Louis Agassiz

Louis Agassiz

Overview
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (May 28, 1807 – December 14, 1873) was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist
Geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...

  and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel
University of Neuchâtel
The University of Neuchâtel is a French-speaking university in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The University has five faculties and more than a dozen institutes, including arts and human sciences, natural sciences, law, economics and theology. The Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences is the largest...

. Later, he accepted a professorship at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in the United States.


Louis Agassiz was born in Môtier (now part of Haut-Vully
Haut-Vully
Haut-Vully is a municipality in the district of See in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. Until 1977, it was officially known as Vully-Le-Haut...

) in the canton of Fribourg
Canton of Fribourg
The Canton of Fribourg is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the west of the country. The capital of the canton is Fribourg. The name Fribourg is French, whereas is the German name for both the canton and the town.-History:...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. Educated first at home, then spending four years of secondary school in Bienne, he completed his elementary studies in Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

The eye of the trilobite tells us that the sun shone on the old beach where he lived; for there is nothing in nature without a purpose, and when so complicated an organ was made to receive light, there must have been light to enter it.

Geological Sketches (1870), ch. 2

The facts will eventually test all our theories, and they form, after all, the only impartial jury to which we can appeal.

Geological Sketches (1870), ch. 9

The world has arisen in some way or another. How it originated is the great question, and Charles Darwin|Darwin's theory, like all other attempts to explain the origin of life, is thus far merely conjectural. I believe he has not even made the best conjecture possible in the present state of our knowledge.

Evolution and Permanence of Type (1874)
Encyclopedia
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (May 28, 1807 – December 14, 1873) was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist
Geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...

  and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel
University of Neuchâtel
The University of Neuchâtel is a French-speaking university in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The University has five faculties and more than a dozen institutes, including arts and human sciences, natural sciences, law, economics and theology. The Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences is the largest...

. Later, he accepted a professorship at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in the United States.

Early life



Louis Agassiz was born in Môtier (now part of Haut-Vully
Haut-Vully
Haut-Vully is a municipality in the district of See in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. Until 1977, it was officially known as Vully-Le-Haut...

) in the canton of Fribourg
Canton of Fribourg
The Canton of Fribourg is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the west of the country. The capital of the canton is Fribourg. The name Fribourg is French, whereas is the German name for both the canton and the town.-History:...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. Educated first at home, then spending four years of secondary school in Bienne, he completed his elementary studies in Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

. Having adopted medicine as his profession, he studied successively at the universities of Zürich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

, Heidelberg
Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg
The Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg is a public research university located in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Founded in 1386, it is the oldest university in Germany and was the third university established in the Holy Roman Empire. Heidelberg has been a coeducational institution...

 and Munich
Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
The Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich , commonly known as the University of Munich or LMU, is a university in Munich, Germany...

; while there he extended his knowledge of natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

, especially of botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

. In 1829 he received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 at Erlangen
Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nuremberg
The Universität Erlangen Nürnberg is a university in the cities of Erlangen and Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany. It is the second largest state university in Bavaria, having five Schools, 308 chairs, and 12,000 employees. There are 28,735 students enrolled at the university, of which about 2/3 are...

, and in 1830 that of doctor of medicine
Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Medicine is a doctoral degree for physicians. The degree is granted by medical schools...

 at Munich. Moving to Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 he fell under the tutelage of Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt...

 and Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

, who launched him on his careers of geology and zoology respectively. Previously he had not paid special attention to the study of ichthyology
Ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

, but it soon became the great focus of his life's work.

Work



In 1819–1820, Johann Baptist von Spix
Johann Baptist von Spix
Dr. Johann Baptist Ritter von Spix was a German naturalist.Spix was born in Höchstadt, Middle Franconia, as the seventh of eleven children. His boyhood home is the site of the Spix Museum , opened to the public in 2004...

 and Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius
Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius
Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius was a German botanist and explorer.Martius was born at Erlangen, where he graduated M.D. in 1814, publishing as his thesis a critical catalogue of plants in the botanic garden of the university...

 were engaged in an expedition to Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, and on their return to Europe, amongst other collections of natural objects they brought home an important set of the fresh water
Fresh Water
Fresh Water is the debut album by Australian rock and blues singer Alison McCallum, released in 1972. Rare for an Australian artist at the time, it came in a gatefold sleeve...

 fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 of Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, and especially of the Amazon River
Amazon River
The Amazon of South America is the second longest river in the world and by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined...

. Spix, who died in 1826, did not live long enough to work out the history of these fish, and Agassiz (though fresh out of school) was selected by Martius for this purpose. He at once threw himself into the work with an enthusiasm which characterized him to the end of his busy life. The task of describing the Brazilian fish was completed and published in 1829. This was followed by research into the history of the fish found in Lake Neuchâtel
Lake Neuchâtel
Lake Neuchâtel is a lake in Romandy, Switzerland . The lake lies mainly in the canton of Neuchâtel, but is also shared by the cantons of Vaud, of Fribourg, and of Bern....

. Enlarging his plans, in 1830 he issued a prospectus of a History of the Freshwater Fish of Central Europe. It was only in 1839, however, that the first part of this publication appeared, and it was completed in 1842.

In 1832 he was appointed professor of natural history in the University of Neuchâtel
University of Neuchâtel
The University of Neuchâtel is a French-speaking university in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The University has five faculties and more than a dozen institutes, including arts and human sciences, natural sciences, law, economics and theology. The Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences is the largest...

. The fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 fish there soon attracted his attention. The fossil-rich stones furnished by the slate
Slate
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...

s of Glarus
Glarus
Glarus is the capital of the Canton of Glarus in Switzerland. Glarus municipality since 1 January 2011 incorporates the former municipalities of Ennenda, Netstal and Riedern....

 and the limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

s of Monte Bolca
Bolca
Bolca is a village in the Veneto, on the southern margin of the Italian Alps. It is a frazione of the comune of Vestenanova, in the province of Verona. The area is famous for the marine fossils from the lagerstätte of Monte Bolca...

 were known at the time, but very little had been accomplished in the way of scientific study of them. Agassiz, as early as 1829, planned the publication of the work which, more than any other, laid the foundation of his worldwide fame. Five volumes of his Recherches sur les poissons fossiles ("Research on Fossil Fish") appeared at intervals from 1833 to 1843. They were magnificently illustrated, chiefly by Joseph Dinkel. In gathering materials for this work Agassiz visited the principal museums in Europe, and meeting Cuvier in Paris, he received much encouragement and assistance from him. They had known him for seven years at the time.

Agassiz found that his palaeontological labours made necessary a new basis of ichthyological classification. The fossils rarely exhibited any traces of the soft tissues of fish. They consisted chiefly of the teeth, scales and fins, even the bones being perfectly preserved in comparatively few instances. He therefore adopted a classification which divided fish into four groups: Ganoids, Placoids, Cycloids and Ctenoids, based on the nature of the scales and other dermal appendages. While Agassiz did much to place the subject on a scientific basis, this classification has been superseded by later work.

As Agassiz's descriptive work proceeded, it became obvious that it would over-tax his resources unless financial assistance could be found. The British Association
British Association for the Advancement of Science
frame|right|"The BA" logoThe British Association for the Advancement of Science or the British Science Association, formerly known as the BA, is a learned society with the object of promoting science, directing general attention to scientific matters, and facilitating interaction between...

 came to his aid, and the Earl of Ellesmere
Earl of Ellesmere
Earl of Ellesmere, of Ellesmere in the County of Shropshire , is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1846 for the Conservative politician Lord Francis Egerton. He was granted the courtesy title of Viscount Brackley, of Brackley in the County of Northampton, at the same...

 — then Lord Francis Egerton
Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere
Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere KG, PC , known as Lord Francis Leveson-Gower until 1833, was a British politician, writer, traveller and patron of the arts...

 — gave him yet more efficient help. The 1,290 original drawings made for the work were purchased by the Earl, and presented by him to the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London
The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth"...

. In 1836 the Wollaston Medal
Wollaston Medal
The Wollaston Medal is a scientific award for geology, the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London.The medal is named after William Hyde Wollaston, and was first awarded in 1831...

 was awarded to Agassiz by the council of that society for his work on fossil ichthyology; and in 1838 he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

. Meanwhile invertebrate
Invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...

 animals engaged his attention. In 1837 he issued the "Prodrome" of a monograph on the recent and fossil Echinodermata, the first part of which appeared in 1838; in 1839–40 he published two quarto volumes on the fossil Echinoderms of Switzerland; and in 1840–45 he issued his Etudes critiques sur les mollusques fossiles ("Critical Studies on Fossil Mollusks").

Before his first visit to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1834, the labours of Hugh Miller
Hugh Miller
Hugh Miller was a self-taught Scottish geologist and writer, folklorist and an evangelical Christian.- Life and work :Born in Cromarty, he was educated in a parish school where he reportedly showed a love of reading. At 17 he was apprenticed to a stonemason, and his work in quarries, together with...

 and other geologists brought to light the remarkable fish of the Old Red Sandstone
Old Red Sandstone
The Old Red Sandstone is a British rock formation of considerable importance to early paleontology. For convenience the short version of the term, 'ORS' is often used in literature on the subject.-Sedimentology:...

 of the northeast of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. The strange forms of the Pterichthys, the Coccosteus
Coccosteus
Coccosteus is an extinct genus of arthrodire placoderm. Its fossils have been found throughout Europe and North America. The majority of these have been found in freshwater sediments, though, such a large range suggests that they may have been able to enter saltwater...

and other genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 were then made known to geologists for the first time. They were of intense interest to Agassiz, and formed the subject of a special monograph by him published in 1844–45: Monographie des poissons fossiles du Vieux Gres Rouge, ou Systeme Devonien (Old Red Sandstone) des Iles Britanniques et de Russie ("Monograph on Fossil Fish of the Old Red Sandstone, or Devonian System of the British Isles and of Russia"). In the early stages of his career in Neuchatel, Agassiz also made a name for himself as a man who could run a scientific department well. Under his care, the University of Neuchâtel soon became a leading institution for scientific inquiry.

Ice age


In 1837 Agassiz was the first to scientifically propose that the Earth had been subject to a past ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

. In the same year, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

. Prior to this proposal, Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, de Saussure
Horace-Bénédict de Saussure
200px|thumb|Portrait of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure Horace-Bénédict de Saussure was a Genevan aristocrat, physicist and Alpine traveller, often considered the founder of alpinism, and considered to be the first person to build a successful solar oven.-Life and work:Saussure was born in Conches,...

, Venetz
Ignaz Venetz
Ignaz Venetz was a Swiss engineer, naturalist, and glaciologist; as one of the first scientists to recognize glaciers as a major force in shaping the earth, he played a leading role in the foundation of glaciology....

, Jean de Charpentier
Jean de Charpentier
Jean de Charpentier or Johann von Charpentier was a German-Swiss geologist who studied Swiss glaciers...

, Karl Friedrich Schimper
Karl Friedrich Schimper
Karl Friedrich Schimper was a German naturalist and poet. Born in Mannheim, he was a theology student at Heidelberg University and taught at Munich University. He pioneered research in the field of plant morphology, particularly phyllotaxis...

 and others had made the glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

s of the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 the subjects of special study, and Goethe, Charpentier as well as Schimper had even arrived at the conclusion that the erratic blocks of alpine rocks scattered over the slopes and summits of the Jura Mountains
Jura mountains
The Jura Mountains are a small mountain range located north of the Alps, separating the Rhine and Rhone rivers and forming part of the watershed of each...

 had been moved there by glaciers. The question having attracted the attention of Agassiz, he not only discussed it with Charpentier and Schimper and made successive journeys to the alpine regions in company with them, but he had a hut constructed upon one of the Aar Glaciers
Aar Glaciers
The Aar Glaciers are glaciers located at the sources of the Aar River in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland. They are constituted by two distinct glacier systems:...

, which for a time he made his home, in order to investigate the structure and movements of the ice.

These labours resulted, in 1840, in the publication of his work in two volumes entitled Etudes sur les glaciers ("Study on Glaciers"). In it he discussed the movements of the glaciers, their moraine
Moraine
A moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris which can occur in currently glaciated and formerly glaciated regions, such as those areas acted upon by a past glacial maximum. This debris may have been plucked off a valley floor as a glacier advanced or it may have...

s, their influence in grooving and rounding the rocks over which they travelled, and in producing the striations and roches moutonnees seen in Alpine-style landscapes. He not only accepted Charpentier's and Schimper's idea that some of the alpine glaciers had extended across the wide plains and valleys drained by the Aar and the Rhône
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

, but he went still farther. He concluded that, in the relatively recent past, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 had been another Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

; that instead of a few glaciers stretching across the areas referred to, one vast sheet of ice, originating in the higher Alps, had extended over the entire valley of northwestern Switzerland until it reached the southern slopes of the Jura, which, though they checked and deflected its further extension, did not prevent the ice from reaching in many places the summit of the range. The publication of this work gave a fresh impetus to the study of glacial phenomena in all parts of the world.

Thus familiarized with the phenomena associated with the movements of recent glaciers, Agassiz was prepared for a discovery which he made in 1840, in conjunction with William Buckland
William Buckland
The Very Rev. Dr William Buckland DD FRS was an English geologist, palaeontologist and Dean of Westminster, who wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur, which he named Megalosaurus...

. The two visited the mountains of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 together, and found in different locations clear evidence of ancient glacial action. The discovery was announced to the Geological Society of London in successive communications. The mountainous districts of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 were also considered to constitute centres for the dispersion of glacial debris; and Agassiz remarked "that great sheets of ice, resembling those now existing in Greenland, once covered all the countries in which unstratified gravel (boulder drift) is found; that this gravel was in general produced by the trituration of the sheets of ice upon the subjacent surface, etc."

United States


In 1842–1846 he issued his Nomenclator Zoologicus, a classified list, with references, of all names employed in zoology for genera and groups — a work of great labour and research. With the aid of a grant of money from the King of Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, Agassiz crossed the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 in the autumn of 1846 with the twin purposes of investigating the natural history and geology of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and delivering a course of 12 lectures on “The Plan of Creation as shown in the Animal Kingdom,” by invitation from J. A. Lowell
John Amory Lowell
Hon. John Amory Lowell was an American businessman and philanthropist from Boston. He became the sole trustee of the Lowell Institute when his first cousin, John Lowell, Jr. , the Institute's endower, died...

, at the Lowell Institute
Lowell Institute
The Lowell Institute is an educational foundation in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., providing for free public lectures, and endowed by the bequest of $250,000 left by John Lowell, Jr., who died in 1836. Under the terms of his will 10% of the net income was to be added to the principal, which in...

 in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

. The financial and scientific advantages presented to him in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 induced him to settle there, where he remained to the end of his life. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1846.

His engagement for the Lowell Institute lectures precipitated the establishment of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1847 with him as its head. Harvard appointed him professor of zoology and geology, and he founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology
Museum of Comparative Zoology
The Museum of Comparative Zoology, full name "The Louis Agassiz Museum of Comparative Zoology", often abbreviated simply to "MCZ", is a zoology museum located on the grounds of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is one of three museums which collectively comprise the Harvard Museum...

 there in 1859 serving as the museum's first director until his death in 1873. During his tenure at Harvard, he was, among many other things, an early student of the effect of the last Ice Age on North America.

He continued his lectures for the Lowell Institute. In succeeding years, he gave series of lectures on “Ichthyology” (1847–48 season), “Comparative Embryology” (1848–49), “Functions of Life in Lower Animals” (1850–51), “Natural History” (1853–54), “Methods of Study in Natural History” (1861–62), “Glaciers and the Ice Period” (1864–65), “Brazil” (1866–67) and “Deep Sea Dredging” (1869–70). In 1850 he married an American college teacher, Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz, who later wrote introductory books about natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

 and, after his death, a lengthy biography of her husband.

Agassiz served as a non-resident lecturer at Cornell
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 while also being on faculty at Harvard. In 1852 he accepted a medical professorship of comparative anatomy
Comparative anatomy
Comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of organisms. It is closely related to evolutionary biology and phylogeny .-Description:...

 at Charlestown, Massachusetts
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Charlestown is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, and is located on a peninsula north of downtown Boston. Charlestown was originally a separate town and the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; it became a city in 1847 and was annexed by Boston on January 5, 1874...

, but he resigned in two years. From this time his scientific studies dropped off, but he was a profound influence on the American branches of his two fields, teaching decades worth of future prominent scientists, including Alpheus Hyatt
Alpheus Hyatt
Alpheus Hyatt was an American zoologist and palaeontologist.- Biography :Alpheus Hyatt II was born in Washington, D.C. to Alpheus Hyatt and Harriet Randolph Hyatt...

, David Starr Jordan
David Starr Jordan
David Starr Jordan, Ph.D., LL.D. was a leading eugenicist, ichthyologist, educator and peace activist. He was president of Indiana University and Stanford University.-Early life and education:...

, Joel Asaph Allen
Joel Asaph Allen
Joel Asaph Allen was an American zoologist and ornithologist, born in Springfield, Massachusetts.He studied at Harvard University under Louis Agassiz...

, Joseph Le Conte, Ernest Ingersoll
Ernest Ingersoll
Ernest Ingersoll was a renowned American naturalist, writer and explorer.A native of Monroe, Michigan, Ingersoll studied for a time at Oberlin College and afterward at Harvard University, where he was a pupil of Louis Agassiz...

, William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, Nathaniel Shaler
Nathaniel Shaler
Nathaniel Southgate Shaler was an American paleontologist and geologist who wrote extensively on the theological and scientific implications of the theory of evolution.-Biography:...

, Samuel Hubbard Scudder
Samuel Hubbard Scudder
Samuel Hubbard Scudder was an American entomologist and palaeontologist.Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Scudder may be most widely known for his essay on the importance of first-hand, careful observation in the natural sciences...

, Alpheus Packard, and his son Alexander Agassiz, among others. He had a profound impact on the paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott
Charles Doolittle Walcott
Charles Doolittle Walcott was an American invertebrate paleontologist. He became known for his discovery in 1909 of well-preserved fossils in the Burgess Shale of British Columbia, Canada.-Early life:...

. In return his name appears attached to several species, as well as here and there throughout the American landscape, notably Lake Agassiz
Lake Agassiz
Lake Agassiz was an immense glacial lake located in the center of North America. Fed by glacial runoff at the end of the last glacial period, its area was larger than all of the modern Great Lakes combined, and it held more water than contained by all lakes in the world today.-Conception:First...

, the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 precursor to Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg is a large, lake in central North America, in the province of Manitoba, Canada, with its southern tip about north of the city of Winnipeg...

 and the Red River
Red River of the North
The Red River is a North American river. Originating at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers in the United States, it flows northward through the Red River Valley and forms the border between the U.S. states of Minnesota and North Dakota before continuing into Manitoba, Canada...

.

During this time he grew in fame even in the public consciousness, becoming one of the best-known scientists in the world. By 1857 he was so well-loved that his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

 wrote "The fiftieth birthday of Agassiz" in his honor. His own writing continued with four (of a planned ten) volumes of Natural History of the United States which were published from 1857 to 1862. During this time he also published a catalog of papers in his field, Bibliographia Zoologiae et Geologiae, in four volumes between 1848 and 1854.

Stricken by ill health in the 1860s, he resolved to return to the field for relaxation and to resume his studies of Brazilian fish. In April 1865 he led a party to Brazil. Returning home in August 1866, an account of this expedition, entitled A Journey in Brazil, was published in 1868. In December 1871 he made a second eight month excursion, known as the Hassler
Hassler (vessel)
The Hassler was the early steamship used in the service of the United States Coast Survey. In 1871-72 the ship sailed on the Hassler Expedition, under Commander Philip Carrigan Johnson, brother of Eastman Johnson. This was the first important scientific expedition sent by the government for...

 expedition under the command of Commander Philip Carrigan Johnson (brother of Eastman Johnson
Eastman Johnson
Eastman Johnson was an American painter, and Co-Founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with his name inscribed at its entrance...

), visiting South America on its southern Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. The ship explored the Magellan Strait, which drew the praise of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

.

Elizabeth Aggasiz wrote, at the Strait: '…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.... 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.'

Legacy



In 1863, Agassiz's daughter Ida married Henry Lee Higginson
Henry Lee Higginson
Henry Lee Higginson was a noted American businessman and philanthropist. He is best known as the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.-Family and Early Life:...

, later to be founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1881, the BSO plays most of its concerts at Boston's Symphony Hall and in the summer performs at the Tanglewood Music Center...

 and benefactor to Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and other schools.
On November 30, 1860, Agassiz's daughter Pauline was married to Quincy Adams Shaw
Quincy Adams Shaw
Quincy Adams Shaw was a Boston Brahmin investor and business magnate whowas the first president of Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.-Family and early life:...

 (1825–1908), a wealthy Boston merchant and later benefactor to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the largest museums in the United States, attracting over one million visitors a year. It contains over 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas...

. Quincy Adams Shaw and his brother-in-law Henry Higginson became major investors in the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company
Calumet and Hecla Mining Company
The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company was a major copper-mining company based in the Michigan Copper Country. In the 19th century, the company paid out more than $72 million in shareholder dividends, more than any other mining company in the United States during that period.-History:In 1864, Edwin J...

, and Shaw was the first president of the company and retained that position until 1871, when Agassiz's son Alexander Agassiz took over.

In the last years of his life, Agassiz worked to establish a permanent school where zoological science could be pursued amid the living subjects of its study. In 1873, a private philanthropist (John Anderson) gave Agassiz the island of Penikese, in Buzzards Bay
Buzzards Bay (bay)
Buzzards Bay is a bay of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the U.S. state of Massachusetts. It is approximately 28 miles long by 8 miles wide. It is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and tourism. Since 1914, Buzzards Bay has been connected to Cape Cod Bay by the Cape Cod Canal...

, Massachusetts (south of New Bedford
New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford is a city in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, located south of Boston, southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, and about east of Fall River. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 95,072, making it the sixth-largest city in Massachusetts...

), and presented him with $50,000 to permanently endow it as a practical school of natural science, especially devoted to the study of marine zoology. The John Anderson school collapsed soon after Agassiz's death, but is considered a precursor of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory
Marine Biological Laboratory
The Marine Biological Laboratory is an international center for research and education in biology, biomedicine and ecology. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest independent marine laboratory in the Americas, taking advantage of a coastal setting in the Cape Cod village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts...

, which is nearby.

Agassiz is remembered today for his theories on ice ages, and for his resistance to Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's theories on evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, which he kept up his entire life. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

 in 1873 and was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as "America's first garden cemetery", or the first "rural cemetery", with classical monuments set in a rolling landscaped terrain...

, joined later by his wife. His monument is a boulder selected from the moraine of the glacier of the Aar near the site of the old Hotel des Neuchatelois, not far from the spot where his hut once stood; and the pine-trees that shelter his grave were sent from his old home in Switzerland.

The Cambridge elementary school north of Harvard University was named in his honor and the surrounding neighborhood became known as "Agassiz
Agassiz, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Agassiz, also called Harvard North or "Area 8", is a neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, bounded by Massachusetts Avenue on the west, Cambridge Street, Quincy Street, and Kirkland Street on the south, Porter Square on the north, and the Somerville border on the northeast.In 2005 it had a...

" as a result. The school's name was changed to the Maria L. Baldwin School on May 21, 2002, in honor of the African-American principal of the school who served from 1889 until 1922. The neighborhood, however, continues to be known as Agassiz.
An ancient glacial lake
Glacial lake
A glacial lake is a lake with origins in a melted glacier. Near the end of the last glacial period, roughly 10,000 years ago, glaciers began to retreat. A retreating glacier often left behind large deposits of ice in hollows between drumlins or hills. As the ice age ended, these melted to create...

 that formed in the Great Lakes region of North America, Lake Agassiz
Lake Agassiz
Lake Agassiz was an immense glacial lake located in the center of North America. Fed by glacial runoff at the end of the last glacial period, its area was larger than all of the modern Great Lakes combined, and it held more water than contained by all lakes in the world today.-Conception:First...

, is named after him, as are Mount Agassiz
Mount Agassiz (California)
Mount Agassiz, at , is one of the twenty highest peaks of California. It is the northernmost, and easiest to climb, major summit of the Palisades.-Geography:Agassiz is at the north end of the Palisades in the eastern Sierra Nevada, near Bishop Pass...

 in California's Palisades
Palisades (California Sierra)
The Palisades are a group of peaks in the central part of the Sierra Nevada in the US state of California. They are located about southwest of the town of Big Pine, California...

, Mount Agassiz
Mount Agassiz (Utah)
Mount Agassiz is a peak in the Uinta Mountain Range. Its elevation is 12,248 feet. It is named after Louis Agassiz,a well-known paleontologist, glaciologist and geologist....

, in the Uinta Mountains
Uinta Mountains
The Uinta Mountains are a high chain of mountains in northeastern Utah and extreme northwestern Colorado in the United States. A subrange of the Rocky Mountains, they are unusual for being the highest range in the contiguous United States running east to west, and lie approximately east of Salt...

, and Agassiz Peak
Agassiz Peak
Agassiz Peak is the second highest mountain in U.S. state of Arizona at . It is located in the San Francisco Peaks within the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. The peak was named for Louis Agassiz, the celebrated naturalist....

 in Arizona. Agassiz Glacier
Agassiz Glacier
Agassiz Glacier is located in the U.S. state of Montana in Glacier National Park . It is named after Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-American glaciologist. The glacier is situated in a cirque to the southeast of Kintla Peak west of the Continental Divide. Agassiz Glacier is one of several glaciers that have...

 and Agassiz Creek in Glacier National Park also bear his name. A crater
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

 on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 and a promontorium on the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 are also named in his honour. In addition, several animal species are so named, including Apistogramma agassizi Steindachner
Franz Steindachner
Franz Steindachner was an Austrian zoologist.- Work and career :Being interested in natural history, Steindachner took up the study of fossil fishes on the recommendation of his friend Eduard Suess...

, 1875 (Agassiz's dwarf cichlid); Isocapnia agassizi Ricker, 1943 (a stonefly); Publius agassizi
Publius agassizi
Publius agassizi is a beetle of the Family Passalidae, named in honor of Louis Agassiz....

(Kaup
Johann Jakob Kaup
Johann Jakob Kaup was a German naturalist.-Biography:He was born at Darmstadt. After studying at Göttingen and Heidelberg he spent two years at Leiden, where his attention was specially devoted to the amphibians and fishes. He then returned to Darmstadt as an assistant in the grand ducal museum,...

), 1871 (a passalid beetle); Xylocrius agassizi (LeConte
John Lawrence LeConte
John Lawrence LeConte was the most important American entomologist of the 19th century, responsible for naming and describing approximately half of the insect taxa known in the United States during his lifetime, including some 5,000 species of beetles...

), 1861 (a longhorn beetle
Longhorn beetle
The longhorn beetles are a cosmopolitan family of beetles, typically characterized by extremely long antennae, which are often as long as or longer than the beetle's body...

); Exoprosopa agassizi Loew, 1869 (a bee fly
Bombyliidae
Bombyliidae is a large family of flies with hundreds of genera, although their life cycles are not well known. Adults generally feed on nectar and pollen, thus are pollinators of flowers. They superficially resemble bees, thus are commonly called bee flies, and this may offer the adults some...

); and the most well-known, Gopherus agassizii Cooper
James Graham Cooper
James Graham Cooper was an American surgeon and naturalist.Cooper was born in New York. He worked for the California Geological Survey with Josiah Dwight Whitney, William Henry Brewer and Henry Nicholas Bolander...

, 1863 (the desert tortoise).

In 2005 the EGU
European Geosciences Union
The European Geosciences Union is an interdisciplinary non-profit learned society open to individuals who are professionally engaged in or associated with geosciences, planetary and space sciences, and related studies.The mission statement of the EGU is "Dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in...

 Division on Cryospheric Sciences established the Louis Agassiz Medal, awarded to individuals in recognition of their outstanding scientific contribution to the study of the cryosphere
Cryosphere
The cryosphere is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, and frozen ground . Thus there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere...

 on Earth or elsewhere in the solar system. He took part in a monthly gathering called the Saturday Club
Saturday Club (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Saturday Club, established in 1855, was an informal monthly gathering in Boston, Massachusetts, of writers, scientists, philosophers, historians and others.-Overview:The club began meeting informally at the Albion House in Boston...

 at the Omni Parker House
Omni Parker House
The Omni Parker House is a hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, currently owned by Omni Hotels. The name of the hotel derives from the original Parker House, which first opened in 1855. Founder Harvey D. Parker ran the hotel until his death in 1884, when the business passed on to his partners.-19th...

, a meeting of Boston writers and intellectuals. He was therefore mentioned in a stanza of the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was an American physician, professor, lecturer, and author. Regarded by his peers as one of the best writers of the 19th century, he is considered a member of the Fireside Poets. His most famous prose works are the "Breakfast-Table" series, which began with The Autocrat...

 poem, "At the Saturday Club," where the author dreams he sees some of his friends who are no longer:


There, at the table's further end I see
In his old place our Poet's vis-à-vis,
The great PROFESSOR, strong, broad-shouldered, square,
In life's rich noontide, joyous, debonair.
His social hour no leaden care alloys,
His laugh rings loud and mirthful as a boy's,--
That lusty laugh the Puritan forgot,--
What ear has heard it and remembers not?
How often, halting at some wide crevasse
Amid the windings of his Alpine pass,
High up the cliffs, the climbing mountaineer,
Listening the far-off avalanche to hear,
Silent, and leaning on his steel-shod staff,
Has heard that cheery voice, that ringing laugh,
From the rude cabin whose nomadic walls
Creep with the moving glacier as it crawls!

How does vast Nature lead her living train
In ordered sequence through that spacious brain,
As in the primal hour when Adam named
The new-born tribes that young creation claimed!--
How will her realm be darkened, losing thee,
Her darling, whom we call our AGASSIZ!

Classification


After Agassiz came to the United States he became a prolific writer in what has been later termed the genre of scientific racism
Scientific racism
Scientific racism is the use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to sanction the belief in racial superiority or racism.This is not the same as using scientific findings and the scientific method to investigate differences among the humans and argue that there are races...

. Agassiz was specifically a believer and advocate in polygenism
Polygenism
Polygenism is a theory of human origins positing that the human races are of different lineages . This is opposite to the idea of monogenism, which posits a single origin of humanity.- Origins :...

, that races came from separate origins (specifically separate creations), were endowed with unequal attributes, and could be classified into specific climatic zones, in the same way he felt other animals and plants could be classified.

Agassiz was a creationist who believed nature had order because God has created it directly and Agassiz viewed his career in science for the search of ideas in the mind of the creator expressed in creation. Agassiz denied that migration and adaptation
Adaptation
An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

 could account for the geographical age or any of the past. Adaptation took time, in an example Agassiz questioned how could plants or animals migrate through regions they were not equipped to handle. According to Agassiz the conditions in which particular creatures live “are the conditions necessary to their maintenance, and what among organized beings is essential to their temporal existence must be at least one of the conditions under which they were created”.

In his work he noted similarities of distribution of like species in different geological era; a phenomenon clearly not the result of migration. Agassiz questioned how fish of the same species live in lakes well separated with no joining waterway, Agassiz concluded they were created at both locations. According to Agassiz the intelligent adaptation of creatures to their environments testified to an intelligent plan. The conclusions of his studies lead him to believe that whichever region
Region
Region is most commonly found as a term used in terrestrial and astrophysics sciences also an area, notably among the different sub-disciplines of geography, studied by regional geographers. Regions consist of subregions that contain clusters of like areas that are distinctive by their uniformity...

 each animal was found in, was created there “animals are naturally autochthones wherever they are found”. After further research he later extended this idea to humans, which became to be known as his theory of polygenesis
Polygenesis
Polygenesis can refer to:* Polygenesis , a theory of multiple independent origins of organisms from a common genetic pool. See work by Leonid Moroz, Christian Schwabe, or Periannan Senapathy....

.

According to Agassiz’s theory of polygenesis animals, plants and humans were all created in “special provinces” each having distinct populations of species created in and for that province
Province
A province is a territorial unit, almost always an administrative division, within a country or state.-Etymology:The English word "province" is attested since about 1330 and derives from the 13th-century Old French "province," which itself comes from the Latin word "provincia," which referred to...

. Agassiz claimed plants, animals and humans did not originate in pairs but were created in large numbers. According to Agassiz, the different races were created in different provinces, each race was indigenous to the province it was created in, he cited evidence from Egyptian
Culture of Egypt
The culture of Egypt has thousands of years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations. For millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After the Pharaonic era, Egypt itself...

 monuments to prove that fixity of racial types had existed for at least five millennia. According to Agassiz’s theory of polygenism all species are fixed
Stasis
The term stasis may refer to* A state of stability, in which all forces are equal and opposing, therefore they cancel out each other....

, including all the races of humans and species do not evolve into other species.

Agassiz like other polygenists believed Book of Genesis recounted the origin of the White race only and that the animals and plants in the Bible refer only to those species proximate and familiar to Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

. Agassiz, Josiah Clark Nott, and other polygenists such as George Gliddon
George Gliddon
George Robins Gliddon was an English-born American Egyptologist. He was born in Devonshire, England. His father, a merchant, was United States consul at Alexandria where Gliddon was taken at an early age....

, believed that the biblical Adam means "to show red in the face" or "blusher"; since only light skinned people can blush, then the biblical Adam must be the Caucasian race. Agassiz believed that the writers of the bible only knew of local events, for example Noah's flood was a local event only known to the regions that were populated by ancient Hebrews
Hebrews
Hebrews is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible...

, Agassiz claimed the writers of the bible did not know about any events other than what was going on in their own region and their intermediate neighbors.

According to Agassiz the provinces that the different races were created in included Western American Temperate (the indigenous peoples west of the Rockies); Eastern American Temperate (east of the Rockies); Tropical Asiatic (south of the Himalayas); Temperate Asiatic (east of the Urals and north of the Himalayas); South American Temperate (South America); New Holland (Australia); Arctic (Alaska and Arctic Canada); Cape of Good Hope (South Africa); and American Tropical (Central America and the West Indies).

Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

 said that Agassiz's theories sprang from an initial revulsion in his encounters with African-Americans upon moving to the United States. Even though Agassiz was a believer in polygenism he rejected racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 and supported the notion of a spiritualized human unity. He claimed human polygenism did not undermine the spiritual commonality of all people, even though each race was physically diverse. The physical descent was irrelevant to the spiritual descent of humanity according to Agassiz. Agassiz believed God had made all men equal:

Those intellectual and moral qualities which are so eminently developed in civilized society, but which equally exist in the natural dispositions of all human races, constituting the higher unity among men, making them all equal before God.


Agassiz was never a supporter of slavery he claimed his views had nothing to do with politics. Agassiz was influenced by philosophical idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 and the scientific work of Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

. According to Agassiz genera and species were ideas in the mind of God, their existence in God’s mind prior to their physical creation meant that God could create human as one species yet in several distinct and geographically separate acts of creation. According to Agassiz there is one species of humans but many different creations of races.

Agassiz refuted monogenism and evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, he claimed that the theory of evolution reduced the wisdom of God to an impersonal materialism. Species in their natures and geographical distribution, are direct expressions of the intelligence and will of God not the results of blind chance. Agassiz believed evolution was an insult to the wisdom and will of God. Agassiz’s polygenesis
Polygenesis
Polygenesis can refer to:* Polygenesis , a theory of multiple independent origins of organisms from a common genetic pool. See work by Leonid Moroz, Christian Schwabe, or Periannan Senapathy....

 theory was accepted by a number of Protestants and scientists. For example Nathaniel Shaler
Nathaniel Shaler
Nathaniel Southgate Shaler was an American paleontologist and geologist who wrote extensively on the theological and scientific implications of the theory of evolution.-Biography:...

 who had studied under Agassiz at Harvard was a believer in Agassiz's polygenism.

In recent years, critics have cited Agassiz's racial theories, arguing that these now-unpopular views tarnish his scientific record. This has occasionally prompted the renaming of landmarks, schoolhouses, and other institutions which bear the name of Agassiz (which abound in Massachusetts). Opinions on these events are often torn, given his extensive scientific legacy in other areas. On September 9, 2007 the Swiss government
Swiss Federal Council
The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the Swiss collective head of state....

 acknowledged the "racist thinking" of Agassiz but declined to rename the Agassizhorn summit.

Works

  • Recherches sur les poissons fossiles (1833–1843)
  • History of the Freshwater Fishes of Central Europe (1839–1842)
  • Etudes sur les glaciers (1840)
  • Etudes critiques sur les mollusques fossiles (1840–1845)
  • Nomenclator Zoologicus (1842–1846)
  • Monographie des poissons fossiles du Vieux Gres Rouge, ou Systeme Devonien (Old Red Sandstone) des Iles Britanniques et de Russie (1844–1845)
  • Bibliographia Zoologiae et Geologiae (1848)
  • (with AA Gould
    Augustus Addison Gould
    Augustus Addison Gould was an American conchologist and malacologist.-Biography:...

    ) Principles of Zoology for the use of Schools and Colleges (Boston, 1848)
  • Lake Superior: Its Physical Character, Vegetation and Animals, compared with those of other and similar regions (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1850)
  • Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1857–1862)
  • Geological Sketches (Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1866)
  • A Journey in Brazil (1868)
  • De l'espèce et de la classification en zoologie [Essay on classification] (Trans. Felix Vogeli. Paris: Bailière, 1869)
  • Geological Sketches (Second Series) (Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1876)
  • Essay on Classification, by Louis Agassiz (1962, Cambridge)

External links