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Louis Agassiz

In the midst of as beautiful scenery as one finds on earth, snow-white

Alps, blue lakes, great fields of purple crocus, and picturesque homes,

Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was born at Motier, on Lake Morat,

Switzerland, May 28, 1807.

His father, a clergyman, descended from a long line of clergymen, was a

gentle but efficient man, universally esteemed. His mother, Rose Mayor,

the daughter of a physician on
he shore of Lake Neuchatel, was a woman

of strong character and most tender affection. She had buried her first

four children; therefore Louis was cared for with unusual solicitude.

Until he was ten years old, he was taught by his parents, and allowed to

develop his natural tastes. Possibly his sweetness of disposition

resulted, in part, from the wise training of the father and mother.

Doubtless as many children are spoiled by undue thwarting and irritating

as by over-indulgence. Though Louis met almost unsurmountable obstacles

later in life, he was able to rejoice, having enjoyed a sunny childhood.

Such a childhood we can give to our children but once.

In a great stone basin back of the parsonage, the boy made his first

aquarium. There he gathered fishes, frogs, tadpoles, indeed, everything

which he could obtain from Lake Morat. In the house he had pet birds,

hares, rabbits, field-mice, with their families, all cared for as though

they were royal visitors.

He was skilful as a carpenter and boot-maker. When the village cobbler

came to the house, two or three times a year, to make shoes for the

family, the lad was quick to imitate him, and made well fitting shoes

for his sister's dolls.

Mrs. Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, in her fascinating life of her husband,

tells this incident of his boyhood: "Though fond of quiet, indoor

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."

At ten, Louis was sent to a school for boys at Bienne, where, though the

children studied nine hours a day, the time was wisely divided between

work and play, so that they were kept well and happy. The lad always

remembered affectionately his teacher at this school, Mr. Rickly. When

the vacations came, Louis and Auguste walked twenty miles home to

Motier, and did not find the journey long or tedious.

At fourteen, Louis left Bienne, having finished his education, as he

supposed, prior to entering the business house of his uncle, Francois

Mayor, at Neuchatel. That his young mind turned longingly towards a

different future, may be seen from his desires written at this time on a

sheet of foolscap.

"I wish 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: first, in ancient geography, for I already know all my

note-books, and I have only such books as Mr. Rickly can lend me; I must

have D'Anville or Mannert; second, in modern geography also, I have only

such books as Mr. Rickly can lend me, and the Osterwold geography, which

does not accord with the new divisions; I must have Ritter or

Malte-Brun; third, for Greek I need a new grammar, and I shall choose

Thiersch; fourth, I have no Italian dictionary, except one lent me by

Mr. Moltz; I must have one; fifth, for Latin I need a larger grammar

than the one I have, and I should like Seyfert; sixth, 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."

At this early age, then, he was thinking of being an author!

He begged his parents to defer the business project for two years, that

he might study at the College of Lausanne. They were willing and glad to

please their boy; but they knew from experience the ills of poverty, and

they hoped to save him from it by a wise choice of a life-work.

They gratified him, however, and he went to Lausanne. His uncle, Dr.

Mathias Mayor, a physician of Lausanne, seeing that the boy was deeply

interested in anatomy, advised that he should study medicine; so this

was decided upon, as being more in accord with Louis' tastes than


As poor Vincenzio Galileo found it a difficult matter to make a wool

merchant or a doctor out of a boy destined to be a man of science, so

did the father of Louis Agassiz.

At seventeen, Louis left Lausanne for the medical school at Zurich. Here

he became the friend as well as pupil of Professor Schinz, who held the

chair of Natural History and Physiology. He gave young Agassiz a key to

his private library, and also to his collection of birds; of course, the

love for natural history grew stronger. Both boys, for Auguste had come

to Zurich with his brother, were too poor to buy books even when they

cost but a dollar a volume. The Swiss minister was saving to the

uttermost to pay for board and decent clothes for his sons, to say

nothing of books. Therefore the use of Schinz's library was a great


Said Agassiz in after years, "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."

The boys remained two years at Zurich. One vacation, as they were

walking home, the family having moved from Motier to Orbe, they were

overtaken by a gentleman who asked them to ride, shared his lunch with

them, and took them to their own door. Some days afterward he wrote to

M. Agassiz that he had been so impressed by his son Louis that he wished

to adopt him and provide for him through life.

This request caused great commotion in the little home, for the writer

of the letter was a man of wealth in Geneva, but, after careful

consideration, both parents and son declined the offer, preferring to

struggle with poverty rather than bear separation.

At the end of the two years in Zurich, Auguste went to the commercial

house of his uncle at Neuchatel, and Louis to the University of

Heidelberg, taking letters of introduction from Professor Schinz and

others. Professor Tiedemann, the chancellor, had studied with Schinz;

therefore, Agassiz received a warm welcome, and an offer of books from

his library.

The young student worked earnestly. He wrote to his father: "Every

morning I rise at six o'clock, dress and breakfast. At seven I go to my

lectures given during the morning.... If, in the interval, I have a

free hour, as sometimes happens from ten to eleven, I occupy it in

making anatomical preparations.... From twelve to one I practise

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."

At Heidelberg, like Humboldt, Agassiz needed a congenial friend, and

found one in Alexander Braun, of Carlsruhe, an ardent lover of botany,

afterward Director of the Botanical Gardens in Berlin. He wrote to his

parents concerning Agassiz, "a rare comet on the Heidelberg horizon....

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 zooelogy 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."

Schimper, another brilliant botanist, was a friend of both Braun and

Agassiz. The professor in zooelogy, Leuckart, was very fond of these

bright pupils, and allowed himself to be gotten up at seven in the

morning, to give them extra lectures.

When vacation came, Braun took Agassiz to his home; a cultured place,

rich in books, music, and collections of plants and animals. Agassiz was

very happy there; possibly the happiness was increased by the fact that

Braun had a lovely and artistic sister, Cecile. Agassiz wrote home, "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 further. 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.... 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."

In the spring of 1827, when Agassiz was twenty, he was taken ill of

typhus fever, and it was feared he would not recover. As soon as

possible he was removed to Braun's home, and most tenderly cared for.

When he became able, he went to his own home, at Orbe. From there he

writes to Braun: "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."

In the fall of 1827, Agassiz and Braun, after spending a little more

than a year at Heidelberg, went to the University of Munich, there

meeting Schimper. He wrote home, that from one of his windows he could

see "the whole chain of the Tyrolean Alps, as far as Appenzell.... 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


At Munich, the young students were stimulated by the presence of many

noted men. Doellinger lectured on comparative anatomy; Schelling, on

philosophy; Oken, on natural history, physiology, and zooelogy; Martius,

on botany. Agassiz and Braun roomed in Doellinger's house. This room soon

became the intellectual centre for the bright men of the college, and

was called "the little academy." Here different students gave lectures,

each on his special subject of study; the professors, even, coming as


"In that room," said Agassiz, years later, "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

Doellinger 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 two hundred and fifty dollars a year; but they were even

poorer than I, and so we managed to get along together. My microscope I

had earned by writing." Poor Agassiz! he was yet to see greater

pecuniary trials than this.

Says Mr. Dinkel, one of the artists who worked with Agassiz for many

years: "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 of Munich. They loved him, and had a high consideration for

him.... 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.... I will go my own way,

Mr. Dinkel,--and not alone. I will be a leader of others.'"

Agassiz writes to his brother Auguste: "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.... I earnestly

advise you to while away your leisure hours with study. Read much, but

only good and useful books.... Remember that statistical and political

knowledge alone distinguishes the true merchant from the mere tradesmen,

and guides him in his undertakings.... 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."

It is not strange that the watchful mother begins to be anxious, for she

hears nothing from her son about her "project" of medicine. She writes

him that she detects in his letters "a certain sadness and discontent."

"How is it," she says, "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.... 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."

And then the good Swiss minister adds, thus to quiet his son's restless

nature, "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, ... 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.... My own philosophy is

to fulfil my duties in my sphere, and even that gives me more than I can

do." Fortunately Louis Agassiz did not possess the kind of philosophy

that brings content in a small parish on a Swiss lake; his sphere was to

be the world, and two continents were to be proud of him.

In 1817, the King of Bavaria had sent two naturalists, M. Martius and M.

Spix, on an exploring expedition to Brazil. They returned in four years,

laden with treasures. M. Martius issued colored illustrations of all the

unknown plants he had collected, and M. Spix several volumes on the

monkeys, birds, and reptiles of Brazil. He had intended to give a

complete natural history of Brazil, but died before his work was

finished. Martius asked Agassiz to continue the work of Spix, in the

line of fishes.

Agassiz writes to his sister Cecile: "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.... 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."

He writes to his father, as though half apologizing for the fact that he

is writing a book on natural history, at the same time showing the real

purpose of his life: "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."

Thus early in life he had fixed the mark to which he would attain, "the

first naturalist of his time." No wonder he succeeded, when he felt

within himself "the strength of a whole generation to work toward this


In the summer of 1829, when he was twenty-two, the first part of the

"Brazilian Fishes" was published, and a copy sent to the fond parents.

Good M. Agassiz wrote back: "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." He had been devoting his

time to science--just what they feared,--but how proud they were to have

him succeed!

Cuvier, the great leader in zooelogy, to whom the book was dedicated,

wrote back: "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 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."

Another project had now taken form in Agassiz's active brain, his great

work on "Poissons Fossiles," which a few years later placed him in the

front rank of scientific men. He wrote to Auguste: "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 single 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." And then he urges Auguste to intercede with his uncle at

Neuchatel for one hundred louis. "At this very time, when he was keeping

two or three artists on his slender means," says his wife, "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."

He was now at work finishing the "Brazilian Fishes," and carrying

forward the "Fresh-Water Fishes" and the "Fossil Fishes." Besides these,

he read medical works till midnight, and wrote seventy-four theses on

anatomical, pathological, surgical, and obstetrical subjects.

He took his degree of medicine April 3, 1830. He writes to his mother:

"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.' ... 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."

And the glad mother writes back: "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.... 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."

Agassiz had taken the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, a year earlier.

"The time had come," said he, years afterward, "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 travelled 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, Tuebingen, 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."

December 4, 1830, Agassiz said good-by to Munich, and started with Mr.

Dinkel, his artist, for Concise, his father having moved there from

Orbe. Here he remained a year, arranging, meantime, his own valuable

collections in natural history, at the house of his grandfather Mayor,

at Cudrefin, on Lake Neuchatel, and practising a little in medicine, in

the neighboring villages.

He longed to go to Paris for study, but poverty was his constant

companion. Finally, an old friend of his father, a Swiss clergyman, M.

Christinot, having come into possession of a small amount of money,

urged his young friend to take it. His uncle also contributed a little,

and Agassiz and Dinkel left for Paris in September, 1831.

On their arrival they found inexpensive lodgings, and at once began to

work in the museums. He writes to his sister Olympe: "M. Cuvier and M.

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.... In the morning I follow the chemical

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.... On Saturday only, I spend

the evening at M. Cuvier's."

He writes later to his brother that there is another excellent reason

why he does not spend more evenings in society, because he has "no

presentable coat.... You can imagine that, after the fuel bill for the

winter is paid, little remains for other expenses out of my two hundred

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." Evidently he had no more money than when he and Auguste copied

whole volumes at the Zurich school.

Cuvier was so much drawn to the young naturalist that he gave him and

his artist a corner in one of his own laboratories, and, more than this,

his drawings of fossil fishes and notes which he had taken in the

British Museum and elsewhere. Cuvier said, three months later, with

regard to some work, "You are young; you have time enough for it, and I

have none to spare."

Agassiz now studied fifteen hours daily, sometimes seventeen. Cuvier

commended his devotion, but said one evening as he left him, "Be

careful, and remember that work kills." The next day he was paralyzed

and died soon after, Agassiz never seeing him again.

It became evident that Paris, with her scientific treasures, could not

be enjoyed longer. He must go back to Switzerland, and find a place to

teach, as his sympathetic mother urged him to do. Just when the sky was

darkest, a letter came from Humboldt, enclosing a check for one thousand

francs! "Consider it," he said, "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, Alexander Humboldt."

How delicately offered was this charity in the guise of a loan! To give

is blessed; to give without wounding the recipient is more blessed


The tender heart of Agassiz was deeply moved. He wrote his mother: "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."

She wrote a thankful letter, and the great man replied: "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.... 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."

This money made it possible for Agassiz to work in Paris, until a

professorship of Natural History was created for him at Neuchatel,

through the influence of Humboldt and others. Humboldt wrote: "Agassiz

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."

This "sweetness of disposition" was worth more to Agassiz, all through

life, than a fortune. It drew everybody to him. It opened the pockets of

the wealthy to carry forward his great projects. It won the hearts of

his pupils on two hemispheres. It made his home a delight, and his

presence a constant blessing.

He assumed the duties of his professorship at Neuchatel in the autumn of

1832, giving his first lecture, "Upon the Relations between the

different branches of Natural History and the then prevailing tendencies

of all the Sciences," November 12, at the Hotel de Ville. A society for

the study of the natural sciences was soon formed, and Agassiz became

its secretary. So natural, so enthusiastic, so full of his subject, was

he, that everybody became interested. To little companies of his friends

and neighbors he lectured on botany, on zooelogy, and the philosophy of

nature. Even the children were delighted to gather and be told how

lakes, springs, rivers, and valleys are formed.

"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.... 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 to be easily obtained in those days in a small inland

town. They, of course, concluded the lesson by eating the specimen, a

practical illustration which they greatly enjoyed."

Three months after his settlement at Neuchatel, where eighty louis had

been guaranteed to him for three years, he was invited to Heidelberg, to

succeed his former professor, Leuckart, in zooelogy. He would receive a

salary of five hundred florins, besides about fifteen hundred gulden for

lectures and literary work. He declined the honor, because he wished

more time to devote to his writing. The following year Neuchatel

purchased his collections in natural history, thus affording him some

pecuniary aid in his work.

A serious misfortune now threatened him in the loss of sight. Having

injured his eyes by microscopic work, for several months he was shut up

in a dark room, practising the study of his fossils by touch alone; by

the tongue when the fingers were not sufficiently sensitive to feel out

the impression. With great care his eyes improved, so that he was able

to use them through life more constantly than most persons.

In October, 1833, when he was twenty-six, Agassiz married Cecile Braun

of Carlsruhe, the sister of his life-long friend Alexander. They began

housekeeping in a small apartment at Neuchatel, both practising the

closest economy that the books might be carried on; the "Fresh-Water

Fishes," and the "Fossil Fishes." She was a skilful artist, had done

much work for her brother in botany, and now helped her young husband in

drawing and coloring his fishes.

The first number of the "Fossil Fishes" had already appeared, with the

following title, which shows the plan of the great work, to which he

devoted ten years, from 1833 to 1843:--

"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 work was inscribed to Humboldt. "These pages owe to you their

existence; accept their dedication." It met everywhere the most

favorable reception. Elie de Beaumont wrote to Agassiz: "It promises 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


Agassiz had become known to scholars throughout Europe, as an

indefatigable worker, but he was still poor. Now and then there came a

gleam of sunshine into the straitened life. In 1834, he was greatly

surprised to receive from the London Geological Society, through Sir

Charles Lyell, the Wollaston prize, of about one hundred and fifty

dollars, conferred upon him for his work on fishes.

He writes back to Lyell: "You cannot imagine the joy your letter has

given me. The prize awarded 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."

In August, 1834, Agassiz went to England, and there formed delightful

friendships with such men as Lyell, Murchison, Buckland, and others. He

was allowed to cull, from sixty or more collections, some two thousand

fossil fishes, and deposit them in the Somerset House in London, where

Mr. Dinkel, the artist, remained for several years at work, copying.

In the summer of 1836, he began his remarkable study of the glaciers. He

was so cramped for means to carry forward his "Fossil Fishes," that it

seemed probable that he must discontinue it, when opportunely his

original drawings were purchased by Lord Francis Egerton and given to

the British Museum. The financial condition was thus bettered for a


His investigation of the slopes of the Jura led to an address before the

Helvetic Association assembled at Neuchatel in 1837, in which he said:

"Siberian winter 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." He showed how huge boulders had been

distributed over the continent.

His views excited much opposition, from most of the older geologists.

Even Humboldt said, "Your ice frightens me." But the discussion

convinced the scientific world that Agassiz was both original and

brilliant. He was soon called to a professorship of geology and

mineralogy at Geneva, with a salary of three thousand francs, and also

to Lausanne; but he refused both offers. So pleased were the people of

Neuchatel that they made him accept a present of six thousand francs,

payable during three years.

In 1838, Agassiz founded a lithographic printing establishment in

Neuchatel, where his work could be done under his own direction instead

of in Munich. He was now, besides his duties as professor, at work on

"Living and Fossil Echinoderms and Mollusks," as well as "Fresh-Water

and Fossil Fishes," and soon after upon the "Etudes sur les Glaciers,"

with an atlas of thirty-two plates. The book gave an account of all

previous glacial study, and the observations of himself and companions.

"Agassiz displayed during these years," said one of his co-workers, "an

incredible energy, of which the history of science offers, perhaps, no

other example." He worked always till midnight, often till two or three

o'clock, sitting for hours at his microscope, troubled much with

congestion of the head and eyes. The expense involved in his work was

enormous, and he was burdening himself with debts, which are more

wearing and destructive to health and happiness than any amount of work

can ever be.

Still he struggled on, through these dark days of poverty. He was only

thirty-three, so young-looking that, on seeing him, people asked if he

were "the son of the celebrated professor of Neuchatel." He had already

been chosen a member of the Royal Society of London.

In 1840 he made his first permanent station on the Alps, taking with him

barometers, thermometers, hygrometers, psychometers, boring apparatus,

and microscopes, making the Hospice of the Grimsel his base of supplies,

and the lower Aar glacier the scene of his work. A huge boulder, its

upper surface forming a roof, with a stone wall constructed on one side,

became the sleeping-room of Agassiz and five friends. This abode was

called the Hotel des Neuchatelois. Jacob Leuthold, an intrepid Swiss,

was their chief guide. He died at thirty-seven, sincerely mourned by

all. They made dangerous ascents of snow-covered peaks, measured the

depth and forward movement of glaciers, Agassiz even being lowered by

ropes one hundred and twenty-five feet into a glacial well, to

investigate its formation.

All Europe was becoming interested in glaciers. Edward Forbes wrote from

Edinburgh: "You have made all the geologists glacier-mad here, and they

are turning Great Britain into an ice-house." Darwin was deeply

interested. He wrote from North Wales: "The valley about here and the

site of the inn at which I am now writing must once have been covered by

at least eight hundred or one thousand 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."

Agassiz now began work on his "Nomenclator Zooelogicus," and his

"Bibliographia Zooelogiae et Geologiae," the former comprising "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." The latter contained a list of all the

authors named in the Nomenclator, with notices of their works. This was

published by the Royal Society in England, in 1848, the expense being

too great for one person.

In 1843 the "Fossil Fishes," in five large volumes, was completed, and

the following year his "Monograph on the Fossil Fishes of the Old Red

Sandstone, or the Devonian System of Great Britain and Russia," was

published, a large volume accompanied by forty-one plates. The

discovery of these fossils was due to Hugh Miller, whose interesting

life and pathetic death will always be associated with the study of the

Old Red Sandstone.

In the spring of 1846, a great change took place in the life of the

overworked naturalist. He had long hoped to visit the United States for

scientific investigation, and now the time had come. The King of

Prussia, at the request of Humboldt, granted him fifteen thousand francs

for this purpose--he had previously given Agassiz one thousand dollars

for his glacial researches.... Leaving his wife and daughters with

Alexander Braun, her brother, at Carlsruhe, and his son Alexander at

school at Neuchatel, Agassiz said good-by to his students, who came at

two o'clock at night, in procession with torchlights. Going to Paris, he

spent some time in bringing out his second work upon the glaciers,

"Systeme Glaciaire," receiving the Monthyon Prize of Physiology from the

Academy, and sailed for America in September, 1846.

Humboldt wrote him from 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."

Sir Charles Lyell, of England, who had given a successful course of

lectures before the Lowell Institute, Boston, arranged a similar course

with Mr. Lowell for his friend Agassiz. Perhaps money has never been

given more wisely in our country than by the refined John Lowell, Jr.,

of Boston, who, dying in a foreign country at thirty-seven, bereft of

wife and children, left a quarter of a million dollars to "provide for

regular courses of free public lectures upon the most important

branches of natural and moral science, to be annually delivered in the

city of Boston." None of the bequest could be used for buildings, and

ten per cent. of the accumulation of the fund was to be set aside

annually to continue it. Since December 1, 1839, from six to ten courses

have been given yearly to large audiences, by some of the most

distinguished persons in Europe and America.

"Natural and moral science!" How broad the subject, and how incalculable

the benefit to any city, great or small! What a means for the best

general education; what an uplifting of the whole mental and social life

of a community!

Agassiz came to Boston and gave twelve lectures on the "Plan of the

Creation, especially in the Animal Kingdom." His speech had a foreign

accent; but his enthusiastic love of his subject, his skill in drawing

on the blackboard, and his eloquent but simple language soon won all


He was as pleased with the Americans as they were with him. He wrote to

his beloved mother (his father had died ten years before): "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.... The liberality of

the American naturalists toward me is unparalleled.... The government

(of the State of New York) 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 zooelogy, 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."

Agassiz was at once asked to give a second course before the Lowell

Institute, on glaciers. This, like the first, was greatly enjoyed by the

two thousand or more persons present. Invitations now came from other

cities, but he said, "I will limit myself to what I need in order to

repay those who have helped me through a difficult crisis.... Beyond

that all must go again to science,--there lies my true mission."

He passed his fortieth birthday, May 28, 1847, with Dr. B. E. Cotting,

curator of the Lowell Institute, at whose home he had stayed through

some weeks of illness. His host, seeing him standing thoughtfully at the

window, said, "Why so sad?"

"That I am so old and have done so little," was the reply.

In the summer of 1847, Agassiz rented a small house in East Boston,

sufficiently near to the ocean to study marine animals. He also gave

lectures in New York, Philadelphia, Albany, and other eastern cities.

The next spring, the Lawrence Scientific School was organized at

Cambridge, in connection with Harvard University, and Agassiz was

offered the chair of Natural History (zooelogy and geology), with a

salary of fifteen hundred dollars. The school owed its existence to

Abbott Lawrence, formerly our minister to England.

Agassiz accepted the position, and opened his first course in April,

1848. Here he found congenial friends, Longfellow, Lowell, Prescott,

Motley, Gray, Holmes, and others. M. Christinot, who had so generously

helped to send him to Paris years before, came to the Cambridge home and

was put in charge of it. "If your old friend," he said, "can live with

his son Louis, it will be the height of his happiness."

The small plot of ground about the house became a zooelogical garden,

with its tank for turtles and an alligator, its cage for eagles, a tame

bear, and a family of opossums. Agassiz had already begun his Museum of

Comparative Zooelogy, on the banks of the Charles River, in an old

shanty. The outlook was hopeful; but he was sad at heart, for Cecile,

his wife, had died since he came to America, and his children seemed too

young to bring into a home where there was no mother.

In the summer of 1848, Agassiz organized an expedition of students and

naturalists for the examination of the eastern and northern shores of

Lake Superior. At Niagara, he saw for the first time a living garpike,

the only representative among modern fishes of the fossil type of

Lepidosteus. He made a careful study of the fauna and geology of the

lake, and the results were published in a book. Charles Darwin wrote, "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."

Agassiz had published another book in America, in 1848, "Principles of

Zooelogy," which had a large sale, and was much used in schools. In 1849,

his only son, fifteen years old, came to live with his father. The

following year, 1850, Agassiz married Elizabeth Cabot Gary, of Boston, a

cultivated and lovely woman. His daughters, much younger than their

brother, arrived from Europe the same year. M. Christinot, though urged

to remain, now preferred to find another home, settled in New Orleans as

pastor, and later died in Switzerland.

The winter of 1851 was spent in the examination of the Florida reefs and

keys, a work undertaken at the request of Prof. A. D. Bache, at the head

of the United States Coast Survey. The results were valuable in showing

"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," for building lighthouses, etc. Agassiz brought back

for his museum a fine collection of corals, of all varieties and in all

stages of growth, with drawings made on the spot, from the living


This year he accepted a professorship at the medical college in

Charleston, S. C., lecturing during the three winter months, between his

autumn and spring courses at Cambridge. The overwork finally resulted in

a dangerous illness, and he was obliged to discontinue it in 1853. The

year previous he received the Prix Cuvier for his "Fossil Fishes." His

fond mother wrote: "This has given me such happiness, dear Louis, that

the tears are in my eyes as I write it to you."

He now issued a circular asking for collections of fishes from various

fresh-water systems of the United States, and responses came from every

direction. New England captains, when they started on a cruise, took out

cans, furnished by Agassiz, for collections in distant ports. Fishermen

and farmers, indeed all classes, heartily joined in cooeperating with the

man who had said in the University at Munich, "I will be a leader of

others," and he had reached the mark which he set for himself. In 1854

he was urged to accept a professorship in the recently established

University of Zurich, Switzerland; but he declined, for he had one

definite aim in America, to found a great museum, where the best methods

of study could be adopted. He said in his "Fossil Fishes": "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." He hoped to found a museum where students should have

specimens for work, ready for their use.

In the winter of 1855, Agassiz, resumed his public lectures, as his

salary of fifteen hundred was insufficient to support his family, but

when the spring came he found himself exhausted by the extra work.

And now his noble wife thought out a plan to aid him. She opened a

school in their house, for young ladies. Agassiz's surprise and pleasure

knew no bounds when he was informed of the project. He immediately took

charge of the classes in physical geography, natural history, and

botany, giving a lecture daily on one or other of these subjects. The

school, with sixty or seventy girls, was continued for eight years,

Agassiz having the cooeperation of his brother-in-law, Professor Felton,

the noted Greek scholar, and other distinguished men. This school was a

blessing in more ways than one. All these years, the debts incurred by

the publication of the "Fossil Fishes," and the glacial investigations,

had burdened him. The wonder was that the genial, untiring worker could

labor at all under this depressing load. Noble devotees to science! What

have they not suffered to advance the cause of knowledge! We sit by our

pleasant firesides and read what others have wrought for us, perhaps in

want and sorrow of soul, and we forget to be grateful or to help lift


This school opened by the helpful wife made Agassiz a free man--no

longer shackled by that worst form of slavery, debt. Well said John

Ruskin: "My first word to all men and boys who care to hear me is, don't

get into debt. Starve and go to heaven, but don't borrow.... Don't buy

things you can't pay for!"

Indefatigable, versatile, comprehensive in mind, Agassiz at once planned

another great work, to be published in ten volumes, though it was

finally reduced to four: "Contributions to the Natural History of the

United States." Mr. Francis C. Gray of Boston, a personal friend and a

lover of letters and science, set the subscription before the public.

Very soon, to Agassiz's great delight, he received the names of

seventeen hundred subscribers, at twelve dollars a volume.

He had now reached his fiftieth birthday, completing his first volume of

the new work on that day. His students serenaded him, and Longfellow

wrote, to be read at the "Saturday Club," composed of Hawthorne, Holmes,

Lowell, Dana, and others, this exquisite poem:--

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 marvellous 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!"

This year, 1857, Agassiz received an unexpected honor--a call to one of

the most coveted places at the Jardin des Plantes; the chair of

palaeontology in the Museum of Natural History, Paris. Though obliged to

refuse it because he considered his life-work to be in America, he

appreciated the favor as also the bestowal of the Order of the Legion

of Honor, and the Copley medal from England. Twenty-seven years before,

he had received in Paris the aid of Humboldt in his destitution; now,

two hemispheres competed for his services.

The following year, 1858, Mr. Francis C. Gray died, leaving fifty

thousand dollars for the establishment of a Museum of Comparative

Zooelogy, to be used neither for buildings nor for salaries, but purely

for scientific needs.

"All things come round to him who will but wait," says Longfellow, in

the "Falcon of Sir Federigo." Other gifts soon followed. Harvard

University gave land for the site of the building. The Massachusetts

Legislature gave lands to the amount of one hundred thousand dollars.

Over seventy-one thousand was promptly subscribed by citizens of Boston

and Cambridge. Agassiz contributed all his collections, worth thousands

of dollars. The corner-stone of the museum was laid one sunny afternoon

in June, 1859, and then the happy Agassiz hastened across the ocean, to

rejoice with his mother, in her home near the foot of the Jura. She was

glad and proud now that he had become a naturalist.

The museum was dedicated November 13, 1860. The plan included a main

building 364 feet long, with wings 205 long, the whole enclosing a

hollow square. The lecture rooms were at once opened. Especially welcome

were teachers of schools, for whom admittance was free. His lectures

were open to women as well as to men. This would naturally be expected,

from the broad-mindedness of the man, and the respect he must have had

for the capacity of woman, from such a mother and such a wife. "He had

great sympathy," says Mrs. Agassiz, "with the desire of women for larger

and more various fields of study and work." To such men women can never

be too grateful.

In 1863, he helped to organize the National Academy of Sciences. He

frequently gave lectures in the large cities, using the money for the

further development of the museum.

In 1865 he started, with his wife and several assistants, for sixteen

months of scientific investigation in Brazil, the expenses borne by his

friend, Mr. Nathaniel Thayer, of Boston. He writes to his mother,--

"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 have 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....

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....

With all my heart,

"Your LOUIS."

The story of this expedition has been told, chiefly by Mrs. Agassiz, in

that most interesting volume, "A Journey in Brazil."

On Agassiz's return, he gave a course of lectures before the Lowell

Institute, and the Cooper Institute, New York, spending the summer at

his pleasant seaside home and laboratory at Nahant.

The fisherman at Nahant would pull two or three miles to bring him a

rare fish; and only for the pleasure of seeing him rush out of his

little laboratory, crying: "Oh! where did you get that? That is a

species which goes as far as Brazil. Nobody has ever seen it north of

Cape Cod. Come in, come in, and sit down!"

In 1868, Agassiz, invited by Mr. Samuel Hooper, joined a party of

friends in an excursion to the Rocky Mountains. This year he was

appointed non-resident professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, New


The Massachusetts Legislature now gave seventy-five thousand dollars,

and private individuals an equal sum, to provide for the new collections

at the museum. Later, the museum received from the Legislature

twenty-five thousand more, and a birthday gift to Agassiz, of one

hundred thousand dollars, was also used by him for his precious work.

September 15, 1869, at the Humboldt Centennial Celebration, Agassiz

delivered an eloquent address before the Boston Society of Natural

History, and the "Humboldt Scholarship" was founded at the museum. The

bread cast upon the waters by Humboldt had been found after many days.

Agassiz was now completely prostrated by overwork, and told by his

physician that for the several months in which he remained shut up in

his room he must not think. Yet he could not banish one subject from his

thoughts, and, with tears in his eyes, he would sometimes exclaim,--"Oh,

my museum! my museum! always uppermost, by day and by night, in health

and in sickness, always--always!"

The great mind rallied for one more voyage of research in his beloved

science. In the coast-survey steamer Hassler, with his wife and friends,

he sailed December 4, 1871, around Cape Horn, landing at several places

along the coast, gathering rich treasures from deep-sea dredgings,

entering the Golden Gate August 24, 1872.

In October, Agassiz returned to Cambridge. Through the gift of Mr. John

Anderson, a wealthy New York merchant, of the island of Penikese, in

Buzzard's Bay, with its buildings and an endowment of fifty thousand

dollars, a summer school of natural history was at once opened. This

year was a very busy one. A series of articles were in preparation for

the "Atlantic Monthly," in opposition to the views of Darwin on

evolution. He had already published two successful books, "Methods of

Study in Natural History," and "Geological Sketches." December 2, 1873,

a lecture was given at Fitchburg, before a meeting of the Massachusetts

Board of Agriculture. The next day Agassiz spoke of dimness of sight,

and of feeling "strangely asleep," and on December 14 he was asleep in


He was buried from the college chapel, the students who loved him laying

a wreath of laurel upon the bier, and singing his requiem. The noble

mother, fortunately, had died six years before him.

They buried him at Mount Auburn. From the glacier of the Aar, not far

from the spot where his little hut once stood, they brought a boulder

for his monument, and from his old home in Switzerland, pine trees to

grow beside his grave. He loved both countries, and both have shared in

his sacred resting-place.

His work will never cease. His museum at Cambridge now has seventy-one

rooms and twelve galleries, with invested funds of over five hundred and

eighty thousand dollars, while the buildings and collections are valued

at about seven hundred thousand dollars. It is now under the charge of

Prof. Alexander Agassiz, the son of Louis, and to his constant

generosity and devotion the museum is deeply indebted.

Agassiz said, "My hope is that there shall arise upon the grounds of

Harvard a museum of natural history which shall compete with the British

Museum and with the Jardin des Plantes. Do not say it cannot be done,

for you cannot suppose that what exists in England and France cannot be

reached in America. I hope even that we shall found a museum which will

be based upon a more suitable foundation, and better qualified to

advance the highest interests of science than these institutions of the

old world."

Agassiz not only wrote books and built museums. He gave to the world a

high ideal of a seeker after truth. He stimulated the intellectual

activity of two continents, and blessed both of them by his own

brilliant mind and his noble character.