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Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence   By: (1807-1873)

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This eBook was produced by Sue Asscher and Robert Prince.






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... Continue reading book >>

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