that is.
I wish I could write to each individually. I shall try to find some
means of expressing my thanks more widely. Meantime I write to you
as treasurer, and beg you, as far as you can do so without too much
trouble, to express my gratitude to others. Will you also say to
those whom you chance to meet that I shall be at the Museum on the
last Thursday of June, at half-past eleven o'clock. I shall be
delighted to see all to whom it is convenient to come. The Museum
has grown not only in magnitude, but in scientific significance,
and I like from time to time to give you an account of its
progress, and of my own work and aims. How much thought and care
and effort this kind plan of yours must have involved, scattered as
you all are! It cannot have been easy to collect the names and
addresses of all those whose signatures it was delightful to me to
see again. Words seem to me very poor, but you will accept for
yourself and your school-mates the warm thanks and affectionate
regards of your old friend and teacher.



1855-1860: AGE 48-53.

"Contributions to Natural History of the United States."
Remarkable Subscription.
Review of the Work.
Its Reception in Europe and America.
Letters from Humboldt and Owen concerning it.
Longfellow's Verses.
Laboratory at Nahant.
Invitation to the Museum of Natural History in Paris.
Founding of Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge.
Summer Vacation in Europe.

A few months earlier than the school circular Agassiz issued
another prospectus, which had an even more important bearing upon
his future work. This was the prospectus for his "Contributions to
the Natural History of the United States." It was originally
planned in ten volumes, every volume to be, however, absolutely
independent, so that the completeness of each part should not be
impaired by any possible interruption of the sequence. The mass of
original material accumulated upon his hands ever since his arrival
in America made such a publication almost imperative, but the
costliness of a large illustrated work deterred him. The "Poissons
Fossiles" had shown him the peril of entering upon such an
enterprise without capital. Perhaps he would never have dared to
undertake it but for a friendly suggestion which opened a way out
of his perplexities. Mr. Francis C. Gray, of Boston, who felt not
only the interest of a personal friend in the matter, but also that
of one who was himself a lover of letters and science, proposed an
appeal to the public spirit of the country in behalf of a work
devoted entirely to the Natural History of the United States. Mr.
Gray assumed the direction of the business details, set the
subscription afloat, stimulated its success by his own liberal
contributions, by letters, by private and public appeals. The
result far exceeded the most sanguine expectations of those
interested in its success. Indeed, considering the purely
scientific character of the work, the number of subscribers for it
was extraordinary, and showed again the hold Agassiz had taken upon
the minds and affections of the people in general. The contributors
were by no means confined to Boston and Cambridge, although the
Massachusetts list was naturally the largest, nor were they found
exclusively among literary and scientific circles. On the contrary,
the subscription list, to the astonishment of the publishers, was
increased daily by unsolicited names, sent in from all sections of
the country, and from various grades of life and occupation. In
reference to the character of this subscription Agassiz says in his
Preface: "I must beg my European readers to remember that this work
is written in America, and more especially for Americans; and that
the community to which it is particularly addressed has very
different wants from those of the reading public in Europe. There
is not a class of learned men here distinct from the other
cultivated members of the community. On the contrary, so general is
the desire for knowledge, that I expect to see my book read by
operatives, by fishermen, by farmers, quite as extensively as by
the students in our colleges or by the learned professions, and it
is but proper that I should endeavor to make myself understood by
all." If Agassiz, perhaps, overestimated in this statement the
appreciation of the reading public in the United States for pure
scientific research, it was because the number and variety of his
subscribers gave evidence of a cordiality toward his work which
surprised as much as it gratified him. On the list there were also
some of his old European subscribers to the "Poissons Fossiles,"
among them the King of Prussia, who still continued, under the
influence of Humboldt, to feel an interest in his work.


September 1, 1856.

. . .I hear that by some untoward circumstances, no doubt
accidental, you have never received, my dear Agassiz, the letter
expressing the pleasure which I share with all true lovers of
science respecting your important undertaking, "Contributions to
the Natural History of the United States." You must have been
astonished at my silence, remembering, not only the affectionate
relations we have held to each other ever since your first sojourn
at Paris, but also the admiration I have never ceased to feel for
the great and solid works which we owe to your sagacious mind and
your incomparable intellectual energy. . .I approve especially the
general conceptions which lie at the base of the plan you have
traced. I admire the long series of physiological investigations,
beginning with the embryology of the so-called simple and lower
organisms and ascending by degrees to the more complicated. I
admire that ever-renewed comparison of the types belonging to our
planet, in its present condition, with those now found only in a
fossil state, so abundant in the immense space lying between the
shores opposite to northern Europe and northern Asia. The
geographical distribution of organic forms in curves of equal
density of occupation represents in great degree the inflexions of
the isothermal lines. . .I am charged by the king, who knows the
value of your older works, and who still feels for you the
affectionate regard which he formerly expressed in person, to
request that you will place his name at the head of your long list
of subscribers. He wishes that an excursion across the Atlantic
valley may one day bring you, who have so courageously braved
Alpine summits, to the historic hill of Sans Souci. . .

Something of Agassiz's astonishment and pleasure at the
encouragement given to his projected work is told in his letters.
To his old friend Professor Valenciennes, in Paris, he writes: "I
have just had an evidence of what one may do here in the interest
of science. Some six months ago I formed a plan for the publication
of my researches in America, and determined to carry it out with
all possible care and beauty of finish. I estimated my materials at
ten volumes, quarto, and having fixed the price at 60 francs (12
dollars) a volume, thought I might, perhaps, dispose of five
hundred. I brought out my prospectus, and I have to-day seventeen
hundred subscribers. What do you say to that for a work which is to
cost six hundred francs a copy, and of which nothing has as yet
appeared? Nor is the list closed yet, for every day I receive new
subscriptions,--this very morning one from California! Where will
not the love of science find its niche!". . .

In the same strain he says, at a little later date, to Sir Charles
Lyell: "You will, no doubt, be pleased to learn that the first
volume of my new work, 'Contributions to the Natural History of the
United States,' which is to consist of ten volumes, quarto, is now
printing, to come out this summer. I hope it will show that I have
not been idle during ten years' silence. I am somewhat anxious
about the reception of my first chapter, headed, 'Classification,'
which contains anything but what zoologists would generally expect
under that head. The subscription is marvelous. Conceive twenty-one
hundred names before the appearance of the first pages of a work
costing one hundred and twenty dollars! It places in my hands the
means of doing henceforth for Natural History what I had never
dreamed of before.". . .

This work, as originally planned, was never completed. It was cut
short by ill-health and by the pressure of engagements arising from
the rapid development of the great Museum, which finally became, as
will be seen, the absorbing interest of his life. As it stands, the
"Contributions to the Natural History of the United States"
consists of four large quarto volumes. The first two are divided
into three parts, namely: 1st. An Essay on Classification. 2nd. The
North American Testudinata. 3rd. The Embryology of the Turtle,--the
latter two being illustrated by thirty-four plates. The third and
fourth volumes are devoted to the Radiata, and consist of five
parts, namely: 1st. Acalephs in general. 2nd. Ctenophorae. 3rd.
Discophorae. 4th. Hydroida. 5th. Homologies of the Radiates,
--illustrated by forty-six plates.* (* The plates are of rare
accuracy and beauty, and were chiefly drawn by A. Sonrel, though
many of the microscopic drawings were made by Professor H.J. Clark,
who was at that time Agassiz's private assistant. For details
respecting Professor Clark's share in this work, and also
concerning the aid of various kinds furnished to the author during
its preparation, the reader is referred to the Preface of the
volumes themselves.)

For originality of material, clearness of presentation, and beauty
of illustration, these volumes have had their full recognition as
models of scientific work. Their philosophy was, perhaps, too much
out of harmony with the current theories of the day to be
acceptable. In the "Essay on Classification" especially, Agassiz
brought out with renewed earnestness his conviction that the animal
world rests upon certain abstract conceptions, persistent and
indestructible. He insists that while physical influences maintain,
and within certain limits modify, organisms, they have never
affected typical structure,--those characters, namely, upon which
the great groups of the animal kingdom are united. From his point
of view, therefore, what environment can do serves to emphasize
what it cannot do. For the argument on which these conclusions are
based we refer to the book itself. The discussion of this question
occupies, however, only the first portion of the volume, two thirds
of which are devoted to a general consideration of classification,
and the ideas which it embodies, with a review of the modern
systems of zoology.

The following letter was one of many in the same tone received from
his European correspondents concerning this work.


December 9, 1857.

. . .I cannot permit a day to elapse without thanking you for the
two volumes of your great work on American zoology, which, from
your masterly and exhaustive style of treatment, becomes the most
important contribution to the right progress of zoological science
in all parts of the world where progress permits its cultivation.
It is worthy of the author of the classical work on fossil fishes;
and such works, like the Cyclopean structures of antiquity, are
built to endure. I feel and I beg to express a fervent hope that
you may be spared in health and vigor to see the completion of your
great plan.

I have placed in Mr. Trubner's hands a set of the numbers (6) of my
"History of British Fossil Reptiles," which have already appeared;
a seventh will soon be out, and as they will be sent to you in
succession I hope you will permit me to make a small and inadequate
return for your liberality in the gift of your work by adding your
name to the list of my subscribers. . .

Believe me always truly yours,


Agassiz had promised himself that the first volume of his new work
should be finished in time for his fiftieth birthday,--a milestone
along the road, as it were, to mark his half century. Upon this
self-appointed task he spent himself with the passion dominated by
patience, which characterized him when his whole heart was bent
toward an end. For weeks he wrote many hours of the day and a great
part of the night, going out sometimes into the darkness and the
open air to cool the fever of work, and then returning to his desk
again. He felt himself that the excitement was too great, and in
proportion to the strain was the relief when he set the seal of
finis on his last page within the appointed time.

His special students, young men who fully shared his scientific
life and rewarded his generosity by an affectionate devotion,
knowing, perhaps, that he himself associated the completion of his
book with his birthday, celebrated both events by a serenade on the
eve of his anniversary. They took into their confidence Mr. Otto
Dresel, warmly valued by Agassiz both as friend and musician, and
he arranged their midnight programme for them. Always sure of
finding their professor awake and at work at that hour, they
stationed the musicians before the house, and as the last stroke of
twelve sounded, the succeeding stillness was broken by men's voices
singing a Bach choral. When Agassiz stepped out to see whence came
this pleasant salutation, he was met by his young friends bringing
flowers and congratulations. Then followed one number after another
of the well-ordered selection, into which was admitted here and
there a German student song in memory of Agassiz's own university
life at Heidelberg and Munich. It was late, or rather early, since
the new day was already begun, before the little concert was over
and the guests had dispersed. It is difficult to reproduce with
anything like its original glow and coloring a scene of this kind.
It will no more be called back than the hour or the moonlight night
which had the warmth and softness of June. It is recorded here only
because it illustrates the intimate personal sympathy between
Agassiz and his students.

For this occasion also were written the well-known birthday verses
by Longfellow, which were read the next day at a dinner given to
Agassiz by the "Saturday Club." In speaking of Longfellow's
relation to this club, Holmes says "On one occasion he read a short
poem at the table. It was in honor of Agassiz's birthday, and I
cannot forget the very modest, delicate musical way in which he
read his charming verses." Although included in many collections of
Longfellow's Poems, they are reproduced here, because the story
seems incomplete without them.


    It was fifty years ago,
    In the pleasant month of May,
    In the beautiful Pays de Vaud,
    A child in its cradle lay.

    And Nature, the old nurse, took
    The child upon her knee,
    Saying: "Here is a story-book
    Thy Father has written for thee."

    "Come wander with me," she said,
    "Into regions yet untrod;
    And read what is still unread
    In the manuscripts of God."

    And he wandered away and away
    With Nature, the dear old nurse,
    Who sang to him night and day
    The rhymes of the universe.

    And whenever the way seemed long,
    Or his heart began to fail,
    She would sing a more wonderful song,
    Or tell a more marvelous tale.

    So she keeps him still a child,
    And will not let him go,
    Though at times his heart beats wild
    For the beautiful Pays de Vaud;

    Though at times he hears in his dreams
    The Ranz des Vaches of old,
    And the rush of mountain streams
    From glaciers clear and cold;

    And the mother at home says, "Hark!
    For his voice I listen and yearn;
    It is growing late and dark,
    And my boy does not return!"

May 28, 1857.

Longfellow had an exquisite touch for occasions of this kind,
whether serious or mirthful. Once, when some years after this
Agassiz was keeping Christmas Eve with his children and
grandchildren, there arrived a basket of wine containing six old
bottles of rare vintage. They introduced themselves in a charming
French "Noel" as pilgrims from beyond the sea who came to give
Christmas greeting to the master of the house. Gay pilgrims were
these six "gaillards," and they were accompanied by the following

"A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the house of Agassiz!

"I send also six good wishes in the shape of bottles. Or is it

"It is both; good wine and good wishes, and kind memories of you on
this Christmas Eve."


An additional word about the "Saturday Club," the fame of which has
spread beyond the city of its origin, may not be amiss here.
Notwithstanding his close habits of work Agassiz was eminently
social, and to this club he was especially attached. Dr. Holmes
says of it in his volume on Emerson, who was one of its most
constant members: "At one end of the table sat Longfellow, florid,
quiet, benignant, soft-voiced, a most agreeable rather than a
brilliant talker, but a man upon whom it was always pleasant to
look,--whose silence was better than many another man's
conversation. At the other end sat Agassiz, robust, sanguine,
animated, full of talk, boy-like in his laughter. The stranger who
should have asked who were the men ranged along the sides of the
table would have heard in answer the names of Hawthorne, Motley,
Dana, Lowell, Whipple, Peirce, the distinguished mathematician,
Judge Hoar, eminent at the bar and in the cabinet, Dwight, the
leading musical critic of Boston for a whole generation, Sumner,
the academic champion of freedom, Andrew, 'the great War Governor'
of Massachusetts, Dr. Howe, the philanthropist, William Hunt, the
painter, with others not unworthy of such company." We may complete
the list and add the name of Holmes himself, to whose presence the
club owed so much of its wit and wisdom. In such company the guests
were tempted to linger long, and if Holmes has described the circle
around the table, Lowell has celebrated the late walk at night
across the bridge as he and Agassiz returned to Cambridge on foot
together. To break the verse by quotation would mar the quiet scene
and interrupt the rambling pleasant talk it so graphically
describes. But we may keep the parting words:

"At last, arrived at where our paths divide,'Good night!' and, ere
the distance grew too wide, 'Good night!' again; and now with
cheated ear I half hear his who mine shall never hear."

(* See Memorial poem, entitled "Agassiz", by James Russell Lowell.)

Agassiz was now the possessor of a small laboratory by the
immediate sea-coast. It was situated on the northeastern shore of
Nahant, within a stone's throw of broken and bold rocks, where the
deep pools furnished him with ever fresh specimens from natural
aquariums which were re-stocked at every rise of the tide. This
laboratory, with a small cottage adjoining, which was shared during
the summer between his own family and that of Professor Felton, was
the gift of his father-in-law, Mr. Cary. So carefully were his
wishes considered that the microscope table stood on a flat rock
sunk in the earth and detached from the floor, in order that no
footstep or accidental jarring of door or window in other parts of
the building might disturb him at his work.

There, summer after summer, he pursued his researches on the
medusae; from the smaller and more exquisite kinds, such as the
Pleurobrachyias, Idyias, and Bolinas, to the massive Cyaneas, with
their large disks and heavy tentacles, many yards in length.
Nothing can be prettier than the smaller kinds of jellyfishes.
Their structure is so delicate, yet so clearly defined, their color
so soft, yet often so brilliant, their texture so transparent, that
you seek in vain among terrestrial forms for terms of comparison,
and are tempted to say that nature has done her finest work in the
sea rather than on land. Sometimes hundreds of these smaller
medusae might be seen floating together in the deep glass bowls, or
jars, or larger vessels with which Agassiz's laboratory at Nahant
was furnished. When the supply was exhausted, new specimens were
easily to be obtained by a row in a dory a mile or two from shore,
either in the hot, still noon, when the jelly-fish rise toward the
surface, or at night, over a brilliantly phosphorescent sea, when
they are sure to be abundant, since they themselves furnish much of
the phosphorescence. In these little excursions, many new and
interesting things came to his nets beside those he was seeking.
The fishermen, also, were his friends and coadjutors. They never
failed to bring him whatever of rare or curious fell into their
hands, sometimes even turning aside from their professional calling
to give the laboratory preference over the market.

Neither was his summer work necessarily suspended during winter,
his Cambridge and Nahant homes being only about fifteen miles
distant from each other. He writes to his friends, the Holbrooks,
at this time, "You can hardly imagine what a delightful place
Nahant is for me now. I can trace the growth of my little marine
animals all the year round without interruption, by going
occasionally over there during the winter. I have at this moment
young medusae budding from their polyp nurses, which I expect to
see freeing themselves in a few weeks." In later years, when his
investigations on the medusae were concluded, so far as any
teaching from the open book of Nature can be said to be concluded,
he pursued here, during a number of years, investigations upon the
sharks and skates. For this work, which should have made one of the
series of "Contributions," he left much material, unhappily not
ready for publication.

In August, 1857, Agassiz received the following letter from M.
Rouland, Minister of Public Instruction in France.


PARIS, August 19, 1857.


By the decease of M. d'Orbigny the chair of paleontology in the
Museum of Natural History in Paris becomes vacant. You are French;
you have enriched your native country by your eminent works and
laborious researches. You are a corresponding member of the
Institute. The emperor would gladly recall to France a savant so
distinguished. In his name I offer you the vacant chair, and should
congratulate your country on the return of a son who has shown
himself capable of such devotion to science.

Accept the assurance of my highest esteem,


Had it been told to Agassiz when he left Europe that in ten years
he should be recalled to fill one of the coveted places at the
Jardin des Plantes, the great centre of scientific life and
influence in France, he would hardly have believed himself capable
of refusing it. Nor does a man reject what would once have seemed
to him a great boon without a certain regret. Such momentary regret
he felt perhaps, but not an instant of doubt. His answer expressed
his gratitude and his pleasure in finding himself so remembered in
Europe. He pleaded his work in America as his excuse for declining
a position which he nevertheless considered the most brilliant that
could be offered to a naturalist. In conclusion he adds: "Permit me
to correct an error concerning myself. I am not French, although of
French origin. My family has been Swiss for centuries, and spite of
my ten years' exile I am Swiss still."

The correspondence did not end here. A few months later the offer
was courteously renewed by M. Rouland, with the express condition
that the place should remain open for one or even two years to
allow time for the completion of the work Agassiz had now on hand.
To this second appeal he could only answer that his work here was
the work not of years, but of his life, and once more decline the
offer. That his refusal was taken in good part is evident from the
fact that the order of the Legion of Honor was sent to him soon
after, and that from time to time he received friendly letters from
the Minister of Public Instruction, who occasionally consulted him
upon general questions of scientific moment.

This invitation excited a good deal of interest among Agassiz's old
friends in Europe. Some urged him to accept it, others applauded
his resolve to remain out of the great arena of competition and
ambition. Among the latter was Humboldt. The following extract is
from a letter of his (May 9, 1858) to Mr. George Ticknor, of
Boston, who had been one of Agassiz's kindest and best friends in
America from the moment of his arrival. "Agassiz's large and
beautiful work (the first two volumes) reached me a few days since.
It will produce a great effect both by the breadth of its general
views and by the extreme sagacity of its special embryological
observations. I have never believed that this illustrious man, who
is also a man of warm heart, a noble soul, would accept the
generous offers made to him from Paris. I knew that gratitude would
keep him in the new country, where he finds such an immense
territory to explore, and such liberal aid in his work."

In writing of this offer to a friend Agassiz himself says: "On one
side, my cottage at Nahant by the sea-shore, the reef of Florida,
the vessels of the Coast Survey at my command from Nova Scotia to
Mexico, and, if I choose, all along the coast of the Pacific,--and
on the other, the Jardin des Plantes, with all its accumulated
treasures. Rightly considered, the chance of studying nature must
prevail over the attractions of the (Paris) Museum. I hope I shall
be wise enough not to be tempted even by the prospect of a new
edition of the 'Poissons Fossiles.'"

To his old friend Charles Martins, the naturalist, he writes: "The
work I have undertaken here, and the confidence shown in me by
those who have at heart the intellectual development of this
country, make my return to Europe impossible for the present; and,
as you have well understood, I prefer to build anew here rather
than to fight my way in the midst of the coteries of Paris. Were I
offered absolute power for the reorganization of the Jardin des
Plantes, with a revenue of fifty thousand francs, I should not
accept it. I like my independence better."

The fact that Agassiz had received and declined this offer from the
French government seemed to arouse anew the public interest in his
projects and prospects here. It was felt that a man who was ready
to make an alliance so uncompromising with the interests of science
in the United States should not be left in a precarious and
difficult position. His collections were still heaped together in a
slight wooden building. The fact that a great part of them were
preserved in alcohol made them especially in danger from fire. A
spark, a match carelessly thrown down, might destroy them all in
half an hour, for with material so combustible, help would be
unavailing. This fear was never out of his mind. It disturbed his
peace by day and his rest by night. That frail structure, crowded
from garret to cellar with seeming rubbish, with boxes, cases,
barrels, casks still unpacked and piled one above the other, held
for him the treasure out of which he would give form and substance
to the dream of his boyhood and the maturer purpose of his manhood.
The hope of creating a great museum intelligently related in all
its parts, reflecting nature, and illustrating the history of the
animal kingdom in the past and the present, had always tempted his
imagination. Nor was it merely as a comprehensive and orderly
collection that he thought of it. From an educational point of view
it had an even greater value for him. His love of teaching prompted
him no less than his love of science. Indeed, he hoped to make his
ideal museum a powerful auxiliary in the interests of the schools
and teachers throughout the State, and less directly throughout the
country. He hoped it would become one of the centres for the
radiation of knowledge, and that the investigations carried on
within its walls would find means of publication, and be a fresh,
original contribution to the science of the day. This hope was
fully realized. The first number of the Museum Bulletin was
published in March, 1863, the first number of the Illustrated
Catalogue in 1864, and both publications have been continued with
regularity ever since.* (* At the time of Agassiz's death nearly
three volumes of the Bulletin had been published, and the third
volume of the "Memoirs" (Illustrated Catalogue Number 7) had been

In laying out the general plan, which was rarely absent from his
thought, he distinguished between the demands which the specialist
and the general observer might make upon an institution intended to
instruct and benefit both. Here the special student should find in
the laboratories and work rooms all the needed material for his
investigations, stored in large collections, with duplicates enough
to allow for that destruction of specimens which is necessarily
involved in original research. The casual visitor meanwhile should
walk through exhibition rooms, not simply crowded with objects to
delight and interest him, but so arranged that the selection of
every specimen should have reference to its part and place in
nature; while the whole should be so combined as to explain, so far
as known, the faunal and systematic relations of animals in the
actual world, and in the geological formations; or, in other words,
their succession in time, and their distribution in space.

A favorite part of his plan was a room which he liked to call his
synoptic room. Here was to be the most compact and yet the fullest
statement in material form of the animal kingdom as a whole, an
epitome of the creation, as it were. Of course the specimens must
be few in so limited a space, but each one was to be characteristic
of one or other of the various groups included under every large
division. Thus each object would contribute to the explanation of
the general plan. On the walls there were to be large, legible
inscriptions, serving as a guide to the whole, and making this room
a simple but comprehensive lesson in natural history. It was
intended to be the entrance room for visitors, and to serve as an
introduction to the more detailed presentation of the same vast
subject, given by the faunal and systematic collections in the
other exhibition rooms.

The standard of work involved in this scheme is shown in many of
his letters to his students and assistants, to whom he looked for
aid in its execution. To one he writes: "You will get your synoptic
series only after you have worked up in detail the systematic
collection as a whole, the faunal collections in their totality,
the geological sequence of the entire group under consideration, as
well as its embryology and geographical distribution. Then alone
will you be able to know the representatives in each series which
will best throw light upon it and complete the other series."

He did not live to fill in this comprehensive outline with the
completeness which he intended, but all its details were fully
explained by him before his death, and since that time have been
carried out by his son, Alexander Agassiz. The synoptic room, and
in great part the systematic and faunal collections, are now
arranged and under exhibition, and the throngs of visitors during
all the pleasant months of the year attest the interest they

This conception, of which the present Museum is the expression, was
matured in the brain of the founder before a brick of the building
was laid, or a dollar provided for the support of such an
institution. It existed for him as his picture does for the artist
before it lives upon the canvas. One must have been the intimate
companion of his thoughts to know how and to what degree it
possessed his imagination, to his delight always, yet sometimes to
his sorrow also, for he had it and he had it not. The thought alone
was his; the means of execution were far beyond his reach.

His plan was, however, known to many of his friends, and especially
he had explained it to Mr. Francis C. Gray, whose intellectual
sympathy made him a delightful listener to the presentation of any
enlightened purpose. In 1858 Mr. Gray died, leaving in his will the
sum of fifty thousand dollars for the establishment of a Museum of
Comparative Zoology, with the condition that this sum should be
used neither for the erection of buildings nor for salaries, but
for the purely scientific needs of such an institution. Though this
bequest was not connected in set terms with the collections already
existing in Cambridge, its purpose was well understood; and Mr.
Gray's nephew, Mr. William Gray, acting upon the intention of his
uncle as residuary legatee, gave it into the hands of the President
and Fellows of Harvard University. In passing over this trust, the
following condition, among others, was made, namely: "That neither
the collections nor any building which may contain the same shall
ever be designated by any other name than the Museum of Comparative
Zoology at Harvard." This is worth noting, because the title was
chosen and insisted upon by Agassiz himself in opposition to many
who would have had it called after him. To such honor as might be
found in connecting his own name with a public undertaking of any
kind he was absolutely indifferent. It was characteristic of him to
wish, on the contrary, that the name should be as impersonal and as
comprehensive as the uses and aims of the institution itself. Yet
he could not wholly escape the distinction he deprecated. The
popular imagination, identifying him with his work, has
re-christened the institution; and, spite of its legal title, its
familiar designation is almost invariably the "Agassiz Museum."

Mr. Gray's legacy started a movement which became every day more
active and successful. The university followed up his bequest by a
grant of land suitable for the site of the building, and since the
Gray fund provided for no edifice, an appeal was made to the
Legislature of Massachusetts to make good that deficiency. The
Legislature granted lands to the amount of one hundred thousand
dollars, on condition that a certain additional contribution should
be made by private subscription. The sum of seventy-one thousand
one hundred and twenty-five dollars, somewhat exceeding that
stipulated, was promptly subscribed, chiefly by citizens of Boston
and Cambridge, and Agassiz himself gave all the collections he had
brought together during the last four or five years, estimated,
merely by the outlay made upon them, at ten thousand dollars. The
architects, Mr. Henry Greenough and Mr. George Snell, offered the
plan as their contribution. The former had long been familiar with
Agassiz's views respecting the internal arrangements of the
building. The main features had been discussed between them, and
now, that the opportunity offered, the plan was practically ready
for execution. These events followed each other so rapidly that
although Mr. Gray's bequest was announced only in December, 1858,
the first sod was turned and the corner-stone of the future Museum
was laid on a sunny afternoon in the following June, 1859.* (* The
plan, made with reference to the future increase as well as the
present needs of the Museum, included a main building 364 feet in
length by 64 in width, with wings 205 feet in length by 64 in
width, the whole enclosing a hollow square. The structure erected
1859-60 was but a section of the north wing, being two fifths of
its whole length. This gave ample space at the time for the
immediate requirements of the Museum. Additions have since been
made, and the north wing is completed, while the Peabody Museum
occupies a portion of the ground allotted to the south wing.)

This event, so full of significance for Agassiz, took place a few
days before he sailed for Europe, having determined to devote the
few weeks of the college and school vacation to a flying visit in
Switzerland. The incidents of this visit were of a wholly domestic
nature and hardly belong here. He paused a few days in Ireland and
England to see his old friends, the Earl of Enniskillen and Sir
Philip Egerton, and review their collections. A day or two in
London gave him, in like manner, a few hours at the British Museum,
a day with Owen at Richmond, and an opportunity to greet old
friends and colleagues called together to meet him at Sir Roderick
Murchison's. He allowed himself also a week in Paris, made
delightful by the cordiality and hospitality of the professors of
the Jardin des Plantes, and by the welcome he received at the
Academy, when he made his appearance there. The happiest hours of
this brief sojourn in Paris were perhaps spent with his old and
dear friend Valenciennes, the associate of earlier days in Paris,
when the presence of Cuvier and Humboldt gave a crowning interest
to scientific work there.

From Paris he hastened on to his mother in Switzerland, devoting to
her and to his immediate family all the time which remained to him
before returning to his duties in Cambridge. They were very happy
weeks, passed, for the most part, in absolute retirement, at
Montagny, near the foot of the Jura, where Madame Agassiz was then
residing with her daughter. The days were chiefly spent in an
old-fashioned garden, where a corner shut in by ivy and shaded by
trees made a pleasant out-of-door sitting-room. There he told his
mother, as he had never been able to tell her in letters, of his
life and home in the United States, and of the Museum to which he
was returning, and which was to give him the means of doing for the
study of nature all he had ever hoped to accomplish. His quiet stay
here was interrupted only by a visit of a few days to his sister at
Lausanne, and a trip to the Diablerets, where his brother, then a
great invalid, was staying. He also passed a day or two at Geneva,
where he was called to a meeting of the Helvetic Society, which
gave him an opportunity of renewing old ties of friendship, as well
as scientific relations, with the naturalists of his own country,
with Pictet de la Rive, de Candolle, Favre, and others.


1860-1863: AGE 53-56.

Return to Cambridge.
Removal of Collection to New Museum Building.
Distribution of Work.
Relations with his Students.
Breaking out of the War between North and South.
Interest of Agassiz in the Preservation of the Union.
Commencement of Museum Publications.
Reception of Third and Fourth Volumes of "Contributions."
Copley Medal.
General Correspondence.
Lecturing Tour in the West.
Circular Letter concerning Anthropological Collections.
Letter to Mr. Ticknor concerning Geographical Distribution of Fishes
   in Spain.

On his return to Cambridge at the end of September, Agassiz found
the Museum building well advanced. It was completed in the course
of the next year, and the dedication took place on the 13th
November, 1860. The transfer of the collections to their new and
safe abode was made as rapidly as possible, and the work of
developing the institution under these more favorable conditions
moved steadily on. The lecture rooms were at once opened, not only
to students but to other persons not connected with the university.
Especially welcome were teachers of schools for whom admittance was
free. It was a great pleasure to Agassiz thus to renew and
strengthen his connection with the teachers of the State, with
whom, from the time of his arrival in this country, he had held
most cordial relations, attending the Teachers' Institutes,
visiting the normal schools, and associating himself actively, as
far as he could, with the interests of public education in
Massachusetts. From this time forward his college lectures were
open to women as well as to men. He had great sympathy with the
desire of women for larger and more various fields of study and
work, and a certain number of women have always been employed as
assistants at the Museum.

The story of the next three years was one of unceasing but
seemingly uneventful work. The daylight hours from nine or ten
o'clock in the morning were spent, with the exception of the hour
devoted to the school, at the Museum, not only in personal
researches and in lecturing, but in organizing, distributing, and
superintending the work of the laboratories, all of which was
directed by him. Passing from bench to bench, from table to table,
with a suggestion here, a kindly but scrutinizing glance there, he
made his sympathetic presence felt by the whole establishment. No
man ever exercised a more genial personal influence over his
students and assistants. His initiatory steps in teaching special
students of natural history were not a little discouraging.
Observation and comparison being in his opinion the intellectual
tools most indispensable to the naturalist, his first lesson was
one in LOOKING. He gave no assistance; he simply left his student
with the specimen, telling him to use his eyes diligently, and
report upon what he saw. He returned from time to time to inquire
after the beginner's progress, but he never asked him a leading
question, never pointed out a single feature of the structure,
never prompted an inference or a conclusion. This process lasted
sometimes for days, the professor requiring the pupil not only to
distinguish the various parts of the animal, but to detect also the
relation of these details to more general typical features. His
students still retain amusing reminiscences of their despair when
thus confronted with their single specimen; no aid to be had from
outside until they had wrung from it the secret of its structure.
But all of them have recognized the fact that this one lesson in
looking, which forced them to such careful scrutiny of the object
before them, influenced all their subsequent habits of observation,
whatever field they might choose for their special subject of
study. One of them who was intending to be an entomologist
concludes a very clever and entertaining account of such a first
lesson, entirely devoted to a single fish, with these words: "This
was the best entomological lesson I ever had,--a lesson whose
influence has extended to the details of every subsequent study; a
legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others,
of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we could
not part."* (* "In the Laboratory with Agassiz", by S.H. Scudder.)

But if Agassiz, in order to develop independence and accuracy of
observation, threw his students on their own resources at first,
there was never a more generous teacher in the end than he. All his
intellectual capital was thrown open to his pupils. His original
material, his unpublished investigations, his most precious
specimens, his drawings and illustrations were at their command.
This liberality led in itself to a serviceable training, for he
taught them to use with respect the valuable, often unique, objects
intrusted to their care. Out of the intellectual good-fellowship
which he established and encouraged in the laboratory grew the
warmest relations between his students and himself. Many of them
were deeply attached to him, and he was extremely dependent upon
their sympathy and affection. By some among them he will never be
forgotten. He is still their teacher and their friend, scarcely
more absent from their work now than when the glow of his
enthusiasm made itself felt in his personal presence.

But to return to the distribution of his time in these busy days.
Having passed, as we have seen, the greater part of the day in the
Museum and the school, he had the hours of the night for writing,
and rarely left his desk before one or two o'clock in the morning,
or even later. His last two volumes of the "Contributions," upon
the Acalephs, were completed during these years. In the mean time,
the war between North and South had broken out, and no American
cared more than he for the preservation of the Union and the
institutions it represented. He felt that the task of those who
served letters and science was to hold together the intellectual
aims and resources of the country during this struggle for national
existence, to fortify the strongholds of learning, abating nothing
of their efficiency, but keeping their armories bright against the
return of peace, when the better weapons of civilization should
again be in force. Toward this end he worked with renewed ardor,
and while his friends urged him to suspend operations at the Museum
and husband his resources until the storm should have passed over,
he, on the contrary, stimulated its progress by every means in his
power. Occasionally he was assisted by the Legislature, and early
in this period an additional grant of ten thousand dollars was made
to the Museum. With this grant was begun the series of illustrated
publications already mentioned, known as the "Bulletin of the
Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge."

During this period he urged also the foundation of a National
Academy of Sciences, and was active in furthering its organization
and incorporation (1863) by Congress. With respect to this effort,
and to those he was at the same time making for the Museum, he was
wont to recall the history of the University of Berlin. In an
appeal to the people in behalf of the intellectual institutions of
the United States during the early years of the war he says: "A
well known fact in the history of Germany has shown that the moment
of political danger may be that in which the firmest foundations
for the intellectual strength of a country may be laid. When in
1806, after the battle of Jena, the Prussian monarchy had been
crushed and the king was despairing even of the existence of his
realm, he planned the foundation of the University of Berlin, by
the advice of Fichte, the philosopher. It was inaugurated the very
year that the despondent monarch returned to his capital. Since
that time it has been the greatest glory of the Prussian crown, and
has made Berlin the intellectual centre of Germany."

It may be added here as an evidence of Agassiz's faith in the
institutions of the United States and in her intellectual progress
that he was himself naturalized in the darkest hour of the war,
when the final disruption of the country was confidently prophesied
by her enemies. By formally becoming a citizen of the United States
he desired to attest his personal confidence in the stability of
her Constitution and the justice of her cause.

Some light is thrown upon the work and incidents of these years by
the following letters:--


LONDON, ALBEMARLE ST., April 16, 1861.

MON CHER AGASS,* (* An affectionate abbreviation which Sir Philip
often used for him.)

I have this morning received your handsome and welcome present of
the third volume of your great undertaking, and this reminds me how
remiss I have been in not writing to you sooner. In fact, I have
had nothing worth writing about, and I know your time is too
valuable to be intrenched upon by letters of mere gossip. I have
not of course had time to peruse any portion of the monograph, but
I have turned over the pages and seen quite enough to sharpen my
appetite for the glorious scientific feast you have so liberally
provided. And now that the weight is off your mind, I hope shortly
to hear that you are about to fulfill this year the promise you
made of returning to England for a good long visit, only postponed
by circumstances you could not have foreseen. Now that you have
your son as the sharer of your labors, you will be able to leave
him in charge during your absence, and so divest your mind of all
care and anxiety with reference to matters over the water. Here we
are all fighting most furiously about Celts and flint implements,
struggle for life, natural selection, the age of the world, races
of men, biblical dates, apes, and gorillas, etc., and the last duel
has been between Owen and Huxley on the anatomical distinction of
the pithecoid brain compared with that of man. Theological
controversy has also been rife, stirred up by the "Essays and
Reviews," of which you have no doubt heard much. For myself, I have
been busy preparing, in conjunction with Huxley, another decade of
fossil fishes, all from the old red of Scotland. . .Enniskillen is
quite well. He is now at Lyme Regis. . .

At about this time the Copley Medal was awarded to Agassiz, a
distinction which was the subject of cordial congratulation from
his English friends.




Your letter of the 14th February was a great surprise to me. I
blamed myself for not writing you sooner than I did on the event
which I had long been anxious to see realized; but I took it for
granted that you had long before received the official announcement
from the foreign secretary that you were, at the last anniversary
of the Royal Society, the recipient of the highest honor which our
body can bestow, whether on a foreigner or a native. . .On going to
the Royal Society to-day I found that the President and Secretaries
were much surprised that you had never answered the official letter
sent to you on the 1st or 2nd December by the Foreign Secretary,
Professor Muller, of Cambridge. He wrote to announce the award, and
told you the Copley Medal was in his safe keeping till you wrote to
say what you wished to have done with it. I have now recommended
him to transmit it officially to you through the United States
Minister, Mr. Adams. In these times of irritation, everything which
soothes and calms down angry feelings ought to be resorted to; and
I hope it may be publicly known that when our newspapers were
reciprocating all sorts of rudenesses, the men of science of
England thought of nothing but honoring a beloved and eminent
savant of America.

I thank you for your clear and manly view of the North and South,
which I shall show to all our mutual friends. Egerton, who is now
here, was delighted to hear of you, as well as Huxley, Lyell, and
many others. . .

In a paper just read to the Geological Society Professor Ramsay has
made a stronger demand on the powers of ice than you ever did. He
imagines that every Swiss lake north and south (Geneva, Neuchatel,
Como, etc.) has been scooped out, and the depressions excavated by
the abrading action of the glaciers.


ALBEMARLE ST., LONDON, March 11, 1862.


As I am now settled in London for some months, I take the first
opportunity of writing to congratulate you on the distinction which
has been conferred upon you by the Royal Society, and I will say
that you have most fully earned it. I rejoice exceedingly in the
decision the Council have arrived at. I only regret I was not on
the Council myself to have advocated your high claims and taken a
share in promoting your success. It is now long since I have heard
from you, but this terrible disruption between the North and South
has, I suppose, rendered the pursuit of science rather difficult,
and the necessary funds also difficult of attainment. I should like
very much to hear how you are getting on, and whether there is any
likelihood of your being able to come over in the course of the
summer or autumn. I fully expected you last year, and was very much
disappointed that you could not realize your intention. I have this
day sent to you through Bailliere, the last decade of the Jermyn
St. publications.* (* Publications of the Geological Survey of
England.) You will see that Huxley has taken up the subject of the
Devonian fishes in a truly scientific spirit. . .


BRITISH MUSEUM, August 30, 1862.


I have received, and since its reception have devoted most of my
spare moments to the study of, your fourth volume of the "Natural
History of the United States,"--a noble contribution to our
science, and worthy of your great name.

The demonstration of the unity of plan pervading the diversities of
the Polyps, Hydroids, Acalephal and Echinodermal modifications of
your truly natural group of Radiates, is to my mind perfect, and I
trust that the harsh and ugly and essentially error-breeding name
of Coelenterata may have received its final sentence of exile from
lasting and rational zoological terminology.

I shall avail myself of opportunities for bringing myself to your
recollection by such brochures as I have time for. One of them will
open to your view something of the nature of the contest here
waging to obtain for England a suitable Museum of Natural History,
equivalent to her wealth and colonies and maritime business. In
this I find you a valuable ally, and have cited from the Reports of
your Museum of Comparative Zoology in support of my own claims for

I was glad to hear from Mr. Bates that the Megatherium had not gone
to the bottom, but had been rescued, and that it was probably ere
this in your Museum at Cambridge. I trust it may be so.

A line from you or the sight of any friend of yours is always
cheering to me. Our friends Enniskillen and Egerton are both
well. . .

I remain ever truly yours,


As has been seen by a previous letter from Sir Roderick Murchison,
Agassiz tried from time to time to give his English friends more
just views of our national struggle. The letter to which the
following is an answer is missing, but one may easily infer its
tenor, and the pleasure it had given him.



. . .I feel so thankful for your words of sympathy, that I lose not
an hour in expressing my feeling. It has been agonizing week after
week to receive the English papers, and to see there the noble
devotion of the men of the North to their country and its
government, branded as the service of mercenaries. You know I am
not much inclined to meddle with politics; but I can tell you that
I have never seen a more generous and prompt response to the call
of country than was exhibited last year, and is exhibiting now, in
the loyal United States. In the last six weeks nearly 300,000 men
have volunteered, and I am satisfied that the additional 300,000
will be forthcoming without a draft in the course of the next
month. And believe me, it is not for the sake of the bounty they
come forward, for our best young men are the first to enlist; if
anything can be objected to these large numbers of soldiers, it is
that it takes away the best material that the land possesses. I
thank you once more for your warm sympathy. I needed it the more,
as it is almost the first friendly word of that kind I have
received from England, and I began to question the humanity of your
civilization. . .Under present circumstances, you can well imagine
that I cannot think of leaving Cambridge, even for a few weeks,
much as I wish to take some rest, and especially to meet your kind
invitation. But I feel that I have a debt to pay to my adopted
country, and all I can now do is to contribute my share toward
maintaining the scientific activity which has been awakened during
the last few years, and which even at this moment is on the

I am now at Nahant, on the sea-shore, studying embryology chiefly
with reference to paleontology, and the results are most
satisfactory. I have had an opportunity already of tracing the
development of the representatives of three different families,
upon the embryology of which we had not a single observation thus
far, and of making myself familiar with the growth of many others.
With these accessions I propose next winter seriously to return to
my first scientific love. . .

I have taken with me to the sea-shore your and Huxley's
"Contributions to the Devonian Fishes," and also your notice of
Carboniferous fish-fauna; but I have not yet had a chance to study
them critically, from want of time, having been too successful with
the living specimens to have a moment for the fossils. The season
for sea-shore studies is, however, drawing rapidly to an end, and
then I shall have more leisure for my old favorites.

I am very sorry to hear such accounts of the sufferings of the
manufacturing districts in England. I wish I could foretell the end
of our conflict; but I do not believe it can now be ended before
slavery is abolished, though I thought differently six months ago.
The most conservative men at the North have gradually come to this
conviction, and nobody would listen for a moment to a compromise
with the southern slave power. Whether we shall get rid of it by
war measures or by an emancipation proclamation, I suppose the
President himself does not yet know. I do not think that we shall
want more money than the people are willing to give. Private
contributions for the comfort of the army are really unbounded. I
know a gentleman, not among the richest in Boston, who has already
contributed over 30,000 dollars; and I heard yesterday of a
shop-boy who tendered all his earnings of many years to the relief
committee,--2,000 dollars, retaining NOTHING for himself,--and so
it goes all round. Of course we have croakers and despondent
people, but they no longer dare to raise their voices; from which I
infer that there is no stopping the storm until by the natural
course of events the atmosphere is clear and pure again.

Ever truly your friend,


Agassiz had now his time more at his own disposal since he had
given up his school and had completed also the fourth volume of his
"Contributions." Leisure time he could never be said to have, but
he was free to give all his spare time and strength to the Museum,
and to this undivided aim, directly or indirectly, the remainder of
his life was devoted. Although at intervals he received generous
aid from the Legislature or from private individuals for the
further development of the Museum, its growth outran such
provision, and especially during the years of the war the problem
of meeting expenses was often difficult of solution. To provide for
such a contingency Agassiz made in the winter of 1863 the most
extensive lecturing tour he had ever undertaken, even in his
busiest lecturing days. He visited all the large cities and some of
the smaller towns from Buffalo to St. Louis. While very
remunerative, and in many respects delightful, since he was
received with the greatest cordiality, and lectured everywhere to
enthusiastic crowds, this enterprise was, nevertheless, of doubtful
economy even for his scientific aims. Agassiz was but fifty-six,
yet his fine constitution began to show a fatigue hardly justified
by his years, and the state of his health was already a source of
serious anxiety to his friends. He returned much exhausted, and
passed the summer at Nahant, where the climate always benefited
him, while his laboratory afforded the best conditions for work. If
this summer home had a fault, it was its want of remoteness. He was
almost as much beset there, by the interruptions to which a man in
his position is liable, as in Cambridge.

His letters show how constantly during this nominal vacation his
Museum and its interests occupied his thoughts. One is to his
brother-in-law, Thomas G. Cary, whose residence was in San
Francisco, and who had been for years his most efficient aid in
obtaining collections from the Pacific Coast.


CAMBRIDGE, March 23, 1863.


For many years past your aid in fostering the plans of the Museum
in Cambridge has greatly facilitated the progress of that
establishment in everything relating to the Natural History of
California, and now that it has become desirable to extend our
scheme to objects which have thus far been neglected I make another
appeal to you.

Every day the history of mankind is brought into more and more
intimate connection with the natural history of the animal
creation, and it is now indispensable that we should organize an
extensive collection to illustrate the natural history of the
uncivilized races. Your personal acquaintance with business friends
in almost every part of the globe has suggested to me the propriety
of addressing to you a circular letter, setting forth the objects
wanted, and requesting of you the favor to communicate it as widely
as possible among your friends.

To make the most instructive collections relative to the natural
history of mankind, two classes of specimens should be brought
together, one concerning the habits and pursuits of the races, the
other concerning the physical constitution of the races themselves.

With reference to the first it would be desirable to collect
articles of clothing and ornaments of all the races of men, their
implements, tools, weapons, and such models or drawings of their
dwellings as may give an idea of their construction; small canoes
and oars as models of their vessels, or indications of their
progress in navigation; in one word, everything that relates to
their avocations, their pursuits, their habits, their mode of
worship, and whatever may indicate the dawn or progress of the arts
among them. As to articles of clothing, it would be preferable to
select such specimens as have actually been worn or even cast off,
rather than new things which may be more or less fanciful and not
indicate the real natural condition and habits of a race.

With regard to the collections intended to illustrate the physical
constitution of the races it is more difficult to obtain
instructive specimens, as the savage races are generally inclined
to hold sacred all that relates to their dead; yet whenever an
opportunity is afforded to obtain skulls of the natives of
different parts of the world, it should be industriously improved,
and good care taken to mark the skulls in such a way that their
origin cannot be mistaken. Beside this, every possible effort
should be made to obtain perfect heads, preserved in alcohol, so
that all their features may be studied minutely and compared. Where
this cannot be done portraits or photographs may be substituted.

Trusting that you may help me in this way to bring together in
Cambridge a more complete collection, illustrative of the natural
history of mankind than exists thus far anywhere,* (* All the
ethnographical collections of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
have now been transferred to the Peabody Museum, where they more
properly belong.)

I remain, ever truly your friend and brother,


The following letter to Mr. Ticknor is in the same spirit as
previous ones to Mr. Haldeman and others, concerning the
distribution of fishes in America. It is given at the risk of some
repetition, because it illustrates Agassiz's favorite idea that a
key to the original combination of faunae in any given system of
fresh waters, might be reached through a closer study than has yet
been possible of the geographical or local circumscription of their


NAHANT, October 24, 1863.


Among the schemes which I have devised for the improvement of the
Museum, there is one for the realization of which I appeal to your
aid and sympathy. Thus far the natural productions of the rivers
and lakes of the world have not been compared with one another,
except what I have done in comparing the fishes of the Danube with
those of the Rhine and of the Rhone, and those of the great
Canadian lakes with those of the Swiss lakes.

I now propose to resume this subject on the most extensive scale,
since I see that it has the most direct bearing upon the
transmutation theory. . .First let me submit to you my plan.

Rivers and lakes are isolated by the land and sea from one another.
The question is, then, how they came to be peopled with inhabitants
differing both from those on land and those in the sea, and how
does it come that every hydrographic basin has its own inhabitants
more or less different from those of any other basin? Take the
Ganges, the Nile, and the Amazons. There is not a living being in
the one alike to any one in the others, etc. Now to advance the
investigation to the point where it may tell with reference to the
scientific doctrines at present under discussion, it is essential
to know the facts in detail, with reference to every fresh-water
basin on earth. I have already taken means to obtain the tenants of
all the rivers of Brazil, and partly of Russia, and I hope you may
be able to put me in the way of getting those of Spain, if not of
some other country beside. The plan I propose for that country
would be worthy of the Doctors of Salamanca in her brightest days.
If this alone were carried out, it would be, I believe, sufficient
to settle the whole question.

My idea is to obtain separate collections from all the principal
rivers of Spain and Portugal, and even to have several separate
collections from the larger rivers, one from their lower course,
one from their middle course, and another from their head-waters.
Take, for instance, the Douro. One collection ought to be made at
Oporto, and several higher up, among its various tributaries and in
its upper course; say, one at Zamora and Valladolid, one at
Salamanca from the Tormes River, one at Leon from the Esla River,
one at Burgos and Palencia from the northern tributaries, one at
Soria and Segovia from the southern tributaries. If this could be
done on such a scale as I propose, it would in itself be a work
worthy of the Spanish government, and most creditable to any man
who should undertake it. The fact is that nothing of the kind has
ever been done yet anywhere. A single collection from the Minho
would be sufficient, say from Orense or Melgaco. From the northern
rivers along the gulf of Biscay all that would be necessary would
be one thoroughly complete collection from one of the little rivers
that come down from the mountains of Asturias, say from Oviedo.

The Ebro would require a more elaborate survey. From its upper
course, one collection would be needed from Haro or Frias or
Miranda; another from Saragossa, and one from its mouth, including
the minnows common among the brackish waters near the mouth of
large rivers. In addition to this, one or two of the tributaries of
the Ebro, coming down from the Pyrenees, should be explored in the
same manner; say one collection from Pampeluna, and one from Urgel,
or any other place on the southern slope of the Pyrenees. A
collection made at Barcelona from the river and the brackish
marshes would be equally desirable; another from the river at
Valencia, and, if possible, also from its head-waters at Ternel;
another from the river Segura at Murcia, and somewhere in the
mountains from its head-waters. Granada would afford particular
interest as showing what its mountain streams feed. A collection
from the Almeria River at Almeria, or from any of the small rivers
of the southern coast of Spain, would do; and it would be the more
interesting if another from the river Xenil could be obtained at or
near Granada, to compare with the inhabitants of the waters upon
the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada.

Next would come the Guadalquivir, from which a collection should be
made at San Lucar, with the brackish water species; another at
Seville or Cordova, one among the head-waters from the Sierra
Nevada, and another from the mountains of the Mancha. From the
Guadiana a collection from Villa Real, with the brackish species;
one from Badajoz, and one from the easternmost headwaters, and
about where the river is lost under ground.

The Tagus would again require an extensive exploration. In the
first place a thorough collection of all the species found in the
great estuary ought to be made with the view of ascertaining how
far marine Atlantic species penetrate into the river basin; then
one from Santarem, and another either from Talavera or Toledo or
Aranjuez, and one from the head-waters in Guadalaxara, and another
in Molina.

The collections made at different stations ought carefully to be
kept in distinct jars or kegs, with labels so secure that no
confusion or mistake can arise. But the specimens collected at the
same station may be put together in the same jar. These collections
require, in fact, very little care. (Here some details about mode
of putting up specimens, transportation, etc.) If the same person
should collect upon different stations, either in the same or in
different hydrographic basins, the similarity of the specimens
should not be a reason for neglecting to preserve them. What is
aimed at is not to secure a variety of species, but to learn in
what localities the same species may occur again and again, and
what are the localities which nourish different species, no matter
whether these species are in themselves interesting or not, new to
science or known for ages, whether valuable for the table or unfit
to eat. The mere fact of their distribution is the point to be
ascertained, and this, as you see, requires the most extensive
collections, affording in themselves comparatively little interest,
but likely to lead, by a proper discussion of the facts, to the
most unexpected philosophical results. . .Do, please, what you can
in this matter. Spain alone might give us the materials to solve
the question of transmutation versus creation. I am going to make a
similar appeal to my friends in Russia for materials from that
country, including Siberia and Kamschatka. Our own rivers are not
easily accessible now.

Ever truly your friend,



1863-1864: AGE 56-57.

Correspondence with Dr. S.G. Howe.
Bearing of the War on the Position of the Negro Race.
Affection for Harvard College.
Interest in her General Progress.
Correspondence with Emerson concerning Harvard.
Glacial Phenomena in Maine.

AGASSIZ'S letters give little idea of the deep interest he felt in
the war between North and South, and its probable issue with
reference to the general policy of the nation, and especially to
the relation between the black and white races. Although any
judgment upon the accuracy of its conclusions would now be
premature, the following correspondence between Agassiz and Dr. S.
G. Howe is nevertheless worth considering, as showing how the
problem presented itself to the philanthropist and the naturalist
from their different stand-points.


PORTSMOUTH, August 3, 1863.


You will learn by a glance at the inclosed circular the object of
the commission of which I am a member.

The more I consider the subject to be examined and reported upon,
the more I am impressed by its vastness; the more I see that its
proper treatment requires a consideration of political,
physiological, and ethnological principles. Before deciding upon
any political policy, it is necessary to decide several important
questions, which require more knowledge for their solution than I

Among these questions, this one occupies me most now. Is it
probable that the African race, represented by less than two
million blacks and a little more than two million mulattoes,
unrecruited by immigration, will be a persistent race in this
country? or will it be absorbed, diluted, and finally effaced by
the white race, numbering twenty-four millions, and continually
increased by immigration, beside natural causes.

Will not the general practical amalgamation fostered by slavery
become more general after its abolition? If so, will not the
proportion of mulattoes become greater and that of the pure blacks
less? With an increase and final numerical prevalence of mulattoes
the question of the fertility of the latter becomes a very
important element in the calculation. Can it be a persistent race
here where pure blacks are represented by 2, and the whites by

Is it not true that in the Northern States at least the mulatto is
unfertile, leaving but few children, and those mainly lymphatic and

In those sections where the blacks and mulattoes together make from
seventy to eighty and even ninety per cent of the whole population
will there be, after the abolition of slavery, a sufficiently large
influx of whites to counteract the present numerical preponderance
of blacks?

It looks now as if the whites would EXPLOITER the labors of the
blacks, and that social servitude will continue long in spite of
political equality.

You will see the importance of considering carefully the natural
laws of increase and their modification by existing causes before
deciding upon any line of policy.

If there be irresistible natural tendencies to the growth of a
persistent black race in the Gulf and river States, we must not
make bad worse by futile attempts to resist it. If, on the other
hand, the natural tendencies are to the diffusion and final
disappearance of the black (and colored) race, then our policy
should be modified accordingly.

I should be very glad, my dear sir, if you could give me your views
upon this and cognate matters. If, however, your occupations will
not permit you to give time to this matter, perhaps you will assist
me by pointing to works calculated to throw light upon the subject
of my inquiry, or by putting me in correspondence with persons who
have the ability and the leisure to write about it.

I remain, dear sir, faithfully,



NAHANT, August 9, 1863.


When I acknowledged a few days ago the receipt of your invitation
to put in writing my views upon the management of the negro race as
part of the free population of the United States, I stated to you
that there was a preliminary question of the utmost importance to
be examined first, since whatever convictions may be formed upon
that point must necessarily influence everything else relating to
the subject. The question is simply this: Is there to be a
permanent black population upon the continent after slavery is
everywhere abolished and no inducement remains to foster its
increase? Should this question be answered in the negative, it is
evident that a wise policy would look to the best mode of removing
that race from these States, by the encouragement and acceleration
of emigration. Should the question be answered, on the contrary, in
the affirmative, then it is plain that we have before us one of the
most difficult problems, upon the solution of which the welfare of
our own race may in a measure depend, namely, the combination in
one social organization of two races more widely different from one
another than all the other races. In effecting this combination it
becomes our duty to avoid the recurrence of great evils, one of
which is already foreshadowed in the advantage which unscrupulous
managers are taking of the freedmen, whenever the latter are
brought into contact with new social relations.

I will, for the present, consider only the case of the unmixed
negroes of the Southern States, the number of which I suppose to be
about two millions. It is certainly not less,--it may be a little
more. From whatever point of view you look upon these people you
must come to the conclusion that, left to themselves, they will
perpetuate their race ad infinitum where they are. According to the
prevalent theory of the unity of mankind it is assumed that the
different races have become what they are in consequence of their
settlement in different parts of the world, and that the whole
globe is everywhere a fit abode for human beings who adapt
themselves to the conditions under which they live. According to
the theory of a multiple origin of mankind the different races have
first appeared in various parts of the globe, each with the
peculiarities best suited to their primitive home. Aside from these
theoretical views the fact is, that some races inhabit very
extensive tracts of the earth's surface, and are now found upon
separate continents, while others are very limited in their range.
This distribution is such that there is no reason for supposing
that the negro is less fitted permanently to occupy at least the
warmer parts of North and South America, than is the white race to
retain possession of their more temperate portions. Assuming our
pure black race to be only two millions, it is yet larger than the
whole number of several races that have held uninterrupted
possession of different parts of the globe ever since they have
been known to the white race. Thus the Hottentots and the
Abyssinians have maintained themselves in their respective homes
without change ever since their existence has been known to us,
even though their number is less than that of our pure black
population. The same, also, is the case with the population of
Australia and of the Pacific islands. The Papuan race, the Negrillo
race, the Australian race proper, distinct from one another, as
well as from all other inhabitants of the earth, number each fewer
inhabitants than already exist of the negro race in the United
States alone, not to speak of Central and South America.

This being the case there is, it seems to me, no more reason to
expect a disappearance of the negro race from the continent of
America without violent interference, than to expect a
disappearance of the races inhabiting respectively the South Sea
Islands, Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, or any other part of the
globe tenanted by the less populous races. The case of the American
Indians, who gradually disappear before the white race, should not
mislead us, as it is readily accounted for by the peculiar
character of that race. The negro exhibits by nature a pliability,
a readiness to accommodate himself to circumstances, a proneness to
imitate those among whom he lives,--characteristics which are
entirely foreign to the Indian, while they facilitate in every way
the increase of the negro. I infer, therefore, from all these
circumstances that the negro race must be considered as permanently
settled upon this continent, no less firmly than the white race,
and that it is our duty to look upon them as co-tenants in the
possession of this part of the world.

Remember that I have thus far presented the case only with
reference to the Southern States, where the climate is particularly
favorable to the maintenance and multiplication of the negro race.
Before drawing any inference, however, from my first assertion that
the negro will easily and without foreign assistance maintain
himself and multiply in the warmer parts of this continent, let us
consider a few other features of this momentous question of race.
Whites and blacks may multiply together, but their offspring is
never either white or black; it is always mulatto. It is a
half-breed, and shares all the peculiarities of half-breeds, among
whose most important characteristics is their sterility, or at
least their reduced fecundity. This shows the connection to be
contrary to the normal state of the races, as it is contrary to the
preservation of species in the animal kingdom. . .Far from
presenting to me a natural solution of our difficulties, the idea
of amalgamation is most repugnant to my feelings. It is now the
foundation of some of the most ill-advised schemes. But wherever it
is practiced, amalgamation among different races produces shades of
population, the social position of which can never be regular and
settled. From a physiological point of view, it is sound policy to
put every possible obstacle to the crossing of the races, and the
increase of half-breeds. It is unnatural, as shown by their very
constitution, their sickly physique, and their impaired fecundity.
It is immoral and destructive of social equality as it creates
unnatural relations and multiplies the differences among members of
the same community in a wrong direction.

From all this it is plain that the policy to be adopted toward the
miscellaneous colored population with reference to a more or less
distant future should be totally different from that which applies
to the pure black; for while I believe that a wise social economy
will foster the progress of every pure race, according to its
natural dispositions and abilities, and aim at securing for it a
proper field for the fullest development of all its capabilities, I
am convinced also that no efforts should be spared to check that
which is inconsistent with the progress of a higher civilization
and a purer morality. I hope and trust that as soon as the
condition of the negro in the warmer parts of our States has been
regulated according to the laws of freedom, the colored population
in the more northern parts of the country will diminish. By a
natural consequence of unconquerable affinities, the colored people
in whom the negro nature prevails will tend toward the South, while
the weaker and lighter ones will remain and die out among us.

Entertaining these views upon the fundamental questions concerning
the races, the next point for consideration is the policy to be
adopted under present circumstances, in order to increase the
amount of good which is within our grasp and lessen the evil which
we may avert. This will be for another letter.

Very truly yours,



August 10, 1863.


I am so deeply impressed with the dangers awaiting the progress of
civilization, should the ideas now generally prevalent about
amalgamation gain sufficient ascendancy to exert a practical
influence upon the management of the affairs of the nation, that I
beg leave to urge a few more considerations upon that point.

In the first place let me insist upon the fact that the population
arising from the amalgamation of two races is always degenerate,
that it loses the excellences of both primitive stocks to retain
the vices or defects of both, and never to enjoy the physical vigor
of either. In order clearly to appreciate the tendencies of
amalgamation, it is indispensable to discriminate correctly between
the differences distinguishing one race from another and those
existing between different nationalities of the same race. For
while the mixture of nationalities of the same race has always
proved beneficial as far as we are taught by history, the mixture
of races has produced a very different result. We need only look at
the inhabitants of Central America, where the white, the negro, and
the Indian races are more or less blended, to see the baneful
effects of such an amalgamation. The condition of the Indians on
the borders of civilization in the United States and in Canada, in
their contact with the Anglo-Saxons as well as with the French,
testifies equally to the pernicious influence of amalgamation of
races. The experience of the Old World points in the same direction
at the Cape of Good Hope, in Australia; everywhere, in fact,
history speaks as loudly in favor of the mixture of clearly related
nations as she does in condemnation of the amalgamation of remote
races. We need only think of the origin of the English nation, of
that of the United States, etc. The question of breeding in-and-in,
that of marriage among close relations, is again quite distinct. In
fact, there is hardly a more complicated subject in physiology, or
one requiring nicer discriminations, than that of the
multiplication of man, and yet it is constantly acted upon as if it
needed no special knowledge. I beseech you, therefore, while you
are in a position to exert a leading influence in the councils of
the nation upon this most important subject to allow no
preconceived view, no favorite schemes, no immediate object, to
bias your judgment and mislead you. I do not pretend to be in
possession of absolute truth. I only urge upon you the
consideration of unquestionable facts before you form a final
opinion and decide upon a fixed policy. Conceive for a moment the
difference it would make in future ages for the prospects of
republican institutions, and our civilization generally, if instead
of the manly population descended from cognate nations the United
States should be inhabited by the effeminate progeny of mixed
races, half Indian, half negro, sprinkled with white blood. Can you
devise a scheme to rescue the Spaniards of Mexico from their
degradation? Beware, then, of any policy which may bring our own
race to their level.

These considerations lead me naturally to the inquiry into the
peculiarities of the two races, in order to find out what may be
most beneficial for each. I rejoice in the prospect of universal
emancipation, not only from a philanthropic point of view, but also
because hereafter the physiologist and ethnographer may discuss the
question of the races and advocate a discriminating policy
regarding them, without seeming to support legal inequality. There
is no more one-sided doctrine concerning human nature than the idea
that all men are equal, in the sense of being equally capable of
fostering human progress and advancing civilization, especially in
the various spheres of intellectual and moral activity. If this be
so, then it is one of our primary obligations to remove every
obstacle that may retard the highest development, while it is
equally our duty to promote the humblest aspirations that may
contribute to raise the lowest individual to a better condition in

The question is, then, what kind of common treatment is likely to
be the best for all men, and what do the different races, taken
singly, require for themselves? That legal equality should be the
common boon of humanity can hardly be matter for doubt nowadays,
but it does not follow that social equality is a necessary
complement of legal equality. I say purposely legal equality, and
not political equality, because political equality involves an
equal right to every public station in life, and I trust we shall
be wise enough not to complicate at once our whole system with new
conflicting interests, before we have ascertained what may be the
practical working of universal freedom and legal equality for two
races, so different as the whites and negroes, living under one
government. We ought to remember that what we know of the negro,
from the experience we have had of the colored population of the
North, affords but a very inadequate standard by which to judge of
the capabilities of the pure blacks as they exist in the South. We
ought, further, to remember that the black population is likely at
all times to outnumber the white in the Southern States. We should
therefore beware how we give to the blacks rights, by virtue of
which they may endanger the progress of the whites before their
temper has been tested by a prolonged experience. Social equality I
deem at all times impracticable,--a natural impossibility, from the
very character of the negro race. Let us consider for a moment the
natural endowments of the negro race as they are manifested in
history on their native continent, as far as we can trace them
back, and compare the result with what we know of our own
destinies, in order to ascertain, within the limits of probability,
whether social equality with the negro is really an impossibility.

We know of the existence of the negro race, with all its physical
peculiarities, from the Egyptian monuments, several thousand years
before the Christian era. Upon these monuments the negroes are so
represented as to show that in natural propensities and mental
abilities they were pretty much what we find them at the present
day,--indolent, playful, sensual, imitative, subservient,
good-natured, versatile, unsteady in their purpose, devoted and
affectionate. From this picture I exclude the character of the
half-breeds, who have, more or less, the character of their white
parents. Originally found in Africa, the negroes seem at all times
to have presented the same characteristics wherever they have been
brought into contact with the white race; as in Upper Egypt, along
the borders of the Carthaginian and Roman settlements in Africa, in
Senegal in juxtaposition with the French, in Congo in juxtaposition
with the Portuguese, about the Cape and on the eastern coast of
Africa in juxtaposition with the Dutch and the English. While Egypt
and Carthage grew into powerful empires and attained a high degree
of civilization; while in Babylon, Syria, and Greece were developed
the highest culture of antiquity, the negro race groped in
THEMSELVES. This is important to keep in mind, and to urge upon the
attention of those who ascribe the condition of the modern negro
wholly to the influence of slavery. I do not mean to say that
slavery is a necessary condition for the organization of the negro
race. Far from it. They are entitled to their freedom, to the
regulation of their own destiny, to the enjoyment of their life, of
their earnings, of their family circle. But with all this nowhere
do they appear to have been capable of rising, by themselves, to
the level of the civilized communities of the whites, and therefore
I hold that they are incapable of living on a footing of social
equality with the whites in one and the same community without
becoming an element of social disorder.* (* I fear the expression
"social equality" may be misunderstood in this connection. It means
here only the relations which would arise from the mixture of the
two races, and thus affect the organization of society as a whole.
It does not refer to any superficial or local social rules, such as
sharing on common ground public conveyances, public accommodations,
and the like.--ED.)

I am not prepared to state what political privileges they are fit
to enjoy now; though I have no hesitation in saying that they
should be equal to other men before the law. The right of owning
property, of bearing witness, of entering into contracts, of buying
and selling, of choosing their own domicile, would give them ample
opportunity of showing in a comparatively short time what political
rights might properly and safely be granted to them in successive
installments. No man has a right to what he is unfit to use. Our
own best rights have been acquired successively. I cannot,
therefore, think it just or safe to grant at once to the negro all
the privileges which we ourselves have acquired by long struggles.
History teaches us what terrible reactions have followed too
extensive and too rapid changes. Let us beware of granting too much
to the negro race in the beginning, lest it become necessary
hereafter to deprive them of some of the privileges which they may
use to their own and our detriment. All this I urge with reference
to the pure blacks of the South. As to the half-breeds, especially
in the Northern States, I have already stated it to be my opinion
that their very existence is likely to be only transient, and that
all legislation with reference to them should be regulated with
this view, and so ordained as to accelerate their disappearance
from the Northern States.

Let me now sum up my answer to some of your direct questions.

1st. Is it probable that the African race will be a persistent race
in this country, or will it be absorbed, diluted, and finally
effaced by the white race?

I believe it will continue in the Southern States, and I hope it
may gradually die out at the North, where it has only an artificial
foothold, being chiefly represented by half-breeds, who do not
constitute a race by themselves.

2nd. Will not the practical amalgamation fostered by slavery become
more general after its abolition?

Being the result of the vices engendered by slavery, it is to be
hoped that the emancipation of the blacks, by securing to them a
legal recognition of their natural ties, will tend to diminish this
unnatural amalgamation and lessen everywhere the number of these
unfortunate half-breeds. My reason for believing that the colored
population of the North will gradually vanish is founded in great
degree upon the fact that that population does not increase where
it exists now, but is constantly recruited by an influx from the
South. The southern half-breeds feel their false position at the
South more keenly than the blacks, and are more inclined to escape
to the North than the individuals of purer black blood. Remove the
oppression under which the colored population now suffers, and the
current will at once be reversed; blacks and mulattoes of the North
will seek the sunny South. But I see no cause which should check
the increase of the black population in the Southern States. The
climate is genial to them; the soil rewards the slightest labor
with a rich harvest. The country cannot well be cultivated without
real or fancied danger to the white man, who, therefore, will not
probably compete with the black in the labors of the field, thus
leaving to him an opportunity for easy and desirable support.

3rd. In those sections where the blacks and mulattoes together make
from seventy to eighty and even ninety per cent of the population
will there be, after the abolition of slavery, a sufficiently large
influx of whites to counteract the present numerical preponderance
of blacks?

To answer this question correctly we must take into consideration
the mode of distribution of the white and of the colored population
in the more Southern States. The whites inhabit invariably the
sea-shores and the more elevated grounds, while the blacks are
scattered over the lowlands. This peculiar localization is rendered
necessary by the physical constitution of the country. The lowlands
are not habitable in summer by the whites between sunset and
sunrise. All the wealthy whites, and in the less healthy regions
even the overseers, repair in the evening to the sea-shore or to
the woodlands, and return only in the morning to the plantation,
except during the winter months, after the first hard frost, when
the country is everywhere habitable by all. This necessarily limits
the area which can be tenanted by the whites, and in some States
that area is very small as compared with that habitable by the
blacks. It is therefore clear that with a free black population,
enjoying identical rights with the whites, these States will sooner
or later become negro States, with a comparatively small white
population. This is inevitable; we might as soon expect to change
the laws of nature as to avert this result. I believe it may in a
certain sense work well in the end. But any policy based upon
different expectations is doomed to disappointment.

4th. How to prevent the whites from securing the lion's share of
the labor of the blacks?

This is a question which my want of familiarity with the operations
of the laboring classes prevents me from answering in a manner
satisfactory to myself. Is it not possible to apply to the
superintendence of the working negroes something like the system
which regulates the duties of the foreman in all our manufacturing

I should like to go on and attempt to devise some scheme in
conformity with the convictions I have expressed in these letters.
But I have little ability in the way of organizing, and then the
subject is so novel that I am not prepared to propose anything very

Ever truly yours,



NEW YORK, August 18, 1863.


I cannot refrain from expressing my thanks for your prompt
compliance with my request, and for your two valuable letters.

Be assured I shall try to keep my mind open to conviction and to
forbear forming any theory before observing a wide circle of facts.
I do not know how you got the idea that I had decided in favor of
anything about the future of the colored population. I have
corresponded with the founders of "La Societe Cosmopolite pour la
fusion des races humaines" in France,--an amalgamation society,
founded upon the theory that the perfect man is to be the result of
the fusion of all the races upon earth. I have not, however, the
honor of being a member thereof. Indeed, I think it hardly exists.
I hear, too, that several of our prominent anti-slavery gentlemen,
worthy of respect for their zeal and ability, have publicly
advocated the doctrines of amalgamation; but I do not know upon
what grounds.

I do, indeed, hold that in this, as in other matters, we are to do
the manifest right, regardless of consequences. If you ask me who
is to decide what is the manifest right, I answer, that in morals,
as well as in mathematics, there are certain truths so simple as to
be admitted at sight as axioms by every one of common intelligence
and honesty. The right to life is as clear as that two and two make
four, and none dispute it. The right to liberty and to ownership of
property fairly earned is just as clear to the enlightened mind as
that 5 x 6 = 30; but the less enlightened may require to reflect
about it, just as they may want concrete signs to show that five
times six do really make thirty. As we ascend in numbers and in
morals, the intuitive perceptions become less and less; and though
the truths are there, and ought to be admitted as axiomatic, they
are not at once seen and felt by ordinary minds.

Now so far as the rights of blacks and the duties of whites are
manifest to common and honest minds, so far would I admit the first
and perform the second, though the heavens fall. I would not only
advocate entire freedom, equal rights and privileges, and open
competition for social distinction, but what now seems to me the
shocking and downward policy of amalgamation. But the heavens are
not going to fall, and we are not going to be called upon to favor
any policy discordant with natural instincts and cultivated tastes.

A case may be supposed in which the higher race ought to submit to
the sad fate of dilution and debasement of its blood,--as on an
island, and where long continued wrong and suffering had to be
atoned for. But this is hardly conceivable, because, even in what
seems punishment and atonement, the law of harmonious development
still rules. God does not punish wrong and violence done to one
part of our nature, by requiring us to do wrong and violence to
another part. Even Nemesis wields rather a guiding-rod than a
scourge. We need take no step backward, but only aside, to get
sooner into the right path.

Slavery has acted as a disturbing force in the development of our
national character and produced monstrous deformities of a bodily
as well as moral nature, for it has impaired the purity and lowered
the quality of the national blood. It imported Africans, and, to
prevent their extinction by competition with a more vigorous race,
it set a high premium on colored blood. It has fostered and
multiplied a vigorous black race, and engendered a feeble mulatto
breed. Many of each of these classes have drifted northward, right
in the teeth of thermal laws, to find homes where they would never
live by natural election. Now, by utterly rooting out slavery, and
by that means alone, shall we remove these disturbing forces and
allow fair play to natural laws, by the operation of which, it
seems to me, the colored population will disappear from the
Northern and Middle States, if not from the continent, before the
more vigorous and prolific white race. It will be the duty of the
statesman to favor, by wise measures, the operation of these laws
and the purification and elevation of the national blood.

In the way of this is the existence of the colored population of
the Northern and Middle States. Now, while we should grant to every
human being all the rights we claim for ourselves, and bear in mind
the cases of individual excellence of colored people, we must, I
think, admit that mulattoism is hybridism, and that it is unnatural
and undesirable. It has been brought to its present formidable
proportions by several causes,--mainly by slavery. Its evils are to
be met and lessened as far as may be, by wise statesmanship and by
enlightenment of public opinion. These may do much.

Some proclaim amalgamation as the remedy, upon the theory that by
diluting black blood with white blood in larger and larger
proportions, it will finally be so far diluted as to be
imperceptible and will disappear. They forget that we may not do
the wrong that right may come of it. They forget that no amount of
diffusion will exterminate whatever exists; that a pint of ink
diffused in a lake is still there, and the water is only the less

Others persist that mulattoism is not and cannot be persistent
beyond four generations. In other words, that like some other
abnormal and diseased conditions it is self-limiting, and that the
body social will be purged of it.

In the face of these and other theories, it is our duty to gather
as many facts and as much knowledge as is possible, in order to
throw light upon every part of the subject; nobody can furnish more
than you can.

Faithfully yours,

SAMUEL G. HOWE.* (* In this correspondence with Dr. Howe, one or
two phrases in Agassiz's letters are interpolated from a third
unfinished letter, which was never forwarded to Dr. Howe. These
sentences connect themselves so directly with the sense of the
previous letters that it seemed worth while to add them.--ED.)

The Museum and his own more immediate scientific work must
naturally take precedence in any biography of Agassiz, and perhaps,
for this reason, too little prominence has been given in these
pages to his interest in general education, and especially in the
general welfare and progress of Harvard College. He was deeply
attached to the University with which he had identified himself in
America. While he strained every nerve to develop his own
scientific department, which had no existence at Harvard until his
advent there, no one of her professors was more concerned than
himself for the organization of the college as a whole. A lover of
letters as well as a devotee of nature, he valued every provision
for a well proportioned intellectual training. He welcomed the
creation of an Academic Council for the promotion of free and
frequent interchange of opinion between the different heads of
departments, and, when in Cambridge, he was never absent from the
meetings. He urged, also, the introduction of university lectures,
to the establishment of which he largely contributed, and which he
would fain have opened to all the students. He advocated the
extension of the elective system, believing that while it might
perhaps give a pretext for easy evasion of duty to the more
inefficient and lazy students, it gave larger opportunities to the
better class, and that the University should adapt itself to the
latter rather than the former. "The bright students," he writes to
a friend, "are now deprived of the best advantages to be had here,
because the dull or the indifferent must still be treated as

The two following letters, from their bearing on general university
questions, are not out of place here. Though occasioned by a slight
misconception, they are so characteristic of the writers, and of
their relation to each other, that it would be a pity to omit them.


December 12, 1864.


If your lecture on universities, the first of your course, has been
correctly reported to me, I am almost inclined to quarrel with you
for having missed an excellent chance to help me, and advance the
true interests of the college. You say that Natural History is
getting too great an ascendancy among us, that it is out of
proportion to other departments, and hint that a check-rein would
not be amiss on the enthusiastic professor who is responsible for

Do you not see that the way to bring about a well-proportioned
development of all the resources of the University is not to check
the natural history department, but to stimulate all the others?
not that the zoological school grows too fast, but that the others
do not grow fast enough? This sounds invidious and perhaps somewhat
boastful; but it is you and not I who have instituted the
comparison. It strikes me you have not hit upon the best remedy for
this want of balance. If symmetry is to be obtained by cutting down
the most vigorous growth, it seems to me it would be better to have
a little irregularity here and there. In stimulating, by every
means in my power, the growth of the Museum and the means of
education connected with it, I am far from having a selfish wish to
see my own department tower above the others. I wish that every one
of my colleagues would make it hard for me to keep up with him, and
there are some among them, I am happy to say, who are ready to run
a race with me. Perhaps, after all, I am taking up the cudgels
against you rather prematurely. If I had not been called to New
Haven, Sunday before last, by Professor Silliman's funeral, I
should have been present at your lecture myself. Having missed it,
I may have heard this passage inaccurately repeated. If so, you
must forgive me, and believe me always, whatever you did or did not

Ever truly your friend,



CONCORD, December 13, 1864.


I pray you have no fear that I did, or can, say any word unfriendly
to you or to the Museum, for both of which blessings--the cause and
the effect--I daily thank Heaven! May you both increase and
multiply for ages!

I cannot defend my lectures,--they are prone to be clumsy and
hurried botches,--still less answer for any report,--which I never
dare read; but I can tell you the amount of my chiding. I vented
some of the old grudge I owe the college now for forty-five years,
for the cruel waste of two years of college time on mathematics
without any attempt to adapt, by skillful tutors, or by private
instruction, these tasks to the capacity of slow learners. I still
remember the useless pains I took, and my serious recourse to my
tutor for aid which he did not know how to give me. And now I see
to-day the same indiscriminate imposing of mathematics on all
students during two years,--ear or no ear, you shall all learn
music,--to the waste of time and health of a large part of every
class. It is both natural and laudable in each professor to magnify
his department, and to seek to make it the first in the world if he
can. But of course this tendency must be corrected by securing in
the constitution of the college a power in the head (whether
singular or plural) of coordinating all the parts. Else, important
departments will be overlaid, as in Oxford and in Harvard, natural
history was until now. Now, it looks as if natural history would
obtain in time to come the like predominance as mathematics have
here, or Greek at Oxford. It will not grieve me if it should, for
we are all curious of nature, but not of algebra. But the necessity
of check on the instructors in the head of the college, I am sure
you will agree with me, is indispensable. You will see that my
allusion to naturalists is only incidental to my statement of my

But I have made my letter ridiculously long, and pray you to
remember that you have brought it on your own head. I do not know
that I ever attempted before an explanation of any speech.

Always with entire regard yours,


At about this time, in September, 1864, Agassiz made an excursion
into Maine, partly to examine the drift phenomena on the islands
and coast of that State, and partly to study the so-called
"horse-backs." The journey proved to be one of the most interesting
he had made in this country with reference to local glacial
phenomena. Compass in hand, he followed the extraordinary ridges of
morainic material lying between Bangor and Katahdin, to the Ebeene
Mountains, at the foot of which are the Katahdin Iron Works.
Returning to Bangor, he pursued, with the same minute
investigation, the glacial tracks and erratic material from that
place to the seacoast and to Mount Desert. The details of this
journey and its results are given in one of the papers contained in
the second volume of his "Geological Sketches." In conclusion, he
says; "I suppose these facts must be far less expressive to the
general observer than to one who has seen this whole set of
phenomena in active operation. To me they have been for many years
so familiar in the Alpine valleys, and their aspect in those
regions is so identical with the facts above described, that
paradoxical as the statement may seem, the presence of the ice is
now an unimportant element to me in the study of glacial phenomena;
no more essential than is the flesh to the anatomist who studies
the skeleton of a fossil animal."

This journey in Maine, undertaken in the most beautiful season of
the American year, when the autumn glow lined the forest roads with
red and gold, was a great refreshment to Agassiz. He had been far
from well, but he returned to his winter's work invigorated and
with a new sense of hope and courage.


1865-1868: AGE 58-61.

Letter to his Mother announcing Journey to Brazil.
Sketch of Journey.
Kindness of the Emperor.
Liberality of the Brazilian Government.
Correspondence with Charles Sumner.
Letter to his Mother at Close of Brazil Journey.
Letter from Martius concerning Journey in Brazil.
Return to Cambridge.
Lectures in Boston and New York.
Summer at Nahant.
Letter to Professor Peirce on the Survey of Boston Harbor.
Death of his Mother.
Correspondence with Oswald Heer.
Summer Journey in the West.
Cornell University.
Letter from Longfellow.

THE next important event in the life of Agassiz, due in the first
instance to his failing health, which made some change of scene and
climate necessary, is best announced by himself in the following


CAMBRIDGE, March 22, 1865.


You will shed tears of joy when you read this, but such tears are
harmless. Listen, then, to what has happened. A few weeks ago I was
thinking how I should employ my summer. I foresaw that in going to
Nahant I should not find the rest I need after all the fatigue of
the two last years, or, at least, not enough of change and
relaxation. I felt that I must have new scenes to give me new life.
But where to go and what to do?

Perhaps I wrote you last year of the many marks of kindness I have
received from the Emperor of Brazil, and you remember that at the
time of my debut as an author, my attention was turned to the
natural history of that country. Lately, also, in a course of
lectures at the Lowell Institute, I have been led to compare the
Alps, where I have passed so many happy years, with the Andes,
which I have never seen. In short, the idea came to me gradually,
that I might spend the summer at Rio de Janeiro, and that, with the
present facilities for travel, the journey would not be too
fatiguing for my wife. . .Upon this, then, I had decided, when most
unexpectedly, and as the consummation of all my wishes, my pleasure
trip was transformed into an important scientific expedition for
the benefit of the Museum, by the intervention of one of my
friends, Mr. Nathaniel Thayer. By chance I met him a week ago in
Boston. He laughed at me a little about my roving disposition, and
then asked me what plans I had formed for the Museum, in connection
with my journey. I answered that, thinking especially of my health,
I had provided only for the needs of myself and my wife during an
absence of six or eight months. Then ensued the following

"But, Agassiz, that is hardly like you; you have never been away
from Cambridge without thinking of your Museum."

"True enough; but I am tired,--I need rest. I am going to loaf a
little in Brazil."

"When you have had a fortnight of that kind of thing you will be as
ready for work as ever, and you will be sorry that you have not
made some preparation to utilize the occasion and the localities in
the interest of the Museum."

"Yes, I have some such misgiving; but I have no means for anything
beyond my personal expenses, and it is no time to ask sacrifices
from any one in behalf of science. The country claims all our

"But suppose some one offered you a scientific assistant, all
expenses paid, what would you say?"

"Of that I had never thought."

"How many assistants could you employ?"

"Half a dozen."

"And what would be the expense of each one?"

"I suppose about twenty-five hundred dollars; at least, that is
what I have counted upon for myself."

After a moment's reflection he resumed:--

"If it suits you then, Agassiz, and interferes in no way with the
plans for your health, choose your assistants among the employees
of your Museum or elsewhere, and I will be responsible for all the
scientific expenses of the expedition.". . .

My preparations are made. I leave probably next week, from New
York, with a staff of assistants more numerous, and, I think, as
well chosen, as those of any previous undertaking of the kind.* (*
Beside the six assistants provided for by Mr. Thayer, there were a
number of young volunteer aids who did excellent work on the

. . .All those who know me seem to have combined to heighten the
attraction of the journey, and facilitate it in every respect. The
Pacific Mail Steamship Company has invited me to take passage with
my whole party on their fine steamer, the Colorado. They will take
us, free of all expense, as far as Rio de Janeiro,--an economy of
fifteen thousand francs at the start. Yesterday evening I received
a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, at Washington, desiring
the officers of all vessels of war stationed along the coasts I am
to visit, to give me aid and support in everything concerning my
expedition. The letter was written in the kindest terms, and
gratified me the more because it was quite unsolicited. I am really
touched by the marks of sympathy I receive, not only from near
friends, but even from strangers. . .I seem like the spoiled child
of the country, and I hope God will give me strength to repay in
devotion to her institutions and to her scientific and intellectual
development, all that her citizens have done for me.

I am forgetting that you will be anxious to know what special work
I propose to do in the interest of science in Brazil. First, I hope
to make large collections of all such objects as properly belong in
a Museum of Natural History, and to this end I have chosen from
among the employees of our Museum one representative from each
department. My only regret is that I must leave Alex in Cambridge
to take care of the Museum itself. He will have an immense amount
of work to do, for I leave him only six out of our usual staff of
assistants. In the second place, I intend to make a special study
of the habits, metamorphoses, anatomy, etc., of the Amazonian
fishes. Finally, I dream sometimes of an ascension of the Andes, if
I do not find myself too old and too heavy for climbing. I should
like to see if there were not also large glaciers in this chain of
mountains, at the period when the glaciers of the Alps extended to
the Jura. . .But this latter part of my plan is quite uncertain,
and must depend in great degree upon our success on the Amazons.
Accompanied as I am with a number of aides naturalistes, we ought
to be able among us to bring together large collections, and even
to add duplicates, which I can then, on my return, distribute to
the European Museums, in exchange for valuable specimens.

We leave next week, and I hope to write you from Rio a letter which
will reach you about the date of my birthday. A steamer leaves
Brazil once a month for England. If my arrival coincides with her
departure you shall not be disappointed in this.

With all my heart,


The story of this expedition has been told in the partly
scientific, partly personal diary published after Agassiz's return,
under the title of "A Journey in Brazil," and therefore a full
account of it here would be mere repetition. He was absent sixteen
months. The first three were spent in Rio de Janeiro, and in
excursions about the neighborhood of her beautiful bay and the
surrounding mountains. For greater efficiency and promptness he
divided his party into companies, each working separately, some in
collecting, others in geological surveys, but all under one
combined plan of action.

The next ten months were passed in the Amazonian region. This part
of the journey had the charm of purely tropical scenery, and
Agassiz, who was no less a lover of nature than a naturalist,
enjoyed to the utmost its beauty and picturesqueness. Much of the
time he and his companions were living on the great river itself,
and the deck of the steamer was by turns laboratory, dining-room,
and dormitory. Often, as they passed close under the banks of the
river, or between the many islands which break its broad expanse
into narrow channels, their improvised working room was
overshadowed by the lofty wall of vegetation, which lifted its
dense mass of trees and soft drapery of vines on either side. Still
more beautiful was it when they left the track of the main river
for the water-paths hidden in the forest. Here they were rowed by
Indians in "montarias," a peculiar kind of boat used by the
natives. It has a thatched hood at one end for shelter from rain or
sun. Little sun penetrates, however, to the shaded "igarape"
(boat-path), along which the montaria winds its way under a vault
of green. When traveling in this manner, they stopped for the
night, and indeed sometimes lingered for days, in Indian
settlements, or in the more secluded single Indian lodges, which
are to be found on the shores of almost every lake or channel. In
this net-work of fresh waters, threading the otherwise impenetrable
woods, the humblest habitation has its boat and landing-place. With
his montaria and his hammock, his little plantation of bananas and
mandioca, and the dwelling, for which the forest about him supplies
the material, the Amazonian Indian is supplied with all the
necessities of life.

Sometimes the party were settled, for weeks at a time, in more
civilized fashion, in the towns or villages on the banks of the
main river, or its immediate neighborhood, at Manaos, Ega, Obydos,
and elsewhere. Wherever they sojourned, whether for a longer or a
shorter time, the scientific work went on uninterruptedly. There
was not an idle member in the company.

From the time he left Rio de Janeiro, Agassiz had the companionship
of a young Brazilian officer of the engineer corps, Major Coutinho.
Thoroughly familiar with the Amazons and its affluents, at home
with the Indians, among whom he had often lived, he was the pearl
of traveling companions as well as a valuable addition to the
scientific force. Agassiz left the Amazonian valley in April, and
the two remaining months of his stay in Brazil were devoted to
excursions along the coast, especially in the mountains back of
Ceara, and in the Organ mountains near Rio de Janeiro.

From beginning to end this journey fulfilled Agassiz's brightest
anticipations. Mr. Thayer, whose generosity first placed the
expedition on so broad a scientific basis, continued to give it his
cordial support till the last specimen was stored in the Museum.
The interest taken in it by the Emperor of Brazil, and the
liberality of the government toward it, also facilitated all
Agassiz's aims and smoothed every difficulty in the path. On
starting he had set before himself two subjects of inquiry. These
were, first, the fresh-water fauna of Brazil, of the greater
interest to him, because of the work on the Brazilian Fishes, with
which his scientific career had opened; and second, her glacial
history, for he believed that even these latitudes must have been,
to a greater or less degree, included in the ice-period. The first
three months spent in Rio de Janeiro and its environs gave him the
key to phenomena connected with both these subjects, and he
followed them from there to the head-waters of the Amazons, as an
Indian follows a trail. The distribution of life in the rivers and
lakes of Brazil, the immense number of species and their local
circumscription, as distinct faunae in definite areas of the same
water-basin, amazed him; while the character of the soil and other
geological features confirmed him in his preconceived belief that
the glacial period could not have been less than cosmic in its
influence. He was satisfied that the tropical, as well as the
temperate and arctic regions, had been, although in a less degree,
fashioned by ice.

Just before leaving the United States he received a letter of
friendly farewell from Charles Sumner, and his answer, written on
the Rio Negro, gives some idea of the conditions under which he
traveled, and of the results he had obtained. As the letters
explain each other, both are given here.


WASHINGTON, March 20, 1865.


It is a beautiful expedition that you are about to commence,--in
contrast with the deeds of war. And yet you are going forth to
conquer new realms, and bring them under a sway they have not yet
known. But science is peaceful and bloodless in her conquests. May
you return victorious! I am sure you will. Of course you will see
the Emperor of Brazil, whose enlightened character is one of the
happy accidents of government. . .You are a naturalist; but you are
a patriot also. If you can take advantage of the opportunities
which you will surely enjoy, and plead for our country, to the end
that its rights may be understood, and the hardships it has been
obliged to endure may be appreciated, you will render a service to
the cause of international peace and good-will.

You are to have great enjoyment. I imagine you already very happy
in the scenes before you. I, too, should like to see Nature in her
most splendid robes; but I must stay at home and help keep the
peace. Good-by--Bon voyage!

Ever sincerely yours,





The heading of these lines tells a long and interesting story. Here
I am, sailing on the Rio Negro, with my wife and a young Brazilian
friend, provided with all the facilities which modern improvements,
the extraordinary liberality of the Brazilian government, and the
kindness of our commander can bestow, and pursuing my scientific
investigations with as much ease as if I were in my study, or in
the Museum at Cambridge,--with this enormous difference, that I am
writing on deck, protected by an awning from the hot sun, and
surrounded by all the luxuriance of the richest tropical

The kind reception I met at the hands of the emperor on my arrival
at Rio has been followed by every possible attention and mark of
good-will toward me personally, but usually tendered in such a way
as to show that an expression of cordiality toward the United
States was intended also in the friendly feeling with which
everything was done to facilitate my researches. In the first
place, the emperor gave me as a traveling companion an extremely
intelligent and well-educated Brazilian, the man of all others whom
I should have chosen had I been consulted beforehand; and for the
six months during which we have been on our journey here, I have
not been able to spend a dollar except for my personal comfort, and
for my collections. All charges for transportation of persons and
baggage in public conveyances, as well as for specimens, have
everywhere been remitted by order of the government. This is not
all; when we reached Para the Brazilian Steamship Company placed a
steamer at my disposal, that I might stop where I pleased on the
way, and tarry as long as I liked instead of following the ordinary
line of travel. In this way I ascended the Amazons to Manaos, and
from there, by the ordinary steamer, reached the borders of Peru,
making prolonged stays at Manaos and at Ega, and sending out
exploring parties up the Javary, the Jutay, the Ica, etc. On my
return to Manaos, at the junction of the Rio Negro and the Amazons,
I found the Ibicuhy awaiting me with an order from the Minister of
Public Works, placing her at my disposal for the remainder of my
stay in the waters of the Amazons.

The Ibicuhy is a pretty little war steamer of 120 horse power,
carrying six thirty-two pound guns. On board of her, and in company
with the President of the Province, I have already visited that
extraordinary network of river anastomoses and lakes, stretching
between the river Madeira and the Amazons to the river Tapajos, and
now I am ascending the Rio Negro, with the intention of going up as
far as the junction of the Rio Branco with the Rio Negro. That the
Brazilian government should be able and willing to offer such
facilities for the benefit of science, during a time of war, when
all the resources of the nation are called upon in order to put an
end to the barbarism of Paraguay, is a most significant sign of the
tendencies prevailing in the administration. There can be no doubt
that the emperor is the soul of the whole. This liberality has
enabled me to devote all my resources to the making of collections,
and the result of my researches has, of course, been proportionate
to the facilities I have enjoyed. Thus far, the whole number of
fishes known from the Amazons has amounted to a little over one
hundred, counting everything that may exist from these waters, in
the Jardin des Plantes, the British Museum, the museums of Munich,
Berlin, Vienna, etc.; while I have collected and now hold, in good
state of preservation, fourteen hundred and forty-two species, and
may get a few hundred more before returning to Para. I have so many
duplicates that I may make every other museum tributary to ours, so
far as the fresh-water animals of Brazil are concerned. This may
seem very unimportant to a statesman. But I am satisfied that it
affords a standard by which to estimate the resources of Brazil, as
they may be hereafter developed. The basin of the Amazons is
another Mississippi, having a tropical climate, tempered by
moisture. Here is room for a hundred million happy human beings.

Ever truly your friend,


The repose of the return voyage, after sixteen months of such
uninterrupted work, and of fresh impressions daily crowding upon
each other, was most grateful to Agassiz. The summary of this
delightful journey may close as it began with a letter to his

AT SEA, July 7, 1866.


When you receive this letter we shall be, I hope, at Nahant, where
our children and grandchildren are waiting for us. To-morrow we
shall stop at Pernambuco, where I shall mail my letter to you by a
French steamer.

I leave Brazil with great regret. I have passed nearly sixteen
months in the uninterrupted enjoyment of this incomparable tropical
nature, and I have learned many things which have enlarged my range
of thought, both concerning organized beings and concerning the
structure of the earth. I have found traces of glaciers under this
burning sky; a proof that our earth has undergone changes of
temperature more considerable than even our most advanced
glacialists have dared to suggest. Imagine, if you can, floating
ice under the equator, such as now exists on the coasts of
Greenland, and you will probably have an approximate idea of the
aspect of the Atlantic Ocean at that epoch.

It is, however, in the basin of the Amazons especially, that my
researches have been crowned with an unexpected success. Spix and
Martius, for whose journey I wrote, as you doubtless remember, my
first work on fishes, brought back from there some fifty species,
and the sum total known now, taking the results of all the
travelers who have followed up the inquiry, does not amount to two
hundred. I had hoped, in making fishes the special object of my
researches, to add perhaps a hundred more. You will understand my
surprise when I rapidly obtained five or six hundred, and finally,
on leaving Para, brought away nearly two thousand,--that is to say,
ten times more than were known when I began my journey.* (* This
estimate was made in the field when close comparison of specimens
from distant localities was out of the question. The whole
collection has never been worked up, and it is possible that the
number of new species it contains, though undoubtedly greatly in
excess of those previously known from the Amazons, may prove to be
less than was at first supposed.--ED.) A great part of this success
is due to the unusual facilities granted me by the Brazilian
government. . .To the Emperor of Brazil I owe the warmest
gratitude. His kindness to me has been beyond all bounds. . .He
even made for me, while he was with the army last summer, a
collection of fishes from the province of Rio Grande du Sud. This
collection would do honor to a professional naturalist. . .

Good-by, dear mother.

With all my heart,


The following letter from old Professor Martius in Munich, of
uncertain date, but probably in answer to one of March, 1866, is
interesting, as connecting this journey with his own Brazilian
expedition almost half a century before.


February 26, 1867.


Your letter of March 20th last year was most gratifying to me as a
token of your affectionate remembrance. You will easily believe
that I followed your journey on the Amazons with the greatest
interest, and without any alloy of envy, though your expedition was
undertaken forty years later than mine, and under circumstances so
much more favorable. Bates, who lived for years in that country,
has borne me witness that I was not wanting in courage and industry
during an exploration which lasted eleven months; and I therefore
believe that you also, in reviewing on the spot my description of
the journey, will not have passed an unfavorable judgment. Our
greatest difficulty was the small size of our boat which was so
weak as to make the crossing of the river always dangerous. I shall
look forward with great pleasure to the more detailed account of
your journey, and also the plan of your route, which I hope you
will send me. Can you tell me anything about the human skeletons at
the Rio St. Antonio in St. Paul? I am very glad to know that you
have paid especial attention to the palms, and I entreat you to
send me the essential parts of every species which you hold to be
new, because I wish to work out the palms for the Flora
Brasiliensis this year. I wish I might find among them some new
genus or species, which then should bear your name.

Do you intend to publish an account of your journey, or shall you
confine yourself entirely to a report on your observations on
Natural History? With a desire to explain the numerous names of
animals, plants, and places, which are derived from the Tupee
language, I have studied it for years that I might be able to use
it fluently. Perhaps you have seen my "Glossaria lignareus
brasiliensium." It contains also 1150 names of animals. To this
work belong, likewise, my ethnographical contributions, of which
forty-five sheets are already printed, to be published I hope next
year. I am curious to hear your geological conclusions. I am myself
inclined to the belief that men existed in South America previous
to the latest geological catastrophes. As you have seen so many
North American Indians, you will be able to give interesting
explanations of their somatic relations to the South American
Indians. Why could you not send me, as secretary of the
mathematical and physical section, a short report of your principal
results? It would then be printed in the report of our meetings,
which, as the forerunner of other publications, could hardly fail
to be agreeable to you. You no doubt see our friend Asa Gray
occasionally. Remember me cordially to him, and tell him I look
eagerly for an answer to my last letter. The year 'sixty-six has
taken from us many eminent botanists, Gusone, Mettenius, Von
Schlechtendal, and Fresenius. I hear but rarely from our excellent
friend Alexander Braun. He does not resist the approach of old age
so well as you, my dear friend. You are still the active
naturalist, fresh and well preserved, to judge by your photograph.
Thank you for it; I send mine in return. My wife still holds in
warm remembrance the days when you, a bright, pleasant young
fellow, used to come and see us,--what a long stretch of time lies
between. Much is changed about me. Of former friends only Kobell
and Vogel remain; Zuccarini, Wagner, Oken, Schelling, Sieber,
Fuchs, Walther,--all these have gone home. All the pleasanter is it
that you, on the other side of the ocean, think sometimes of your
old friend, to whom a letter from you will be always welcome.
Remember me to your family, though I am not known to them. May the
present year bring you health, cheerfulness, and the full enjoyment
of your great and glorious success.

With warm esteem and friendship, always yours,


Agassiz arrived in Cambridge toward the end of August, 1866. After
the first excitement of meeting family and friends was over, he
took up his college and museum work again. He had left for Brazil
at the close of a course before the Lowell Institute, and his first
public appearance after his return was on the same platform. The
rush for tickets was far in excess of the supply, and he was
welcomed with the most ardent enthusiasm. It continued unabated to
the close, although the lectures borrowed no interest from personal
adventure or incidents of travel, but dealt almost wholly with the
intellectual results and larger scientific generalizations growing
out of the expedition. Later in the winter he gave a course also at
the Cooper Institute, in New York, which awakened the same interest
and drew crowds of listeners. The resolution offered by Bancroft,
the historian, at the close of the course, gives an idea of its
character, and coming from such a source, may not unfitly be
transcribed here.

RESOLVED, That the thanks of this great assembly of delighted
hearers be given to the illustrious Professor Agassiz, for the
fullness of his instruction, for the clearness of his method of
illustration, for his exposition of the idea as antecedent to form;
of the superiority of the undying, original, and eternal force over
its transient manifestations; for happy hours which passed too
rapidly away; for genial influences of which the memory will last
through our lives.

All his leisure hours during the winter of 1867 were given to the
review and arrangement of the great collections he had brought



I know you will be pleased to hear that I have returned to the
study of fishes, and that I am not likely to give it up again for
years to come. My success in collecting in the Amazons has been so
unexpected that it will take me years to give an account of what I
have found, and I am bound to show that the strange statements that
have gone abroad are strictly correct. Yes, I have about eighteen
hundred new species of fishes from the basin of the Amazons! The
collection is now in Cambridge, for the most part in good
preservation. It suggests at once the idea that either the other
rivers of the world have been very indifferently explored, or that
tropical America nourishes a variety of animals unknown to other
regions. In this dilemma it would be worth while to send some
naturalist to investigate the Ganges or the Bramaputra, or some of
the great Chinese rivers. Can it not be done by order of the
British government?

Please send me whatever you may publish upon the fossil fishes in
your possession. I frequently sigh for another session in your
museum, and it is not improbable that I shall solicit an invitation
from you in a few years, in order to revise my views of the whole
subject in connection with what I am now learning of the living
fishes. By the way, I have eleven hundred colored drawings of the
species of Brazil made from life by my old friend Burkhardt, who
accompanied me on this journey.

My recent studies have made me more adverse than ever to the new
scientific doctrines which are flourishing now in England. This
sensational zeal reminds me of what I experienced as a young man in
Germany, when the physio-philosophy of Oken had invaded every
centre of scientific activity; and yet, what is there left of it? I
trust to outlive this mania also. As usual, I do not ask beforehand
what you think of it, and I may have put my hand into a hornet's
nest; but you know your old friend Agass, and will forgive him if
he hits a tender spot. . .

The summer of 1867 was passed very tranquilly at his Nahant
laboratory, in that quiet work with his specimens and his
microscope which pleased him best. The following letter to
Professor Benjamin Peirce, who was then Superintendent of the Coast
Survey, shows, however, his unfailing interest in the bearing of
scientific researches on questions of public utility.


NAHANT, September 11, 1867.


Far from considering your request a tax upon my time, it gives me
the greatest pleasure to have an opportunity of laying before you
some statements and reflections, which I trust may satisfy you that
geology and natural history can be made subservient to the great
interests of a civilized community, to a far greater extent than is
generally admitted.

The question of the harbor of Boston, for instance, has a
geological and zoological side, thus far only indirectly
considered. In order to ascertain whence the materials are derived
which accumulate in the harbor, the shores ought to be studied
geologically with a kind of accuracy and minuteness, never required
by geological surveys made for economical purposes. The banks of
the harbor, wherever it is not rock-bound, consist of drift, which
itself rests upon the various rock formations of the district. Now
this drift, as I have ascertained, formerly extended many miles
beyond our present shores, and is still slowly washed away by the
action of tides, winds, and currents. Until you know with precision
the mineralogical composition of the drift of the immediate
vicinity, so accurately indeed as to be able to recognize it in any
new combination into which it may be brought when carried off by
the sea, all your examination of soundings may be of little use.
Should it, however, be ascertained that the larger amount of loose
material spreading over the harbor is derived from some one or
other of the drift islands in the bay, the building of sea-walls to
stop the denudation may be of greater and more immediate use than
any other operation. Again, it is geologically certain that all the
drift islands of the harbor have been formed by the encroachment of
the sea upon a sheet of drift, which once extended in unbroken
continuity from Cape Ann to Cape Cod and farther south. This sheet
of drift is constantly diminishing, and in centuries to come,
which, notwithstanding the immeasurable duration of geological
periods, may be reached, I trust, while the United States still
remains a flourishing empire, it will be removed still further; so
far indeed, that I foresee the time when the whole peninsula of
Cape Cod shall disappear. Under these circumstances, it is the duty
of a wise administration to establish with precision the rate and
the extent of this destruction, that the coming generations may be
forewarned. In connection with this I would advise the making of a
thorough survey of the harbor, to ascertain the extent of rock
surface and of drift, and the relative position of the two, with
maps to show their relations to the different levels of the sea,
whereby the unequal action of the tides upon the various beaches
may be estimated.

The zoological side of the question relates to the amount of loose
materials accumulating in consequence of the increase of animal and
vegetable life, especially of those microscopic beings which,
notwithstanding their extraordinary minuteness, form in course of
time vast deposits of solid materials. Ehrenberg has shown that the
harbor of Wismar, on the Prussian coast of the Baltic, is filling,
not in consequence of the accumulation of inorganic sediments, but
by the rapid increase and decay of innumerable animalcules. To what
extent such deposits may accumulate has also been shown by
Ehrenberg, who ascertained, many years ago, that the city of Berlin
rests upon a deposit of about eighteen feet in thickness,
consisting almost exclusively of the solid parts of such
microscopic beings. These two cases may suffice to show how
important may be a zoological investigation of the harbor deposits.

I need hardly add that the deposits floated into the harbor, by the
numerous rivers and creeks which empty into it, ought to be
investigated with the same care and minuteness as the drift
materials. This investigation should also include the drainage of
the city.

But this is only a small part of the application I would recommend
to be made of geological and zoological knowledge, to the purposes
of the Coast Survey. The reefs of Florida are of the deepest
interest, and the mere geodetic and hydrographic surveys of their
whole range would be far from exhausting the subject. It is my
deliberate opinion that the great reefs of Florida should be
explored with as much minuteness and fullness as the Gulf Stream,
and that the investigation will require as much labor as has thus
far been bestowed on the Gulf Stream. Here again geological and
zoological knowledge is indispensable to the completion of the
work. The reef is formed mainly by the accumulation of solid
materials from a variety of animals and a few plants. The relations
of these animals and plants to one another while alive, in and upon
the reef, ought to be studied more fully than has been the case
heretofore, in order to determine with certainty the share they
have in the formation of these immense submarine walls so dangerous
to navigation. The surveys, as they have been made thus far,
furnish only the necessary information concerning the present form
and extent of the reef. But we know that it is constantly changing,
increasing, enlarging, spreading, rising in such a way and at such
a rate, that the surveys of one century become insufficient for the
next. A knowledge of these changes can only be obtained by a
naturalist, familiar with the structure and mode of growth of the
animals. The survey I made about fifteen years ago, at the request
of your lamented predecessor, could only be considered as a
reconnaissance, in view of the extent and importance of the work. I
would, therefore, recommend you to organize a party specially
detailed to carry on these investigations in connection with, and
by the side of, the regular geodetic and hydrographic survey. Here,
also, would geological knowledge be of great advantage to the
explorer. In confirmation of my recommendation I need only remind
you of a striking fact in the history of our science. More than
thirty years ago, before Dana and Darwin had published their
beautiful investigations upon the coral reefs, a pupil of mine, the
late Armand Gressly, had traced the structure and mode of growth of
coral reefs and atolls in the Jura mountains, thus anticipating, by
a geological investigation, results afterward obtained by dredging
in the ocean. The structure of the reefs of our shores is,
therefore, more likely to be fully understood by one who is
entirely familiar with zoology and geology than by a surveyor who
has no familiarity with either of these sciences.

There is another reason why I would urge upon you the application
of natural sciences to the work of the survey. The depth of the
ocean is a great obstacle to a satisfactory exploration of its
bottom. But we know now that nearly all dry land has been sea
bottom before it was raised above the level of the water. This is
at least the case with all the stratified rocks and aqueous
deposits forming part of the earth's crust. Now it would greatly
facilitate the study of the bottom of the sea if, after
ascertaining by soundings the general character of the bottom in
any particular region, corresponding bottoms on dry land were
examined, so that by a comparison of the one with the other, both
might be better understood. The shoals of the southern coast of
Massachusetts have been surveyed, and their position is now known
with great accuracy; but their internal structure, their mode of
formation, is only imperfectly ascertained, owing to the difficulty
of cutting into them and examining in situ the materials of which
they are composed. Nothing, on the contrary, is easier than to
explore the structure or composition of drift hills which are cut
through by all our railroad tracks. Now the shoals and rips of
Nantucket have their counterparts on the main-land; and even along
the shores of Boston Harbor, in the direction of Dorchester and
Milton, such shoals may be examined, far away from the waters to
which they owe their deposits. Here, then, is the place to complete
the exploration, for which soundings and dredgings give only
imperfect information.

I need not extend these remarks further in order to satisfy you of
the importance of geological and zoological researches in
connection with the regular operations of the Coast Survey. Permit
me, however, to add a few words upon some points which, as it seems
to me, belong legitimately to the Coast Survey, and to which
sufficient attention has not yet been paid. I allude, first, to the
salt marshes of our shores, their formation and uses, as well as
their gradual disappearance under the advance of the sea; second,
to the extended low islands in the form of reefs along the coast of
the Southern States, the bases of which may be old coral reefs;
third, the form of all our estuaries, which has resulted from the
conflict of the sea with the drift formation, and is therefore, in
a measure, a geological problem; fourth, the extensive deposits of
foraminifera along the coast, which ought to be compared with the
deposits of tripoli found in many tertiary formations; fifth, the
general form and outline of our continent, with all its
indentations, which are due to their geological structure. Indeed,
the shore everywhere is the result of the conflict of the ocean
with the rock formation of the land, and therefore as much a
question for geology as geodesy to answer.

Should the preceding remarks induce you to carry my suggestions
into practical operation, be assured that it will at all times give
me the greatest pleasure to contribute to the success of your
administration, not only by advice, but by actual participation in
your work whenever that is wanted. The scientific men of America
look to you for the publication of the great results already
secured by the Coast Survey, well knowing that this national
enterprise can only be benefited by the high-minded course which
has at all times marked your intellectual career.

Ever truly your friend,


This year closed for Agassiz with a heavy sorrow. His mother's
health had been failing of late, and November brought the news of
her death. Separated though they were, there had never been any
break in their intercourse. As far as he could, he kept her advised
of all his projects and undertakings, and his work was no less
interesting to her when the ocean lay between them than when he
could daily share it with her. She had an unbounded sympathy with
him in the new ties he had formed in this country, and seemed
indeed as intimately allied with his later life here as with its
earlier European portion.

His own health, which had seemed for a time to have regained the
vigor of youth, broke down again in the following spring, and an
attack about the region of the heart disabled him for a number of
weeks. To this date belongs a short correspondence between Agassiz
and Oswald Heer. Heer's work on the Fossil Flora of the Arctics had
recently appeared, and a presentation copy from him reached Agassiz
as he was slowly regaining strength after his illness, although
still confined to the house. It could not have come at a happier
moment, for it engrossed him completely, and turned his thoughts
away from the occupations which he was not yet allowed to resume.
The book had a twofold interest for him: although in another branch
of science, it was akin to his own earlier investigations, inasmuch
as it reconstructed the once rich flora of the polar regions as he
himself had reconstructed the fauna of past geological times; it
clothed their frozen fields with forests as he had sheeted now
fertile lands with ice. In short, it appealed powerfully to the
imagination, and no child in the tedious hours of convalescence was
ever more beguiled by a story-book than he by the pictures which
this erudite work called up.


CAMBRIDGE, May 12, 1868.


Your beautiful book on the Fossil Arctic Flora reached me, just as
I was recovering from a tedious and painful illness. I could,
therefore, take it in hand at once, and have been delighted with
it. You give a captivating picture of the successive changes which
the Arctic regions have undergone. No work could be more valuable,
either as a means of opening recent investigations in Paleontology
to the larger public, or of advancing science itself. If I can find
the time I mean to prepare an abridgment in popular form for one of
our reviews. Meantime I have written to Professor Henry,
Superintendent of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, that
he should subscribe for a number of copies to be distributed among
less wealthy establishments. I hope he will do this, and I shall
continue to urge it, since my friendly relations with him give me a
right so to do. I have, moreover, written to the directors of
various prominent institutions, in order that your work, so far as
is possible for works of that kind, may become known in the United
States, and reach such persons as would naturally be interested in
it. . .

With friendly remembrance, yours always,


The answer is some months later in date, but is given here for its


ZURICH, December 8, 1868.


Your letter of last May gave me the greatest pleasure, and I should
have answered it earlier had I not heard that you had gone to the
Rocky Mountains, and supposed, therefore, that my letter would
hardly find you at home again before the late autumn. I will delay
writing no longer,--the more so because I have received, through
the Smithsonian Institution, your great work on the Natural History
of the United States. Valuable as it is in itself, it has a double
attraction for me as the gift of the author. Accept my warm thanks.
It will always be to me a token of your friendly regard. It gave me
great satisfaction to know that my Fossil Arctic Flora had met with
your approval. Since then many new facts have come to light tending
to confirm my results. The Whymper Expedition brought to England a
number of fossil plants, which have been sent to me for
examination. I found eighty species, of which thirty-two from North
Greenland are new, so that we now know 137 species of Miocene
plants from North Greenland (70 degrees north latitude). It was a
real delight to me to find the fruit cup of the Castanea [chestnut]
inclosing three seeds (three Kastanica) and covered with prickles
like the Castanea vesca; and, furthermore, I was able to prove by
the flowers, which were preserved with the fruit, that the
supposition given in the Arctic Flora (page 106) was correct;
namely, that the leaves of the Fagus castaneafolia Ung. truly
belong to a Castanea. As several fruits are contained in one fruit
cup, this Miocene Castanea must have been nearer to the European
species (C. vesca) than to the American Castanea (the C. pumila
Micha). The leaves have been drawn in the Flora Arctica, and are
also preserved in the Whymper collection.

I have received very beautiful and large leaves of the Castanea
which I have called C. Ungeri, from Alaska. I am now occupied in
working up this fossil Alaskan flora; the plants are in great part
drawn, and contain magnificent leaves. The treatise will be
published by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm; I hope to send you a
copy a few months hence. This flora is remarkable for its
resemblance to the European Miocene flora. The liquidambar, as well
as several poplars and willows, cannot be distinguished from those
of Oeningen; the same is true of an Elm, a Carpinus, and others. As
Alaska now belongs to the United States, it is to be hoped that
these collecting stations, which have already furnished such
magnificent plants, will be farther ransacked. . .Hoping that you
have returned safely from your journey, and that these lines may
find you well, I remain, with cordial greeting,

Sincerely yours,


Shortly after Agassiz's recovery, in July, 1868, he was invited by
Mr. Samuel Hooper to join a party of friends, tired members of
Congress and business men, on an excursion to the West, under
conditions which promised not only rest and change, but an
opportunity for studying glacial phenomena over a broad region of
prairie and mountain which Agassiz had never visited. They were to
meet at Chicago, keep on from there to St. Paul, and down the
Mississippi, turning off through Kansas to the eastern branch of
the Pacific Railroad, at the terminus of which they were to meet
General Sherman with ambulances and an escort for conveyance across
the country to the Union Pacific Railroad, returning then by
Denver, Utah, and Omaha, and across the State of Iowa to the
Mississippi once more. This journey was of great interest to
Agassiz, and its scientific value was heightened by a subsequent
stay of nearly two months at Ithaca, N.Y., on his return. Cornell
University was then just opened at Ithaca, and he had accepted an
appointment as non-resident professor, with the responsibility of
delivering annually a course of lectures on various subjects of
natural history. New efforts in behalf of education always
attracted him, and this drew him with an even stronger magnet than
usual, involving as it did an untried experiment--the attempt,
namely, to combine the artisan with the student, manual labor with
intellectual work. The plan was a generous one, and stimulated both
pupils and teachers. Among the latter none had greater sympathy
with the high ideal and broad humanity of the undertaking than
Agassiz.* (* Very recently a memorial tablet has been placed in the
Chapel at Cornell University by the trustees, recording their
gratitude for the share he took in the initiation of the

Beside the enthusiasm which he brought to his special work, he
found an added pleasure at Cornell in the fact that the region in
which the new university was situated contained another chapter in
the book of glacial records he had so long been reading, and made
also, as the following letter tells us, a natural sequence to his
recent observations in the West.


ITHACA, October 26, 1868.

. . .I am passing some weeks here, and am studying the erratic
phenomena, and especially the formation of the many small lakes
which literally swarm in this region, and are connected in various
ways with the glacial epoch. The journey which I have just
completed has furnished me with a multitude of new facts concerning
the glacial period, the long continuance of which, and its
importance with reference to the physical history of the globe,
become daily more clear to me. The origin and mode of formation of
the vast system of our American rivers have especially occupied me,
and I think I have found the solution of the problem which they
present. This system reproduces the lines followed by the water
over the surface of the ground moraines, which covered the whole
continent, when the great sheet of ice which modeled the drift
broke up and melted away. This conclusion will, no doubt, be as
slow of acceptance as was the theory of the ancient extension of
glaciers. But that does not trouble me. For my own part I am
confident of its truth, and after having seen the idea of a glacial
epoch finally adopted by all except those who are interested in
opposing it on account of certain old and artificial theories, I
can wait a little till the changes which succeeded that epoch are
also understood. I have obtained direct proof that the prairies of
the West rest upon polished rock. It has happened in the course of
recent building on the prairie, that the native rock has been laid
bare here and there, and this rock is as distinctly furrowed by the
action of the glacier and by its engraving process, as the Handeck,
or the slopes of the Jura. I have seen magnificent slabs in
Nebraska in the basin of the river Platte. Do not the physicists
begin to think of explaining to us the probable cause of changes so
remarkable and so well established? We can no longer evade the
question by supposing these phenomena to be due to the action of
great currents. We have to do first with sheets of ice, five or six
thousand feet in thickness (an estimate which can be tested by
indirect measurements in the Northern States), covering the whole
continent, and then with the great currents which ensued upon the
breaking up of that mass of ice. He who does not distinguish
between these two series of facts, and perceive their connection,
does not understand the geology of the Quaternary epoch. . .

Of about this date is the following pleasant letter from Longfellow
to Agassiz. Although it has no special bearing upon what precedes,
it is inserted here, because their near neighborhood and constant
personal intercourse, both at Cambridge and Nahant, made letters
rare between them. Friends who see each other so often are
infrequent correspondents.

ROME, December 31, 1868.


I fully intended to write you from Switzerland, that my letter
might come to you like a waft of cool air from a glacier in the
heat of summer. But alas! I did not find cool air enough for
myself, much less to send across the sea. Switzerland was as hot as
Cambridge, and all life was taken out of me; and the letter
remained in the inkstand. I draw it forth as follows.

One of the things I most wished to say, and which I say first, is
the delight with which I found your memory so beloved in England.
At Cambridge, Professor Sedgwick said, "Give my love to Agassiz.
Give him the blessing of an old man." In London, Sir Roderick
Murchison said, "I have known a great many men that I liked; but I
LOVE Agassiz." In the Isle of Wight, Darwin said, "What a set of
men you have in Cambridge! Both our universities put together
cannot furnish the like. Why, there is Agassiz,--he counts for

One of my pleasantest days in Switzerland was that passed at
Yverdon. In the morning I drove out to see the Gasparins. In their
abundant hospitality they insisted upon my staying to dinner, and
proposed a drive up the valley of the Orbe. I could not resist; so
up the lovely valley we drove, and passed the old chateau of the
Reine Berthe, one of my favorite heroines, but, what was far more
to me, passed the little town of Orbe. There it stands, with its
old church tower and the trees on the terrace, just as when you
played under them as a boy. It was very, very pleasant to behold
. . .Thanks for your letter from the far West. I see by the papers
that you have been lecturing at the Cornell University.

With kindest greetings and remembrances, always affectionately



1868-1871: AGE 61-64.

New Subscription to Museum.
Additional Buildings.
Arrangement of New Collections.
Dredging Expedition on Board the Bibb.
Address at the Humboldt Centennial.
Attack on the Brain.
Suspension of Work.
Working Force at the Museum.
New Accessions.
Letter from Professor Sedgwick.
Letter from Professor Deshayes.
Restored Health.
Hassler Voyage proposed.
Scientific Preparation for the Voyage.

Agassiz returned to Cambridge to find the Museum on an improved
footing financially. The Legislature had given seventy-five
thousand dollars for an addition to the building, and private
subscriptions had doubled this sum, in order to provide for the
preservation and arrangement of the new collections. In
acknowledging this gift of the Legislature in his Museum Report for
1868 Agassiz says:--

"While I rejoice in the prospect of this new building, as affording
the means for a complete exhibition of the specimens now stored in
our cellars and attics and encumbering every room of the present
edifice, I yet can hardly look forward to the time when we shall be
in possession of it without shrinking from the grandeur of our
undertaking. The past history of our science rises before me with
its lessons. Thinking men in every part of the world have been
stimulated to grapple with the infinite variety of problems,
connected with the countless animals scattered without apparent
order throughout sea and land. They have been led to discover the
affinities of various living beings. The past has yielded up its
secrets, and has shown them that the animals now peopling the earth
are but the successors of countless populations which have preceded
them, and whose remains are buried in the crust of our globe.
Further study has revealed relations between the animals of past
time and those now living, and between the law of succession in the
former and the laws of growth and distribution in the latter, so
intimate and comprehensive that this labyrinth of organic life
assumes the character of a connected history, which opens before us
with greater clearness in proportion as our knowledge increases.
But when the museums of the Old World were founded, these relations
were not even suspected. The collections of natural history,
gathered at immense expense in the great centres of human
civilization, were accumulated mainly as an evidence of man's
knowledge and skill in exhibiting to the best advantage, not only
the animals, but the products and curiosities of all sorts from
various parts of the world. While we admire and emulate the
industry and perseverance of the men who collected these materials,
and did in the best way the work it was possible to do in their
time for science, we have no longer the right to build museums
after this fashion. The originality and vigor of one generation
become the subservience and indolence of the next, if we only
repeat the work of our predecessors. They prepared the ground for
us by accumulating the materials for extensive comparison and
research. They presented the problem; we ought to be ready with the
solution. If I mistake not, the great object of our museums should
be to exhibit the whole animal kingdom as a manifestation of the
Supreme Intellect. Scientific investigation in our day should be
inspired by a purpose as animating to the general sympathy, as was
the religious zeal which built the Cathedral of Cologne or the
Basilica of St. Peter's. The time is passed when men expressed
their deepest convictions by these wonderful and beautiful
religious edifices; but it is my hope to see, with the progress of
intellectual culture, a structure arise among us which may be a
temple of the revelations written in the material universe. If this
be so, our buildings for such an object can never be too
comprehensive, for they are to embrace the infinite work of
Infinite Wisdom. They can never be too costly, so far as cost
secures permanence and solidity, for they are to contain the most
instructive documents of Omnipotence."

Agassiz gave the winter of 1869 to identifying, classifying, and
distributing the new collections. A few weeks in the spring were,
however, passed with his friend Count de Pourtales in a dredging
expedition on board the Coast Survey Steamer Bibb, off the coast of
Cuba, on the Bahama Banks, and among the reefs of Florida. This
dredging excursion, though it covered a wider ground than any
previous one, was the third deep-sea exploration undertaken by M.
de Pourtales under the auspices of the Coast Survey. His
investigations may truly be said to have exercised a powerful
influence upon this line of research, and to have led the way to
the more extended work of the same kind carried on by the Coast
Survey in later years. He had long wished to show his old friend
and teacher some of the rich dredging grounds he had discovered
between Florida and the West Indies, and they thoroughly enjoyed
this short period of work together. Every day and hour brought some
new interest, and excess of material seemed the only difficulty.

This was Agassiz's last cruise in the Bibb, on whose hospitable
deck he had been a welcome guest from the first year of his arrival
in this country. The results of this expedition, as connected with
the present conformation of the continent and its probable
geological history in the past, were given as follows in the Museum
Bulletin of the same year.


(* "Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology" 1 Number 13 1869
pages 368, 369.)


From what I have seen of the deep-sea bottom, I am already led to
infer that among the rocks forming the bulk of the stratified crust
of our globe, from the oldest to the youngest formation, there are
probably none which have been formed in very deep waters. If this
be so, we shall have to admit that the areas now respectively
occupied by our continents, as circumscribed by the two hundred
fathom curve or thereabout, and the oceans at greater depth, have
from the beginning retained their relative outline and position;
the continents having at all times been areas of gradual upheaval
with comparatively slight oscillations of rise and subsidence, and
the oceans at all times areas of gradual depression with equally
slight oscillations. Now that the geological constitution of our
continent is satisfactorily known over the greatest part of its
extent, it seems to me to afford the strongest evidence that this
has been the case; while there is no support whatever for the
assumption that any part of it has sunk again to any very great
depth after its rise above the surface of the ocean. The fact that
upon the American continent, east of the Rocky Mountains, the
geological formations crop out in their regular succession, from
the oldest azoic and primordial deposits to the cretaceous
formation, without the slightest indication of a great subsequent
subsidence, seems to me the most complete and direct demonstration
of my proposition. Of the western part of the continent I am not
prepared to speak with the same confidence. Moreover, the position
of the cretaceous and tertiary formations along the low grounds
east of the Allegheny range is another indication of the permanence
of the ocean trough, on the margin of which these more recent beds
have been formed. I am well aware that in a comparatively recent
period, portions of Canada and the United States, which now stand
six or seven hundred feet above the level of the sea, have been
under water; but this has not changed the configuration of the
continent, if we admit that the latter is in reality circumscribed
by the two hundred fathom curve of depth.

The summer was passed in his beloved laboratory at Nahant (as it
proved, the last he ever spent there), where he was still
continuing the preparation of his work on sharks and skates. At the
close of the summer, he interrupted this occupation for one to
which he brought not only the reverence of a disciple, but a
life-long debt of personal gratitude and affection. He had been
entreated to deliver the address at the Humboldt Centennial
Celebration (September 15, 1869), organized under the auspices of
the Boston Society of Natural History. He had accepted the
invitation with many misgivings, for to literary work as such he
was unaccustomed, and in the field of the biographer he felt
himself a novice. His preparation for the task was conscientious
and laborious. For weeks he shut himself up in a room of the Public
Library in Boston and reviewed all the works of the great master,
living, as it were, in his presence. The result was a very concise
and yet full memoir, a strong and vigorous sketch of Humboldt's
researches, and of their influence not only upon higher education
at the present day, but on our most elementary instruction, until
the very "school-boy is familiar with his methods, yet does not
know that Humboldt is his teacher." Agassiz's picture of this
generous intellect, fertilizing whatever it touched, was made the
more life-like by the side lights which his affection for Humboldt
and his personal intercourse with him in the past enabled him to
throw upon it. Emerson, who was present, said of this address,
"that Agassiz had never delivered a discourse more wise, more
happy, or of more varied power." George William Curtis writes of
it: "Your discourse seems to me the very ideal of such an address,
--so broad, so simple, so comprehensive, so glowing, so profoundly
appreciative, telling the story of Humboldt's life and work as I am
sure no other living man can tell it." In memory of this occasion
the "Humboldt Scholarship" was founded at the Museum of Comparative

It is hardly worth while to consider now whether this effort, added
to the pressing work of the year, hastened the attack which
occurred soon after, with its warning to Agassiz that his
overtasked brain could bear no farther strain. The first seizure,
of short duration, but affecting speech and motion while it lasted,
was followed by others which became less and less acute until they
finally disappeared. For months, however, he was shut up in his
room, absolutely withdrawn from every intellectual effort, and
forbidden by his physicians even to think. The fight with his own
brain was his greatest difficulty, and perhaps he showed as much
power in compelling his active intellect to stultify itself in
absolute inactivity for the time, as he had ever shown in giving it
free rein. Yet he could not always banish the Museum, the
passionate dream of his American life. One day, after dictating
some necessary directions concerning it, he exclaimed, with a sort
of despairing cry, "Oh, my Museum! my Museum! always uppermost, by
day and by night, in health and in sickness, always--ALWAYS!"

He was destined, however, to a few more years of activity, the
reward, perhaps, of his patient and persistent struggle for
recovery. After a winter of absolute seclusion, passed in his sick
chamber, he was allowed by his physician, in the spring of 1870, to
seek change at the quiet village of Deerfield on the Connecticut
River. Nature proved the best physician. Unable when he arrived to
take more than a few steps without vertigo, he could, before many
weeks were over, walk several miles a day. Keen as an Egyptologist
for the hieroglyphics of his science, he was soon deciphering the
local inscriptions of the glacial period, tracking the course of
the ice on slab and dike and river-bed,--on every natural surface.
The old music sang again in his ear and wooed him back to life.

In the mean time, his assistants and students were doing all in
their power to keep the work of the Museum at high-water mark. The
publications, the classification and arrangement of the more recent
collections, the distribution of such portions as were intended for
the public, the system of exchanges, went on uninterruptedly. The
working force at the Museum was, indeed, now very strong. In great
degree it was, so to speak, home-bred. Agassiz had gradually
gathered about him, chiefly from among his more special students, a
staff of assistants who were familiar with his plans and shared his
enthusiasm. To these young friends he was warmly attached. It would
be impossible to name them all, but the knot of younger men who
were for years his daily associates in scientific work, whose
sympathy and cooperation he so much valued, and who are now in
their turn growing old in the service of science, will read the
roll-call between the lines, and know that none are forgotten here.
Years before his own death, he had the pleasure of seeing several
of them called to important scientific positions, and it was a
cogent evidence to him of the educational efficiency of the Museum,
that it had supplied to the country so many trained investigators
and teachers. Through them he himself teaches still. There was a
prophecy in Lowell's memorial lines:--

    "He was a Teacher: why be grieved for him
    Whose living word still stimulates the air?
    In endless file shall loving scholars come,
    The glow of his transmitted touch to share."

Beside these, there were several older, experienced naturalists,
who were permanently or transiently engaged at the Museum. Some
were heads of departments, while others lent assistance
occasionally in special work. Again the list is too long for
enumeration, but as the veteran among the older men Mr. J.G.
Anthony should be remembered. Already a conchologist of forty
years' standing when he came to the Museum in 1863, he devoted
himself to the institution until the day of his death, twenty years
later. Among those who came to give occasional help were Mr.
Lesquereux, the head of paleontological botany in this country; M.
Jules Marcou, the geologist; and M. de Pourtales, under whose care
the collection of corals was constantly improved and enlarged. The
last named became at last wholly attached to the Museum, sharing
its administration with Alexander Agassiz after his father's death.

To this band of workers some accessions had recently been made.
More than two years before, Agassiz had been so fortunate as to
secure the assistance of the entomologist, Dr. Hermann Hagen, from
Konigsberg, Prussia. He came at first only for a limited time, but
he remained, and still remains, at the Museum, becoming more and
more identified with the institution, beside filling a place as
professor in Harvard University. His scientific sympathy and
support were of the greatest value to Agassiz during the rest of
his life. A later new-corner, and a very important one at the
Museum, was Dr. Franz Steindachner, of Vienna, who arrived in the
spring of 1870 to put in final order the collection of Brazilian
fishes, and passed two years in this country. Thus Agassiz's hands
were doubly strengthened. Beside having the service of the salaried
assistants and professors, the Museum received much gratuitous aid.
Among the scientific volunteers were numbered for years Francois de
Pourtales, Theodore Lyman, James M. Barnard, and Alexander Agassiz,
while the business affairs of the institution were undertaken by
Thomas G. Cary, Agassiz's brother-in-law. The latter had long been
of great service to the Museum as collector on the Pacific coast,
where he had made this work his recreation in the leisure hours of
a merchant's life.* (* For the history of the Museum in later times
reference is made to the regular reports and publications of the

Broken as he was in health, it is amazing to see the amount of work
done or directed by Agassiz during this convalescent summer of
1870. The letters written by him in this time concerning the Museum
alone would fill a good-sized volume. Such a correspondence is
unfit for reproduction here, but its minuteness shows that almost
the position of every specimen, and the daily, hourly work of every
individual in the Museum, were known to him. The details of
administration form, however, but a small part of the material of
this correspondence. The consideration and discussion of the future
of the Museum with those most nearly concerned, fill many of the
letters. They give evidence of a fostering and far-reaching care,
which provided for the growth and progress of the Museum, long
after his own share in it should have ceased.

In reviewing Agassiz's scientific life in the United States, its
brilliant successes, and the genial generous support which it
received in this country, it is natural to give prominence to the
brighter side. And yet it must not be forgotten that like all men
whose ideals outrun the means of execution, he had moments of
intense depression and discouragement. Some of his letters, written
at this time to friends who controlled the financial policy of the
Museum, are almost like a plea for life. While the trustees urge
safe investments and the expenditure of income alone, he believes
that in proportion to the growth and expansion of the Museum will
be its power of self-maintenance and its claim on the community at
large. In short, expenditure seemed to him the best investment,
insuring a fair return, on the principle that the efficiency and
usefulness of an institution will always be the measure of the
support extended to it. The two or three following letters, in
answer to letters from Agassiz which cannot be found, show how
earnestly, in spite of physical depression, he strove to keep the
Museum in relation with foreign institutions, to strengthen the
former, and cooperate as far as possible with the latter.


MUNICH, 1869.

. . .Most gladly shall I meet your wishes both with regard to the
fresh-water fishes of Central Europe and to your desire for the
means of direct comparison between the fishes brought by Spix from
Brazil and described by you, and those you have recently yourself
collected in the Amazons. The former, with one exception, are still
in existence and remain undisturbed, for since your day no one has
cared to work at the fishes or reptiles. Schubert took no interest
in the zoological cabinet intrusted to him; and Wagner, who later
relieved him of its management, cared chiefly for the mammals. I
have now, however, given particular attention to the preservation
of everything determined by you, so far as it could be found, and
am truly glad that this material is again to be called into the
service of science. Of course I had to ask permission of the
"General Conservatorium of Scientific Collections" before sending
this property of the state on so long a journey. At my urgent
request this permission was very cordially granted by Herr von
Liebig, especially as our collection is likely to be increased by
the new forms you offer us.

As to the fresh-water fishes I must beg for a little time. At the
fish market, in April or May, I can find those Cyprinoids, the
males of which bear at the spawning season that characteristic
eruption of the skin, which has so often and so incorrectly led to
the making of new species. . .

From your son Alexander I receive one beautiful work after another.
Give him my best thanks for these admirable gifts, which I enter
with sincere pleasure in my catalogue of books. You are indeed
happy to have such a co-worker at your side. At the next
opportunity I shall write my thanks to him personally.

How is Dr. Hermann Hagen pleased with his new position? I think the
presence of this superior entomologist will exert a powerful and
important influence upon the development of entomology in North
America. . .



Your letter was truly an event, my dear friend, not only for me but
for our Museum. . .How happy you are, and how enviable has been
your scientific career, since you have had your home in free
America! The founder of a magnificent institution, to which your
glorious name will forever remain attached, you have the means of
carrying out whatever undertaking commends itself to you as useful.
Men and things, following the current that sets toward you, are
drawn to your side. You desire, and you see your desires carried
out. You are the sovereign leader of the scientific movement around
you, of which you yourself have been the first promoter.

What would our old Museum not have gained in having at its head a
man like you! We should not now be lying stagnant in a space so
insufficient that our buildings, by the mere force of
circumstances, are transformed into store-houses, where objects of
study are heaped together, and can be of no use to any one. . .You
can fancy how much I envy your organization. It depressed me to
read your letter, with its brilliant proposals of exchange,
remembering how powerless we are to meet even a small number of
them. Your project is certainly an admirable one; to find the
scientific nomenclature where it is best established, and by the
help of good specimens transport it to your own doors. Nothing
could be better, and I would gladly assist in it. But to succeed in
this excellent enterprise one must have good duplicate specimens;
not having them, one must have money. As a conclusion to your
letter, the question of money was brought before my assembled
colleagues, but the answer was vague and uncertain. I must, then,
find resources in some other way, and this is what I propose to do
. . .[Here follow some plans for exchange.] Beside this, I will
busy myself in getting together authentic collections from our
French seas, both Oceanic and Mediterranean, and even from other
points in the European seas. Meantime, you shall have your share
henceforth in whatever comes to me. . .I learn from your son that
your health is seriously attacked. I was grieved to hear it. Take
care of yourself, my dear friend. You are still needed in this
world; you have a great work to accomplish, the end and aim of
which you alone are able to reach. You must, therefore, still stand
in the breach for some years to come.

Your letter, which shows me the countless riches you have to offer
at the Museum, puts me in the frame of mind of the child who was
offered his choice in a toy-shop. "I choose everything," he said. I
could reply in the same way. I choose all you offer me. Still, one
must be reasonable, and I will therefore name, as the thing I
chiefly desire, the remarkable fauna dredged from the Gulf Stream.
Let me add, however, in order to give you entire freedom, that
whatever you may send to the Museum will be received with sincere
and ardent gratitude.

And so, farewell, my dear friend, with a warm shake of the hand and
the most cordial regard.


The next is in answer to a letter from Agassiz to the veteran
naturalist, Professor Sedgwick, concerning casts of well-known
fossil specimens in Cambridge, England. Though the casts were
unattainable, the affectionate reply gave Agassiz keen pleasure.


THE CLOSE, NORWICH, August 9, 1871.


. . .I of course showed your letter to my friend Seeley, and after
some consultation with men of practical knowledge, it was
considered almost impossible to obtain such casts of the reptilian
bones as you mention. The specimens of the bones are generally so
rugged and broken, that the artists would find it extremely
difficult to make casts from them without the risk of damaging
them, and the authorities of the university, who are the
proprietors of the whole collection in my Museum, would be
unwilling to encounter that risk. Mr. Seeley, however, fully
intends to send you a gutta-percha cast of the cerebral cavity of
one of our important specimens described in "Seeley's Catalogue,"
but he is full of engagements and may not hitherto have realized
his intentions. As for myself, at present I can do nothing except
hobble daily on my stick from my house to the Cathedral, for I am
afflicted by a painful lameness in my left knee. The load of years
begins to press upon me (I am now toiling through my 87th year),
and my sight is both dim and irritable, so that, as a matter of
necessity, I am generally compelled to employ an amanuensis. That
part is now filled by a niece who is to me in the place of a dear

I need not tell you that the meetings of the British Association
are still continued, and the last session (this year at Edinburgh)
only ended yesterday. Let me correct a mistake. I met you first at
Edinburgh in 1834, the year I became Canon, and again at Dublin in
1835. . .It is a great pleasure to me, my dear friend, to see again
by the vision of memory that fine youthful person, that benevolent
face, and to hear again, as it were, the cheerful ring of the sweet
and powerful voice by which you made the old Scotchmen start and
stare, while you were bringing to life again the fishes of their
old red sandstone. I must be content with the visions of memory and
the feelings they again kindle in my heart, for it will never be my
happiness to see your face again in this world. But let me, as a
Christian man, hope that we may meet hereafter in heaven, and see
such visions of God's glory in the moral and material universe, as
shall reduce to a mere germ everything which has been elaborated by
the skill of man, or revealed to God's creatures. I send you an old
man's blessing, and remain,

Your affectionate friend,


In November, 1870, Agassiz was able to return to Cambridge and the
Museum, and even to resume his lectures, which were as vigorous and
fresh as ever. So entirely did he seem to have recovered, that in
the course of the winter the following proposition was made to him
by his friend, Professor Benjamin Peirce, then Superintendent of
the Coast Survey.



. . .I met Sumner in the Senate the day before yesterday, and he
expressed immense delight at a letter he had received from
Brown-Sequard, telling him that you were altogether free from
disease. . .Now, my dear friend, I have a very serious proposition
for you. I am going to send a new iron surveying steamer round to
California in the course of the summer. She will probably start at
the end of June. Would you go in her, and do deep-sea dredging all
the way round? If so, what companions will you take? If not, who
shall go?. . .


CAMBRIDGE, February 20, 1871.

. . .I am overjoyed at the prospect your letter opens before me. Of
course I will go, unless Brown-Sequard orders me positively to stay
on terra firma. But even then, I should like to have a hand in
arranging the party, as I feel there never was, and is not likely
soon again to be, such an opportunity for promoting the cause of
science generally, and that of natural history in particular. I
would like Pourtales and Alex to be of the party, and both would
gladly join if they can. Both are as much interested about it as I
am, and I have no doubt between us we may organize a working team,
strong enough to do something creditable. It seems to me that the
best plan to pursue in the survey would be to select carefully a
few points (as many as time would allow) on shore, from which to
work at right angles with the coast, to as great a distance as the
results would justify, and then move on to some other head-land. If
this plan be adopted, it would be desirable to have one additional
observer to make collections on shore, to connect with the result
of the dredgings. This would be the more important as, with the
exception of Brazil, hardly anything is known of the shore faunae
upon the greater part of the South American coast. For shore
observations I should like a man of the calibre of Dr.
Steindachner, who has spent a year on the coast of Senegal, and
would thus bring a knowledge of the opposite side of the Atlantic
as a starting basis of comparison. . .

After consultation with his physicians, it was decided that Agassiz
might safely undertake the voyage in the Hassler, that it might
indeed be of benefit to his health. His party of naturalists, as
finally made up, consisted of Agassiz himself, Count de Pourtales,
Dr. Franz Steindachner, and Mr. Blake, a young student from the
Museum, who accompanied Agassiz as assistant and draughtsman. Dr.
Thomas Hill, ex-president of Harvard University, was also on the
expedition, and though engaged in special investigations of his
own, he joined in all the work with genial interest. The vessel was
commanded by Captain (now Commodore) Philip C. Johnson, whose
courtesy and kindness made the Hassler a floating home to the
guests on board. So earnest and active was the sympathy felt by him
and his officers in the scientific interests of the expedition,
that they might be counted as a valuable additional volunteer
corps. Among them should be counted Dr. William White, of
Philadelphia, who accompanied the expedition in a partly
professional, partly scientific capacity.

The hopes Agassiz had formed of this expedition, as high as those
of any young explorer, were only partially fulfilled. His
enthusiasm, though it had the ardor of youth, had none of its
vagueness. In a letter to Mr. Peirce, published in the Museum
Bulletin at this time, there is this passage: "If this world of
ours is the work of intelligence and not merely the product of
force and matter, the human mind, as a part of the whole, should so
chime with it, that from what is known it may reach the unknown. If
this be so, the knowledge gathered should, within the limits of
error which its imperfection renders unavoidable, enable us to
foretell what we are likely to find in the deepest abysses of the
sea." He looked, in short, for the solution of special problems
directly connected with all his previous work. He believed the
deeper sea would show forms of life akin to animals of earlier
geological times, throwing new light on the relation between the
fossil and the living world. In the letter above quoted, he even
named the species he expected to find most prevalent in those
greater depths: as, for instance, representatives of the older
forms of Ganoids and Selachians; Cephalopods, resembling the more
ancient chambered shells; Gasteropods, recalling the tertiary and
cretaceous types; and Acephala, resembling those of the jurassic
and cretaceous formations. He expected to find Crustaceans also,
more nearly approaching the ancient Trilobites than those now
living on the surface of the globe; and among Radiates he looked
for the older forms of sea-urchins, star-fishes, and corals.
Although the collections brought together on this cruise were rich
and interesting, they gave but imperfect answers to these
comprehensive questions. Owing to defects in the dredging
apparatus, the hauls from the greatest depths were lost.

With reference to the glacial period he anticipated still more
positive results. In the same letter the following passage occurs:
"There is, however, still one kind of evidence wanting, to remove
all doubt that the greater extension of glaciers in former ages was
connected with cosmic changes in the physical condition of our
globe. Namely, all the phenomena relating to the glacial period
must be found in the southern hemisphere, accompanied by the same
characteristic features as in the north, but with this essential
difference,--that everything must be reversed. The trend of the
glacial abrasions must be from the south northward, the lee-side of
abraded rocks must be on the north side of the hills and mountain
ranges, and the boulders must have traveled from the south to their
present position. Whether this be so or not, has not yet been
ascertained by direct observation. I expect to find it so
throughout the temperate and cold zones of the southern hemisphere,
with the exception of the present glaciers of Terra del Fuego and
Patagonia, which may have transported boulders in every direction.
Even in Europe, geologists have not yet sufficiently discriminated
between local glaciers and the phenomena connected with their
different degrees of successive retreat on the one hand; and, on
the other, the facts indicating the action of an extensive sheet of
ice moving over the whole continent from north to south. Among the
facts already known from the southern hemisphere are the so-called
rivers of stone in the Falkland Islands, which attracted the
attention of Darwin during his cruise with Captain Fitzroy, and
which have remained an enigma to this day. I believe it will not be
difficult to explain their origin in the light of the glacial
theory, and I fancy they may turn out to be ground moraines similar
to the 'horsebacks' in Maine.

"You may ask what this question of drift has to do with deep-sea
dredging? The connection is closer than may at first appear. If
drift is not of glacial origin, but is the product of marine
currents, its formation at once becomes a matter for the Coast
Survey to investigate. But I believe it will be found in the end,
that so far from being accumulated by the sea, the drift of the
Patagonian lowlands has been worn away by the sea to its present
outline, like the northern shores of South America and Brazil.". . .

This is not the place for a detailed account of the voyage of the
Hassler, but enough may be told to show something of Agassiz's own
share in it. A journal of scientific and personal experience, kept
by Mrs. Agassiz under his direction, was nearly ready for
publication at the time of his death. The two next chapters,
devoted to the cruise of the Hassler, are taken from that
manuscript. A portion of it appeared many years ago in the pages of
the "Atlantic Monthly."


1871-1872: AGE 64-65.

Sailing of the Hassler.
Sargassum Fields.
Dredging at Barbados.
From the West Indies to Rio de Janeiro.
Monte Video.
Glacial Traces in the Bay of Monte Video.
The Gulf of Mathias.
Dredging off Gulf of St. George.
Dredging off Cape Virgens.
Possession Bay.
Salt Pool.
Sandy Point.
Cruise through the Straits.
Wind Storm.
Borja Bay.
Glacier Bay.
Visit to the Glacier.
Chorocua Bay.

The vessel was to have started in August, but, owing to various
delays in her completion, she was not ready for sea until the late
autumn. She finally sailed on December 4, 1871, on a gray
afternoon, which ushered in the first snow-storm of the New England
winter. Bound for warmer skies, she was, however, soon in the
waters of the Gulf Stream, where the work of collecting began in
the fields of Sargassum, those drifting, wide-spread expanses of
loose sea-weed carrying a countless population, lilliputian in
size, to be sure, but very various in character. Agassiz was no
less interested than other naturalists have been in the old
question so long asked and still unanswered, about the Sargassum.
"Where is its home, and what its origin? Does it float, a rootless
wanderer on the deep, or has it broken away from some submarine
attachment?" He had passed through the same region before, in going
to Brazil, but then he was on a large ocean steamer, while from the
little Hassler, of 360 tons, one could almost fish by hand from the
Sargassum fields. Some of the chief results are given in the
following letter.


ST. THOMAS, December 15, 1871.

. . .As soon as we reached the Gulf Stream we began work. Indeed,
Pourtales had organized a party to study the temperatures as soon
as we passed Gay Head, and will himself report to you his results.
My own attention was entirely turned to the Gulf weed and its
inhabitants, of which we made extensive collections. Our
observations on the floating weed itself favor the view of those
who believe it to be torn from rocks, on which Sargassum naturally
grows. I made a simple experiment which seems to me conclusive. Any
branch of the sea-weed which is deprived of its FLOATS sinks at
once to the bottom of the water, and these floats are not likely to
be the first parts developed from the spores. Moreover, after
examining large quantities of the weed, I have not seen a single
branch, however small, which did not show marks of having been torn
from a solid attachment.

You may hardly feel an interest in my zoological observations, but
I am sure you will be glad to learn that we had the best
opportunity of carefully examining most of the animals known to
inhabit the Gulf weed, and some also which I did not know to occur
among them. The most interesting discovery of our voyage thus far,
however, is that of a nest built by a fish, and floating on the
broad ocean with its living freight. On the 13th, Mr. Mansfield,
one of our officers, brought me a ball of Gulf weed which he had
just picked up, and which excited my curiosity to the utmost. It
was a round mass of Sargassum about the size of two fists. The bulk
of the ball was made up of closely packed branches and leaves, held
together by fine threads, running through them in every direction,
while other branches hung more loosely from the margin. Placed in a
large bowl of water it became apparent that the loose branches
served to keep the central mass floating, cradle-like, between
them. The elastic threads, which held the ball of Gulf weed
together, were beaded at intervals, sometimes two or three beads
close together, or a bunch of them hanging from the same cluster of
threads, or occasionally scattered at a greater distance from each
other. Nowhere was there much regularity in the distribution of the
beads. They were scattered pretty uniformly throughout the whole
ball of seaweed, and were themselves about the size of an ordinary
pin's head. Evidently we had before us a nest of the most curious
kind, full of eggs. What animal could have built this singular
nest? It did not take long to ascertain the class to which it
belonged. A common pocket lens revealed at once two large eyes on
the side of the head, and a tail bent over the back of the body, as
in the embryo of ordinary fishes shortly before the period of
hatching. The many empty egg cases in the nest gave promise of an
early opportunity of seeing some embryos, freeing themselves from
their envelope. Meanwhile a number of these eggs containing live
embryos were cut out of the nest and placed in separate glass jars,
in order to multiply the chances of preserving them; while the nest
as a whole was secured in alcohol, as a memorial of our discovery.

The next day I found two embryos in my glass jars; they moved
occasionally in jerks, and then rested a long time motionless on
the bottom of the jar. On the third day I had over a dozen of these
young fishes, the oldest beginning to be more active. I need not
relate in detail the evidence I soon obtained that these embryos
were actually fishes. . .But what kind of fish was it? At about the
time of hatching, the fins differ too much from those of the adult,
and the general form has too few peculiarities, to give any clew to
this problem. I could only suppose it would prove to be one of the
pelagic species of the Atlantic. In former years I had made a
careful study of the pigment cells of the skin in a variety of
young fishes, and I now resorted to this method to identify my
embryos. Happily we had on board several pelagic fishes alive. The
very first comparison I made gave the desired result. The pigment
cell of a young Chironectes pictus proved identical with those of
our little embryos. It thus stands, as a well authenticated fact,
that the common pelagic Chironectes of the Atlantic, named Ch.
pictus by Cuvier, builds a nest for its eggs in which the progeny
is wrapped up with the materials of which the nest itself is
composed; and as these materials consist of the living Gulf weed,
the fish cradle, rocking upon the deep ocean, is carried along as
in an arbor, which affords protection and afterwards food also, to
its living freight. This marvelous story acquires additional
interest, when we consider the characteristic peculiarities of the
genus Chironectes. As its name indicates, it has fin-like hands;
that is to say, the pectoral fins are supported by a kind of long
wrist-like appendage, and the rays of the ventrals are not unlike
rude fingers. With these limbs these fishes have long been known to
attach themselves to sea-weeds, and rather to walk than to swim in
their natural element. But now that we know their mode of
reproduction, it may fairly be asked if the most important use of
their peculiarly constructed fins is not the building of their
nest?. . .There thus remains one closing chapter to the story. May
some naturalist, becalmed among the Gulf weed, have the good
fortune to witness the process by which the nest is built. . .

This whole investigation was of the greatest interest to Agassiz,
and, coming so early in the voyage, seemed a pleasant promise of
its farther opportunities. The whole ship's company soon shared his
enthusiasm, and the very sailors gathered about him in the
intervals of their work, or hung on the outskirts of the scientific
circle. A pause of a few days was made at one or two of the West
Indian islands, at St. Thomas and Barbados. At the latter, the
first cast of the large dredge was made on a ledge of shoals in a
depth of eighty fathoms, and, among countless other things, a
number of stemmed crinoids and comatulae were brought up. An ardent
student of the early fossil echinoderms, it was a great pleasure to
Agassiz to gather their fresh and living representatives. It was
like turning a leaf of the past and finding the subtle thread which
connects it with the present.


PERNAMBUCO, January 16, 1872.


I should have written to you from Barbados, but the day before we
left the island was favorable for dredging, and our success in that
line was so unexpectedly great, that I could not get away from the
specimens, and made the most of them for study while I had the
chance. We made only four hauls, in between seventy-five and one
hundred and twenty fathoms. But what hauls! Enough to occupy half a
dozen competent zoologists for a whole year, if the specimens could
be kept fresh for that length of time. The first haul brought up a
Chemidium-like sponge; the next gave us a crinoid, very much like
the Rhizocrinus lofotensis, but probably different; the third, a
living Pleurotomaria; the fourth, a new genus of Spatangoids, etc.,
etc., not to speak of the small fry. We had the crinoid alive for
ten or twelve hours. When contracted, the pinnules are pressed
against the arms, and the arms themselves shut against one another,
so that the whole looks like a swash made up of a few long, coarse
twines. When the animal opens, the arms at first separate without
bending outside, so that the whole looks like an inverted pentapod;
but gradually the tips of the arms bend outward as the arms diverge
more and more, and when fully expanded the crown has the appearance
of a lily of the L. martagon type, in which each petal is curved
upon itself, the pinnules of the arms spreading laterally more and
more, as the crown is more fully open. I have not been able to
detect any motion in the stem traceable to contraction, though
there is no stiffness in its bearing. When disturbed, the pinnules
of the arms first contract, the arms straighten themselves out, and
the whole gradually and slowly closes up. It was a very impressive
sight for me to watch the movements of the creature, for it not
only told of its own ways, but at the same time afforded a glimpse
into the countless ages of the past, when these crinoids, so rare
and so rarely seen nowadays, formed a prominent feature of the
animal kingdom. I could see, without great effort of the
imagination, the shoal of Lockport teeming with the many genera of
crinoids which the geologists of New York have rescued from that
prolific Silurian deposit, or recall the formations of my native
country, in the hill-sides of which also, among fossils indicating
shoal water deposits, other crinoids abound, resembling still more
closely those we find in these waters. The close affinities of
Rhizocrinus with Apiocrinoids are further exemplified by the fact
that when the animal dies, it casts off its arms, like Apiocrinus,
the head of which is generally found without arms. And now the
question may be asked, what is the meaning of the occurrence of
these animals in deep waters at the present day, when, in former
ages, similar types inhabited shallow seas? Of the fact there can
be no doubt, for it is not difficult to adduce satisfactory
evidence of the shoal-like character of the Silurian deposits of
the State of New York; their horizontal position, combined with the
gradual recession of the higher beds in a southerly direction,
leaves no doubt upon this point; and in the case of the jurassic
formation alluded to above, the combination of the crinoids with
fossils common upon coral reefs, and their presence in atolls of
that period, are satisfactory proofs of my assertion. What does it
mean, then, when we find the Pentacrinus and Rhizocrinus of the
West Indies in deep water only? It seems to me that there is but
one explanation of the fact, namely, that in the progress of the
earth's growth, we must look for such a displacement of the
conditions favorable to the maintenance of certain lower types, as
may recall most fully the adaptations of former ages. It was in
this sense I alluded, in my first letter to you, to the probability
of our finding in deeper water representatives of earlier
geological types; and if my explanation is correct, my anticipation
is also fully sustained. But do the deeper waters of the present
constitution of our globe really approximate the conditions for the
development of animal life, which existed in the shallower seas of
past geological ages? I think they do, or at least I believe they
approach it as nearly as anything can in the present order of
things upon earth; for the depths of the ocean alone can place
animals under a pressure corresponding to that caused by the heavy
atmosphere of earlier periods. But, of course, such high pressure
as animals meet in great depths cannot be a favorable condition for
the development of life; hence the predominance of lower forms in
the deep sea. The rapid diminution of light with the increasing
depth, and the small amount of free oxygen in these waters under
greater and greater pressure, not to speak of other limitations
arising from the greater uniformity of the conditions of existence,
the reduced amount and less variety of nutritive substances, etc.,
etc., are so many causes acting in the same direction and with
similar results. For all these reasons, I have always expected to
find that the animals living in great depths would prove to be of a
standing, in the scale of structural complications, inferior to
those found in shoal waters or near shore; and the correlation
elsewhere pointed out between the standing of animals and their
order of succession in geological times (see "Essay on
Classification ") justifies another form of expression of these
facts, namely, that in deeper waters we should expect to find
representatives of earlier geological periods. There is in all this
nothing which warrants the conclusion that any of the animals now
living are lineal descendants of those of earlier ages; nor does
their similarity to those of earlier periods justify the statement
that the cretaceous formation is still extant. It would be just as
true to nature to say that the tertiaries are continued in the
tropics, on account of the similarity of the miocene mammalia to
those of the torrid zone.

We have another case in the Pleurotomaria. It is not long since it
has been made known that the genus Pleurotomaria is not altogether
extinct, a single specimen having been discovered about ten years
ago in the West Indies. Even Pictet, in the second edition of his
Paleontology, still considers Pleurotomaria as extinct, and as
belonging to the fossiliferous formations which extend from the
Silurian period to the Tertiary. Of the living species found at
Marie Galante, nothing is known except the specific characteristics
of the shell. We dredged it in one hundred and twenty fathoms, on
the west side of Barbados, alive, and kept it alive for twenty-four
hours, during which time the animal expanded and showed its
remarkable peculiarities. It is unquestionably the type of a
distinct family, entirely different from the other Mollusks with
which it has been hitherto associated. Mr. Blake has made fine
colored drawings of it, which may be published at some future
time. . .The family of the Pleurotomariae numbers between four and
five hundred fossil species, beginning in the Silurian deposits, but
especially numerous in the carboniferous and jurassic formations.

The sponges afford another interesting case. When the first number
of the great work of Goldfuss, on the fossils of Germany, made its
appearance, about half a century ago, the most novel types it made
known were several genera of sponges from the jurassic and
cretaceous beds, described under the names of Siphonia, Chemidium,
and Scyphia. Nothing of the kind has been known among the living to
this day; and yet, the first haul of the dredge near Barbados gave
us a Chemidium, or, at least, a sponge so much like the fossil
Chemidium, that it must remain for future comparisons to determine
whether there are any generic differences between our living sponge
and the fossil. The next day brought us a genuine Siphonia, another
genus thus far only known from the jurassic beds; and it is worth
recording, that I noticed in the collection of Governor Rawson
another sponge,--brought to him by a fisherman who had caught it on
his line, on the coast of Barbados,--which belongs to the genus
Scyphia. Thus the three characteristic genera of sponges from the
secondary formation, till now supposed to be extinct, are all three
represented in the deep waters of the West Indies. . .

Another family of organized beings offers a similar testimony to
that already alluded to. If there is a type of Echinoderms
characteristic of a geological period, it is the genus Micraster of
the cretaceous formation, in its original circumscription. No
species of this genus is known to have existed during the Tertiary
era, and no living species has as yet been made known. You may
therefore imagine my surprise when the dredge first yielded three
specimens of a small species of that particular group of the genus,
which is most extensively represented in the upper cretaceous beds.

Other examples of less importance might be enumerated; suffice it
now to add that my expectation of finding in deep waters animals
already known, but thus far exceedingly rare in museums, is already
in a measure realised. . .

Little can be said of the voyage from the West Indies to Rio de
Janeiro. It had the usual vicissitudes of weather, with here and
there a flight (so it might justly be called) of flying-fish, a
school of porpoises or dog-fish, or a sail in the distance, to
break the monotony. At Rio de Janeiro it became evident that the
plan of the voyage must be somewhat curtailed. This was made
necessary partly by the delays in starting,--in consequence of
which the season would be less favorable than had been anticipated
along certain portions of the proposed route,--and partly by the
defective machinery, which had already given some trouble to the
Captain. The Falkland Islands, the Rio Negro, and the Santa Cruz
rivers were therefore renounced; with what regret will be
understood by those who know how hard it is to be forced to break
up a scheme of work, which was originally connected in all its
parts. The next pause was at Monte Video; but as there was a strict
quarantine, Agassiz was only allowed to land at the Mount, a hill
on the western side of the bay, the geology of which he was anxious
to examine. He found true erratics--loose pebbles, granite, gneiss,
and granitic sandstone, having no resemblance to any native rock in
the vicinity--scattered over the whole surface of the hill to its
very summit. The hill itself had also the character of the "roches
moutonnees" modeled by ice in the northern hemisphere. As these
were the most northern erratics and glaciated surfaces reported in
the southern hemisphere, the facts there were very interesting to

With dredgings off the Rio de la Plata, and along the coast between
that and the Rio Negro, the vessel held on her way to the Gulf of
Mathias, a deep, broad bay running some hundred miles inland, and
situated a little south of the Rio Negro. Here some necessary
repairs enforced a pause, of which Agassiz took advantage for
dredging and for studying the geology of the cliffs along the north
side of the bay. As seen from the vessel, they seemed to be
stratified with extraordinary evenness and regularity to within a
few feet of the top, the summit being crowned with loose sand.
Farther on, they sank to sand dunes piled into rounded banks and
softly moulded ledges, like snow-drifts. Landing the next day at a
bold bluff marked Cliff End on the charts, he found the lower
stratum to consist of a solid mass of tertiary fossils, chiefly
immense oysters, mingled, however, with sea-urchins. Superb
specimens were secured,--large boulders crowded with colossal
shells and perfectly preserved echini. From the top of the cliff,
looking inland, only a level plain was seen, stretching as far as
the eye could reach, broken by no undulations, and covered with
low, scrubby growth. The seine was drawn on the beach, and yielded
a good harvest for the fish collection. At evening the vessel
anchored at the head of the bay, off the Port of San Antonio. The
name would seem to imply some settlement; but a more lonely spot
cannot be imagined. More than thirty years ago, Fitzroy had sailed
up this bay, partially surveyed it, and marked this harbor on his
chart. If any vessel has broken the loneliness of its waters since,
no record of any such event has been kept. Of the presence of man,
there was no sign. Yet the few days passed there were among the
pleasantest of the voyage to Agassiz. The work of the dredge and
seine was extremely successful, and the rambles inland were
geological excursions of great interest. Here he had the first
sight of the guanaco of the Patagonian plains. The weather was
fine, and at night-fall, to the golden light of sunset succeeded
the fitful glow, over land and water, of the bonfires built by the
sailors on the beach. Returning to the ship after dark, the various
parties assembled in the wardroom, to talk over the events of the
day and lay out plans for the morrow. These are the brightest hours
in such a voyage, when the novelty of the locality gives a zest to
every walk or row, and all are full of interest in a new and
exciting life. One is more tolerant even of monotonous natural
features in a country so isolated, so withdrawn from human life and
occupation. The very barrenness seems in harmony with the intense

The Hassler left her anchorage on this desolate shore on an evening
of singular beauty. It was difficult to tell when she was on her
way, so quietly did she move through the glassy waters, over which
the sun went down in burnished gold, leaving the sky without a
cloud. The light of the beach fires followed her till they too
faded, and only the phosphorescence of the sea attended her into
the night. Rough and stormy weather followed this fair start, and
only two more dredgings were possible before reaching the Strait of
Magellan. One was off the Gulf of St. George, where gigantic
star-fishes seemed to have their home. One of them, a superb
basket-fish, was not less than a foot and a half in diameter; and
another, like a huge sunflower of reddish purple tint, with
straight arms, thirty-seven in number, radiating from the disk, was
of about the same size. Many beautiful little sea-urchins came up
in the same dredging. About fifty miles north of Cape Virgens, in
tolerably calm weather, another haul was tried, and this time the
dredge returned literally solid with Ophiurans.

On Wednesday, March 13th, on a beautifully clear morning, like the
best October weather in New England, the Hassler rounded Cape
Virgens and entered the Strait of Magellan. The tide was just on
the flood, and all the conditions favorable for her run to her
first anchorage in the Strait at Possession Bay. Here the working
force divided, to form two shore parties, one of which, under
Agassiz's direction, the reader may follow. The land above the
first shore bluff at Possession Bay rises to a height of some four
hundred feet above the sea-level, in a succession of regular
horizontal terraces, of which Agassiz counted eight. On these
terraces, all of which are built, like the shore-bluffs, of
tertiary deposits, were two curious remnants of a past state of
things. The first was a salt-pool lying in a depression on the
second terrace, some one hundred and fifty feet above the sea. This
pool contained living marine shells, identical with those now found
along the shore. Among them were Fusus, Mytilus, Buccinum,
Fissurella, Patella, and Voluta, all found in the same numeric
relations as those in which they now exist upon the beach below.
This pool is altogether too high to be reached by any tidal
influence, and undoubtedly indicates an old sea-level, and a
comparatively recent upheaval of the shore. The second was a
genuine moraine, corresponding in every respect to those which
occur all over the northern hemisphere. Agassiz came upon it in
ascending to the third terrace above the salt-pool and a little
farther inland. It had all the character of a terminal moraine in
contact with an actual glacier. It was composed of heterogeneous
materials,--large and small pebbles and boulders impacted together
in a paste of clayey gravel and sand. The ice had evidently
advanced from the south, for the mass had been pushed steeply up on
the southern side, and retained so sharp an inclination on that
face that but little vegetation had accumulated upon it. The
northern side, on the contrary, was covered with soil and
overgrown; it sloped gently off,--pebbles and larger stones being
scattered beyond it. The pebbles and boulders of this moraine were
polished, scratched, and grooved, and bore, in short, all the usual
marks of glacial action. Agassiz was naturally delighted with this
discovery. It was a new link in the chain of evidence, showing that
the drift phenomena are connected at the south as well as at the
north with the action of ice, and that the frozen Arctic and
Antarctic fields are but remnants of a sheet of ice, which has
retreated from the temperate zones of both hemispheres to the polar
regions. The party pushed on beyond the moraine to a hill of
considerable height, which gave a fine view of the country toward
Mount Aymon and the so-called Asses' Ears. They brought back a
variety of game, but their most interesting scientific acquisitions
were boulders from the moraine scored with glacial characters, and
shells from the salt pool.

Still accompanied by beautiful weather, the Hassler anchored at the
Elizabeth Islands and at San Magdalena. Here Agassiz had an
opportunity of examining the haunts and rookeries of the penguins
and cormorants, and obtaining fine specimens of both. As the
breeding places and the modes of life of these animals have been
described by other travelers, there is nothing new to add from his
impressions, until the vessel anchored, on the 16th March, before
Sandy Point, the only permanent settlement in the Strait.

Here there was a pause of several days, which gave Agassiz an
opportunity to draw the seine with large results for his marine
collections. By the courtesy of the Governor, he had also an
opportunity of making an excursion along the road leading to the
coal-mines. The wooded cliffs, as one ascends the hills toward the
mines, are often bold and picturesque, and Agassiz found that
portions of them were completely built of fossil shells. There is
an oyster-bank, some one hundred feet high, overhanging the road in
massive ledges that consist wholly of oyster-valves, with only
earth enough to bind them together. He was inclined, from the
character of the shells, to believe that the coal must be
cretaceous rather than tertiary.

On Tuesday, the 19th March, the Hassler left Sandy Point. The
weather was beautiful,--a mellow autumn day with a reminiscence of
summer in its genial warmth. The cleft summit of Sarmiento was
clear against the sky, and the snow-fields, swept over by alternate
light and shadow, seemed full of soft undulations. The evening
anchorage was in the Bay of Port Famine, a name which marks the
site of Sarmiento's ill-fated colony, and recalls the story of the
men who watched and waited there for the help that never came. The
stay here was short, and Agassiz spent the time almost wholly in
studying the singularly regular, but completely upturned strata
which line the beach, with edges so worn down as to be almost
completely even with each other.

For many days after this, the Hassler pursued her course, past a
seemingly endless panorama of mountains and forests rising into the
pale regions of snow and ice, where lay glaciers in which every
rift and crevasse, as well as the many cascades flowing down to
join the waters beneath, could be counted as she steamed by them.
Every night she anchored in the sheltered harbors formed by the
inlets and fords which break the base of the rocky walls, and often
lead into narrower ocean defiles penetrating, one knows not
whither, into the deeper heart of these great mountain masses.

These were weeks of exquisite delight to Agassiz. The vessel often
skirted the shore so closely that its geology could be studied from
the deck. The rounded shoulders of the mountains, in marked
contrast to their peaked and jagged crests, the general character
of the snow-fields and glaciers, not crowded into narrow valleys as
in Switzerland, but spread out on the open slopes of the loftier
ranges, or, dome like, capping their summits,--all this afforded
data for comparison with his past experience, and with the
knowledge he had accumulated upon like phenomena in other regions.
Here, as in the Alps, the abrupt line, where the rounded and worn
surfaces of the mountains (moutonnees, as the Swiss say) yield to
their sharply cut, jagged crests, showed him the ancient and
highest line reached by the glacial action. The long, serrated edge
of Mount Tarn, for instance, is like a gigantic saw, while the
lower shoulders of the mass are hummocked into a succession of
rounded hills. In like manner the two beautiful valleys, separated
by a bold bluff called Bachelor's Peak, are symmetrically rounded
on their slopes, while their summits are jagged and rough.

On one occasion the Hassler encountered one of those sudden and
startling flaws of wind common to the Strait. The breeze, which had
been strong all day, increased with sudden fury just as the vessel
was passing through a rather narrow channel, which gave the wind
the additional force of compression. In an inconceivably short
time, the channel was lashed into a white foam; the roar of wind
and water was so great you could not hear yourself speak, though
the hoarse shout of command and the answering cry of the sailors
rose above the storm. To add to the confusion, a loose sail slatted
as if it would tear itself in pieces, with that sharp, angry,
rending sound which only a broad spread of loose canvas can make.
It became impossible to hold the vessel against the amazing power
of the blast, and the Captain turned her round with the intention
of putting her into Borja Bay, not far from which, by good fortune,
she chanced to be. As she came broadside to the wind in turning, it
seemed as if she must be blown over, so violently did she careen.
Once safely round, she flew before the wind, which now became her
ally instead of her enemy, and by its aid she was soon abreast of
Borja Bay. Never was there a more sudden transition from chaos to
peace than that which ensued as she turned in from the tumult in
the main channel to the quiet waters of the bay. The Hassler almost
filled the tiny harbor shut in between mountains. She lay there
safe and sheltered in breathless calm, while the storm raged and
howled outside. These frequent, almost land-locked coves, are the
safety of navigators in these straits; but after this day's
experience, it was easy to understand how sailing vessels may be
kept waiting for months between two such harbors, struggling vainly
to make a few miles and constantly driven back by sudden squalls.

In this exquisite mountain-locked harbor, the vessel was
weather-bound for a couple of days. Count Pourtales availed himself
of this opportunity to ascend one of the summits. Up to a height of
fifteen hundred feet, the rock was characterized by the smoothed,
rounded surfaces which Agassiz had observed along his whole route
in the Strait. Above that height all was broken and rugged, the
line of separation being as defined as on any valley wall in
Switzerland. It was again impossible to decide, on such short
observation, whether these effects were due to local glacial
action, or whether they belonged to an earlier general ice-period.
But Agassiz became satisfied, as he advanced, that the two sets of
phenomena existed together, as in the northern hemisphere. The
general aspect of the opposite walls of the Strait confirmed him in
the idea that the sheet of ice in its former extension had advanced
from south to north, grinding its way against and over the southern
wall to the plains beyond. In short, he was convinced that, as a
sheet of ice has covered the northern portion of the globe, so a
sheet of ice has covered also the southern portion, advancing, in
both instances, far toward the equatorial regions. His observations
in Europe, in North America, and in Brazil seemed here to have
their closing chapter.

With these facts in his mind, he did not fail to pause before
Glacier Bay, noted for its immense glacier, which seems, as seen
from the main channel, to plunge sheer down into the waters of the
bay. A boat party was soon formed to accompany him to the glacier.
It proved less easy of access than it looked at a distance. A broad
belt of wood, growing, as Agassiz afterward found, on an
accumulation of old terminal moraines, spanned the lower valley
from side to side. Through this wood there poured a glacial river,
emptying itself into the bay. Strange to say, this glacier-washed
forest, touching the ice on one side and the sea on the other, was
full of flowers. The red bells of the glossy-leaved Desfontainia,
the lovely pink blossoms of the Phylesia, the crimson berries of
the Pennetia, stood out in bright relief from a background of mossy
tree-trunks and rocks. After an hour's walking, made laborious by
the spongy character of the ground,--a mixture of loose soil and
decaying vegetation, in which one sank knee-deep,--the gleam of the
ice began to shimmer through the trees; and issuing from the wood,
the party found themselves in front of a glacier wall, stretching
across the whole valley and broken into deep rifts, caves, and
crevasses of dark blue ice. The glacier was actually about a mile
wide; but as the central portion was pressed forward in advance of
the sides, the whole front was not presented at once. It formed a
sharp crescent, with the curve turned outward. One of the caves in
this front wall was some thirty or forty feet high, about a hundred
feet deep, and two or three yards wide at the entrance. At the
further end it narrowed to a mere gallery, where the roof was
pierced by a circular window, quite symmetrical in shape, through
which one looked up to the blue sky and drifting clouds. There must
be strange effects in this ice-cavern, when the sun is high and
sends a shaft of light through its one window to illuminate the

This first excursion was a mere reconnaissance. An approximate idea
of the dimensions of the glacier, and some details of its
structure, were obtained on a second visit the following day. The
anchorage for the night was in Playa Parda Cove, one of the most
beautiful of the many beautiful harbors of the Magellan Strait. It
is entered by a deep, narrow slit, cut into the mountains on the
northern side of the Strait, and widening at its farther end into a
kind of pocket or basin, hemmed in between rocky walls bordered by
forests, and overhung by snow and ice-fields. The next morning at
half-past three o'clock, just as moonlight was fading before the
dawn, and the mountains were touched with the coming day, the
reveille was sounded for those who were to return to Glacier Bay.
This time Agassiz divided his force so that they could act
independently of each other, though under a general plan laid out
by him. M. de Pourtales and Dr. Steindachner ascended the mountain
to the left of the valley, following its ridge, in the hope of
reaching a position from which they could discover the source and
the full length of the glacier. In this they did not succeed,
though M. de Pourtales estimated its length, as far as he could see
from any one point, to be about three miles, beyond which it was
lost in the higher range. It made part of a net-work of glaciers
running back into a large massif of mountains, and fed by many a
neve on their upper slopes. The depth as well as the length of this
glacier remains somewhat problematical, and indeed all the
estimates in so cursory a survey must be considered as
approximations rather than positive results. The glazed surface of
the ice is an impediment to any examination from the upper side. It
would be impossible to spring from brink to brink of a crevasse, as
is so constantly done by explorers of Alpine glaciers where the
edges of the cracks are often snowy or granular. Here the edges of
the crevasses are sharp and hard, and to spring across one of any
size would be almost certain death. There is no hold for an Alpine
stock, no grappling point for hands or feet. Any investigation from
the upper surface would, therefore, require special apparatus, and
much more time than Agassiz and his party could give. Neither was
an approach from the side very easy. The glacier arches so much in
the centre, and slopes away so steeply, that when one is in the
lateral depression between it and the mountain, one faces an almost
perpendicular wall of ice, which blocks the vision completely. M.
de Pourtales measured one of the crevasses in this wall, and found
that it had a depth of some seventy feet. Judging from the
remarkable convexity of the glacier, it can hardly be less in the
centre than two or three times its thickness on the edges,
--something over two hundred feet, therefore. Probably none of
these glaciers of the Strait of Magellan are as thick as those of
Switzerland, though they are often much broader. The mountains are
not so high, the valleys not so deep, as in the Alps; the ice is
consequently not packed into such confined troughs. By some of the
party an attempt was made to ascertain the rate of movement,
signals having been adjusted the day before for its measurement.
During the middle of the day, it advanced at the rate of ten inches
and a fraction in five hours. One such isolated observation is of
course of little comparative value. For himself, Agassiz reserved
the study of the bay, the ancient bed of the glacier in its former
extension. He spent the day in cruising about the bay in the
steam-launch, landing at every point he wished to investigate. His
first care was to examine minutely the valley walls over which the
glacier must once have moved. Every characteristic feature, known
in the Alps as the work of the glaciers, was not only easily
recognizable here, but as perfectly preserved as anywhere in
Switzerland. The rounded knolls to which De Saussure first gave the
name of roches moutonnees were smoothed, polished, scratched, and
grooved in the direction of the ice movement, the marks running
mostly from south to north, or nearly so. The general trend of the
scratches and furrows showed them to have been continuous from one
knoll to another. The furrows were of various dimensions, sometimes
shallow and several inches broad, sometimes narrow with more
defined limits, gradually passing into mere lines on a very
smoothly polished surface. Even the curious notches scooped out of
the even surfaces, and technically called "coups de gouge," were
not wanting. In some places the seams of harder rock stood out for
a quarter of an inch or so above adjoining decomposed surfaces; in
such instances the dike alone retained the glacial marks, which had
been worn away from the softer rock.

The old moraines were numerous and admirably well preserved.
Agassiz examined with especial care one colossal lateral moraine,
standing about two miles below the present terminus of the ice and
five hundred feet above the sea-level. It consisted of the same
rocks as those found on the present terminal moraine, part of them
being rounded and worn, while large, angular boulders rested above
the smaller materials. This moraine forms a dam across a trough in
the valley wall, and holds back the waters of a beautiful lake,
about a thousand feet in length and five hundred in width, shutting
it in just as the Lake of Meril in Switzerland is held in its basin
by the glacier of Aletsch. There are erratics some two or three
hundred feet above this great moraine, showing that the glacier
must have been more than five hundred feet thick when it left this
accumulation of loose materials at such a height. It then united,
however, with a large glacier more to the west. Its greatest
thickness, as an independent glacier, is no doubt marked, not by
the boulders lying higher up, but by the large moraine which shuts
in the lake. The direct connection of this moraine with the glacier
in its former extension is still further shown by two other
moraines, on lower levels and less perfect, but having the same
relation to the present terminus of the ice. The lower of these is
only one hundred and fifty feet above the actual level of the
glacier. These three moraines occur on the western slope of the
bay. The eastern slope is more broken, and while the rounded knolls
are quite as distinct and characteristic, the erratics are more
loosely scattered over the surface. In mineralogical character they
agree with those on the western wall of the bay. Upon the summits
of some small islands at the entrance of the bay, there are also
some remnants of terminal moraines, formed by the glacier when it
reached the main channel; that is, when it was some three miles
longer than now.

The more recent oscillations, marking the advance and retreat of
the glacier within certain limits, are shown by the successive
moraines heaped up in advance of the present terminal wall. The
central motion here, as in all the Swiss glaciers, is greater than
the lateral, the ice being pushed forward in the middle faster than
on the sides. But there would seem to be more than one axis of
progression in this broad mass of ice; for though the centre is
pushed out beyond the rest, the terminal wall does not present one
uniform curve, but forms a number of more or less projecting angles
or folds. A few feet in front of this wall is a ridge of loose
materials, stones, pebbles, and boulders, repeating exactly the
outline of the ice where it now stands; a few feet in advance of
this, again, is another ridge precisely like it; still a few feet
beyond, another; and so on, for four or five concentric zigzag
crescent-shaped moraines, followed by two others more or less
marked, till they fade into the larger morainic mass, upon which
stands the belt of wood dividing the present glacier from the bay.
Agassiz counted eight distinct moraines between the glacier and the
belt of wood, and four concentric moraines in the wood itself. It
is plain that the glacier has ploughed into the forest within some
not very remote period, for the trees along its margin are loosened
and half uprooted, though not yet altogether decayed. In the
presence of the glacier one ceases to wonder at the effects
produced by so powerful an agent. This sheet of ice, even in its
present reduced extent, is about a mile in width, several miles in
length, and at least two hundred feet in depth. Moving forward as
it does ceaselessly, and armed below with a gigantic file,
consisting of stones, pebbles, and gravel, firmly set in the ice,
who can wonder that it should grind, furrow, round, and polish the
surfaces over which it slowly drags its huge weight. At once
destroyer and fertilizer, it uproots and blights hundreds of trees
in its progress, yet feeds a forest at its feet with countless
streams; it grinds the rocks to powder in its merciless mill, and
then sends them down, a fructifying soil, to the wooded shore

Agassiz would gladly have stayed longer in the neighborhood of
Glacier Bay, and have made it the central point of a more detailed
examination of the glacial phenomena in the Strait. But the
southern winter was opening, and already gave signs of its
approach. At dawn on the 26th of March, therefore, the Hassler left
her beautiful anchorage in Playa Parda Cove, six large glaciers
being in sight from her deck as she came out. The scenery during
the morning had a new scientific interest for Agassiz, because the
vessel kept along the northern side of the Strait, while the course
hitherto had been nearer the southern shore. He could thus better
compare the differences between the two walls of the Strait. The
fact that the northern wall is more evenly worn, more rounded than
the southern, had a special significance for him, as corresponding
with like facts in Switzerland, and showing that the ice-sheet had
advanced across the Strait with greater force in its ascending than
in its descending path. The north side being the strike side, the
ice would have pushed against it with greater force. Such a
difference between the two sides of any hollow or depression in the
direct path of the ice is well known in Switzerland.

Later in the day, a pause was made in Chorocua Bay, where Captain
Mayne's chart makes mention of a glacier descending into the water.
There is, indeed, a large glacier on its western side, but so
inaccessible, that any examination of it would have required days
rather than hours. No one, however, regretted the afternoon spent
here, for the bay was singularly beautiful. On either side, deep
gorges, bordered by richly-wooded cliffs and overhung by ice and
snow-fields, were cut into the mountains. Where these channels
might lead, into what dim recesses of ocean and mountain, could
only be conjectured. The bay, with all its inlets and fiords, was
still as a church. Voices and laughter seemed an intrusion, and a
louder shout came back in echoes from far-off hidden retreats. Only
the swift steamer-ducks, as they shot across, broke the glassy
surface of the water with their arrow-like wake. From this point
the Hassler crossed to Sholl Bay, and anchored at the entrance of
Smythe's Channel. As sunset faded over the snow mountains opposite
her anchorage, their white reflection lay like marble in the water.


1872: AGE 65.

Picnic in Sholl Bay.
Smythe's Channel.
Comparison of Glacial Features with those of the Strait of Magellan.
Port of San Pedro.
Bay of Concepcion.
Three Weeks in Talcahuana.
Land Journey to Santiago.
Scenes along the Road.
Report on Glacial Features to Mr. Peirce.
Arrival at Santiago.
Election as Foreign Associate of the Institute of France.
The Galapagos.
Geological and Zoological Features.
Arrival at San Francisco.

The next day forces were divided. The vessel put out into the
Strait again for sounding and dredging, while Agassiz, with a
smaller party, landed in Sholl Bay. Here, after having made a fire
and pitched a tent in which to deposit wraps, provisions etc., the
company dispersed in various directions along the shore,
geologizing, botanizing, and collecting. Agassiz was especially
engaged in studying the structure of the beach itself. He found
that the ridge of the beach was formed by a glacial moraine, while
accumulations of boulders, banked up in morainic ridges, concentric
with one another and with the beach moraine, extended far out from
the shore like partly sunken reefs. The pebbles and boulders of
these ridges were not local, or, at least, only partially so; they
had the same geological character as those of the drift material
throughout the Strait.

The day was favorable for work, and there was little to remind one
of approaching winter. A creek of fresh water, that ran out upon
one part of the beach, led up to a romantic brook, rushing down
through a gorge bordered by moss-grown trees and carpeted by ferns
and lichens in all its nooks and corners. This brook took its rise
in a small lake lying some half a mile behind the beach. The
collections made along the shore in this excursion were large and
various: star-fish, volutas, sea-urchins, sea-anemones, medusae,
doris; many small fishes, also, from the tide-pools, beside a
number drawn in the seine.

Later in the day, when the party had assembled around the beach
fire for rest and refreshment, before returning to the vessel,
their lunch was interrupted by strange and unexpected guests. A
boat rounded the point of the beach, and, as it came nearer, proved
to be full of Fuegian natives, men, women, children, and dogs,
their invariable companions. The men alone landed, some six or
seven in number, and came toward the tent. Nothing could be more
coarse and repulsive than their appearance, in which the brutality
of the savage was in no way redeemed by physical strength or
manliness. They were almost naked, for the short, loose skins tied
around the neck, and hanging from the shoulders, over the back,
partly to the waist, could hardly be called clothing. With swollen
bodies, thin limbs, and stooping forms; with a childish, yet
cunning, leer on their faces, they crouched over the fire,
spreading their hands toward its genial warmth, and all shrieking
at once, "Tabac! tabac!" and "Galleta!"--biscuit. Tobacco there was
none; but the remains of the lunch, such as it was,--hard bread and
pork,--was distributed among them, and they greedily devoured it.
Then the one who, judging from a certain deference paid him by the
others, might be the chief, or leader, seated himself on a stone
and sang in a singular kind of monotonous, chanting tone. The
words, as interpreted by the gestures and expressions, seemed to be
an improvisation concerning the strangers they had found upon the
beach, and were evidently addressed to them. There was something
curious in the character of this Fuegian song. Rather recitative
than singing, the measure had, nevertheless, certain divisions or
pauses, as if to mark a kind of rhythm. It was brought to a close
at regularly recurring intervals, and ended always in the same way,
and on the same note, with a rising inflection of the voice. When
the song was finished, a certain surprise and expectancy in the
listeners kept them silent. This seemed to trouble the singer, who
looked round with a comical air of inquiring disappointment. Thus
reminded, the audience were quick to applaud, and then he laughed
with pleasure, imitated the clapping of the hands in an awkward
way, and nothing loth, began to sing again.

The recall gun from the Hassler brought this strange scene to a
close, and the party hastened down to the beach, closely followed
by their guests, who still clamorously demanded tobacco. Meanwhile
the women had brought the boat close to that of the Hassler at the
landing. They all began to laugh, talk, and gesticulate, and seemed
a noisy grew, chattering unceasingly, with amazing rapidity, and
all together. Their boat, with the babies and dogs to add to the
tumult, was a perfect babel of voices. They put off at once,
keeping as close as they could to the Hassler boat, and reaching
the vessel almost at the same time. They were not allowed to come
on board, but tobacco and biscuit, as well as bright calico and
beads for the women, were thrown down to them. They scrambled and
snatched fiercely, like wild animals, for whatever they could
catch. They had some idea of barter, for when they found they had
received all that they were likely to get gratuitously, they held
up bows and arrows, wicker baskets, birds, and the large
sea-urchins, which are an article of food with them. Even after the
steamer had started, they still clung to the side, praying,
shrieking, screaming, for more "tabac." When they found it a
hopeless chase, they dropped off, and began again the same chanting
recitative, waving their hands in farewell.

Always interested in the comparative study of the races, Agassiz
regretted that he had no other opportunity of observing the natives
of this region and comparing them with the Indians he had seen
elsewhere, in Brazil and in the United States. It is true that he
and his companions, when on shore, frequently came upon their
deserted camps, or single empty huts; and their canoes followed the
Hassler several times, but never when it was convenient to stop and
let them come up with the vessel. This particular set were not in a
canoe, but in a large boat of English build. Probably they had
stolen it, or had found it, perhaps, stranded on the shore. They
are usually, however, in canoes of their own making. One can only
wonder that people ingenious enough to construct canoes so well
modeled and so neatly and strongly put together, should have
invented nothing better in the way of a house than a hut built of
flexible branches, compared with which a wigwam is an elaborate
dwelling. These huts are hood-like in shape, and too low for any
posture but that of squatting or lying down. In front is always a
scorched spot on the ground, where their handful of fire has
smouldered; and at one side, a large heap of empty shells, showing
that they had occupied this place until they had exhausted the
supply of mussels, on which they chiefly live. When this is the
case, they move to some other spot, gather a few branches,
reconstruct their frail shelter, and continue the same life.
Untaught by their necessities, they wander thus, naked and
homeless, in snow, mist, and rain, as they have done for ages,
asking of the land only a strip of beach and a handful of fire; and
of the ocean, shell-fish enough to save them from starvation.

The Hassler had now fairly entered upon Smythe's Channel, and was
anchored at evening (March 27th) in Otway Bay, a lake-like harbor,
broken by islands. Mount Burney, a noble, snow-covered mountain,
corresponding to Mount Sarmiento in grandeur of outline, was in
full view, but was partially veiled in mist. On the following day,
however, the weather was perfect for the sail past Sarmiento Range
and Snowy Glacier, which were in sight all day. Blue could not be
more deep and pure, nor white more spotless, than their ice and
snow-fields. Toward the latter part of the day, an immense expanse
of snow opened out a little beyond Snowy Range. It was covered with
the most curious snow hummocks, forming high cones over the whole
surface, their shadows slanting over the glittering snow in the
afternoon sunshine. They were most fantastic in shape, and some
fifty or sixty in number. At first sight, they resembled heaped-up
mounds or pyramids of snow; but as the vessel approached, one group
of them, so combined as to simulate a fortification, showed a face
of rock where the snow had been blown away, and it seemed therefore
probable that all were alike,--snow-covered pinnacles of rock.

The evening anchorage on the 28th was in Mayne's Harbor, a pretty
inlet of Owen's Island. Here the vessel was detained for
twenty-four hours by the breaking of the reversing rod. The
engineers repaired it to the best of their ability, with such
apparatus as they had, but it was a source of anxiety till a port
was reached where a new one could be supplied. The detention, had
it not been for such a cause, was welcome to the scientific party.
Agassiz found the rounded and moutonnees surfaces and the general
modeling of the outlines of ice no less marked here than in the
Strait; and in a ramble over the hills above the anchorage, M. de
Pourtales came upon very distinct glacial scorings and furrows on
dikes and ledges of greenstone and syenite. They were perfectly
regular, and could be connected by their trend from ledge to ledge,
across intervening spaces of softer decomposed rock, from which all
such surface markings had disappeared.

The country above Mayne's Harbor was pretty, though somewhat
barren. Beyond the narrow belt of woods bordering the shore, the
walking was over soggy hummocks, with little growth upon them
except moss, lichens, and coarse marsh grass. These were succeeded
by ridges of crumbling rock, between which were numerous small
lakes. The land seemed very barren of life. Even the shores of the
ponds were hardly inhabited. No song of bird or buzz of insect
broke the stillness. Rock after rock was turned over in the vain
expectation of finding living things on the damp under side at
least; and the cushions of moss were broken up in the same
fruitless chase. All was barren and lifeless. Not so on the shore,
where the collecting went on rapidly. Dredge and nets were at work
all the morning, and abundant collections were made also from the
little nooks and inlets of the beach. Agassiz found two new
jelly-fishes, and christened them at once as the locality
suggested, one for Captain Mayne, the other for Professor Owen.
Near the shore, birds also seemed more abundant. A pair of
kelp-geese and a steamer duck were brought in, and one of the
officers reported humming-birds flitting across the brook from
which the Hassler's tanks were filled.

Early on the morning of the 30th, while mountains and snow-fields,
woodland and water, still lay between moonlight and sunrise, the
Hassler started for Tarn Bay. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday,
with very little wind, and a soft sky, broken by few clouds. But
such beginnings are too apt to be delusive in this region of wet
and fog, and a heavy rain, with thick mist, came up in the
afternoon. That night, for the first time, the Hassler missed her
anchorage, and lay off the shore near an island, which afforded
some protection from the wind. A forlorn hope was detailed to the
shore, where a large fire was kept burning all night, that the
vessel might not lose her bearings and drift away. In the morning
all was right again, and she kept on her course to Rowlet Narrows.

This passage is formed by a deep gorge, cleft between lofty walls
over which many a waterfall foams from reservoirs of snow above.
Agassiz observed two old glacier beds on the western side of the
pass--two shallow depressions, lying arid and scored between
swelling wooded ridges. He had not met in all the journey a better
locality for the study of glacial effects than here. The sides of
the channel show these traces throughout their whole length. In
this same neighborhood, as a conspicuous foreground on the shore of
Indian Reach, to the south of Lackawanna Cove, is a large moraine
resembling the "horse-backs," in the State of Maine, New England.
The top was as level as a railroad embankment. The anchorage for
the night was in Eden Harbor, and for that evening, at least, it
was lovely enough to deserve its name. The whole expanse of its
land-locked waters, held between mountains and broken by islands,
was rosy and purple in the setting sun. The gates of the garden
were closed, however, not by a flaming sword, but by an
impenetrable forest, along the edge of which a scanty rim of beach
hardly afforded landing or foothold. The collections here,
therefore, were small; but a good haul was made with the trawl net,
which gathered half-a-dozen species of echinoderms, some small
fishes, and a number of shells. Fog detained the vessel in Eden
Harbor till a late hour in the morning, but the afternoon was
favorable for the passage through the English Narrows, the most
contracted part of Smythe's Channel. It is, indeed, a mere mountain
defile, through which the water rushes with such force that, in
navigating it, great care was required to keep the vessel off the
rocks. Her anchorage at the close of the day was in Connor's Cove,
a miniature harbor not unlike Borja Bay in the Strait. It was a
tranquil retreat. The water-birds seemed to find it so, for the
steamer ducks were trailing their long wakes through the water, and
a large kind of stormy petrel sailed up to the vessel, and almost
put himself into the hands of the sailors, with whom he remained an
unresisting prisoner.

Geologically, Agassiz found Connor's Cove of especial interest. It
runs east and west, opening on the eastern side of the channel; but
the knolls, that is to say, the rounded surfaces at its entrance,
are furrowed across the cove, at right angles with it. In other
words, the movement of the ice, always from south to north, has
been with Smythe's Channel, and across the Strait of Magellan.
Indeed it seemed to Agassiz that all the glacial agency in Smythe's
Channel, the trend of the furrows, the worn surfaces whereon they
were to be found, and the steepness of southern exposures as
compared with the more rounded opposite slopes, pointed to the same

On the third of April Agassiz left with regret this region of ocean
and mountain, glacier, snow-field, and forest. The weeks he had
spent there were all too short for the work he had hoped to do.
Yet, trained as he was in glacial phenomena, even so cursory an
observation satisfied him that in the southern, as in the northern
hemisphere, the present glaciers are but a remnant of the ancient

After two days of open sea and head winds, the next anchorage was
in Port San Pedro, a very beautiful bay opening on the north side
of Corcovado Gulf, with snow mountains in full sight; the Peak of
Corcovado and a wonderfully symmetrical volcanic mountain,
Melimoya, white as purest marble to the summit, were clearly
defined against the sky. Forests clothed the shore on every side,
and the shelving beach met the wood in a bank of wild Bromelia,
most brilliant in color. Not only were excellent collections made
on this beach, but the shore was strewn with large accumulations of
erratics. Among them was a green epidotic rock which Agassiz had
traced to this spot from the Bay of San Antonio on the Patagonian
coast, without ever finding it in place. Some of the larger
boulders had glacial furrows and scratches upon them, and all the
hills bordering the shore were rounded and moutonnee. One of the
great charms for Agassiz in the scenery of all this region, and
especially in the Strait of Magellan, was a kind of home feeling
that it gave him. Although the mountains rose from the ocean,
instead of from the plain as in Switzerland, yet the snow-fields
and the glaciers carried him back to his youth. To him, the sunset
of this evening in the Port San Pedro, with the singular
transparent rose color over the snow mountains, and the soft
succeeding pallor, was the very reproduction of an Alpine sunset.

The next morning brought a disappointment. From this point Agassiz
had hoped to continue the voyage by the inside passage between the
main-land and the island of Chiloe. This was of importance to him,
on account of its geological relation to Smythe's Channel and the
Strait of Magellan. In the absence of any good charts of the
channel, the Captain, after examining the shoals at the entrance,
was forced to decide, almost as much to his own regret as to that
of Agassiz, not to attempt the further passage. Keeping up the
outer coast of Chiloe, therefore, the vessel anchored before Ancud
on the 8th of April. It was a heavenly day. The volcanic peak of
Osorno and the whole snowy Cordilleras were unveiled. The little
town above the harbor, with its outlying farms on the green and
fertile hills around, seemed like the very centre of civilization
to people who had been so long out of the world. It is said to rain
in Ancud three hundred and sixty-five days in the year. But on this
particular afternoon it was a very sunny place, and the inhabitants
seemed to avail themselves of their rare privilege. Groups of
Indians, who had come across the river in the morning to sell their
milk in the town, were resting in picturesque groups around their
empty milk-cans, the women wrapped in their long shawls, the men in
their ponchos and slouched hats; the country people were driving
out their double teams of strong, powerful oxen harnessed to wooden
troughs filled with manure for the fields; the washerwomen were
scrubbing and beating their linen along the roadside; the gardens
of the poorest houses were bright with large shrubs of wild
fuchsia, and, altogether, the aspect of the little place was
cheerful and pretty. Agassiz had but two or three hours for a look
at the geology. Even this cursory glance sufficed to show him that
the drift materials, even to their special mineralogical elements,
were the same as in the Magellan Strait. Here they rested, however,
on volcanic soil.

Stopping at Lota for coal, but not long enough for any scientific
work, the Hassler entered Concepcion Bay on the 15th April, and
anchored near Talcahuana, where she was to remain some three weeks
for the repair of her engine. This quaint, primitive little town is
built upon one of the finest harbors on the Pacific coast. Agassiz
was fortunate in finding, through the kindness of Captain Johnson,
a partially furnished house, where several large vacant rooms,
opening on the "patio," served admirably as scientific
laboratories. Here, then, he established himself with his
assistants. It was soon understood that every living thing would
find a market with him, and all the idle urchins about the town
flocked to the house with specimens. An unceasing traffic of birds,
shells, fish, etc., went on there from morning to night, and to the
various vendors were added groups of Indians coming to have their
photographs taken. There were charming excursions and walks in the
neighborhood, and the geology of the region was so interesting that
it determined Agassiz to go by land from Talcahuana to Valparaiso,
on a search after any glacial tracks that might be found in the
valley lying between the Cordillera of the Andes and the Coast
Range. Meanwhile the Hassler was to go on a dredging expedition to
the island of Juan Fernandez, and then proceed to Valparaiso, where
Agassiz was to join her a fortnight later. Although this expedition
was under the patronage of the Coast Survey, the generosity of Mr.
Thayer, so constantly extended to scientific aims, had followed
Agassiz on this second journey. To his kindness he owed the
possibility of organizing an excursion apart from the direct object
of the voyage. This change of plan and its cause is told in the
following extract from his general report to Professor Peirce:--

APRIL 27th.

While I was transcribing my Report, Pourtales came in with the
statement that he had noticed the first indication of an Andean
glacier in the vicinity. I have visited the locality twice since.
It is a magnificent polished surface, as well preserved as any I
have ever seen upon old glaciated ground or under glaciers of the
present day, with well-marked furrows and scratches. Think of it! a
characteristic surface, indicating glacier action, in latitude 37
degrees south, at the level of the sea! The place is only a few
feet above tide level, upon the slope of a hill on which stand the
ruins of a Spanish fort, near the fishermen's huts of San Vicente,
which lies between Concepcion Bay and the Bay of Aranco. Whether
the polished surface is the work of a glacier descending from the
Andes to the sea-shore or not, I have not yet been able to
determine. I find no volcanic pebbles or boulders in this vicinity,
which, after my experience in San Carlos, I should expect all along
the shore, if the glaciers of the Andes had descended to the level
of the ocean, in this part of the country. The erratics here have
the character of those observed farther south. It is true the
furrows and scratches of this polished surface run mainly from east
to west; but there are some crossing the main trend, at angles
ranging from 20 to 30 degrees, and running south-east-north-west.
Moreover, the magnetic variation is 18 degrees 3 degrees at
Talcahuano April 23rd, the true meridian bearing to the right of
the magnetic. I shall soon know what to make of this, as I start
to-morrow for the interior, to go to Santiago and join the ship
again at Valparaiso. I have hired a private carriage, to be able
to stop whenever I wish so to do. I also take a small seine to fish
for fresh water fishes in the many streams intervening between this
place and Valparaiso. The trend of the glacial scratches in San
Vicente reminds me of a fact I have often observed in New England
near the sea-shore, where the glacial furrows dip to a considerable
extent eastward toward the deep ocean, while further inland their
trend is more regular and due North and South. . .

"I had almost forgotten to say that I have obtained unquestionable
evidence of the cretaceous age of the coal deposits of Lota and the
adjoining localities, north and south, which are generally supposed
to be tertiary lignites. They are overlaid by sandstone containing
Baculites! I need not adduce other evidence to satisfy geologists
of the correctness of my assertion. I have myself collected a great
many of these fossils, in beds resting upon coal-seams. Ever truly


On the 28th of April, then, Agassiz left Talcahuana, accompanied by
Mrs. Agassiz, and by Dr. Steindachner, who was to assist him in
making collections along the way. They were to travel post, along
the diligence road, until they reached Curicu, within half a day of
Santiago, where railroad travel began. It was a beautiful journey,
and though the rainy season was impending, the fair weather was
uninterrupted. The way lay for the most part through an
agricultural district of corn, wheat, and vineyards. In this
strange land, where seasons are reversed, and autumn has changed
places with spring, the work of harvest and vintage was just going
on. The road was full of picturesque scenes: troops of mules might
be met, a hundred at a time, laden with corn-sacks; the queer,
primitive carts of the country creaked along, carrying huge
wine-jars filled with the fresh new juice of the grape; the road
was gay with country people in their holiday dresses; the women,
who wore their bright shawls like a kind of mantle, were sometimes
on foot and sometimes pillioned behind the men, who were invariably
on horseback, and whose brilliant ponchos and fine riding added to
the impression of life and color. Rivers and streams were frequent;
and as there were no bridges, the scenes at the fords, sometimes
crossed on rafts, sometimes on flat boats, worked by ropes, were
exciting and picturesque. For rustic interiors along the road side,
there were the huts of the working people, rough trellises of
tree-trunks interwoven with branches; green as arbors while fresh,
a coarse thatch when dry. There was always a large open space in
front, sheltered by the projecting thatch of the house, and
furnished sometimes with a rough table and benches. Here would be
the women at their work, or the children at play, or sometimes the
drovers taking their lunch of tortillas and wine, while their
animals munched their midday meal hard by. The scenery was often
fine. On the third day the fertile soil, watered by many rivers,
was exchanged for a sandy plain, broken by a thorny mimosa
scattered over the surface. This plain lay between the Cordillera
of the Andes and the Coast Range. As the road advanced farther
inland, the panorama of the Cordilleras became more and more
striking. In the glow of the sunset, the peaks of the abrupt,
jagged walls and the volcano-like summits were defined against the
sky in all their rugged beauty. There was little here to remind one
of the loveliness of the Swiss Alps. With no lower green slopes, no
soft pasturage grounds leading gently up to rocky heights, the
Andes, at least in this part of their range, rise arid, stern, and
bold from base to crest, a fortress wall unbroken by tree or shrub,
or verdure of any kind, and relieved only by the rich and varied
coloring of the rock.

The lodgings for the night were found in small towns along the
road, Tome, Chilian, Linarez, Talca, Curicu, and once, when there
was no inn within reach, at a hospitable hacienda.

A brief sketch of the geological observations made on this
excursion is found in a letter from Agassiz to Mr. Peirce. He never
wrote out, as he had intended to do, a more detailed report.

OFF GUATEMALA, July 29, 1872.


. . .I have another new chapter concerning glacial phenomena,
gathered during our land-journey from Talcahuana to Santiago. It is
so complicated a story that I do not feel equal now to recording
the details in a connected statement, but will try to give you the
main facts in a few words.

There is a broad valley between the Andes and the Coast Range, the
valley of Chilian, extending from the Gulf of Ancud, or Port de
Mott, to Santiago and farther north. This valley is a continuation,
upon somewhat higher level, of the channels which, from the Strait
of Magellan to Chiloe, separate the islands from the main-land,
with the sole interruption of Tres Montes. Now this great valley,
extending for more than twenty-five degrees of latitude, is a
CONTINUOUS GLACIER BOTTOM, showing plainly that for its whole
length the great southern ice-sheet has been retreating southward
in it. I could find nowhere any indication that glaciers descending
from the Andes had crossed this valley and reached the shores of
the Pacific. In a few brief localities only did I notice Andean, i.
e. volcanic, erratics upon the loose materials filling the old
glacier bottom. Between Curicu and Santiago, however, facing the
gorge of Tenon, I saw two distinct lateral moraines, parallel to
one another, chiefly composed of volcanic boulders, resting upon
the old drift, and indicating by their position the course of a
large glacier that once poured down from the Andes of Tenon, and
crossed the main valley, without, however, extending beyond the
eastern slope of the Coast Range. These moraines are so well marked
that they are known throughout the country as the cerillos of
Tenon, but nobody suspects their glacial origin; even the
geologists of Santiago assign a volcanic origin to them. What is
difficult to describe in this history are the successive retrograde
steps of the great southern ice-field that, step by step, left
larger or smaller tracts of the valley to the north of it free of
ice, so that large glacial lakes could be formed, and seem, indeed,
always to have existed along the retreating edge of the great
southern glacier. The natural consequence is that there are
everywhere stratified terraces without border barriers (since these
were formed only by the ice that has vanished), resting at
successively higher or lower levels, as you move north or south,
upon unstratified drift of older date; the northernmost of these
terraces being the oldest, while those further south belong to later
steps in the waning of the ice-fields. From these data I infer that
my suggestion concerning the trend of the strike upon the polished
and glaciated surface of the vicinity of Talcahuana, alluded to in
the postscript of my last letter, is probably correct. . .

At Santiago Agassiz rested a day or two. Here, as everywhere
throughout the country, he met with the greatest kindness and
cordiality. A public reception and dinner were urged upon him by
the city, but his health obliged him to decline this and like
honors elsewhere. Among the letters awaiting him here, was one
which brought him a pleasant surprise. It announced his election as
Foreign Associate of the Institute of France,--"one of the eight."
As the crowning honor of his scientific career, this was, of
course, very gratifying to him. In writing soon after to the
Emperor of Brazil, who had expressed a warm interest in his
election, he says: "The distinction pleased me the more because so
unexpected. Unhappily it is usually a brevet of infirmity, or at
least of old age, and in my case it is to a house in ruins that the
diploma is addressed. I regret it the more because I have never
felt more disposed for work, and yet never so fatigued by it."

From Santiago Agassiz proceeded to Valparaiso, where he rejoined
the ship's company. The events of their cruise had been less
satisfactory than those of his land-journey, for, owing to the
rottenness of the ropes, produced by dampness, the hauls of the
dredge from the greatest depths had been lost. Several pauses for
dredging in shallower waters were made with good success,
nevertheless, on the way up the coast to Callao. From there the
Hassler put out to sea once more, for the Galapagos, arriving
before Charles Island on the 10th of June, and visiting in
succession Albemarle, James, Jarvis, and Indefatigable islands.

Agassiz enjoyed extremely his cruise among these islands of such
rare geological and zoological interest. Purely volcanic in
character, and of very recent formation, they yet support a fauna
and flora quite their own, very peculiar and characteristic.
Albemarle Island was, perhaps, the most interesting of all. It is a
barren mountain rising from the sea, its base and slope covered
with small extinct craters. No less than fifty--some perfectly
symmetrical, others irregular, as if blasted out on one side--could
be counted from the deck as the vessel neared the shore. Indeed,
the whole island seemed like some subterranean furnace, of which
these craters were the chimneys. The anchorage was in Tagus Sound,
a deep, quiet bay, less peaceful once, for its steep sides are
formed by the walls of an old crater.

The next day, June 15, was spent by the whole scientific party in a
ramble on shore. The landing was at the foot of a ravine. Climbing
its left bank, they were led by a short walk to the edge of a large
crater, which held a beautiful lake in its cup. It was, in fact, a
crater within a crater, for a second one, equally symmetrical, rose
outside and above it. Following the brink of this lake to its upper
end, they struck across to the head of the ravine. It terminated in
a ridge, which looked down upon an immense field or sea of hardened
lava, spreading over an area of several miles till it reached the
ocean. This ancient bed of lava was full of the most singular and
fantastic details of lava structure. It was a field of charred
ruins, among which were more or less open caves or galleries, some
large enough to hold a number of persons standing upright, others
hardly allowing room to creep through on hands and knees. Rounded
domes were common, sometimes broken, sometimes whole; now and then
some great lava bubble was pierced with a window blasted out of the
side, through which one could look down to the floor of a deep,
underground hollow.

The whole company, some six or eight persons, lunched in one of the
caves, resting on the seats formed by the ledges of lava along its
sides. It had an entrance at either end, was some forty feet long,
at least ten feet high in the centre, and perhaps six or eight feet
wide. Probably never before had it served as a banqueting hall.
Such a hollow tunnel or arch had been formed wherever the interior
of a large mass of lava, once cooled, had become heated again, and
had flowed out, leaving the outside crust standing. The whole story
of this lava bed is so clearly told in its blackened and extinct
remains, that it needs no stretch of the imagination to recreate
the scene. It is again, a heaving, palpitating sheet of fire; the
dead slags are aglow, and the burned-out furnaces cast up their
molten, blazing contents, as of old. Now it is the home of the
large red and orange-colored iguanas, of which a number were
captured, both alive and dead. These islands proved, indeed,
admirable collecting grounds, the more interesting from the
peculiarity of their local fauna.



. . .Our visit to the Galapagos has been full of geological and
zoological interest. It is most impressive to see an extensive
archipelago, of MOST RECENT ORIGIN, inhabited by creatures so
different from any known in other parts of the world. Here we have
a positive limit to the length of time that may have been granted
for the transformation of these animals, if indeed they are in any
way derived from others dwelling in different parts of the world.
The Galapagos are so recent that some of the islands are barely
covered with the most scanty vegetation, itself peculiar to these
islands. Some parts of their surface are entirely bare, and a great
many of the craters and lava streams are so fresh, that the
atmospheric agents have not yet made an impression on them. Their
age does not, therefore, go back to earlier geological periods;
they belong to our times, geologically speaking. Whence, then, do
their inhabitants (animals as well as plants) come? If descended
from some other type, belonging to any neighboring land, then it
does not require such unspeakably long periods for the
transformation of species as the modern advocates of transmutation
claim; and the mystery of change, with such marked and
characteristic differences between existing species, is only
increased, and brought to a level with that of creation. If they
are autochthones, from what germs did they start into existence? I
think that careful observers, in view of these facts, will have to
acknowledge that our science is not yet ripe for a fair discussion
of the origin of organized beings. . .

There is little to tell for the rest of the voyage that cannot be
condensed into a few words. There was a detention for despatches
and for Coast Survey business at Panama,--a delay which was turned
to good account in collecting, both in the Bay and on the Isthmus.
At San Diego, also, admirable collections were made, and pleasant
days were spent. This was the last station on the voyage of the
Hassler. She reached her destination and entered the Golden Gate on
the 24th of August, 1872. Agassiz was touched by his reception in
San Francisco. Attentions and kindnesses were showered upon him
from all sides, but his health allowed him to accept only such
hospitalities as were of the most quiet and private nature. He
passed a month in San Francisco, but was unable to undertake any of
the well-known excursions to the Yosemite Valley or the great
trees. Rest and home became every day more imperative necessities.


1872-1873: AGE 65-66.

Return to Cambridge.
Summer School proposed.
Interest of Agassiz.
Gift of Mr. Anderson.
Prospectus of Penikese School.
Opening of School.
Summer Work.
Close of School.
Last Course of Lectures at Museum.
Lecture before Board of Agriculture.
Place of Burial.

In October, 1872, Agassiz returned to Cambridge. To arrange the
collections he had brought back, to write a report of his journey
and its results, to pass the next summer quietly at his Nahant
laboratory, continuing his work on the Sharks and Skates, for which
he had brought home new and valuable material, seemed the natural
sequence of his year of travel. But he found a new scheme of
education on foot; one for which he had himself given the first
impulse, but which some of his younger friends had carefully
considered and discussed in his absence, being confident that with
his help it might be accomplished. The plan was to establish a
summer school of natural history somewhere on the coast of
Massachusetts, where teachers from our schools and colleges could
make their vacations serviceable, both for work and recreation, by
the direct study of nature. No sooner was Agassiz once more at home
than he was confronted by this scheme, and he took it up with
characteristic ardor. Means there were none, nor apparatus, nor
building, nor even a site for one. There was only the ideal, and to
that he brought the undying fervor of his intellectual faith. The
prospectus was soon sketched, and, once before the public, it
awakened a strong interest. In March, when the Legislature of
Massachusetts made their annual visit to the Museum of Comparative
zoology, Agassiz laid this new project before them as one of deep
interest for science in general, and especially for schools and
colleges throughout the land. He considered it also an educational
branch of the Museum, having, as such, a claim on their sympathy,
since it was in the line of the direct growth and continuance of
the same work. Never did he plead more eloquently for the cause of
education. His gift as a speaker cannot easily be described. It was
born of conviction, and was as simple as it was impassioned. It
kept the freshness of youth, because the things of which he spoke
never grew old to him, but moved him to the last hour of his life
as forcibly as in his earlier years.

This appeal to the Legislature, spoken in the morning, chanced to
be read in the evening papers of the same day by Mr. John Anderson,
a rich merchant of New York. It at once enlisted his sympathy both
for the work and for the man. Within the week he offered to
Agassiz, as a site for the school, the island of Penikese, in
Buzzard's Bay, with the buildings upon it, consisting of a
furnished dwelling-house and barn. Scarcely was this gift accepted
than he added to it an endowment of 50,000 dollars for the
equipment of the school. Adjectives belittle deeds like these. The
bare statement says more than the most laudatory epithets.

Agassiz was no less surprised than touched at the aid thus
unexpectedly offered. In his letter of acknowledgment he says: "You
do not know what it is suddenly and unexpectedly to find a friend
at your side, full of sympathy, and offering support to a scheme
which you have been trying to carry out under difficulties and with
very scanty means. I feel grateful to you for making the road so
easy, and I believe you will have the permanent gratitude of
scientific men here and elsewhere, for I have the utmost confidence
that this summer school will give valuable opportunities for
original research, as well as for instruction." At Agassiz's
suggestion the school was to bear the name of "The Anderson School
of Natural History." Mr. Anderson wished to substitute the name of
Agassiz for his own. This Agassiz absolutely refused to permit,
saying that he was but one of many scientific men who had already
offered their services to the school for the coming summer, some of
whom would, no doubt, continue to work for it in the future, and
all of whom would be equally indebted to Mr. Anderson. It was,
therefore, most suitable that it should bear his name, and so it
was agreed.

Thus the material problem was solved. Name and habitation were
found; it remained only to organize the work for which so fitting a
home had been provided. Mr. Anderson's gift was received toward the
close of March, and, in the course of the following month, the
preliminaries were concluded, and the property was transferred to
the trustees of the Anderson School.

Few men would have thought it feasible to build dormitories and
laboratories, and provide working apparatus for fifty pupils as
well as for a large corps of teachers, between May and July. But to
Agassiz no obstacles seemed insurmountable where great aims were
involved, and the opening of the school was announced for the 8th
of July. He left Boston on Friday, the 4th of July, for the island.
At New Bedford he was met by a warning from the architect that it
would be simply impossible to open the school at the appointed
date. With characteristic disregard of practical difficulties, he
answered that it must be possible, for postponement was out of the
question. He reached the island on Saturday, the 5th, in the
afternoon. The aspect was certainly discouraging. The dormitory was
up, but only the frame was completed; there were no floors, nor was
the roof shingled. The next day was Sunday. Agassiz called the
carpenters together. He told them that the scheme was neither for
money, nor for the making of money; no personal gain was involved
in it. It was for the best interests of education, and for that
alone. Having explained the object, and stated the emergency, he
asked whether, under these circumstances, the next day was properly
for rest or for work. They all answered "for work." They
accordingly worked the following day from dawn till dark, and by
night-fall the floors were laid. On Monday, the 7th, the partitions
were put up, dividing the upper story into two large dormitories;
the lower, into sufficiently convenient working-rooms. On Tuesday
morning (the 8th), with the help of a few volunteers, chiefly
ladies connected with the school, who had arrived a day or two in
advance, the dormitories, which were still encumbered by shavings,
sawdust, etc., were swept, and presently transformed into not
unattractive sleeping-halls. They were divided by neat sets of
furniture into equal spaces, above each of which was placed the
name of the person to whom it was appropriated. When all was done,
the large open rooms, with their fresh pine walls, floors, and
ceilings, the rows of white beds down the sides, and the many
windows looking to the sea, were pretty and inviting enough. If
they somewhat resembled hospital wards, they were too airy and
cheerful to suggest sickness either of body or mind.

Next, a large barn belonging to Mr. Anderson's former establishment
was cleared, and a new floor laid there also. This was hardly
finished (the last nails were just driven) when the steamer, with
its large company, touched the wharf. There was barely time to
arrange the seats and to place a table with flowers where the
guests of honor were to sit, and Agassiz himself was to stand, when
all arrived. The barn was, on the whole, not a bad lecture-room on
a beautiful summer day. The swallows, who had their nests without
number in the rafters, flew in and out, and twittered softly
overhead; and the wide doors, standing broadly open to the blue sky
and the fresh fields let in the sea-breeze, and gave a view of the
little domain. Agassiz had arranged no programme of exercises,
trusting to the interest of the occasion to suggest what might best
be said or done. But, as he looked upon his pupils gathered there
to study nature with him, by an impulse as natural as it was
unpremeditated, he called upon them to join in silently asking
God's blessing on their work together. The pause was broken by the
first words of an address no less fervent than its unspoken
prelude.* (* This whole scene is fitly told in Whittier's poem,
"The Prayer of Agassiz".)

Thus the day, which had been anticipated with so much anxiety,
passed off, unclouded by any untoward accident, and at evening the
guests had departed. Students and teachers, a company of some fifty
or sixty persons, were left to share the island with the sea-gulls
whose haunt it was.

We will not enter into the daily details of the school. It was a
new phase of teaching, even for Agassiz, old as he was in the work.
Most of his pupils were mature men and women, some of whom had been
teachers themselves for many years. He had, therefore, trained
minds to deal with, and the experience was at that time as novel as
it was interesting. The novelty has worn off now. Summer schools
for advanced students, and especially for teachers, have taken
their place in the general system of education; and, though the
Penikese school may be said to have died with its master, it lives
anew in many a sea-side laboratory organized on the same plan, in
summer schools of Botany and field classes of Geology. The impetus
it gave was not, and cannot be, lost, since it refreshed and
vitalized methods of teaching.

Beside the young men who formed his corps of teachers, among whom
the resident professors were Dr. Burt G. Wilder, of Cornell
University, and Professor Alpheus S. Packard, now of Brown
University, Agassiz had with him some of his oldest friends and
colleagues. Count de Pourtales was there, superintending the
dredging, for which there were special conveniences, Mr. Charles G.
Galloupe having presented the school with a yacht for the express
purpose. This generous gift gave Agassiz the greatest pleasure, and
completed the outfit of the school as nothing else could have done.
Professor Arnold Guyot, also,--Agassiz's comrade in younger years,
--his companion in many an Alpine excursion,--came to the island to
give a course of lectures, and remained for some time. It was their
last meeting in this world, and together they lived over their days
of youthful adventure. The lectures of the morning and afternoon
would sometimes be followed by an informal meeting held on a little
hill, which was a favorite resort at sunset. There the whole
community gathered around the two old friends, to hear them talk of
their glacial explorations, one recalling what the other had
forgotten, till the scenes lived again for themselves, and became
almost equally vivid for their listeners. The subject came up
naturally, for, strange to say, this island in a New England bay
was very suggestive of glacial phenomena. Erratic materials and
boulders transported from the north were scattered over its
surface, and Agassiz found the illustrations for his lectures on
this topic ready to his hand. Indeed, some of his finest lectures
on the ice-period were given at Penikese.

Nothing could be less artificial, more free from constraint or
formality, than the intercourse between him and his companions of
this summer. He was at home with every member of the settlement.
Ill-health did not check the readiness of his sympathy; languor did
not chill the glow of his enthusiasm. All turned to him for help
and inspiration. Walking over their little sovereignty together,
hunting for specimens on its beaches, dredging from the boats, in
the laboratory, or the lecture-room, the instruction had always the
character of the freest discussion. Yet the work, although combined
with out-of-door pleasures, and not without a certain holiday
element, was no play. On the part of the students, the application
was close and unremitting; on the part of the teachers, the
instruction, though untrammeled by routine, was sustained and

Agassiz himself frequently gave two lectures a day. In the morning
session he would prepare his class for the work of the day; in the
afternoon he would draw out their own observations by questions,
and lead them, by comparison and combination of the facts they had
observed, to understand the significance of their results. Every
lecture from him at this time was a lesson in teaching as well as
in natural history, and to many of his hearers this gave his
lectures a twofold value, as bearing directly upon their own
occupation. In his opening address he had said to them: "You will
find the same elements of instruction all about you wherever you
may be teaching. You can take your classes out, and give them the
same lessons, and lead them up to the same subjects you are
yourselves studying here. And this mode of teaching children is so
natural, so suggestive, so true. That is the charm of teaching from
Nature herself. No one can warp her to suit his own views. She
brings us back to absolute truth as often as we wander."

This was the bright side of the picture. Those who stood nearest to
Agassiz, however, felt that the strain not only of work, but of the
anxiety and responsibility attendant upon a new and important
undertaking, was perilous for him. There were moments when this
became apparent, and he himself felt the danger. He persevered,
nevertheless, to the end of the summer, and only left Penikese when
the school broke up.

In order to keep the story of this final effort unbroken, some
events of great interest to Agassiz and of importance to the Museum
have been omitted. In the spring the Museum had received a grant of
25,000 dollars from the Legislature. To this was added 100,000
dollars, a birthday gift to Agassiz in behalf of the institution he
so much loved. This last sum was controlled by no official body and
was to be expended at his own good will and pleasure, either in
collections, publications, or scientific assistance, as seemed to
him best. He therefore looked forward to a year of greater ease and
efficiency in scientific work than he had ever enjoyed before. On
returning from Penikese, full of the new possibilities thus opened
to him, he allowed himself a short rest, partly at the sea-shore,
partly in the mountains, and was again at his post in the Museum in

His last course of lectures there was on one of his favorite
topics,--the type of Radiates as connected with the physical
history of the earth, from the dawn of organic life till now. In
his opening lecture he said to his class: "You must learn to look
upon fossil forms as the antiquarian looks upon his coins. The
remains of animals and plants have the spirit of their time
impressed upon them, as strongly as the spirit of the age is
impressed upon its architecture, its literature, its coinage. I
want you to become so familiar with these forms, that you can read
off at a glance their character and associations." In this spirit
his last course was conceived. It was as far-reaching and as clear
as usual, nor did his delivery evince failure of strength or of
mental power. If he showed in any way the disease which was even
then upon him, it was by an over-tension of the nerves, which gave
increased fervor to his manner. Every mental effort was, however,
succeeded by great physical fatigue.

At the same time he had undertaken a series of articles in the
"Atlantic Monthly," entitled, "Evolution and Permanence of Type."
They were to have contained his own convictions regarding the
connection between all living beings, upon which his studies had
led him to conclusions so different from the philosophy of the day.
Of these papers, only one was completed. It was his last word upon
science; the correction of the proofsheets was the last act of his
working life, and the article was published after his death. In it
he claimed that the law of evolution, in a certain sense as true to
him as to any so-called evolutionist, was a law "controlling
development, and keeping types within appointed cycles of growth."
He maintained that this law acts within definite limits, and never
infringes upon the great types, each one of which is, in his view,
a structural unit in itself. Even metamorphoses, he adds, "have all
the constancy and invariability of other modes of embryonic growth,
and have never been known to lead to any transition of one species
into another." Of heredity he says: "The whole subject of
inheritance is exceedingly intricate, working often in a seemingly
capricious and fitful way. Qualities, both good and bad, are
dropped as well as acquired, and the process ends sometimes in the
degradation of the type, and the survival of the unfit rather than
the fittest. The most trifling and fantastic tricks of inheritance
are quoted in support of the transmutation theory; but little is
said of the sudden apparition of powerful original qualities, which
almost always rise like pure creations, and are gone with their day
and generation. The noblest gifts are exceptional, and are rarely
inherited; this very fact seems to me an evidence of something more
and higher than mere evolution and transmission concerned in the
problem of life. In the same way the matter of natural and sexual
selection is susceptible of very various interpretations. No doubt,
on the whole, Nature protects her best. But it would not be
difficult to bring together an array of facts as striking as those
produced by the evolutionists in favor of their theory, to show
that sexual selection is by no means always favorable to the
elimination of the chaff, and the preservation of the wheat. A
natural attraction, independent of strength or beauty, is an
unquestionable element in this problem, and its action is seen
among animals as well as among men. The fact that fine progeny are
not infrequently the offspring of weak parents, and vice versa,
points, perhaps, to some innate power of redress by which the
caprices of choice are counterbalanced. But there can be no doubt
that types are as often endangered as protected by the so-called
law of sexual selection."

"As to the influence of climate and physical conditions," he
continues, "we all know their power for evil and for good upon
living beings. But there is, nevertheless, nothing more striking in
the whole book of nature than the power shown by types and species
to resist physical conditions. Endless evidence may be brought from
the whole expanse of land and air and water, showing that identical
physical conditions will do nothing toward the merging of species
into one another, neither will variety of conditions do anything
toward their multiplication. One thing only we know absolutely, and
in this treacherous, marshy ground of hypothesis and assumption, it
is pleasant to plant one's foot occasionally upon a solid fact here
and there. Whatever be the means of preserving and transmitting
properties, the primitive types have remained permanent and
unchanged,--in the long succession of ages, amid all the appearance
and disappearance of kinds, the fading away of one species and the
coming in of another,--from the earliest geological periods to the
present day. How these types were first introduced, how the species
which have successively represented them have replaced one another,
--these are the vital questions to which no answer has been given.
We are as far from any satisfactory solution of this problem as if
development theories had never been discussed."

In conclusion, he sketches the plan of these articles. "I hope in
future articles to show, first, that, however broken the geological
record may be, there is a complete sequence in many parts of it,
from which the character of the succession may be ascertained;
secondly, that, since the most exquisitely delicate structures, as
well as embryonic phases of growth of the most perishable nature,
have been preserved from very early deposits, we have no right to
infer the disappearance of types because their absence disproves
some favorite theory; and, lastly, that there is no evidence of a
direct descent of later from earlier species in the geological
succession of animals."

This paper contained the sentence so often quoted since, "A
physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own nature
demands from us this double allegiance." This expressed the secret
of his whole life. Every fact in nature was sacred to him, as part
of an intellectual conception expressed in the history of the earth
and the beings living upon it.

On the 2nd of December, he was called to a meeting of the
Massachusetts Board of Agriculture at Fitchburg, where he lectured
in the evening on "The structural growth of domesticated animals."
Those who accompanied him, and knew the mental and physical
depression which had hung about him for weeks, could not see him
take his place on the platform, without anxiety. And yet, when he
turned to the blackboard, and, with a single sweep of the chalk,
drew the faultless outline of an egg, it seemed impossible that
anything could be amiss with the hand or the brain that were so
steady and so clear.

The end, nevertheless, was very near. Although he dined with
friends the next day, and was present at a family festival that
week, he spoke of a dimness of sight, and of feeling "strangely
asleep." On the 6th he returned early from the Museum, complaining
of great weariness, and from that time he never left his room.
Attended in his illness by his friends, Dr. Brown-Sequard and Dr.
Morrill Wyman, and surrounded by his family, the closing week of
his life was undisturbed by acute suffering and full of domestic
happiness. Even the voices of his brother and sisters were not
wholly silent, for the wires that thrill with so many human
interests brought their message of greeting and farewell across the
ocean to his bedside. The thoughts and aims for which he had lived
were often on his lips, but the affections were more vivid than the
intellect in these last hours. The end came very peacefully, on the
14th of December, 1873. He lies buried at Mount Auburn. The boulder
that makes his monument came from the glacier of the Aar, not far
from the spot where his hut once stood; and the pine-trees which
are fast growing up to shelter it were sent by loving hands from
his old home in Switzerland. The land of his birth and the land of
his adoption are united in his grave.


Aar, glacier.
last visit to.
boulder-monument from.

Abert, Colonel.

"Academy, The Little".




Agassiz, Alexander.

Agassiz, Auguste.

Agassiz, Cecile Braun.
talent as an artist.

Agassiz, Elizabeth Cary.

Agassiz, Louis.
as a teacher.
popular reading.
becomes pastor at Concise.

Agassiz, Jean Louis Rodolphe.
first aquarium.
early education.
love of natural history.
boyish studies and amusements.
taste for handicraft; its after use.
adventure with his brother on the ice.
goes to Bienne.
college of Bienne.
own sketch of plans of study at fourteen.
school and college note-books.
distaste for commercial life.
goes to Lausanne.
to the medical school at Zurich.
copies books on natural history.
first excursion in the Alps.
offer of adoption by a Genevese gentleman.
goes to Heidelberg.
student life.
described in Braun's letters.
at Carlsruhe.
at Munich.
description of Museum at Stuttgart.
of mammoth.
at Munich.
"The Little Academy".
"Fresh-water fishes of Europe".
desire to travel.
vacation trip.
work on Brazilian fishes.
second vacation trip.
growing collections.
plans for travel with Humboldt.
doctor of philosophy.
at Orbe and Cudrefin.
death of Dr. Mayor.
doctor of medicine.
new interest in medicine.
first work on fossil fishes.
at Vienna.
negotiations with Cotta.
university life.
at home.
studies on cholera.
arrives in Paris.
Cuvier gives him his fossil fishes.
last interview with Cuvier.
offer from Ferussac.
plans for disposing of collection.
curious dream.
Humboldt's gift.
first sight of sea.
plans for going to Neuchatel.
inducements to stay in Paris.
birthday festival.
call to Neuchatel.
first lecture at Neuchatel.
success as a teacher.
impulse given to science.
children's lectures.
call to Heidelberg.
sale of collection.
threatened blindness.
publishing "Fossil Fishes".
growing reputation.
invited to England.
receives Wollaston prize.
views on classification and development.
difficulties in the work on "Fossil Fishes".
first visit to England.
material for "Fossil Fishes".
return to Neuchatel.
first relations with New England.
second visit to England.
various works.
receives Wollaston medal.
first glacial work.
sale of original drawings of "Fossil Fishes".
on the Jura.
"glacial theory" announced.
invitation to Geneva.
to Lausanne.
death of his father.
lithographical press.
variety of work.
researches on mollusks.
elected into Royal Society.
new glacial work.
first English letter.
"Etudes sur les Glaciers".
on the glacier of the Aar.
"Hotel des Neuchatelois".
ascent of the Strahleck.
of the Siedelhorn.
second visit to England.
in the Highlands.
in Ireland.
researches in the interior of glacier.
ascent of the Ewigschneehorn.
of the Jungfrau.
on the Viescher.
the chalet of Meril.
the Aletsch.
the Col of Rotthal.
the peak.
the descent.
zoological work.
various publications.
unity in work.
on glaciers.
"Fossil Fishes".
gifts from the king of Prussia.
plans for visiting the United States.
microscopic study of fossil fishes.
critical point.
publishes "Fossil Fishes".
not an evolutionist.
belief in a Creator.
fish skeletons.
plan of creation.
last visit to glacier.
receives Monthyon prize.
publishes "Systeme Glaciaire".
sails for America.
arrives in Boston.
their success.
visit to New Haven.
American hospitality.
Mercantile Library Association.
New York.
American scientific men.
Hudson River.
West Point.
lectures on glaciers.
American forests.
erratic phenomena.
medusae and polyps.
plans for travel.
at East Boston.
first birthday in America.
on the "Bibb".
first dredging.
leaves Prussian service.
professor at Harvard.
removes to Cambridge.
death of his wife.
begins a collection.
excursion to Lake Superior.
"Principles of Zoology" published.
second marriage.
arrival of his children.
examination of Florida reefs.
professor at Charleston, S.C.
laboratory on Sullivan's Island.
the "Hollow Tree".
origin of human race.
receives the "Prix Cuvier".
lectures at Smithsonian Institution.
made regent of.
growth of collections.
their sale.
illness at Charleston.
relation of living to fossil animals.
return to the north.
invitation to Zurich.
and refusal.
circular on collecting fishes.
and response.
new house in Cambridge.
manner of study.
weekly meetings.
renewed lectures.
school for young ladies opened.
and success.
courses of lectures.
"Contributions to the Natural History of the United States" projected.
fiftieth birthday.
laboratory at Nahant.
invitation to Paris.
refusal, and reasons.
receives cross of Legion of Honor.
dangerous state of collections.
an ideal museum.
"Museum of Comparative Zoology" founded.
visit to Europe.
teaching at museum.
attitude during civil war.
urges founding National Academy.
receives Copley medal.
lecturing tour.
ethnographical collections.
hydrographical distribution of animals.
future of negro race.
visit to Maine.
to Brazil.
at Lowell Institute.
at Cooper Institute.
journey to the West.
professor at Cornell University.
address at Humboldt Centennial.
anxiety for Museum.
restored health.
Hassler expedition.
at Talcahuana.
journey from Talcahuana to Santiago.
elected Foreign Associate of the Institute of France.
at the Galapagos islands.
at San Francisco.
return to Cambridge.
summer school projected.
gift of Penikese.
opening of school.
last lectures at Museum.
last work.
last lecture.
last visit to Museum.

Agassiz, Rose Mayor.
sympathy with her son.
at Concise.
visit to.


Albemarle Island.

Aletsch, glacier of the.

Alps, first excursion in.
later excursions.
first permanent station.


Amazons, the.

America, native races of.

America, South, native races of.

American forests.


Anderson, John.

Anderson School of Natural History.

Anthony, J.G.


Australian race.

Austrian custom-house officers.

Bache, A.D.

Bachelor's Peak.


Bailey, Professor.

Baird, S.F.


Bancroft, George.


Barnard, J.M.

Beaumont, Elie de.
aids Agassiz with a collection of fossil fishes.
at the Helvetic Association at Neuchatel.

Berlin, University of, quoted.


"Bibb" U.S. Coast Survey steamer.

"Bibliographica Zoologica".

Bienne, college at.


Blake, J.H.

Bombinator obstetricans, observations on.

Bonaparte, Prince of Canino.


Borja Bay.


Boston, East.
observations upon the geology of,
   with reference to the glacial theory.

Boston Harbor.

Botany, questions in.


Braun, Alexander.

Brazil, visit to.
fresh-water fauna of.
glacier phenomena.

Brewster, Sir David.


his collection now in Cambridge.

Brown-Sequard, Dr.

Buch, Leopold von.

Buckland, Dr.
invites Agassiz to England.
acts as his guide to fossil fishes.
to glacier tracks.
a convert to glacial theory.
mentioned by Murchison.


Cabot, J.E.


Cambridge, first mention of.


Carlsruhe, Agassiz at.

Cary, T.G.


Charleston, S.C.


Chavannes, Professor.



Chemidium-like sponge.

Chiem, lake of.

Chilian, valley of.

Chironectes pictus.

Chorocua Bay.

Christinat, Mr.

Civil war.

Clark, H.J.

Coal deposits at Lota, age of.

Coal mines at Sandy Point.

Coast range.

Coelenterata, Owen on the term.

Collections, growth of.
appropriation for.
place of storage.

Concepcion Bay.

Concise, Parsonage of.

Connecticut geology.

Connecticut River.

Conner's Cove.

Corcovado Gulf.

Corcovado Peak.

"Contributions to Natural History of the United States".

Copley medal.

Coral collection.


Cornell University.

Cotting, B.E.

Coulon, H.

Coulon, L.

Coutinho, Major.

Crinoids, deep-sea and fossil, compared.




Cuvier, Georges.
dedication to.
notes on Spix fishes.
reception of Agassiz.
gives material for fossil fishes.
last words.

Cyclopoma spinosum, curious dream about.

Cyprinus uranoscopus.

Dana J.D.

Darwin, C.
accepts glacier theory.
on "Lake Superior".
on Massachusetts cirripedia.
estimation of Darwinism.
of Agassiz.

Davis, Admiral.

Deep-sea dredgings.

Deep-sea fauna.

De Kay.

De la Rive, A., invites Agassiz to Geneva.


Dinkel, Joseph.

Dinkel, his description of Agassiz.




Easter fete.

Echinarachnius parma.

Echinoderms, relation to medusae.

Eden Harbor.

Egerton, Lord Francis, buys original drawings.

Egerton, Sir Philip.

Elizabeth islands.

Embryonic and specific development.

Emerson, R.W.

Emperor of Brazil.

first visit to.
generosity of naturalists.
second visit to.

English Narrows.

Enniskillen, Lord.

Equality of races.

Escher von der Linth.



Ethnographical circular.

"Evolution and Permanence of Type".


Fagus castaneafolia.

Favre, E., quotation from.

Favre, L., quotation from.

Felton, C.C.


prophetic types.

Fishes of America.

Fishes of Brazil.

Fishes, Spix's Brazilian.

Fishes of Europe.
of Kentucky.
of New York.
of Switzerland.

Fishes, fossil.
geological and genetic development.
study of bones.
in English collections.
of the "Old Red".
of Sheppy.
of Connecticut.

Fishes, Fossil.
"Recherches sur les poissons fossiles".
receives Wollaston prize.
Monthyon prize.
Prix Cuvier.


Fitchburg, lecture at.

Florida reefs.

Forbes, Edward.

Forbes, James D.

Fossil Alaskan flora.

"Fossil Arctic flora".


Fremont, J.C.


Fuegian natives.

Galapagos Islands.

Galloupe, C.G.

Geneva, invitation to.

Geoffrey St. Hilaire's progressive theory, remarks on.


Glacial marks in Scotland.
"Roads of Glen Roy".
in Ireland.
in New England.
in New York.
at Halifax.
at Brooklyn.
at East Boston.
on Lake Superior.
in Maine.
in Brazil.
in New York.
in Penikese.
in western prairies.
in South America.

Glacial submarine dykes.

Glacial phenomena.
lectures on.

Glacial work.
gift from king of Prussia toward.
"Systeme glaciaire" published.

"Glacial theory".
opposition from Buch.
from Humboldt.
Studer's acceptance of.
"Etudes sur les glaciers" published.
Humboldt's later views.

Glacier Bay.

first researches.
"blue bands".
Hugi's cabin.
of the Aar.
in the winter.
the Rosenlaui.
glacier wells.
caves of the Viescher.
capillary fissures.
formation of crevasses.
topographical survey.
stratification of neve.
new work.

Glaciers in Strait of Magellan.

Glen Roy, roads of.


Gould, A.A.

Gray, Asa.

Gray, Francis C.
leaves a sum to found a Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Gray, William.

Greenough, H.

Gressly, A.

Griffith, Dr.
collection of.



Guyot, Arnold.
on Agassiz's views.

Hagen, H.A.

Haldeman, S.S.

Hall, J.

Harbor deposits.


Harvard University.

Hassler expedition.


Heer, Oswald.

arrival at.
rambles in vicinity of.
student life at.
invitation to.

Henry, Joseph.

Hill, Thomas.


Hochstetter, the botanist.

Holbrook, J.E.

Holbrook, J.E., Mrs.

Holmes, O.W.
description of "Saturday Club".

Hooper, Samuel.


Hospice of the Grimsel.

Hotel des Neuchatelois.
last of.

Howe, Dr. S.G.
on the future of the negro race.

Hudson River.

Hugi's cabin.

Humboldt, Alexander von.
projects of travel with.
writes to L. Coulon.
gives form for letter to the king.
on succession of life.
on Ehrenberg's discoveries.
on his brother's death.
urges concentration and economy.
discourages glacial work.
opposes glacial theory.
on works on "Fossil" and "Fresh-water" fishes.
on his own works.
later views on glacial theory.
farewell words to Agassiz.

Humboldt, centennial.

Humboldt, scholarship.

Humboldt, William von.
letter concerning his death, from his brother.


"Ibicuhy" the.

Indian Reach.

Invertebrates, relations of.

Ithaca, N.Y.

Jackson, C.T.

Johnson, P.C.

Kentucky, fishes of.


Koch, the botanist.


Lackawanna cove.

Lake Superior.
excursion to.
glacial phenomena.
local geology.

Lake Superior, "Narrative" of.

Lakes in New York, origin of.

Lausanne, Agassiz at the college of.

Lausanne, invitation to.

Lava bed in Albemarle island.

Lawrence, Abbott.

Lawrence, Scientific school established.
Agassiz made professor.

Lea, Isaac, collection of shells.




Agassiz to his brother Auguste.
to his father.
to his father and mother.
to his mother.
to his sister Cecile.
to his sister Olympe.
to his old pupils.
to Elie de Beaumont.
to Bonaparte, Prince of Canino.
to A. Braun.
to Dr. Buckland.
to T.G. Cary.
to James D. Dana.
to L. Coulon.
to Decaisne.
to A. de la Rive.
to Sir P. Egerton.
to R.W. Emerson.
to Chancellor Favargez.
to S.S. Haldeman.
to Oswald Heer.
to Mrs. Holbrook.
to S.G. Howe.
to A. von Humboldt.
to J.A. Lowell.
to Sir Charles Lyell.
to Charles Martins.
to Dr. Mayor.
to Henri Milne-Edwards.
to Benjamin Peirce.
to Adam Sedgwick.
to Charles Sumner.
to Valenciennes.
Auguste Agassiz to Louis Agassiz.
M. Agassiz to Louis Agassiz.
Madame Agassiz to Louis Agassiz.
A.D. Bache to Louis Agassiz.
Alexander Braun to Louis Agassiz.
Leopold von Buch to Agassiz.
Dr. Buckland to Agassiz.
L. Coulon to Agassiz.
Cuvier to Agassiz.
Charles Darwin to Agassiz.
A. de la Rive to Agassiz.
G.P. Deshayes to Agassiz.
Egerton to Agassiz.
R.W. Emerson to Agassiz.
Edward Forbes to Agassiz.
Oswald Heer to Agassiz.
Dr. Howe to Agassiz.
A. von Humboldt to Agassiz
A. von Humboldt to Agassiz (extract).
H.W. Longfellow to Agassiz.
Sir Charles Lyell to Agassiz.
Lady Lyell to Agassiz.
L. von Martius to Agassiz.
Hugh Miller to Agassiz.
Sir R. Murchison to Agassiz.
Richard Owen to Agassiz.
Benjamin Peirce to Agassiz.
M. Rouland to Agassiz.
Adam Sedgwick to Agassiz.
C.T. von Siebold to Agassiz.
B. Silliman to Agassiz.
Charles Sumner to Agassiz.
Tiedemann to Agassiz.
Alexander Braun to his father.
to his mother.
Charles Darwin to Dr. Tritten.
A. von Humboldt to Madame Agassiz.
to L. Coulon.
to G. Ticknor (extract).



Longfellow, H.W.
verses on Agassiz's fiftieth birthday.
Christmas gift.

Long Island Sound.


Lota coal deposits.

Lowell, James Russell.

Lowell, John Amory.

Lowell Institute.
lectures at.
reception at.

Lyell, Sir Charles.
accepts glacial theory.

Lyman, T.


Magellan, Strait of.


Maine, visit to.

Man, origin of.
compared with monkeys.
distinction of races.
form of nose.
geographical distribution.

Man prehistoric in S. America.

Marcou, J.

Martius, L. von.

Mastodon of U.S. compared to old world.

Mathias, Gulf of.

Mayne's Harbor.

Mayor, Dr.
death of.

Mayor, Auguste.

Mayor, Francois.

Mayor, Lisette.

Mayor, Mathias.


relation to echinoderms.


Melimoya Mountain.

Mellet, Pastor.

Mercantile Library Association, meeting of.

Meril, the chalets of.



Miller, Hugh.
on "Footprints of the Creator".
on "Scenes and Legends".
on resemblance of Scotch and Swiss.
on "First Impressions".
on Asterolepis.
on Monticularia.

Mississippi, fishes in the.

Mollusks, inner moulds of shells of.


Monte Video.



Morton, S.G.
collection of skulls.

birthplace of Agassiz.
inscription to Agassiz.

Motley, J.L.

Mount Burney.

Mount Sarmiento.

Mount Tarn.


Murchison, Sir R.
on glacial theory.
accepts it.
sends his Russian "Old Red" fishes.
on "Principles of Zoology".
on tertiary geology.

Murchison, Sir R.

Museum of Comparative Zoology.
first beginning.
coral collection begun.
gift from pupils.
idea of museum.
Mr. Gray's legacy.
name given.
popular name.
Harvard University gives land.
Legislative grant.
cornerstone laid.
work at Museum.
public lectures.
additional grants.
first Bulletin.
new subscription.
new building.
object and scope.
new collections.
a birthday gift.
last lectures by Agassiz.


Nahant, laboratory at.

National Academy of Sciences founded.


plans for.
accepts professorship there.
first lecture.
founding of Natural History Society.

New Haven.

New York, city of.

"New York, Natural History of".

Nicolet, C.

"Nomenclator Zoologicus".

the Durer festival.





Ord, collection.


Otway Bay.

Owen's Island.

Packard, A.S.


Paris, Agassiz in.

Peale, R.

Peirce, B.

Penikese Island.
glacial marks.


Academy of Science.
American Philosophical Society.

Phyllotaxis, first hint at the law of.


Pickering, Charles.

Playa Parda Cove.


"Poissons d'eau douce".

"Poissons fossiles".

Port Famine.

Port San Pedro.

Portugal, plan for collections in.

Possession Bay.

Pourtales, L.F. de.

Pourtales, extract from his journal.

Prescott, W.H.


"Principles of Zoology".

Radiates, relations of.

Ramsey, Prof.

Ravenel, St. Julian.



Rickley (Rickly), Mr., director at college at Bienne.


Rivers, American, origin of.

Rogers, H.

Rogers, W.B.

Rosenlaui, glacier of the.

Roththal, Col of.

Rowlet Narrows.

St. George, Gulf of.

Salamander, fossil, at New Haven.

Salt marshes.

precautions concerning students.

San Antonio, Port of.

San Diego.

Sandy Point.

San Francisco.

San Magdalena.


San Vicente.


Sarmiento Range.

Saturday Club.


Schimper, Karl.

Schimper, William.

Schinz, Prof.
library and collection.

School for young ladies opened.
lectures at.
yearly meeting of old pupils,--gift to the Museum.


Scudder, S.H.
description by, of a first lesson by Agassiz.


Sea bottom.

Sedgwick, Adam.
on Geoffrey St. Hilaire's theory.
question on descent.

Sedgwick, Adam.

Seeley, H.G.


Sharks and skates.


Sholl Bay.
moraine at.

Shore level, change of.

Siebold, Letter of, about Agassiz at Munich.

Siedelhorn, ascent of the.

Silliman, Benjamin.
announces subscribers to "Fossil Fishes".
Visit to.


Smithsonian Institution.
lectures at.
Agassiz becomes regent of.

Smythe's Channel.

Snell, G.

Snowy Glacier.

Snowy Range.


Spain, plan for collecting in.


his "Brazilian Fishes".

Sponge, chemidium-like.

Sponges, deep sea.



Steindachner, F.

Steudel, the botanist.

Stimpson, W.

Strahleck, ascent of the.


Stuttgart, Museum at.

Sullivan's Island.

Summer School of Natural History, plan for.

Sumner, Charles.

Tagus Sound.


Tarn Bay.


Thayer, Nathaniel, promotes Brazil expedition.



Tiedemann, Professor.
invites Agassiz to Heidelberg.

Torrey, Professor J.




United States.
first thought of visiting.
idea given up.
departure for.
impressions of.
scientific men.

United States Coast Survey.
steamer "Bibb".
constant connection with.
examination of Florida reefs.
dredging expedition.

United States Museum of Natural History.





Vienna, visit to.

Viescher Glacier, cave of.

Vintage in Switzerland, the.

Vogt, Karl.

Volcanic islands.

Volcanic soil.







Weber, J.C.

West Point.

White, W.

Whymper collection.

Wild, Mr.

Wilder, B.G.

Wilkes Exploring Expedition.

Wollaston prize.

Wollaston medal.

Wyman, J.

Wyman, Dr. Morrill.



professorship offered.

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