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VOL. I. 


New York: 11 East Seventeenth Street 


Copyright, 1885, 

All rights reserved. 


The Riverside Press, Cambridge: 
Electrotyped and Printed by H. 0. Houghton & Co. 


I AM aware that this book has neither the 
fullness of personal narrative, nor the closeness 
of scientific analysis, which its too comprehen- 
sive 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 these volumes. My chief object was to pre- 
vent 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 in- 
tellectual 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 Amer- 
ican 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 cor- 
respondence for the first volume 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 

Besides the assistance of my immediate fami- 
ly, 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 in- 
terest in preserving whatever concerned his 
scientific career, confided to my hands many 
papers and documents belonging to his broth- 
er's earlier life. After the death of my 
brother-in-law, his cousin 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 Alex- 
ander 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 grat- 
itude to him and to all who have aided me 
in my work. 


CAMBRIDGE, MASS., June 11, 1885. 


1807-1827: TO ,ET. 20. 

Birthplace. Influence of his Mother. Early Love 
of Natural History. Boyish Occupations. Do- 
mestic Education. First School. Vacations. 
Commercial Life renounced. College of Lausanne. 

Choice of Profession. Medical School of Zurich. 

Life and Studies there. University of Heidel- 
berg. Studies interrupted by Illness. Return to 
Switzerland. Occupations during Convalescence . 1 

1827-1828: ,ET. 20-21. 

Arrival in Munich. Lectures. Relations with the 
Professors. Schelling, Martius, Oken, Dbllinger. 

Relations with Fellow - Students. The Little 
Academy. Plans for Traveling. Advice from 
his Parents. Vacation Journey. Tri-Centennial 
Diirer Festival at Nuremberg ..... 46 

1828-1829: ,ET. 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. Dmkel. Home Letters. - - Hope 
of joining Humboldt's Asiatic Expedition. Diploma 
of Philosophy. - - Completion of First Part of the 
Spix Fishes. Letter concerning it from Cuvier . 74 

1829-1830: JET. 22-23. 

Scientific Meeting at Heidelberg. Visit at Home. 
Illness and Death of his Grandfather. Return to 
Munich. Plans for Future Scientific Publications. 

Takes his Degree of Medicine. Visit to Vienna. 

Return to Munich. Home Letters. Last Days 
at Munich. Autobiographical Review of School 

and University Life ....... 117 

1830-1832 : ^T. 23-25. 

Year at Home. Leaves Home for Paris. Delays on 
the Road. Cholera. Arrival in Paris. First 
Visit to Cuvier. Cuvier's Kindness. His Death. 
Poverty in Paris. Home Letters concerning 
Embarrassments and about his Work. Singular 
Dream ......... 158 


1832 : ;ET. 25. 

Unexpected Relief from Difficulties. Correspondence 
with Humboldt. Excursion to the Coast of Nor- 
mandy. First Sight of the Sea. Correspondence 
concerning Professorship at Neuchatel. Birthday 
Fete. Invitation to Chair of Natural History at 
Neuchatel. Acceptance. Letter to Humboldt . 184 


1832-1834: ,ET. 25-27. 

Enters upon his Professorship at Neuchatel. First 
Lecture. Success as a Teacher. Love of Teach- 
ing. Influence upon the Scientific Life of Neucha- 
tel. Proposal from University of Heidelberg. 
Proposal declined. Threatened Blindness. Cor- 
respondence with Humboldt. Marriage. Invita- 
tion from Charpentier. Invitation to visit England. 

Wollaston Prize. First Number of " Poissons 
Fossiles." Review of the Work .... 206 

1834-1837: JET. 27-30. 

First Visit to England. Reception by Scientific Men. 

Work on Fossil Fishes there. Liberality of Eng- 
lish Naturalists. First Relations with American 
Science. Farther Correspondence with Humboldt. 

Second Visit to England. Continuation of " Fos- 
sil Fishes." Other Scientific Publications. Atten- 
tion drawn to Glacial Phenomena. Summer at Bex 
with Charpentier. Sale of Original Drawings for 
"Fossil Fishes." Meeting of Helvetic Society. 
Address on Ice-Period. Letters from Humboldt 

and Von Buch 248 

1837-1839: JET. 30-32. 

Invitation to Professorships at Geneva and Lausanne. 

Death of his Father. Establishment of Litho- 
graphic Press at Neuchatel. Researches upon 
Structure of Mollusks. Internal Casts of Shells. 
Glacial Explorations. Views of Buckland. 


tions with Arnold Guyot. Their Work together in 
the Alps. Letter to Sir Philip Egerton concerning 
Glacial Work. Summer of 1839. Publication of 
" Etudes sur les Glaciers " ..... 275 

1840-1842: JET. 33-35. 

Summer Station on the Glacier of the Aar. Hotel 
des Neuchatelois. Members of the Party. Work 
on the Glacier. Ascent of the Strahleck and the 
Siedelhorn. Visit to England. Search for Glacial 
Remains in Great Britain. Roads of Glen Roy. 
Views of English Naturalists concerning Agassiz's 
Glacial Theory. Letter from Humboldt. Winter 
Visit to Glacier. Summer of 1841 on the Glacier. 
Descent into the Glacier. Ascent of the Jung- 
frau .......... 298 

1842-1843: ^T. 35-36. 

Zoological Work uninterrupted by Glacial Researches. 
Various Publications. " Nomenclator Zoologi- 
cus." Bibliographia Zoologise et Geologise." 
Correspondence with English Naturalists. - - Corre- 
spondence with Humboldt. Glacial Campaign of 

1842. Correspondence with Prince de Canino con- 
cerning Journey to United States. - - Fossil Fishes 
from the Old Red Sandstone. Glacial Campaign of 

1843. Death of Leuthold, the Guide . . 333 

1843-1846: ^T. 36-39. 

Completion of Fossil Fishes. Followed by Fossil 
Fishes of the Old Red Sandstone. Review of the 
Later Work. Identification of Fishes by the Skull. 


Renewed Correspondence with Prince Canino 
about Journey to the United States. Change of 
Plan owing to the Interest of the King of Prussia in 
the Expedition. Correspondence between Profes- 
sor Sedgwick and Agassiz on Development Theory. 

Final Scientific Work in Neuchatel and Paris. 
Publication of " Systeme Glaciaire." Short Stay in 
England. Farewell Letter from Humboldt. Sails 

for United States . 366 





NINETEEN ; copied by Mrs. John W. Elliot 
from a pastel drawing by Cecile Brauu Frontispiece 


Elliot from a photograph . . . Vignette 


photograph 9 

IV. HOTEL DBS NEUCHATELOIS ; copied by Mrs. El- 

liot from an oil sketch made on the spot by J. 
Burkhardt 305 

trait by J. Burkhardt 329 

ied by Mrs. Elliot from a sketch in oil by J. 
Burkhardt . . 353 




1807-1827: TO .ET. 20. 

Birthplace. Influence of his Mother. Early Love of Nat- 
ural History. Boyish Occupations. Domestic Educa- 
tion. First School. Vacations. Commercial Life re- 
nounced. 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 Convales- 

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

The parsonages in Switzerland are fre- 
quently pretty and picturesque. That of Mo- 
tier, looking upon the lake and sheltered by 
a hill which commands a view over the whole 

VOL. I. 1 


chain of the Bernese Alps, was especially so. 
It possessed a vineyard large enough to add 
something in good years to the small salary 
of the pastor ; an orchard containing, among 
other trees, an apricot famed the country 
around for the unblemished beauty of its 
abundant fruit; a good vegetable garden, and 
a delicious spring of water flowing always 
fresh and pure into a great stone basin behind 
the house. That stone basin was Agassiz's 
first aquarium ; there he had his first collec- 
tion of fishes. 1 

It does not appear that he had any preco- 
cious predilection for study, and his parents, 
who for the first ten years of his life were 
his only teachers, were too wise to stimulate 
his mind beyond the ordinary attainments of 
his age. Having lost her first four children 
in infancy, his mother watched with trem- 
bling solicitude over his early years. It was 
perhaps for this reason that she was drawn so 
closely to her boy, and understood that his 
love of nature, and especially of all living 

1 After his death a touching tribute was paid to his mem- 
ory by the inhabitants of his birthplace. With appropriate 
ceremonies, a marble slab was placed above the door of the 
parsonage of Motier, with this inscription, " J. Louis Agas- 
siz, celebre naturaliste, est ne dans cette maison, le 28 Mai, 


things, was an intellectual tendency, and not 
simply a child's disposition to find friends 
and playmates in the animals about him. In 
later years her sympathy gave her the key to 
the work of his manhood, as it had done to 
the sports of his childhood. She remained 
his most intimate friend to the last hour of 
her life, and he survived her but six years. 

Louis's love of natural history showed itself 
almost from infancy. When a very little fel- 
low he had, beside his collection of fishes, all 
sorts of pets : birds, field-mice, hares, rabbits, 
guinea-pigs, etc., whose families he reared with 
the greatest care. Guided by his knowledge 
of the haunts and habits of fishes, he and his 
brother Auguste became the most adroit of 
young fishermen, using processes all their 
own and quite independent of hook, line, or 
net. Their hunting grounds were the holes 
and crevices beneath the stones or in the 
water-washed walls of the lake shore. No 
such shelter was safe from their curious fin- 
gers, and they acquired such dexterity that 
when bathing they could seize the fish even in 
the open water, attracting them by little arts 
to which the fish submitted as to a kind of 
fascination. Such amusements are no doubt 
the delight of many a lad living in the coun- 


try, nor would they be worth recording ex- 
cept as illustrating the unity of Agassiz's in- 
tellectual development from beginning to end. 
His pet animals suggested questions, to answer 
which was the task of his life; and his inti- 
mate study of the fresh-water fishes of Eu- 


rope, later the subject of one of his important 
works, began with his first collection from the 
Lake of Morat. 

As a boy he amused himself also with all 
kinds of handicrafts on a small scale. The 
carpenter, the cobbler, the tailor, were then as 
much developed in him as the naturalist. In 
Swiss villages it was the habit in those days 
for the trades-people to go from house to 
house in their different vocations. The shoe- 
maker came two or three times a year with all 
his materials, and made shoes for the whole 
family by the day ; the tailor came to fit them 
for garments which he made in the house ; the 
cooper arrived before the vintage, to repair old 
barrels and hogsheads or to make new ones, and 
to replace their worn-out hoops ; in short, to 
fit up the cellar for the coming season. Agas- 
siz seems to have profited by these lessons as 
much as by those he learned from his father ; 
and when a very little fellow, he could cut 
and put together a well-fitting pair of shoes 


for his sisters' dolls, was no bad tailor, and 
"could make a miniature barrel tbat was per- 
fectly water-tight. He remembered these 
trivial facts as a valuable part of his inci- 
dental education. He said he owed much of 
his dexterity in manipulation to the training 
of eye and hand gained in these childish 

Though fond of quiet, in-door occupation, 
he was an active, daring boy. One winter 
day when about seven years of age, he was 
skating with his little brother Auguste, two 
years younger than himself, and a number of 
other boys, near the shore of the lake. They 
were talking of a great fair held that day at 
the town of Morat, on the opposite side of the 
lake, to which M. Agassiz had gone in the 
morning, not crossing upon the ice, however, 
but driving around the shore. The temp- 
tation was too strong for Louis, and he pro- 
posed to Auguste that they should skate 
across, join their father at the fair, and come 
home with him in the afternoon. They start- 
ed 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 in- 


quiring for them among the troop of urchins 
coming down the village street she learned 

C? O 

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 hur- 
ried 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 creep- 
ing 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 other- 
wise than they had come, and he skated back 
with them across the lake. Weary, hungry, 
and disappointed, the boys reached the house 
without having seen the fair or enjoyed the 
drive home with their father in the afternoon. 
When he was ten years old, Agassiz was 
sent to the college for boys at Bienne, thus 
exchanging the easy rule of domestic instruc- 
tion for the more serious studies of a public 
school. He found himself on a level with his 
class, however, for his father was an admirable 


teacher. Indeed it would seem that Agassiz's 
own passion for teaching, as well as his love 
of young people and his sympathy with intel- 
lectual aspiration everywhere, was an inherit- 
ance. Wherever his father was settled as 
pastor, at Motier, at Orbe, and later at Con- 
cise, his influence was felt in the schools as 
much as in the pulpit. A piece of silver re- 
mains, a much prized heir-loom in the family, 
given to him by the municipality of Orbe in 
acknowledgment of his services in the schools. 


The rules of the school at Bienne were 
rather strict, but the life led by the boys was 
hardy and invigorating, and they played as 
heartily as they worked. Remembering his 
own school life, Agassiz often asked himself 
whether it was difference of climate or of 
method, which makes the public school life in 
the United States so much more trying to the 
health of children than the one under which 
he was brought up. The boys and girls in 
our public schools are said to be overworked 
with a session of five hours, and an additional 
hour or two of study at home. At the Col- 
lege of Bienne there were nine hours of study, 
and the boys were healthy and happy. Per- 
haps the secret might be found in the fre- 
quent interruption, two or three hours of 


study alternating with an interval for play or 
rest. Agassiz always retained a pleasant im- 
pression of the school and its teachers. Mr. 
Bickly, the director, he regarded with an af- 
fectionate respect, which ripened into friend- 
ship in naaturer years. 

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

Long before dawn on the first day of vaca- 
tion the two bright, active boys would be on 
their homeward way, as happy as holiday 
could make them, especially if they were re- 
turning for the summer harvest or the au- 
tumn vintage. The latter was then, as now, 
a season of festivity. In these more modern 
days something of its primitive picturesque- 
ness may have been lost ; but when Agassiz 
was a boy ? all the ordinary occupations were 















given up for this important annual business, 
in which work and play were so happily com- 
bined. On the appointed day the working 
people might be seen trooping in from neigh- 
boring cantons, where there were no vine- 
yards, to offer themselves for the vintage. 
They either camped out at night, sleeping in 
the open air, or found shelter in the stables 
and outhouses. During the grape gathering 
the floor of the barn and shed at the parson- 
age of Motier was often covered in the even- 


ing with tired laborers, both men and women. 
Of course, when the weather was fine, these 
were festival days for the children. A bushel 
basket, heaped high with white and amber 
bunches, stood in the hall, or in the living 
room of the family, and young and old were 
free to help themselves as they came and went. 
Then there were the frolics in the vineyard, 
the sweet cup of must (unfermented juice of 
the grape), and the ball on the last evening 
at the close of the merry-making. 

Sometimes the boys passed their vacations 
at Cudrefin, with their grandfather Mayor. 
He was a kind old man, much respected in 
his profession, and greatly beloved for his be- 
nevolence. His little white horse was well 
known in all the paths and by-roads of the 


country around, as he went from village to 
village among the sick. The grandmother 
was frail in health, but a great favorite among 
the children, for whom she had an endless 
fund of stories, songs, and hymns. Aunt 
Lisette, an unmarried daughter, who long 
lived to maintain the hospitality of the old 
Cudrefin house and to be beloved as the kind- 
est of maiden aunts by two or three genera- 
tions of nephews and nieces, was the domestic 
providence of these family gatherings, where 
the praises of her excellent dishes were annu- 
ally sung. The roof was elastic ; there was 
no question about numbers, for all came who 
could ; the more, the merrier, with no diminu- 
tion of good cheer. 

The Sunday after Easter was the great pop- 
ular fete. Then every house was busy color- 
ing Easter eggs and making fritters. The 
young girls and the lads of the village, the 
former in their prettiest dresses and the latter 
with enormous bouquets of artificial flowers 
in their hats, went together to church in the 
morning. In the afternoon the traditional 
match between two runners, chosen from the 
village youths, took place. They were dressed 
in white, and adorned with bright ribbons. 
With music before them, and followed by all 


the young people, they went in procession to 
the place where a quantity of Easter eggs had 
been distributed upon the ground. At a sig- 
nal the runners separated, the one to pick up 
the eggs according to a prescribed course, the 
other to run to the next village and back 
again. The victory was to the one who ac- 
complished his task first, and he was pro- 
claimed king of the feast. Hand in hand the 
runners, followed as before by all their com- 
panions, returned to join in the dance now 
to take place before the house of Dr. Mayor. 
After a time the festivities were interrupted 
by a little address in patois from the first 
musician, who concluded by announcing from 
his platform a special dance in honor of the 
family of Dr. Mayor. In this dance the fam- 
ily with some of their friends and neighbors 
took part, the young ladies dancing with 
the peasant lads and the young gentlemen 
with the girls of the village, while the rest 
formed a circle to look on. 

Thus, between study and recreation, the four 
years which Agassiz's father and mother in- 
tended he should pass at Bienne drew to a 
close. A yellow, time-worn sheet of foolscap, 
on which during the last year of his school- 
life he wrote his desiderata in the way of 


books, tells something of his progress and 
his aspirations at fourteen years of age. " I 
wish/' so it runs, " to advance in the sciences, 
and for that I need d'Anville, Bitter, an Ital- 
ian dictionary, a Strabo in Greek, Mannert 
and Thiersch ; and also the works of Malte- 
Brun and Seyfert. I have resolved, as far as 
I am allowed to do so, to become a man of 
letters, and at present I can go no further : 
1st, in ancient geography, for I already know 
all my note -books, and I have only such 
books as Mr. Bickly can lend me ; I must 
have d'Anville or Mannert ; 2d, in modern 
geography, also, I have only such books as 
Mr. Bickly can lend me, and the Osterwald 
geography, which does not accord with the 
new divisions ; I must have Bitter or Malte- 
Brun ; 3d, for Greek I need a new gram- 
mar, and I shall choose Thiersch ; 4th, I have 
no Italian dictionary, except one lent me by 
Mr. Moltz ; I must have one ; 5th, for Latin 
I need a larger grammar than the one I 
have, and I should like Seyfert ; 6th, Mr. 
Bickly 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 com- 
merce at Neuchatel for a year and a half. 
Then I should like to pass four years at a 
university in Germany, and finally finish my 
studies at Paris, where I would stay about 
five years. Then, at the age of twenty-five, 
I could begin to write." 

Agassiz's note-books, preserved by his par- 
ents, who followed the education of their chil- 
dren with the deepest interest, give evidence 
of his faithful work both at school and college. 
They form a great pile of manuscript, from 
the paper copy-books of the school-boy to the 
carefully collated reports of the college stu- 
dent, besrun when the writer was ten or eleven 

' O 

years of age and continued with little inter- 
ruption till he was eighteen or nineteen. The 
later volumes are of nearly quarto size and 
very thick, some of them containing from four 
to six hundred closely covered pages; the 
handwriting is small, no doubt for economy 
of space, but very clear. The subjects are 
physiological, pathological, and anatomical, 
with more or less of general natural history. 
This series of books is kept with remarkable 
neatness. Even in the boy's copy-books, con- 
taining exercises in Greek, Latin, French and 


German, with compositions on a variety of 
topics, the writing is even and distinct, with 
scarcely a blot or an erasure. From the very 
beginning there is a careful division of sub- 
jects under clearly marked headings, showing 
even then a tendency toward an orderly classi- 
fication of facts and thoughts. 


It is evident from the boyish sketch which 
he drew of his future plans that the hope of 
escaping the commercial life projected for 
him, and of dedicating himself to letters and 
learning, was already dawning. He had be- 
gun to feel the charm of study, and his sci- 
entific tastes, though still pursued rather as 
the pastimes of a boy than as the investiga- 
tions of a student, were nevertheless becom- 
ing more and more absorbing. He was fif- 
teen years old and the time had come wlien, 
according to a purpose long decided upon, he 
was to leave school and enter the business 
house of his uncle, Francois Mayor, at Neu- 
chatel. He begged for a farther delay, to be 
spent in two additional years of study at the 
College of Lausanne. He was supported in 
his request by several of his teachers, and 
especially by Mr. Rickly, who urged his par- 
ents to encourage the remarkable intelligence 
and zeal already shown by their son in his 


studies. They were not difficult to persuade ; 
indeed, only want of means, never want of 
will, limited the educational advantages they 
gave to their children. 

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

Being now seventeen years of age, he went 
to the medical school of Zurich. Here, for 
the first time, he came into contact with men 


whose instruction derived freshness and vigor 
from their original researches. He was espe- 
cially indebted to Professor Schinz, a man of 
learning and ability, who held the chair of 
Natural History and Physiology, and who 
showed the w r armest interest in his pupil's 
progress. He gave Agassiz a key to his pri- 
vate library, as well as to his collection of 
birds. This liberality was invaluable to one 
whose poverty made books an unattainable 
luxury. Many an hour did the young student 
pass at that time in copying books which 
were beyond his means, though some of them 
did not cost more than a dollar a volume. 
His brother August e, still his constant com- 
panion, shared this task, a pure labor of love 
with him, for the books were more necessary 
to Louis's studies than to his own. 

During the two years passed by Agassiz in 
Zurich he saw little of society beyond the 
walls of the university. His brother and he 
had a pleasant home in a private house, where 
they shared the family life of their host and 
hostess. In company with them, Agassiz 
made his first excursion of any importance 
into the Alps. They ascended the Kighi and 
passed the night there. At about sunset a 
fearful thunder-storm gathered below them, 


while on the summit of the mountain the 
weather remained perfectly clear and calm. 
Under a blue sky they watched the light- 
ning, and listened to the thunder in the dark 
clouds, which were pouring torrents of rain 
upon the plain and the Lake of Lucerne. 
The storm lasted long after night had closed 
in, and Agassiz lingered when all his com- 
panions had retired to rest, till at last the 
clouds drifted softly away, letting down the 
ligrht of moon and stars on the lake and land- 


scape. He used to say that in his subsequent 
Alpine excursions he had rarely witnessed a 
scene of greater beauty. 

Such of his letters from Zurich as have 
been preserved have only a home interest. In 
one of them, however, he alludes to a curious 
circumstance, which might have changed the 
tenor of his life. He and his brother were 
returning on foot, for the vacation, from Zu- 

O f ' 

rich to their home which was now in Orbe, 
where their father and mother had been set- 
tled since 1821. Between Neuchatel and 
Orbe they were overtaken by a traveling car- 
riage. A gentleman who was its sole occu- 
pant invited them to get in, made them wel- 
come to his lunch, talked to them of their 
student life, and their future plans, and drove 

VOL. I. 


them to the parsonage, where he introduced 
himself to their parents. Some days after- 
ward M. Aofassiz received a letter from this 


chance acquaintance, who proved to be a man 
in affluent circumstances, of good social posi- 
tion, living at the time in Geneva. He wrote 
to M. Agassiz that he had been singularly at- 
tracted by his elder son, Louis, and that he 
wished to adopt him, assuming henceforth all 
the responsibility of his education and his es- 
tablishment in life. This proposition fell like 
a bomb-shell into the quiet parsonage. M. 
Agassiz was poor, and every advantage for his 
children was gamed with painful self-sacrifice 
on the part of both parents. How then re- 
fuse such an opportunity for one among them, 
and that one so gifted ? After anxious reflec- 
tion, however, the father, with the full con- 
currence of his son, decided to decline an offer 
which, brilliant as it seemed, involved a sepa- 
ration and might lead to a false position. A 
correspondence was kept up for years between 
Louis and the friend he had so suddenly won, 
and who continued to interest himself in his 
career. Although it had no sequel, this inci- 
dent is mentioned as showing a kind of per- 
sonal magnetism which, even as child and boy, 
Agassiz unconsciously exercised over others. 


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


HEIDELBERG, April 24, 1826. 

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

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


The third is still inhabited, arid commands 
a magnificent view. In the evening; we re- 

o o 

turned to Heidelberg by moonlight. 

Another day we started for what is here 
called " The Mountain,'' though it is at most 

' O 

no higher than Le Suchet. As the needful 
supplies are not to be obtained there, we took 
our provisions with us. We had so much fun 
out of this, that I must tell you all about it. 

In the morning Z bought at the market 

veal, liver, and bacon enough to serve for 
three persons during two days. To these sup- 
plies we added salt, pepper, butter, onions, 
bread, and some jugs of beer. One of us 
took two saucepans for cooking, and some 
alcohol. Arrived at the summit of our moun- 
tain, we looked out for a convenient spot, 
and there we cooked our dinner. It did not 
take long, nor can I say whether all was done 
according to the rules of art. But this I 
know, that never did a meal seem to me 
better. We wandered over the mountain for 
the rest of the day, and at evening came to a 
house where we prepared our supper after the 
same fashion, to the great astonishment of 
the assembled household, and especially of an 
old woman who regretted the death of her 
husband, because she said it would certainly 


have amused him. We slept on the ground 
on some straw, and returned to Heidelberg 
the next day in time for dinner. The fol- 
lowing day we went to Mannheim to visit the 
theatre. It is very handsome and well ap- 
pointed, and we were fortunate in happening 
upon an excellent opera. Beyond this, I saw 
nothing of Mannheim except the house of 
Kotzebue and the place where Sand was be- 

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


The next letter fills in this frame-work. 


HEIDELBERG, May 24, 1826. 

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

Since each day in term time is only the 
repetition of every other, the account of one 
will give an idea of all, especially as I fol- 
low with regularity the plan of study I have 
formed. Every morning I rise at six o'clock, 
dress, and breakfast. At seven I go to my 
lectures, given during the morning in the 
Museum building, next to which is the ana- 
tomical laboratory. If, in the interval, I 
have a free hour, as sometimes happens from 
ten to eleven, I occupy it in making anatom- 


ical preparations. I shall tell you more of 
that and of the Museum another time. From 
twelve to one I practice fencing. We dine 
at about one o'clock, after which I walk till 
tv/o, 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 Tiedernann. 
After that, I either take a bath in the Neckar 
or another walk. From eight to nine I re- 
sume my special work, and then, according 
to my inclination, go to the Swiss club, or, 
if I am tired, to bed. I have my evening 
service and talk silently with you, believing 
that at that hour you also do not forget your 
Louis, who thinks always of you. . . . As soon 
as I know, for I cannot yet make an exact es- 
timate, I will write you as nearly as possible 
what my expenses are likely to be. Some- 
times there may be unlooked-for expenditures, 
as, for instance, six crowns for a matriculation 
paper. But be assured that at all events I 
shall restrict myself to what is absolutely nec- 
essary, and do my best to economize. The 
same of the probable duration of my stay in 
Heidelberg ; I shall certainly not prolong it 
needlessly. . . . 

Now for the first time the paths of the 


two brothers separated, Auguste returning 
from Zurich to Neuchatel, where he entered 
into business. It chanced, however, that in 
one of the first acquaintances made by Louis 
in Heidelberg he found not only a congenial 
comrade, but a friend for life, and in after 
years a brother. Professor Tiedemann, by 
whom Agassiz had been so kindly received, 
recommended him to seek the acquaintance of 
young Alexander Braun, an ardent student, 
and an especial lover of botany. At Tiede- 
mann's lecture the next day Agassiz's attention 
was attracted by a young man who sat next 
him, and who was taking very careful notes 
and illustrating them. There was something 
very winning in his calm, gentle face, full of 
benevolence and intelligence. Convinced by 
his manner of listening to the lecture and 
transcribing it that this was the student of 
whom Tiedemann had spoken, Agassiz turned 
to his neighbor as they both rose at the close 
of the hour, and said, "Are you Alex. 
Braun ? ' " Yes, and you, Louis Agassiz ? ' 
It seems that Professor Tiedemann, wiio must 
have had a quick eye for affinities in the 
moral as well as in the physical world, had 
said to Braun also, that he advised him to 
make the acquaintance of a young Swiss natu- 



ralist who had just come, and who seemed full 
of enthusiasm for his work. The two young 
men left the lecture-room together, and from 
that time their studies, their excursions, their 
amusements, were undertaken and pursued in 
each other's company. In their long rambles, 
while they collected specimens in their differ- 
ent departments of Natural History, Braun 
learned zoology from Agassiz, and he, in his 
turn, learned botany from Braun. This was, 
perhaps, the reason why Alexander Braun, 
afterward Director of the Botanical Gardens 
in Berlin, knew more of zoology than other 
botanists, while Agassiz himself combined an 
extensive knowledge of botany wdth his study 
of the animal kingdom. That the attraction 
was mutual may be seen by the following ex- 
tract from a letter of Alexander Braun to his 


HEIDELBERG, May 12, 1826. 

... In my leisure hours, between the fore- 
noon and afternoon lectures, I go to the dis- 
secting-room, where, in company with another 
young naturalist who has appeared like a 
rare comet on the Heidelberg horizon, I dis- 
sect all manner of beasts, such as dogs, cats, 
birds, fishes, and even smaller fry, snails, but- 


terflies, caterpillars, worms, and the like. Be- 
side this, we always have from Tiedemann the 
very best books for reference and comparison, 
for he has a fine library, especially rich in 
anatomical works, and is particularly friendly 
and obliging to us. 

In the afternoon from two to three I attend 
Geiger's lectures on pharmaceutical chemistry, 
and from five to six those of Tiedemann on 
comparative anatomy. In the interval, I some- 
times go with this naturalist, so recently ar- 
rived among us (his name is Agassiz, and he 
is from Orbe), on a hunt after animals and 
plants. Not only do we collect and learn to 
observe ah 1 manner of things, but we have 

O ' 

also an opportunity of exchanging our views 
on scientific matters in general. I learn a 
great deal from him, for he is much more at 
home in zoology than I am. He is familiar 
with almost all the known mammalia, recog- 
nizes 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, Eng- 
lish and Italian fairly, so that I have already 
appointed him to be my interpreter on some 
future vacation trip to Italy. He is well ac- 
quainted with ancient languages also, and 
studies medicine besides. . . . 

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


HEIDELBERG, June 1, 1826, 

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


various works on physiology, anatomy, and 
zoology. . . . 

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

Of the professors then at Heidelberg, 
Leuckart, the zoologist, was, perhaps, the most 
inspiriting. His lectures were full of original 
suggestions and clever hypotheses, which ex- 
cited and sometimes amused his listeners. He 
knew how to take advantage of the enthu- 
siasm of his brighter pupils, and, at their 
request, gave them a separate course of in- 
struction on special groups of animals ; not 


without some personal sacrifice, for these 
extra lectures were given at seven o'clock in 
the morning, and the students were often 
obliged to pull their professor out of bed for 
the purpose. The fact that they did so shows 
at least the friendly relation existing between 
teacher and scholars. With Bischoff the bot- 
anist also, the young friends were admitted to 
the most kindly intercourse. Many a pleas- 
ant botanical excursion they had with him, 
and they owed to him a thorough and skill- 
ful instruction in the use of the microscope, 
handled by him like a master. Tiedernann's 
lectures were very learned, and Agassiz always 
spoke of his old teacher in comparative anat- 
omy and physiology with affectionate respect 
and admiration. He was not, however, an 
inspiring teacher, and though an excellent 
friend to the students, they had no such in- 
timate personal relations with him as with 
Leuckart and Bischoff. From Bronn, the pa- 
leontologist, they received an immense amount 
of special information, but his instruction was 
minute in details rather than suggestive in 
ideas ; and they were glad when their profes- 
sor, finding that the course must be shortened 
for want of time, displayed to them his mag- 
nificent collection of fossils, and with the help 


of the specimens, developed his subject in a 
more general and practical way. 1 Of the 
medical professors, Nageli was the more in- 
teresting, though the reputation of Chelius 
brought him a larger audience. If there was 
however any lack of stimulus in the lecture- 
rooms, the young friends made good the de- 
ficiency by their own indefatigable and intelli- 
gent study of nature, seeking to satisfy their 
craving for knowledge by every means within 
their reach. 2 

As the distance and expense made it impos- 
sible for Agassiz to spend his vacations with 
his family in Switzerland, it soon became the 
habit for him to pass the holidays with his 
new friend at Carlsruhe. For a young man 
of his tastes and acquirements a more charm- 
ing home-life than the one to which he was 
here introduced can hardly be imagined. The 

1 This collection was purchased in 1859 by the Museum 
of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and 
Agassiz had thus the pleasure of teaching his American pu- 
pils from the very collection in which he had himself made 
his first important paleontological studies. 

2 The material for this account of the student life of the 
two friends at Heidelberg and of their teachers was chiefly 
furnished by Alexander Braun himself at the close of his 
own life, after the death of Agassiz. The later sketches of 
the Professors at Munich in 1832 were drawn in great part 
from the same source. 


whole atmosphere was in harmony with the 
pursuits of the students. The house was sim- 
ple in its appointments, but rich in books, 
music, and in all things stimulating to the 
thought and imagination. It stood near one 
of the city gates which opened into an exten- 
sive oak forest, in itself an admirable collect- 
ing ground for the naturalist. At the back 
certain rooms, sheltered by the spacious gar- 
den from the noise of the street, were devoted 
to science. In the first of these rooms the 
father's rich collection of minerals was ar- 
ranged, and beyond this were the laboratories 
of his sons and their friends, where specimens 
of all sorts, dried and living plants, micro- 
scopes and books of reference, covered the 
working tables. Here they brought their 
treasures ; here they drew, studied, dissected, 
arranged their specimens ; here they discussed 
the theories, with which their young brains 
were teeming, about the growth, structure, 
and relations of animals and plants. 1 

From this house, which became a second 
home to Agassiz, he wrote to his father in 
the Christmas holidays of 1826: . . . "My 
happiness would be perfect were it not for 

1 See Biographical Memoir of Louis Agassiz, by Arnold 
Guyot, in the Proceedings of U. S. National Academy. 


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

In the spring of 1827 Agassiz fell ill of a 
typhus fever prevalent at the university as an 
epidemic. His life was in danger for many 
days. As soon as he could be moved, Braun 


took him to Carlsruhe, where his conva- 
lescence was carefully watched over by his 
friend's mother. Being still delicate he was 
advised to recruit in his native air, and he re- 
turned to Orbe, accompanied by Braun, who 
did not leave him till he had placed him in 
safety with his parents. The following" ex- 
tracts from the correspondence between him- 
self and Braun give some account of this in- 
terval spent at home. 


ORBE, May 26, 1827. 

. . . Since I have been here, I have 
walked faithfully and have collected a good 
number of plants which are not yet dry. I 
have more than one hundred kinds, about 
twenty specimens of each. As soon as they 
can be taken out of the press, I '11 send you a 
few specimens of each kind with a number at- 
tached so that you may identify them. Take 
care that you do not displace the numbers in 
opening the package. Should you want more 
of any particular kind let me know ; also 
whether Schimper wishes for any. ... At 
Neuchatel I had the good fortune to find at 
least thirty specimens of Bombinator obstet- 
ricans with the eggs. Tell Dr. Leuckart that 

VOL. I. Q 


I will bring him some, - and some for you 
also. I kept several alive laid in damp moss 5 
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 be- 
hold ! in about an hour some twenty young 
ones were swimming freely about. I shall 
spare no pains to raise them, and I hope, if 
I begin aright, to make fine toads of them in 
the end. My oldest sister is busy every day 
in making drawings for me to illustrate their 
gradual development. ... I dissect now as 
much and on as great a variety of subjects 
as possible. This makes my principal occu- 
pation. I am often busy too with Oken. His 
66 Natur- philosophic ' gives me the greatest 
pleasure. I long for my box, being in need 
of my books, which, no doubt, you have sent. 
Meantime, I am reading something of Univer- 
sal History, and am not idle, as you see. But 
I miss the evenings with you and Schimper 
at Heidelberg, and wish I were with you once 
more. I am afraid when that happy time 
does come, it will be only too short. . . . 



HEIDELBERG, May, 1827. 

. . . On Thursday evening, the 10th, I 
reached Heidelberg. The medical lectures 
did not begin till the second week of May, so 
that I have missed little, and almost regret 
having returned so soon. ... I passed the 
last afternoon in Basel very pleasantly with 
Herr Roepper, to whom I must soon write. 
He gave me a variety of specimens, showed 
me many beautiful things, and told me much 
that was instructive. He is a genuine and ex- 
cellent botanist, and no mere collector like the 
majority. Neither is he purely an observer 
like Dr. Bischoff, but a man who thinks. . . . 
Dr. Leuckart is in raptures about the eggs of 
the " Hebammen Krote/' and will raise them. 
. . . Schweiz takes your place in our erudite 
evening meetings. I have been lecturing lately 
on the metamorphosis of plants, and Schimper 
has propounded an entirely new and very inter- 
esting theory, which will, no doubt, find favor 
with you hereafter, about the significance of 
the circular and longitudinal fibres in organ- 
isms. Schimper is fruitful as ever in poetical 
and philosophical ideas, and has just now ven- 
tured upon a natural history of the mind. We 


have introduced mathematics also, and he has 
advanced a new hypothesis about comets and 
their long tails. . . . Our chief botanical 
occupation this summer is the careful obser- 
vation of all our plants, even the commonest, 
and the explanation of whatever is unusual 
or enigmatical in their structure. We have 
already cracked several such nuts, but many 
remain to be opened. All such puzzling speci- 
mens are spread on single sheets and set aside. 
. . . But more of this when we are together 
again. . . . Dr. Leuckart begs you to study 
carefully the " Hebammen Unke ; " l to no- 
tice whether the eggs are already fecundated 
when they are in the earth, or whether they 
copulate later in the water, or whether the 
young are hatched on land, and what is their 
tadpole condition, etc. All this is still un- 
known. . . . 


ORBE, June 10, 1827. 

. . . Last week I made a very pleasant 
excursion. You will remember that I have 
often spoken to you of Pastor Mellet at Vall- 
orbe, who is much interested in the study of 
the six-legged insects. He invited me to go 

1 Bombinator obstetricans referred to in a former letter. 


to Vallorbe with him for some days, and I 
passed a week there, spending my time most 
agreeably. We went daily on a search after 
insects ; the booty was especially rich in bee- 
tles and butterflies. ... I examined also M. 
Mellet's own most excellent collection of bee- 
tles and butterflies very carefully. He has 
many beautiful things, but almost exclusively 
Swiss or French, with a few from Brazil, in 
all about 3,000 species. He gave me several, 
and promises more in the autumn. . . . He 
knows his beetles thoroughly, and observes 
their habits, haunts, and changes (as far as he 
can) admirably well. It is a pity though that 
while his knowledge of species is so accurate, 
he knows nothing; of distribution, classifica- 

O ' 

tion, or general relations. I tried to convince 
him that he ought to collect snails, slugs, and 
other objects of natural history, in the hope 
that he might gain thereby a wider insight. 
But he would not listen to it ; he said he 
had enough to do with his Vermire. 

My brother writes me that my box has ar- 
rived in Neuchatel. As I am going there 
soon I will take it then. I rejoice in the 
thought of being in Neuchatel, partly on ac- 
count of my brother, Arnold (Guyot), and 
other friends, and partly that I may study the 


fishes of our Swiss lakes. The species Cypri- 
nus and Corregonus with their allies, including 
Salmo, are, as you know, especially difficult. 
I will preserve some small specimens in alco- 
hol, and, if possible, dissect one of each, in 
order to satisfy myself as to their identity or 
specific variety. As the same kinds have re- 
ceived different names in different lakes, and 
since even differences of age have led to dis- 
tinct designations, I will note all this down 
carefully. When I have made it clear to my- 
self, I will send you a catalogue of the kinds 
we possess, specifying at the same time the 
lakes in which they occur. As I am on the 
chapter of fishes, I will ask you : 1. What are 
the gill arches ? 2. What the gill blades ? 3. 
What is the bladder in fishes ? 4. What is 
the cloaca in the egg - laying animals ? 5. 
What signify the many fins of fishes? 6. 
What is the sac which surrounds the eggs 
in Bombinator obstetricans ? . . . Tell Dr. 
Leuckart I have already put aside for him the 
Corregonus umbla (if such it be), but can get 
no Silurus glanis. 

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



CARLSRUHE, Whitsuntide, Monday, 1827. 

... I am in Carlsruhe, and as the pack- 
age has not gone yet, I add a note. I have 
been analyzing and comparing all sorts of 
plants in our garden to-day, and I wish you 
had been with me. On my last sheet I send 
some nuts for you to pick, some wholly, some 
half, others not at ah 1 , cracked. Schimper is 
lost in the great impenetrable world of suns, 
with their planets, moons, and comets ; he 
soars even into the region of the double stars, 
the milky way, and the nebulae. 

On a loose sheet come the " nuts to pick." 
It contains a long list of mooted questions, a 
few of which are given here to show the ex- 
change of thought between Agassiz and his 
friend, the one propounding zoological, the 
other botanical, puzzles. Although most of 
the problems were solved long ago, it is not 
uninteresting to follow these young minds in 
their search after the laws of structure and 
growth, dimly perceived at first, but becoming 
gradually clearer as they go on. The very 
first questions hint at the law of Phyllotaxis, 
then wholly unknown, though now it makes 


a part of the most elementary instruction in 
botany. 1 

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

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

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

U 4. In what succession does the develop- 
ment of the organs of the flower take place? 
and their formation in the bud? (Com- 
pare Campanula, Papaver.) 

"5. What are the leaves of the Spergula? 

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

" 18. What is individuality in plants ? ' 

The next letter contains Agassiz's answer to 

1 Botany owes to Alexander Braun and Karl Scliimper the 
discovery of this law, by which leaves, however crowded, are 
so arranged around the stem as to divide the space with 
mathematical precision, thus giving to each leaf its fair share 
of room for growth. 


Dr. Leuckart's questions concerning the eggs 
he had sent him, and some farther account of 
his own observations upon them. 


NEUCHATEL, June 20, 1827. 

. . . Now you shall hear what I know of 
the " Hebammen Krote." How the fecunda- 
tion takes place I know not, but it must needs 
be the same as in other kinds of the related 
Bombinator ; igneus throws out almost as 
many eggs hanging together in clusters as 
obstetricans ; fuscus throws them out from it- 
self in strings (see Roseld's illustration). ... I 
have now carefully examined the egg clusters 
of obstetricans ; all the eggs are in one string 
and hang together. This string is a bag, in 
which the eggs lie inclosed at different dis- 
tances, though they seem in the empty space 
to be fallen, thread-like, together. But if you 
stretch the thread and press the eggs, they 
change their places, and you can distinctly see 
that they lie free in the bag, having their own 
membranous envelopes corresponding to those 
of other batrachian eggs. Surely this species 
seeks the water at the time of fecundation, 
for so do all batrachians, the water being in- 
deed a more fitting medium for fecundation 


than the air. ... It is certain that the eggs 
were already fecundated when we found them 
in the ground, for later, I found several not so 
far advanced as those you have, and yet after 
three weeks I had tadpoles from them. In 
those eggs which were in the lowest stage 
of development (how they may be earlier, ne- 
scio), nothing was clearly visible ; they were 
simply little yellow balls. After some days, 
two small dark spots were to be seen mark- 
ing the position of the eyes, and a longitu- 
dinal streak indicated the dorsal ridge. Pres- 
ently everything became more distinct ; the 
mouth and the nasal opening, the eyes and 
the tail, which lay in a half circle around 
the body; the skin was so transparent that 
the beating of the heart and the blood in the 
vessels could be easily distinguished ; the yolk 
and the yolk sac were meanwhile sensibly di- 
minished. The movements of the little ani- 
mal were now quite perceptible, they were 
quick and by starts. After three or four 
weeks the eggs were as large as peas; the 
bags had burst at the spots where the eggs 
were attached, and the little creatures filled 
the egg envelopes completely. They moved 
incessantly and very quickly. Now the fe- 
male stripped off the eggs from her legs ; she 


seemed very uneasy, and sprang about con- 
stantly in the tank, but grew more quiet when 
I threw in more water. The eggs were soon 
free, and I laid them in a shallow vessel filled 
with fresh water. The restlessness among 
them now became greater, and behold ! like 
lightning, a little tadpole slipped out of its 
egg, paused astonished, gazed on the great- 
ness of the world, made some philanthropic 
observations, and swam quickly away. I gave 
them fresh water often, and tender green 
plants as well as bread to eat. They ate ea- 
gerly. Up to this time their different stages 
of development had been carefully drawn by 
my sister. I now went to Vallorbe; they 
promised at home to take care of my young 
brood, but when I returned the tadpoles had 
been forgotten, and I found them all dead; 
not yet decayed, however, and I could there- 
fore preserve them in alcohol. The gills I 
have never seen, but I will watch to see 
whether they are turned inward. . . . 


CARLSRUHE, August 9, 1827. 

. . . This is to tell you that I have deter- 
mined to leave Heidelberg in the autumn and 
set forth on a pilgrimage to Munich, and that 


I invite you to be my traveling companion. 
Judging by a circumstantial letter from Dol- 
linger, the instruction in the natural sciences 
leaves nothing to be desired there. Add to 
this that the lectures are free, and the theatre 
open to students at twenty-four kreutzers. No 
lack of advantages and attractions, lodgings 
hardly more expensive than at Heidelberg, 
board equally cheap, beer plenty and good. 
Let all this persuade you. We shall hear 
Gruithuisen in popular astronomy, Schubert 
in general natural history, Martius in botany, 
Euchs in mineralogy, Seiber in mathematics, 
Starke in physics, Oken in everything (he 
lectures in winter on the philosophy of nature, 
natural history, and physiology). The clinical 
instruction will be good. We shall soon be 
friends with all the professors. The library 
contains whatever is best in botany and zool- 
ogy, and the collections open to the public 
are very rich. It is not known whether Schel- 
linof will lecture, but at all events certain of 

O ' 

the courses will be of great advantage. Then 
little vacation trips to the Salzburg and Carin- 
thian Alps are easily made from there ! Write 
soon whether you will go and drink Bavarian 
beer and Schnapski with me, and write also 
when we are to see you in Heidelberg and 


Carlsruhe. Remind me then to tell you about 
the theory of the root and poles in plants. 
As soon as I have your answer we will be- 
speak our lodgings from Dollinger, who will 
attend to that for us. Shall we again house 
together in one room, or shall we have sepa- 
rate cells in one comb, namely, under the same 
roof ? The latter has its advantages for grass- 
gatherers and stone-cutters like ourselves. . . . 
Hammer away industriously at all sorts of 
rocks. I have collected at Auerbach, Wein- 
heim, Wiesloch, etc. But before all else, ob- 
serve carefully and often the wonderful struc- 
ture of plants, those lovely children of the 
earth and sky. Ponder them with child-like 
mind, for children marvel at the phenomena 
of nature, while grown people often think 
themselves too wise to wonder, and yet they 
know little more than the children. But the 
thoughtful student recognizes the truth of the 
child's feeling, and with his knowledge of 
nature his wonder does but grow more and 
more. . . . 


1827-1828: JST. 20-21. 

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

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


MUNICH, November 5, 1827. 

... At last I am in Munich. I have so 
much to tell you that I hardly know where to 
begin. To be sure that I forget nothing, 


however, I will give things in their regular se- 
quence. First, then, the story of my journey ; 
after that, I will tell you what I am doing 
here. As papa has, of course, shown you my 
last letter, I will continue where I left off. . . . 
From Carlsruhe we traveled post to Stutt- 
gart, where we passed the greater part of the 
day in the Museum, in which I saw many 
things quite new to me ; a llama, for instance, 
almost as large as an ass. You know that 
this animal, which is of the genus Camelus, 
lives in South America, where it is to the 
natives what the camel is to the Arab; that 
is to say, it provides them with milk, wool, 
and meat, and is used by them, moreover, 
for driving and riding. There was a North 
American buffalo of immense size; also an 
elephant from Africa, and one from Asia ; be- 
side these, a prodigious number of gazelles, 
deer, cats, and dogs ; skeletons of a hippo- 
potamus and an elephant ; and lastly the fossil 
bones of a mammoth. You know that the 
mammoth is no longer found living, and that 
the remains hitherto discovered lead to the 
belief that it was a species of carnivorous ele- 
phant. It is a singular fact that some fisher- 
men, digging recently on the borders of the 
Obi, in Siberia, found one of these animals 


frozen in a mass of ice, at a depth of sixty 
feet, so well preserved that it was still covered 
with hair, as in life. They melted the ice to 
remove the animal, but the skeleton alone re- 
mained complete ; the hide was spoiled by con- 
tact with the air, and only a few pieces have 
been kept, one of which is in the Museum at 
Stuttgart. The hairs upon it are as coarse as 
fine twine, and nearly a foot long 1 . The entire 
skeleton is at St. Petersburg in the Museum, 
and is larger than the largest elephant. One 
may judge by that what havoc such an ani- 
mal must have made, if it was, as its teeth 
show it to have been, carnivorous. But what 
I would like to know is how this animal could 
wander so far north, and then in what man- 
ner it died, to be frozen thus, and remain in- 
tact, without decomposing, perhaps for count- 
less ages. For it must have belonged to a 
former creation, since it is nowhere to be 
found living, and we have no instance of the 
disappearance of any kind of animal within 
the historic period. There were, besides, 
many other kinds of fossil animals. The col- 
lection of birds is very beautiful, but it is a 
pity that many of them are wrongly named. 
I corrected a number myself. . . . From 
Stuttgart we went to Esslingen, where we 


were to visit two famous botanists. One was 
Herr Steudel ; a sombre face, with long over- 
hanging black hair, almost hiding the eyes, 
a very Jewish face. He knows every book 
on botany that appears, has read them all, 
but cares little to see the plants themselves ; 
in short, he is a true closet student. He has 
a large herbarium, composed in great part of 
plants purchased or received as gifts. The 
other, Professor Hochstetter, is an odd little 
man, stepping briskly about in his high boots, 
and having always a half suppressed smile on 
his lips whenever he takes the pipe from be- 
tween his teeth. A very good man, however, 
and extremely obliging ; he offered us every 
civility. As w r e desired not only to make their 
acquaintance, but to win from these bota- 
nists at least a few grasses, we presented our- 
selves like true commis voyageurs, with dried 
herbs to sell, each of us having a package 
of plants under his arm, mine being Swiss, 
gathered last summer, Braun's from the Pa- 

O ' 

latinate. We gave specimens to each, and 
received in exchange from Steudel some Amer- 
ican plants ; from Hochstetter some from Bo- 
hemia, and others from Moravia, his native 
country. From Esslingen we were driven to 
Goeppingen, in the most frightful weather 

VOL. I. 


possible ; it rained, snowed, froze, blew, all 
at once. It was a pity, since our road lay 
through one of the prettiest valleys I have 
ever seen, watered by the Neckar, and bor- 
dered on both sides by mountains of singular 
form and of considerable height. They are 
what the Wurtembergers call the Suabian 
Alps, but I think that Chaumont is higher 
than the loftiest peak of their Alps. Here we 
found an old Heidelberg acquaintance, whose 
father owns a superb collection of fossils, es- 
pecially of shells and zoophytes. He has also 
quite a large collection of shells from the 
Adriatic Sea, but among these last not one 
was named. As we knew them, we made it 
our duty to arrange them, and in three hours 
his whole collection was labeled. Since he 
has duplicates of almost everything, he prom- 
ised, as soon as he should have time, to make 
a selection from these and send them to us. 
Could we have stayed longer we might have 
picked out what we pleased, for he placed his 
collection at our disposal. But we were in 
haste to arrive here, so we begged him to send 
us, at his leisure, whatever he could give us. 

Thence we continued our journey by post, 
because it still rained, and the roads were so 
detestable that with the best will in the world 


we could not have made our way on foot. In 
the evening we reached Ulm, where, owing to 
the late hour, we saw almost nothing except 
the famous belfry of the cathedral, which 
was distinctly visible as we entered the city. 
After supper we continued our journey, still 
by post, wishing to be in Munich the next 
day. I have never seen anything more beau- 
tiful than the view as we left Ulm. The 
moon had risen and shone upon the belfry 
like broad daylight. On all sides extended a 
wide plain, unbroken by a single inequality, 
so far as the eye could distinguish, and cut 
by the Danube, glittering in the moonbeams. 
We crossed the plain during the night, and 
reached Augsburg at dawn. It is a beautiful 
city, but we merely stopped there for break- 
fast, and saw the streets only as we passed 
through them. On leaving Augsburg, the 
Tyrolean Alps, though nearly forty leagues 
away, were in sight. About eighteen leagues 
off was also discernible an immense forest ; of 
this we had a nearer view as we advanced, for 
it encircles Munich at some distance from the 
town. We arrived here on Sunday, the 4th, 
in the afternoon. . . . My address is opposite 
the Sendlinger Thor No. 37. I have a very 
pretty chamber on the lower floor with an al- 


cove for my bed. The house is situated out- 
side the town, on a promenade, which makes 
it very pleasant. Moreover, by walking less 
than a hundred yards, I reach the Hospital 
and the Anatomical School, a great conven- 
ience for me when the winter weather begins. 
One thing gives me great pleasure : from one 
of my windows the whole chain of the Tyrol- 
ean Alps is visible as far as Appenzell ; and 
as the country is flat to their very base, I see 
them better than we see our Alps from the 
plain. It is a great pleasure to have at least 
a part of our Swiss mountains always in sight. 
To enjoy it the more, I have placed my table 
opposite the window, so that every time I lift 
my head my eyes rest on our dear country. 
This does not prevent me from feeling dull 
sometimes, especially when I am alone, but I 
hope this will pass off when my occupations 
become more regular. . . . 

A far more stimulating intellectual life than 
that of Heidelberg awaited our students at 
Munich. Among their professors were some 
of the most original men of the day, men 
whose influence was felt all over Europe. 
Dollinger lectured on comparative anatomy 
and kindred subjects ; Martius and Zuccarini 


on botany. Martius gave, besides, his so- 
called " Reise-Colleg," in which he instructed 
the students how to observe while on their 
travels. Schelling taught philosophy, the ti- 
tles of his courses in the first term being, " In- 
troduction to Philosophy ' and " The Ages 
of the World " ; in the second, The Philos- 
ophy of Mythology ' and " The Philosophy 
of Revelation." Schelling made a strong im- 
pression upon the friends. His manner was 
as persuasive as his style was clear, and his 
mode of developing his subject led his hear- 
ers along with a subtle power which did not 
permit fatigue. Oken lectured on general nat- 
ural history, physiology, and zoology, includ- 
ing his famous views on the philosophy of na- 
ture (Natur -philosophic). His lectures gave 
occasion for much scientific discussion, the 
more so as he brought very startling hypoth- 
eses into his physiology, and drew from them 
conclusions which even upon his own showing 
were not always in accordance with experi- 
ence. " On philosophical grounds," he was 
wont to say, when facts and theory thus con- 
fronted each other, "we must so accept it." 
Oken was extremely friendly with the stu- 
dents, and Agassiz, Braun, and Schimper (who 
joined them at Munich) passed an evening 


once a week at his house, where they listened 
to scientific papers or discussed scientific mat- 
ters, over a pipe and a glass of beer. They 
also met once a week to drink tea at the 
house of Professor von Martius, where, in 
like manner, the conversation turned upon 
scientific subjects, unless something interest- 
ing in general events gave it a different turn. 
Still more beloved was Dollinger, whose char- 
acter they greatly esteemed and admired while 
they delighted in his instruction. Not only 
did they go to him daily, but he also came 
often to see them, bringing botanical speci- 
mens to Braun, or looking in upon Agassiz's 
breeding experiments, in which he took the 
liveliest interest, being always ready with ad- 
vice or practical aid. The fact that Agassiz 
and Braun had their room in his house made 
intercourse with him especially easy. This 
room became the rendezvous of all the as- 
piring, active spirits among the young natural- 
ists at Munich, and was known by the name 
of " The Little Academy." Schimper, no 
less than the other two, contributed to the 
vivid enthusiastic intellectual life which char- 
acterized their meetings. Not so happy as 
Agassiz and Braun in his later experience, 
the promise of his youth was equally brilliant ; 


and those who knew him in those early days 
remember his charm of mind and manner 
with delight. The friends gave lectures in 
turn on various subjects, especially on modes 
of- development in plants and animals. These 
lectures were attended not only by students, 
but often by the professors. 

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



MUNICH, November 20, 1827. 

... I will tell you in detail how my time 
is spent, so that when you think of me you 


may know where I am and what I am do- 
ing. In the morning from seven to nine I 
am at the Hospital. From nine to eleven I 
go to the Library, where I usually work at 
that time instead of going home. From 
eleven till one o'clock I have lectures, after 
which I dine, sometimes at one place, some- 
times at another, for here every one, that is, 
every foreigner, takes his meals in the cafs, 
paying for the dinner on the spot, so that he 
is not obliged to go always to the same place. 
In the afternoon I have other lectures on 
various subjects, according to the days, from 
two or three till five o'clock. These ended, 
I take a walk although it is then dark. The 
environs of Munich are covered with snow, 
and the people have been going about in 
sleighs these three weeks. When I am frozen 


through I come home, and set to work to re- 
view my lectures of the clay, or I write and 
read till eight or nine o'clock. Then I go 
to my cafe for supper. After supper I am 
glad to return to the house and go to bed. 

This is the course of my daily life, with 
the single exception that sometimes Braun 
and I pass an evening with some professor, 
discussing with all our might and main sub- 
jects of which we often know nothing ; this 


does not, however, lessen the animation of the 
talk. More often, these gentlemen tell us of 
their travels, etc. I enjoy especially our visits 
to M. Martius, because he talks to us of his 
journey to Brazil, from which he returned 
some years ago, bringing magnificent collec- 
tions, which he shows us whenever we cah 1 
upon him. Friday is market day here, and I 
never miss going to see the fishes to increase 
my collection. I have already obtained sev- 
eral not to be found in Switzerland ; and even 
in my short stay here I have had the good 
fortune to discover a new species, of which 
I have made a very exact description, to be 
printed in some journal of natural history. 
Were my dear Cecile here, I should have 
begged her to draw it nicely for me. That 
would have been pleasant indeed. Now I 
must ask a stranger to do it, and it will have 
by no means the same value in my eyes. . . . 


MUNICH, December 26, 1827. 

. . . After my long fast from news of you, 
your letter made me very happy. I was 
dull besides, and needed something to cheer 
me. . . . Since my talk about natural history 
does not bore you, I want to tell you various 


other things about it, and also to ask you to 
do me a favor. I have stuffed a superb otter 
lately ; next week I shall receive a beaver, and 
I have exchanged all my little toads from 
Neuchatel for reptiles from Brazil and Java. 
One of our professors here, who is publishing 
a natural history of reptiles, will introduce in 
his work my description of that species, and 
my observations upon it. He has already had 
lithographed those drawings of eggs that 
Cecile made for me, as well as the colored 
drawings made for me by Braun's sister when 
I was at Carlsruhe. My collection of fishes 
is also much increased, but I have no dupli- 
cates left of the species I brought with me. 
I have exchanged them all. I should there- 
fore be greatly obliged if you would get me 
some more of the same. I will tell you what 
kinds I want, and how you are to forward 
them. I have still at Cudrefin several jars of 
thick green glass. When you go there take 
them away with you, fill them with alcohol, 
and put into them as many of these fishes as 
you can find for me. Put something between 
every two specimens, to prevent them from 
rubbing against each other ; pack them in a 
little box wrapped in hay, and send them 
either by a good opportunity or in the least 


expensive way. The kinds I want are [here 
follows the list]. ... It will interest you to 
know that I am working with a young Dr. 
Born upon an anatomy and natural history 
of the fresh-water fishes of Europe. We have 
already gathered a great deal of material, and 
I think by the spring, or in the course of 
the summer, we shall be able to publish the 
first number. This will bring in a little ready 
money for a short journey in the vacation. 

I earnestly advise you to while away your 
leisure hours with study. Read much, but 
only good and useful books. I promised to 
send you something ; do not think, because I 
have not done so yet, that I have forgotten 
it. On the contrary, the difficulty of choos- 
ing is the cause of the delay; but I will 
make farther inquiry as to what will suit 
you best and you shall have my list. Mean- 
time remember to read Say, and if you have 
not already begun it, do not put it off. Re- 
member that statistical and political knowl- 
edge alone distinguishes the true merchant 
from the mere tradesman, and guides him in 
his undertakings. ... A merchant familiar 
with the products of a country, its resources, 
its commercial and political relations with 
other countries, is much less likely to enter 


into speculations based on false ideas, and 
therefore of doubtful issue. Write me about 
what you are reading and about your plans 
and projects, for I can hardly believe that any 
one could exist without forming them : I, at 
least, could not. . . . 

The last line of this letter betrays the rest- 
less spirit of adventure growing out of the 
desire for larger fields of activity and re- 
search. Tranquilized for a while in the new 
and more satisfying intellectual life of Munich, 
it stirred afresh from time to time, not with- 
out arousing anxiety in friends at home, as 
we shall see. The letter to which the follow- 
ing is an answer has not been found. 


ORBE, January 8, 1828. 

. . . Your letter reached me at Cudrefin, 
where I have been passing ten days. With 
what pleasure I received it, and yet I read 
it with a certain sadness too, for there was 
something of ennui, I might say of discon- 
tent, in the tone. . . . Believe me, my dear 
Louis, your attitude is a wrong one ; you see 
everything in shadow. Consider that you are 
exactly in the position you have chosen for 


yourself; we have in no way opposed your 
plans. We have, on the contrary, entered 
into them with readiness, saying amen to your 
proposals, only insisting upon a profession 
that would make us easy about your future, 
persuaded as we are that you have too much 
energy and uprightness not to wish to fill 
honorably your place in society. You left us 
a few months ago with the assurance that two 


years would more than suffice to complete 
your medical studies. You chose the univer- 
sity which offered, as you thought, the most 
ample means to reach your end ; and now, 
how is it that you look forward only with dis- 
taste 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 inconsid- 
erate, fickle young fellow, and the slightest 
stain on your reputation would be a mortal 
blow to us. There is one way of reconciling 
all difficulties, the only one in my opinion. 
Complete your studies with all the zeal of 
which you are capable, and then, if you have 
still the same inclination, go on with your 
natural history ; give yourself wholly up to it 


should that be your wish. Having two strings 
to your bow, you will have the greater facil- 
ity for establishing yourself. Such is your 
father's way of thinking as well as mine. . . . 
Nor are you made to live alone, my child. 
In a home only is true happiness to be found ; 
there you can settle yourself to your liking. 
The sooner you have finished your studies, the 
sooner you can put up your tent, catch your 
blue butterfly, and metamorphose her into a 
loving housewife. Of course you will not 
gather roses without thorns ; life consists of 
pains and pleasures everywhere. To do all 
the good you can to your fellow-beings, to 
have a pure conscience, to gain an honorable 
livelihood, to procure for yourself by work a 
little ease, to make those around you happy, 
that is true happiness ; all the rest but 
mere accessories and chimeras. 


MUNICH, February 3, 1828. 

. . . You know well to whom you speak, 
dear mother, and how you must bait your 
hook in order that the fish may rise. When 
you paint it, I see nothing above domestic 
happiness, and am convinced that the height 
of felicity is to be found in the bosom of your 


family, surrounded by little marmots to love 
and caress you. I hope, too, to enjoy this hap- 
piness in time. ... But the man of letters 
should seek repose only when he has deserved 
it by his toil, for if once he anchor himself, 
farewell to energy and liberty, by which alone 
great minds are fostered. Therefore I have 
said to myself, that I would remain unmarried 
till rny work should assure me a peaceful and 
happy future. A young man has too much 
vigor to bear confinement so soon ; he gives 
up many pleasures which he might have had, 
and does not appreciate at their just value 
those which he has. As it is said that the 
vaurien must precede the bon sujet, so I be- 
lieve that for the full enjoyment of sedentary 
life one must have played the vagabond for 
a while. 

This brings me to the subject of my last 
letter. It seems that you have misunderstood 
me, for your answer grants me after all just 
what I ask. You think that I wish to re- 
nounce entirely the study of medicine? On 
the contrary, the idea has never occurred to 
me, and, according to my promise, you shall 
have one of these days a doctor of medicine 
as a son. What repels me is the thought of 
practicing medicine for a livelihood, and here 


you give nie free rein just where I wanted it. 
That is, you consent that I should devote my- 
self wholly to the natural sciences should this 
career offer me, as I hope it may, a more favor- 
able prospect. It requires, for instance, but 
two or three years to go around the world at 
government expense. I will levy contribu- 
tions on all my senses that not a single chance 
may escape me for making interesting ob- 
servations and fine collections, so that I also 
may be ranked among those who have en- 
larged the boundaries of science. With that 
my future is secured, and I shall return con- 
tent and disposed to do all that you wish. 
Even then, if medicine had gained greater at- 
traction for me, there would still be time to 
begin the practice of it. It seems to me there 
is nothing impracticable in this plan. I beg 
you to think of it, and to talk it over with 
papa and with my uncle at Lausanne. ... I 
am perfectly well and as happy as possible, 
for I feed in clover here on my favorite stud- 
ies, with every facility at my command. If 
you thought my New Year's letter depressed, 
it was only a momentary gloom due to the 
memories awakened by the day. . . . 



ORBE, February 21, 1828. 

Your mother's last letter, my dear Louis, 
was in answer to one from you which crossed 
it on the way, and gave us, so far as your 
health and contentment are concerned, great 
satisfaction. Yet our gratification lacks some- 
thing; it would be more complete had you 
not a mania for rushing full gallop into the 
future. I have often reproved you for this, 
and you would fare better did you pay more 
attention to my reproof. If it be an incur- 
able malady with you, at all events do not 
force your parents to share it. If it be ab- 
solutely essential to your happiness that you 
should break the ice of the two poles in order 
to find the hairs of a mammoth, or that you 
should dry your shirt in the sun of the trop- 
ics, at least wait till your trunk is packed and 
your passports are signed before you talk with 
us about it. Begin by reaching your first 
aim, a physician's and surgeon's diploma. I 
will not for the present hear of anything else, 
and that is more than enough. Talk to us, 
then in your letters, of your friends, of your 
personal life, of your wants (which I am al- 
ways ready to satisfy), of your pleasures, of 

VOL. I. 


your feeling for us, but do not put yourself 
out of our reach with your philosophical syl- 
logisms. My own philosophy is to fulfill my 
duties in my sphere, and even that gives me 
more than I can do. ... 

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


MUNICH, March 3, 1828. 

. . . What you tell me of the " Society of 
Public Utility ' ' has aroused in me a throng of 
ideas, about which I will write you when they 
are .a little more mature. Meanwhile, please 
tell me : 1. What is this Society ? 2. Of 
what persons is it composed? 3. What is its 
principal aim ? 4. What are the popular li- 
braries to contain, and for what class are they 
intended ? I believe this project may be of 


the greatest service to our people, and it is on 
this account that I desire farther details that 
I may think it over carefully. Tell me, also, 
in what way you propose to distribute your 
libraries at small expense, and how large they 
are to be. ... 

I could not be more satisfied than I am with 
my stay here. I lead a monotonous but an 
exceedingly pleasant life, withdrawn from the 
crowd of students and seeing them but little. 
When our lectures are over we meet in the 
evening at Braun's room or mine, with three 
or four intimate acquaintances, and talk of 
scientific matters, each one in his turn present- 
ing a subject which is first developed by him, 
and then discussed by all. These exercises 
are very instructive. As my share, I have 
begun to give a course of natural history, or 
rather of pure zoology. Braun talks to us of 
botany, and another of our company, Mahir, 
who is an excellent fellow, teaches us mathe- 
matics and physics in his turn. In two 
months our friend Schimper, whom we left at 
Heidelberg, will join us, and he will then be 
our professor of philosophy. Thus we shall 
form a little university, instructing each other 
and at the same time learning what we teach 
more thoroughly because we shall be obliged 


to demonstrate it. Each session lasts two or 
three hours, during which the professor in 
charge retails his merchandise without aid of 
notes or book. You can imagine how useful 
this must be in preparing us to speak in public 
and with coherence ; the experience is the 
more important, since we all desire nothing so 
much as sooner or later to become professors 
in very truth, after having played at professor 
in the university. 

This brings me naturally to my projects 
again. Your letter made me feel so keenly 
the anxiety I had caused you by my passion 
for travel, that I will not recur to it ; but as 
my object was to make in that way a name 
that would win for me a professorship, I ven- 
ture upon another proposition. If during the 
course of my studies I succeed in making my- 
self known by a work of distinction, will you 
not then consent that I shall study, at least 
during one year, the natural sciences alone, 
and then accept a professorship of natural his- 
tory, with the understanding that in the first 
place, and in the time agreed upon, I shall 
take my Doctor's degree ? This is, indeed, 
essential to my obtaining what I wish, at least 
in Germany. You will object that, before 
thinking of anything beyond, I ought first to 


fulfill the condition. But let me say that the 
more clearly a man sees the road before him, 
the less likely he is to lose his way or take the 
wrong turn, the better he can divide his 
stages and his resting-places. . . . 


ORBE, March 25, 1828. 

... I have had a long talk about you 
with your uncle. He does not at all disap- 
prove of your letters, of which I told him the 
contents. He only insists, as we do, on the 
necessity of a settled profession as absolutely 
essential to your financial position. Indeed, 
the natural sciences, however sublime and at- 
tractive, offer nothing certain in the future. 
They may, no doubt, be your golden bridge, 
or you may, thanks to them, soar very high, 
but modern Icarus may not also some 
adverse fortune, an unexpected loss of popu- 
larity, or, perhaps, some revolution fatal to 
your philosophy, bring you down with a som- 
ersault, and then you would not be sorry to 
find in your quiver the means of gaining 
your bread. Agreed that you have now an 
invincible repugnance to the practice of med- 
icine, it is evident from your last two letters 
that you would have no less objection to any 


other profession by which money is to be 
made, and, besides, it is too late to make an- 
other selection. This being so, we will come 
to an understanding in one word : Let the 
sciences be the balloon in which you pre- 
pare to travel through higher regions, but let 
medicine and surgery be your parachutes. I 
think, my dear Louis, you cannot object to 
this way of looking at the question and decid- 
ing it. In making my respects to the pro- 
fessor of zoology, I have the pleasure to tell 
him that his uncle was delighted with his way 
of passing his evenings, and congratulates him 
with all his heart on his choice of a recreation. 
Enough of this chapter. I close it here, wish- 
ing you most heartily courage, health, success, 
and, above all, contentment. . . . 

Upon this follows the answer to Louis's re- 
quest for details about the " Society of Public 
Utility." It shows the intimate exchange of 
thought between father and son on educa- 
tional subjects, but it is of too local an inter- 
est for reproduction here. 

The Easter vacation was devoted to a short 
journey, some account of which will be found 
in the next letter. The traveling party con- 
sisted of Agassiz, Braun, and Schimper, with 


two other students, who did not, however, re- 
main with them during the whole trip. 


MUNICH, May 15, 1828. 

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

The first day brought us to Landshut, 
where was formerly the university till it was 
transferred, ten years ago, to Munich. We 
had the pleasure of finding along our road 
most of the early spring plants. The weather 
was magnificent, and nature seemed to smile 
upon her votaries. . . . We stopped on the 
way but one day, at Ratisbon, to visit some 


relations of Braun's, with whom we promised 
to spend several days on our return. Learn- 
ing on our arrival at Nuremberg that the 
Durer festival, which had been our chief in- 
ducement for this journey, would not take 
place under eight or ten days, we decided to 
pass the intervening time at Erlangen, the 
seat, as you know, of a university. I do not 
know if I have already told you that among 
German students the exercise of hospitality 
toward those who exchange visits from one 
university to another is a sacred custom. It 
gives offense, or is at least looked upon as 
a mark of pride and disdain, if you do not 
avail yourself of this. We therefore went to 
one of the cafes de reunion, and received at 
once our tickets for lodgings. We passed six 
days at Erlangen most agreeably, making a bo- 
tanical excursion every day. We also called 
upon the professors of botany and zoology, 
whom we had already seen at Munich, and by 
whom we were most cordially received. The 
professor of botany, M. Koch, invited us to 
a very excellent dinner, and gave us many rare 
plants not in our possession before, while M. 
Wagner was kind enough to show us in detail 
the Museum and the Library. 

At last came the day appointed for the 


third centennial festival of Dtirer. Every- 
thing was so arranged as to make it very bril- 
liant, and the weather was most favorable. I 
doubt if ever before were collected so many 
painters in the same place. They gathered, 
as if to vie with each other, from all nations, 
Russians, Italians, French, Germans, etc. Be- 
side the pupils of the Academy of Fine Arts 
at Munich, I think that every soul who could 
paint, were it only the smallest sketch, was 
there to pay homage to the great master. All 
went in procession to the place where the 
monument is to be raised, and the magistrates 
of the city laid the first stones of the pedestal. 
To my amusement they cemented these first 
stones with a mortar which was served in 
great silver platters, and made of fine pounded 
porcelain mixed with champagne. In the 
evening all the streets were illuminated ; there 

O ' 

were balls, concerts, and plays, so that we 
must have been doubled or quadrupled to see 
everything. We stayed some days longer at 
Nuremberg to visit the other curiosities of 
the city, especially its beautiful churches, its 
manufactories, etc., and then started on our 
return to Ratisbon. 


1828-1829: ^ET. 21-22. 

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

IT was not without a definite purpose that 
Agassiz had written to his father some weeks 
before, " Should I during the course of my 
studies succeed in making myself known by a 
distinguished work, would you not then con- 
sent that I should study for one year the 
natural sciences alone ? ' Unknown to his 
parents, for whom he hoped to prepare a de- 
lightful surprise, Agassiz had actually been 
engaged for months on the first work which 
gave him distinction in the scientific world ; 
namely, a description of the Brazilian fishes 
brought home by Martius and Spix from their 
celebrated journey in Brazil. This was the 
secret to which allusion is made in the next 


letter. To his disappointment an accident 
brought his undertaking to the knowledge of 
his father and mother before it was completed. 
He always had a boyish regret that his little 
plot had been betrayed before the moment for 
the denouement arrived. The book was writ- 
ten in Latin and dedicated to Cuvier. 1 


MUNICH, July 27, 1828. 

. . . Various things which I have begun 
keep me a prisoner here. Probably I shall 
not stir during the vacation, and shall even 
give up the little trip in the Tyrol, which I 
had thought of making as a rest from occu- 
pations that bind me very closely at present, 
but from which I hope to free myself in the 
course of the holidays. Don't be angry with 
me for not telling you at once what they are. 
When you know, I hope to be forgiven for 
keeping you so long in the dark. I have 
kept it a secret from papa too, though in his 
last letter he asks me what is my especial 
work just now. A few months more of pa- 
tience, and I will give you a strict account of 

1 Selecta genera et species piscium quos collegit et pingendos 
curavit Dr. J. W. de Spix. Digessit, descripsit et observa- 
tionibus illustravit Dr. L. Agassiz. 


my time since I came here, and then I am 
sure you will be satisfied with me. I only 
wish to guard against one thing : do not take 
it into your head that I am about to don the 
fool's cap suddenly and surprise you with a 
Doctor's degree ; that would be going a lit- 
tle too fast, nor do I think of it yet. ... I 
want to remind you not to let the summer 
pass without getting me fishes according to 
the list in my last letter, which I hope you 
have not mislaid. You would give me great 
pleasure by sending them as soon as possible. 
Let me tell you why. M. Cuvier has an- 
nounced the publication of a complete work 
on all the known fishes, and in the prospectus 
he calls on such naturalists as occupy them- 
selves with ichthyology to send him the fishes 
of the country where they live ; he mentions 
those who have already sent him collections, 
and promises duplicates from the Paris Mu- 
seum to those who will send him more. He 
names the countries also from which he has 
received contributions, and regrets that he has 
nothing from Bavaria. Now I possess sev- 
eral specimens of all the native species, and 
have even discovered some ten not hitherto 
known to occur here, beside one completely 
new to science, which I have named Cyprinus 


uranoscopus on account of the position of the 
eyes, placed on the top instead of the sides of 
the head, otherwise very like the gudgeon. 
I have therefore thought I could not better 
launch myself in the scientific world than by 
sending Cuvier my fishes with the observa- 
tions I have made on their natural history. 
To these I should like to add such rare Swiss 
species as you can procure for me. So do not 


NEUCHATEL, August 25, 1828. 

... I received in good time, and with in- 
finite delight, your pleasant letter of July 
27th. Its mysteries have however been un- 
veiled by Dr. Schinz, who came to the meet- 
ing of the Natural History Society in Lau- 
sanne, where he met papa and uncle, to 
whom he pronounced the most solemn eulo- 
giums on their son and nephew, telling them 
at the same time what was chiefly occupy- 
ing you now. I congratulate you, my dear 
brother, but I confess that among us all I 
am the least surprised, for my presentiments 
about you outrun all this, and I hope soon 
to see them realized. In all frankness I can 
assure you that the stoutest antagonists of 
your natural history schemes begin to come 


over to your side. Among them is my uncle 
here, who never speaks of you now but with 
enthusiasm. What more can be said ? I gave 
him your letter to read, and since then he has 
asked me a dozen times at least if I had not 
forgotten to forward the remittance you asked 
for, saying that I must not delay it. The truth 
is, I have deferred writing till the last mo- 
ment, because I have not succeeded in getting 
your fishes, and have always been hoping that 
I might be able to fulfill your commission. I 
busied myself on your behalf with all the zeal 
and industry of which I was capable, but 
quite in vain. The devil seemed to be in it. 
The season of Bondelles was over two months 
ago, and there are none to be seen ; as to 
trout, I don't believe one has been eaten in 
the whole town for six weeks. I am forever 
at the heels of the fishermen, promising them 
double and treble the value of the fish I want, 
but they all tell me they catch nothing except 
pike. I have been to Cudrefin for lampreys, 
but found nothing. Rodolphe l has been pad- 
dling in the brook every day without success. 
I went to Sauge, no eels, no anything but 
perch and a few little cat-fish. Two mortal 
Sundays did I spend, rod in hand, trying to 

1 An experienced old boatman. 


catch bream, chubs, etc. I did get a few, but 
they were not worth sending. Now it is all 
over for this year, and we may as well put on 
mourning for them ; but I promise you that 
as soon as the spring opens I will go to work, 
and you shall have all you want. If, in spite 
of everything, your hopes are not realized, I 
shall be very sorry, but rest assured that it is 
not my fault. . . . 


MUNICH, October 29, 1828. 

... I have never written you about what 
has engrossed me so deeply ; but since my 
secret is out, I ought not to keep silence 
longer. That you may understand why I 
have entered upon such a work I will go back 
to its origin. In 1817 the King of Bavaria 
sent two naturalists, M. Martins and M. Spix, 
on an exploring expedition to Brazil. Of 
M. Martins, with whom I always spend my 
Wednesday evenings, I have often spoken to 
you. In 1821 these gentlemen returned to 
their country laden with new discoveries, which 
they published in succession. M. Martins is- 
sued colored illustrations of all the unknown 
plants he had collected on his journey, while 
M. Spix brought out several folio volumes 


on the monkeys, birds, and reptiles of Brazil, 
the animals being drawn and colored, chiefly 
life-size, by able artists. It had been his in- 
tention to give a complete natural history of 
Brazil, but to the sorrow of all naturalists 
he died in 1826. M. Martius, desirous to see 
the completion of the work which his travel- 
ing companion had begun, engaged a profes- 
sor from Erlangen to publish the shells, and 
these appeared last year. When I came to 
Munich there remained only the fishes and 
insects, and M. Martius, who had learned 
something about me from the professors to 
whom I was known, found me worthy to con- 
tinue the work of Spix, and asked me to 
carry on the natural history of the fishes. 
I hesitated for a long time to accept this 
honorable offer, fearing that the occupation 
might withdraw me too much from my stud- 
ies ; but, on the other hand, the opportunity 
for laying the foundation of a reputation 
by a large undertaking seemed too favor- 
able to be refused. The first volume is al- 
ready finished, and the printing was begun 
some weeks ago. You can imagine the pleas- 
ure I should have had in sending it to our 
dear father and mother before they had 
heard one word about it, or knew even of 


the proposition. But I hope the premature 
disclosure of my secret (indeed, to tell the 
truth, I had not imposed silence on M. Schinz, 
not dreaming that he would see any one of 
the family) will not diminish your pleasure in 
receiving the first work of your brother Louis, 
which I hope to send you at Easter. Already 
forty colored folio plates are completed. Will 
it not seem strange when the largest and fin- 

o o 

est 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 Martins 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 



To his father Agassiz only writes of his 
work at this time : " I have been very busy 
this summer, and I can tell you from a good 
source (I have it from one of the professors 
himself) that the professors whose lectures I 
have attended have mentioned me more than 
once, as one of the most assiduous and best 
informed students of the university; saying 

VOL. I. 


also that I deserved distinction. I do not tell 
you this from ostentation, but only that you 
may not think I lose my time, even though I 
occupy myself chiefly with the natural sci- 
ences. I hope yet to prove to you that with 
a brevet of Doctor as a guarantee, Natural 
History may be a man's bread-winner as well 
as the delight of his life." . . . 

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


MUNICH, September 26, 1828. 

. . . The instruction for the academic year 
closed at the end of August, and our profes- 
sors had hardly completed their lectures when 
I began my Alpine excursion. Braun, impa- 
tient to leave Munich, had already started the 
preceding day, promising to wait for me on 
the Salzburg road at the first spot which 
pleased him enough for a halt. That I might 
not keep him waiting, I begged a friend to 
drive me a good day's journey, thinking to 
overtake Braun the first day on the pleasant 
banks of the Lake of Chiem. My traveling 
companions were the younger Schimper [Wil- 


helm], of whom I have spoken to you (and 
who made a botanical journey in the south of 
France and the Pyrenees two years ago), and 
Mahir, who drove us, with whom I am very 
intimate ; he is a medical student, and also 
a very enthusiastic physicist. He gave me 
private lessons in mathematics all winter, and 
was a member of our philomathic meetings. 
Braun had not set out alone either, and his 
two traveling companions were also friends 
of ours. One was Trettenbacher, a medical stu- 
dent greatly given to sophisms and logic, but 
allowing; himself to be beaten in argument 

o o 

with the utmost good nature, though always 
believing himself in the right ; a thoroughly 
good fellow with all that, and a great connois- 
seur of antiquities. The other was a young 
student, More, from the ci-devant department 
of Mt. Tonnerre, who devotes himself en- 
tirely to the natural sciences, and has chosen 
the career of traveling naturalist. You can 
easily imagine that this attracts me to him, 
but as he is only a beginner I am, as it were, 
his mentor. 

On the morning of our departure the 
weather was magnificent. Driving briskly 
along we had various surmises as to where 
we should probably meet our traveling com- 


panions, not doubting- that, as we hoped to 
reach the Lake of Chieni the same day, we 
should come across them the day following 
on one of its pretty islands. But in the after- 
noon the weather changed, and we were forced 
to seek shelter from torrents of rain at Rosen- 
heim, a charming town on the banks of the 
Inn, where I saw for the first time this river 
of Helvetic origin. I saluted it as a country- 
man of mine, and wished I could change its 
course and send it back laden with my greet- 
ings. The next day Mahir drove us as far 
as the shore of the lake. There we parted 
from him, and took a boat to the islands, 
where we were much disappointed not to find 
Braun and his companions. We thought the 
bad weather of the day before (for here it 
had rained all day) might have obliged them 
to make the circuit of the lake. However, in 
order to overtake them before reaching Salz- 
burg, we kept our boatmen, and were rowed 
across to the opposite shore near Grabenstadt, 
where we arrived at ten o'clock in the even- 
ing. In the afternoon the weather had cleared 
a little, and the view was beautiful as we 
pulled away from the islands and watched 
them fade in the twilight. I also gathered 
much interesting information about the in- 


habitants of the waters of this lake. Among- 


others, I was much pleased to find a cat-fish, 
taken in the lake by one of the island fisher- 
men, and also a kind of chub, not found in 
Switzerland, and called by the fishermen here 
" Our Lady's Fish," because it occurs only on 
the shore of an island where there is a con- 
vent, the nuns of which esteem it a great del- 

The third day we reached Traunstein, where, 
although it was Sunday, there was a great 
horse fair. We looked with interest at the 
gay Tyroleans, with the cock-feathers in their 
pointed hats, singing and jodeling in the 
streets with their sweethearts on their arms. 
Every now and then they let fall some sar- 
castic comment on our accoutrements, which 
were indeed laughable enough to these peo- 
ple, who had never seen anything beyond 
their own chalets, and for whom an excursion 
from their mountains to a fair in the nearest 
town is a journey. It was noon when we 
stopped at Traunstein, and from there to Salz- 
burg is but five leagues. Before reaching the 
fortress, however, you must pass the great 
custom-house on the Bavarian frontier, and 
fearing we might be delayed there too long by 
the stupid Austrian officials, and thus be pre- 


vented from entering the city before the gates 
were closed, we resolved to wait till the next 
morning and spend the night at Adelstaetten, 
a pretty village about a league from Salzburg, 
and the last Bavarian post. Night was fall- 
ing as we approached a little wood which hid 
the village from us. There we asked a peas- 
ant how far we had still to go, and when he 
had answered our question he told us, evi- 
dently with kind intention, that we should find 
good company in the village, for a few hours 
earlier three journeymen laborers had arrived 
there ; and then he added that we should no 
doubt be glad to meet comrades and have a 
gay evening with them. We were not aston- 
ished to be taken for workmen, since every 
one who travels here on foot, with a knapsack 
on his back, is understood to belong to the 
laboring class. . . . Arrived at the village, we 
were delighted to find that the three journey- 
men were our traveling companions. They 
had come, like ourselves, from Traunstein, 
where we had missed each other in the crowd, 
and they were going likewise to sleep at Adel- 
staetten, to avoid the custom-house. Finally, 
on Monday, at ten o'clock, we crossed the 
long bridge over the Saala, between the white 
coats with yellow trimmings on guard there. 


On the Bavarian frontier we had hardly re- 
membered that there was a custom-house, and 
the name of student sufficed to pass us without 
our showing any passports ; here, on the con- 
trary, it was another reason for the strictest ex- 
amination. " Have you no forbidden books ? ' 
was the first question. By good fortune, be- 
fore crossing the bridge, I had advised Tret- 
tenbach to hide his sonof-book in the lining; of 

o o 

his boot. I am assured that had it been taken 
upon him he would not have been allowed to 
pass. In ransacking Braun's bag, one of the 
officials found a shell such as are gathered by 
the basketful on the shores of the Lake of 
Neuchatel. His first impulse was to go to the 
office and inquire whether we should not pay 
duty on this, saying that it was no doubt for 
the fabrication of false pearls, and we prob- 
ably had plenty more. We had aU the diffi- 
culty in the world to make him understand 
that not fifty steps from the custom-house the 
shores of the river were strewn with them. . . . 
After all this we had to empty our purses to 
show that we had money enough for our jour- 
ney, and that we should not be forced to beg 
in order to get through. While we underwent 
this inquisition, another officer made a tour of 
inspection around us, to observe our general 


bearing, etc. . . . After having kept us thus 
on coals for two hours they gave us back our 
passports, and we went our way. At one 
o'clock we arrived at Salzburg as hungry as 
wolves, but at the gate we had still to wait 
and give up our passports again in exchange 
for receipts, in virtue of which we could obtain 
permits from the police to remain in the city. 
From our inn, we sent a waiter to get these 
permits, but he presently returned with the 
news that we must go in person to take them ; 
there was, however, no hurry ; it would do in 
three or four hours ! We had no farther diffi- 
culty except that it was made a condition of 
our stay that we should not appear in student's 
dress. This dress, they said, was forbidden in 
Austria. They begged More to have his hair 
cut, otherwise it would be shortened gratis, 
and also informed us that at our age it was not 
becoming to dispense with cravats. Happily, 
I had two with me, and Braun tied his hand- 
kerchief around his neck. It astonished me, 
also, to see that we were not entered on the 
list of strangers published every evening. So 
it was also, as we found, with other students, 
though the persons who came with them by 
the same conveyance, even the children, were 
duly inscribed. It seems this is a precaution 
against any gathering of students. . . . 


The letter concludes in haste for the mail, 
and if the story of the journey was finished 
the final chapter has not been preserved. 
Some extracts from the home letters of Agas- 
siz's friend Braun, which are in place here, 
throw light on their university life for the 
coming year. 1 


MUNICH, November 18, 1828. 

... I will tell you how we have laid out 
our time for this term. Our human conscious- 
ness may be said to begin at half-past five 
o'clock in the morning. The hour from six 
to seven is appointed for mathematics, name- 
ly, geometry and trigonometry. To this ap- 
pointment we are faithful, unless the professor 
oversleeps himself, or Agassiz happens to have 
grown to his bed, an event which sometimes 
occurs at the opening of the term. From 
seven to eight we do as we like, including 
breakfast. Under Agassiz's new style of house- 
keeping the coffee is made in a machine 
which is devoted during the day to the soak- 
ing of all sorts of creatures for skeletons, and 
in the evening again to the brewing of our 

1 See Life of Alexander Braun, by his daughter, Madame 
Cecile Mettenius. 


tea. At eight o'clock comes the clinical lec- 
ture of Bingseis. As Bingseis is introduc- 
ing an entirely new medical system, this is 
not wholly without general physiological and 
philosophical interest. At ten o'clock Stahl 
lectures, five times a week, on mechanics as 
preliminary to physics. These and also the 
succeeding lectures, given only twice a week 
on the special natural history of amphibians 
by Wagler, we all attend together. From 
twelve to one o'clock we have nothing settled 
as yet, but we mean to take the lectures of 
Db'llinger, in single chapters, as, for instance, 
when he comes to the organs of the senses. 


At one o'clock we go to dinner, for which we 
have at last found a comfortable and regular 
place, at a private house, after having dined 
everywhere and anywhere, at prices from nine 
to twenty kreutzers. Here, for thirteen kreut- 
zers 1 each, in company with a few others, 
mostly known to us, we are provided with a 
good and neatly served meal. After dinner 
we go to Dr. Waltl, with whom we study 
chemistry, using Gmelin's text-book, and are 
shown the most important experiments. Next 
week we are to begin entomology with Dr. 
Berthy, from three to four, three times a week. 

1 About nine cents of our money. 


From one to two o'clock on Saturday we have 
a lesson in experimental physiology, plainly 
speaking, in animal dissection, from Dr. Oes- 
terreicher, a young Docent, who has written 
on the circulation of the blood. As Agassiz 
dissects a great many animals, especially fish- 
es, at the house, we are making rapid progress 
in comparative anatomy. At four o'clock we 
go usually once a week to hear Oken on " Na- 
tur-philosophie ' (a course we attended last 
term also), but by that means we secure a 
good seat for Schelling's lecture immediately 
after. A man can hardly hear twice in his 
life a course of lectures so powerful as those 
Schelling is now giving on the philosophy of 
revelation. This will sound strangely to you, 
because, till now, men have not believed that 
revelation could be a subject for philosophical 
treatment ; to some it has seemed too sacred ; 
to others too irrational. . . . This lecture 
brings us to six o'clock, when the public 
courses are at an end : we go home, and now 
begin the private lectures. Sometimes Agas- 
siz tries to beat French rules and construc- 
tions into our brains, or we have a lesson 
in anatomy, or I read general natural his- 
tory aloud to William Schimper. By and by 
I shall review the natural history of grasses 


and ferns, two families of which I made a 
special study last summer. Twice a week 
Karl Schimper lectures to us on the morphol- 
ogy of plants ; a very interesting course on 
a subject but little known. He has twelve 
listeners. Agassiz is also to give us lectures 
occasionally on Sundays upon the natural 
history of fishes. You see there is enough 
to do. . . . 


Somewhat before this, early in 1828, Agas- 
siz had made the acquaintance of Mr. Joseph 
Dinkel, an artist. A day spent together in 
the country, in order that Mr. Dinkel might 
draw a brilliantly colored trout from life, un- 
der the immediate direction of the young 
naturalist, led to a relation which continued 
uninterruptedly for many years. Mr. Dinkel 
afterward accompanied Agassiz, as his artist, 
on repeated journeys, being constantly em- 
ployed in making illustrations for the " Pois- 
sons Fossiles : and the " Poissons d'Eau 
Douce," as well as for his monographs and 
smaller papers. The two larger works, the 
latter of which remained unfinished, were even 
now in embryo. Not only was Mr. Dinkel at 
work upon the plates for the Fresh-Water 
Fishes, but Mr. J. C. Weber, who was then 


engaged in making, under Agassiz's direction, 
the illustrations for the Spix Fishes, was also 
giving his spare hours to the same objects. 
Mr. Dinkel says of Agassiz's student life at 
this time : 1 

" I soon found myself engaged four or five 
hours almost daily in painting for him fresh- 
water fishes from the life, while he was at my 
side, sometimes writing out his descriptions, 
sometimes directing me. . . . He never lost 
his temper, though often under great trial ; 
he remained self-possessed and did everything 
calmly, having a friendly smile for every one 
and a helping hand for those who were in 
need. He was at that time scarcely twenty 
years old, and was already the most prominent 
among the students at Munich. They loved 
him, and had a high consideration for him. I 
had seen him at the Swiss students' club sev- 
eral times, and had observed him among the 
jolly students ; he liked merry society, but he 
himself was in general reserved and never 
noisy. He picked out the gifted and highly- 
learned students, and would not waste his time 

1 Extract from notes written out in English by Mr. Dinkel 
after the death of Agassiz and sent to me. The English, 
though a little foreign, is so expressive that it would lose by 
any attempt to change it, and the writer will excuse me for 
inserting his vivid sketch just as it stands. E. C. A. 


in ordinary conversation. Often, when he saw 
a number of students going off on some empty 
pleasure-trip, he said to me, ' There they go 
with the other fellows ; their motto is, " Ich 
gehe mit den andern." I will go my own 
way, Mr. Dinkel, and not alone : I will be 
a leader of others.' In all his doings there 
was an ease and calm which was remarkable. 
His studio was a perfect German student's 
room. It was large, with several wide win- 
dows ; the furniture consisted of a couch and 
about half a dozen chairs, beside some tables 
for the use of his artists and himself. Dr. 
Alex. Braun and Dr. Schmiper lodged in the 
same house, and seemed to me to share his 
studio. Being botanists, they, too, brought 
home what they collected in their excursions, 
and all this found a place in the atelier, on 
the couch, on the seats, on the floors. Books 
filled the chairs, one alone being left for the 
other artist, while I occupied a standing desk 
with my drawing. No visitor could sit down, 
and sometimes there was little room to stand 
or move about. The walls were white, and 
diagrams were drawn on them, to which, by 
and by, we artists added skeletons and cari- 
catures. In short, it was quite original. I 
was some time there before I could discover 


the real names of his friends : each had a 
nickname, - Molluscus, Cyprinus, Rhubarb, 

From this glimpse into " The Little Acad- 
emy' we return to the thread of the home 
letters, learning from the next one that Agas- 
siz's private collections were assuming rather 
formidable proportions when considered as 
part of the household furniture. Brought 
together in various ways, partly by himself, 
partly in exchange for duplicates, partly as 
pay for arranging specimens in the Munich 
Museum, they had already acquired, when 
compared with his small means, a considerable 
pecuniary value, and a far higher scientific 
importance. They included fishes, some rare 
mammalia, reptiles, shells, birds, an herbarium 
of some three thousand species of plants col- 
lected by himself, and a small cabinet of min- 
erals. After enumerating them in a letter to 
his parents he continues : " You can imagine 
that all these things are in my way now that 
I cannot attend to them, and that for want 
of room and care they are piled up and in 
danger of spoiling. You see by my list that 
the whole collection is valued at two hundred 
louis ; and this is so low an estimate that 
even those who sell objects of natural his- 


tory would not hesitate to take them at that 
price. You will therefore easily understand 
how T anxious I am to keep them intact. Can 
you not find me a place where they might be 
spread out ? I have thought that perhaps 
my uncle in Neuchatel would have the kind- 
ness to let some large shelves be put up in 
the little upper room of his house in Cudrefin, 
where, far from being an annoyance or caus- 
ing any smell, my collection, if placed in a 
case under glass, or disposed in some other 
suitable manner, would be an ornament. Be 
so kind as to propose it to him, and if he 
consents I will then tell you what I shall 
need for its arrangement. Remember that 
on this depends, in great part, the preserva- 
tion of my specimens, and answer as soon as 

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



MUNICH, February 14, 1829. 

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

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

2d. You will not have forgotten either that 
you exacted this only that I might have a 
profession, and that you promised, should I 
be able to make my way in the career of let- 
ters and natural history, you would not op- 
pose my wishes. I am indeed aware that in 
the latter case you see but one obstacle, that 
of absence from my country and separation 
from all who are dear to me. But you know 
me too well to think that I would voluntarily 
impose upon myself such an exile. Let us see 
whether we cannot resolve these difficulties to 
our mutual satisfaction, and consider what is 

VOL. I. 


the surest road to the end I have proposed to 
myself ever since I began my medical studies. 
Weigh all my reasons, for in this my peace of 
mind and my future happiness are concerned. 
Examine my conduct with reference to what 
I propose in every light, that of son and Vau- 
dois citizen included, and I feel sure you will 
concur in my views. 

Here is my aim and the means by which I 
propose to carry it out. I wish it may be 
said of Louis Agassiz that he was the first 
naturalist of his time, a good citizen, and a 
good son, beloved of those who knew him. 
I feel within myself the strength of a whole 
generation to work toward this end, and I 
will reach it if the means are not wanting. 
Let us see in what these means consist. [Here 
follows the summing up of his reasons for 
preferring a professorship of natural history 
to the practice of medicine, and his intention 
of trying for a diploma as Doctor of Philoso- 
phy in Germany.] But how obtain a pro- 
fessorship, you will say, that is the impor- 
tant point ? I answer, the first step is to 
make myself a European name, and for that 
I am on the right road. In the first place 
my work on the fishes of Brazil, just about 
to appear, will make me favorably known. I 


am sure it will be kindly received ; for at the 
General Assembly of German naturalists and 
medical men last September, in Berlin, the 
part already finished and presented before the 
Assembly was praised in a manner for which 
I was quite unprepared. The professors also, 
to whom I was known, spoke of me there in 
very favorable terms. 

In the second place there are now prepar- 
ing two expeditions of natural history, one 
by M. de Huniboldt, with whose reputation 
you are surely familiar, the same who spent 
several years in exploring the equatorial re- 
gions of South America, in company with M. 
Bonpland. He has been for some years at 
Berlin, and is now about to start on a journey 
to the Ural Mountains, the Caucasus, and the 
confines of the Caspian Sea. Braun, Schim- 
per, and I have been proposed to him as 
traveling companions by several of our pro- 
fessors ; but the application may come too 
late, for M. de Humboldt decided upon this 
journey long ago, and has probably already 
chosen the naturalists who are to accompany 
him. How happy I should be to join this ex- 
pedition to a country the climate of which is 
by no means unhealthy, under the direction of 
a man so generally esteemed, to whom the Em- 


peror of Russia has promised help and an es- 
cort at all times and under all circumstances. 
The second expedition is to a country quite 
as salubrious, and which presents no dangers 
whatever for travelers, South America. It 
will be under the direction of M. Ackermann, 
known as a distinguished agriculturist and as 
Councillor of State to the Grand Duke of 
Baden. I should prefer to go with Humboldt ; 
but if I am too late, I feel very sure of being 
able to join the second expedition. So it de- 
pends, you see, only on your consent. This 
journey is to last two years, at the end of 
which time, happily at home once more, I can 
follow with all desirable facilities the career I 
have chosen. If there should be a place for 
me at Lausanne, which I should prefer to any 
other locality, I could devote my life to teach- 
ing my young countrymen, awaken in them 
the taste for science and observation so much 
neglected among us, and thus be more useful 
to my canton than I could be as a practitioner. 
These projects may not succeed ; but in the 
present state of things all the probabilities are 
favorable. Therefore, I beg you to consider 
it seriously, to consult my uncle in Lausanne, 
and to write me at once what you think. . . . 

In spite of the earnest desire for travel 


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


ORBE, February 23, 1829. 

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


oldest son, will offer no obstacles to his pro- 
jects, but pray God to bless them. . . , 

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


MUNICH, February 15, 1829. 

. . . Last Thursday we were at Oken's. 
There was interesting talk on all sorts of sub- 
jects, bringing us gradually to the Ural and 
then to Humboldt's journey, and finally Oken 
asked if we would not like to go with Hurn- 
boldt. To this we gave warm assent, and 
told him that if he could bring it about we 
would be ready to start at a day's notice, and 
Agassiz added, eagerly, " Yes, and if there 
were any hope that he would take us, a word 
from you would have more weight than any- 
thing." Oken's answer gave us but cold com- 
fort ; nevertheless, he promised to write at 
once to Humboldt in our behalf. With this, 
we went home in great glee ; it was very late 
and a bright moonlight night. Agassiz rolled 


himself in the snow for joy, and we agreed 
that however little hope there might be of 
our joining the expedition, still the fact that 
Humboldt would hear of us in this way was 
worth something, even if it were only that we 
might be able to say to him one of these days, 
" We are the fellows whose company you re- 

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

In connection with this frustrated plan is 
here given the rough draft of a letter from 
Agassiz to Cuvier, written evidently at a some- 
what earlier date. Although a mere frag- 
ment, it is the outpouring of the same passion- 
ate desire for a purely scientific life, and shows 
that the opportunity suggested by Humboldt's 
journey had only given a definite aim to pro- 
jects already full grown. From the contents 
it must have been written in 1828. After 


some account of his early studies, which would 
be mere repetition here, he goes on : " Be- 
fore finishing my letter, allow me to ask some 
advice from you, whom I revere as a father, 
and whose works have been till now my only 
guide. Five years ago I was sent to the med- 
ical school at Zurich. After the first few lec- 
tures there in anatomy and zoology I could 
think of nothing but skeletons. In a short 
time I had learned to dissect, and had made for 
myself a small collection of skulls of animals 
from different classes. I passed two years in 
Zurich, studying whatever I could find in the 
Museum, and dissecting all the animals I could 
procure. I even sent to Berlin at this time 
for a monkey in spirits of wine, that I might 
compare the nervous system with that of man. 
I spent all the little means I had in order to 
see and learn as much as possible. Then I 
persuaded my father to let me go to Heidel- 
berg, where for a year I followed Tiedemann's 
courses in human anatomy. I passed almost 
the whole winter in the anatomical laboratory. 
The following summer I attended the lectures 
of Leuckart on zoology, and those of Bronn 
on fossils. When at Zurich, the longing to 
travel some day as a naturalist had taken pos- 
session of me, and at Heidelberg this desire 


only increased. My frequent visits to the Mu- 
seum at Frankfort, and what I heard there 
concerning M. Rtippell himself, strengthened 
my purpose even more than all I had previ- 
ously read. I was, as it were, Rtippell' s trav- 
eling companion : the activity, the difficulties 
to be overcome, all were present to me as I 
looked upon the treasures he had brought to- 
gether from the deserts of Africa. The vision 
of difficulty thus vanquished, and of the in- 
ward satisfaction arising from it, tended to 
give all my studies a direction in keeping with 
my projects. 

" I felt that to reach my aim more surely it 
was important to complete my medical stud- 
ies, and for this I came to Munich eighteen 
months ago. Still I could not make up my 
mind to renounce the natural sciences. I at- 
tended some of the pathological lectures, but 
I soon found that I was neglecting them ; 
and yielding once more to my inclination, I 
followed consecutively the lectures of Dollin- 
ger on comparative anatomy, those of Oken 
on natural history, those of Fuchs on miner- 
alogy, as well as the courses of astronomy, 
physics, chemistry, and mathematics. I was 
confirmed in this withdrawal from medical 
studies by the proposition of M. de Martius 


that I should describe the fishes brought back 


by Spix from Brazil, and to this I consented 
the more gladly because ichthyology has al- 
ways been a favorite study with me. I have 
not, however, been able to give them all the 
care I could have wished, for M. de Martius, 
anxious to complete the publication of these 
works, has urged upon me a rapid execution. 
I hope, nevertheless, that I have made no 
gross errors, and I am the less likely to have 
done so, because I had as my guide the ob- 
servations you had kindly made for him on 
the plates of Spix. Several of these plates 
were not very exact ; they have been set aside 
and new drawings made. I beg that you will 
judge this work when it reaches you with in- 
dulgence, as the first literary essay of a young 
man. I hope to complete it in the course of 
the next summer. I would beg you, in ad- 
vance, to give me a paternal word of advice 
as to the direction my studies should then 
take. Ought I to devote myself to the study 
of medicine ? I have no fortune, it is true ; 
but I would gladly sacrifice my life if, by so 
doing, I could serve the cause of science. 
Though I have not even a presentiment of any 
means with which I may one day travel in dis- 
tant countries, I have, nevertheless, prepared 


myself during the last three years as if I might 
be off at any minute. I have learned to skin 
all sorts of animals, even very large ones, 
have made more than a hundred skeletons of 
quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and fishes ; I have 
tested all the various liquors for preserving 
such animals as should not be skinned, and 
have thought of the means of supplying the 
want in countries where the like preparations 
are not to be had, in case of need. Finally, 
I have trained as traveling companion a young 
friend, 1 and awakened in him the same love of 
the natural sciences. He is an excellent hun- 
ter, and at my instigation has been taking 
lessons in drawing, so that he is now able to 
sketch from nature such objects as may be 
desirable. We often pass delightful moments 
in our imaginary travels through unknown 
countries, building thus our castles in Spain. 
Pardon me if I talk to you of projects which 
at first sight seem puerile ; only a fixed aim 
is needed to give them reality, and to you I 
come for counsel. My longing is so great 
that I feel the need of expressing it to some 
one who will understand me, and your sympa- 
thy would make me the happiest of mortals. 
I am so pursued by this thought of a scientific 

1 William Schimper, brother of Karl. 


journey that it presents itself under a thou- 
sand forms, and all that I undertake looks 
toward one end. I have for six months fre- 
quented a blacksmith's and carpenter's shop, 
learning to handle hammer and axe, and I also 
practice arms, the bayonet and sabre exercise. 
I am strong and robust, know how to swim, 
and do not fear forced marches. I have, when 
botanizing and geologizing, walked my twelve 
or fifteen leagues a day for eight days in suc- 
cession, carrying on my back a heavy bag 
loaded with plants or minerals. In one word, 
I seem to myself made to be a traveling natu- 
ralist. I only need to regulate the impetuos- 
ity which carries me away. I beg you, then, 
to be my guide." 

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

In the spring of 1829 Agassiz took his 


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


MUNICH, May 22, 1829. 

. . . As it was necessary for me to go 
through with my examination at once, and as 
the days for promotion here were already en- 
gaged two months in advance, I decided to 
pass it at Erlangen. That I might not go 
alone, and also for the pleasure of their com- 
pany, I persuaded Schimper and Michahelles 
to do the same. Braun wanted to be of the 
party, but afterward decided to wait awhile. 
We made our request to the Faculty in a 
long Latin letter (because, you know, among 
savants it is the thing to speak and write the 
language you know least), requesting permis- 
sion to pass our examination in writing, and 
to go to Erlangen only for the colloquium and 


promotion. They granted our request on con- 
dition of our promise (jurisjurandi loco polli- 
citi sumus) to answer the questions propounded 
without help from any one and without con- 
sulting books. Among other things I had to 
develop a natural system of zoology, to show 
the relation between human history and nat- 
ural history, to determine the true basis and 
limits of the philosophy of nature, etc. As 
an inaugural dissertation, I presented some 
general and novel considerations on the for- 
mation of the skeleton throughout the animal 
kingdom, from the infusoria, mollusks, and 
insects to the vertebrates, properly so called. 
The examiners were sufficiently satisfied with 
my answers to give me my degree the 23d 
or 24th of April, without waiting for the col- 
loquium and promotion, writing to me that 
they were satisfied with my examination, and 
therefore forwarded my diploma without re- 
gard to the oral examination. . . . The Dean 
of the Faculty, in inclosing it to me, added 
that he hoped before long to see me profes- 
sor, and no less the ornament of my uni- 
versity in that position than I had hitherto 
been as student. I must try not to disappoint 


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

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


MUNICH, July 4, 1829. 

... I hope when you read this letter you 
will have received the first part of my Bra- 
zilian Fishes from M. , of Geneva, to 

whom Martius had to send a package of 
plants, with which my book was inclosed. I 
venture to think that this work will give me 


a name, and I await with impatience the crit- 
icism that I suppose it will receive from Cu- 


vier. ... I think the best way of reaching 
the various aims I have in view is to continue 
the career on which I have started, and to pub- 
lish as soon as possible my natural history of 
the fresh-water fishes of Germany and Switz- 
erland. I propose to issue it in numbers, each 
containing twelve colored plates accompanied 
by six sheets of letter-press. ... In the mid- 
dle of September there is to be a meeting of 
all the naturalists and medical men of Ger- 
many, to which foreign savants are invited. A 
similar meeting has been held for the last two 
or three years in one or another of the brilliant 
centres of Germany. This year it will take 
place at Heidelberg. Could one desire a bet- 
ter occasion to make known a projected work ? 
I could even show the original drawings al- 
ready made of species only found in the en- 
virons of Munich, and, so to speak, unknown 
to naturalists. At Heidelberg will be assem- 
bled Englishmen, Danes, Swedes, Russians, and 
even Italians. If I could before then arrange 
everything and distribute the printed circulars 
of my work I should be sure of success. . . . 

In those days of costly postage one sheet of 
writing paper was sometimes made to serve 
for several members of the family. The next 


crowded letter contains chiefly domestic de- 
tails, but closes with a postscript from Mme. 
Agassiz, filling, as she says, the only remain- 
ing corner, and expressing her delight in his 
diploma and in the completion of his book. 


August 16, 1829. 

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

VOL. I. 8 



August, 1829. 

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


PARIS, AU JARDLNT DU Hoi, August 3, 1829. 

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


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

With my thanks for the promised docu- 
ments, accept the assurance of my warm re- 
gard and very sincere attachment. 


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



ORBE, August 31, 1827. 

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


1829-1830: ^T. 22-23. 

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


HEIDELBERG, September 25, 1829. 

. . . THE time of our meeting is almost at 
hand. Relieved from all anxiety about the 
subjects I had wished to present here, I can 
now be quietly with you and enjoy the rest 
and freedom I have so long needed. The ten- 
sion of mind, forced upon me by the effort to 
reach my goal in time, has crowded out the 
thoughts which are most present when I am 
at peace. I will not talk to you of what I 
have been doing lately, (a short letter from 
Frankfort will have put you on my track), 
nor of the relations I have formed at the Hei- 
delberg meeting, nor of the manner in which 


I have been received, etc. These are matters 
better told than written. ... I intend to leave 
here to-morrow or the day after, according 
to circumstances. I shall stay some days at 
Carlsruhe to put my affairs in order, and from 
there make the journey home as quickly as 
possible. . . . 

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


ORBE, December 3, 1829. 

... I will devote an hour of this last even- 
ing I am to pass in Orbe, to talking with you. 
You will wonder that I am still here, and that 
I have not written. You already know that I 
have been arranging my collections at Cudre- 


fin, and spending very happy days with my 
grandfather. But he is now very ill, and even 
should we have better news of him to-day, the 
thought weighs heavily on my heart, that I 
must take leave of him when he is perhaps on 
his death-bed. ... I have just tied up my 
last package of plants, and there lies my whole 
herbarium in order, thirty packages in all. 
For this I have to thank you, clear Alex., and 
it gives me pleasure to tell you so and to be 
reminded of it. What a succession of glori- 
ous memories came up to me as I turned them 
over. Free from all disturbing incidents, I 
enjoyed anew our life together, and even 
more, if possible, than in actual experience. 
Every talk, every walk, was present to me 
a^ain, and in reviewing it all I saw how our 
minds had been drawn to each other in an 
ever-strengthening union. In you I see my 
own intellectual development reflected as in a 
mirror, for to you, and to my intercourse with 
you, I owe my entrance upon this path of the 
noblest and most lasting enjoyment. It is 
delightful to look back on such a past with 
the future so bright before us. ... 

Agassiz now returned to Munich to add the 
title of Doctor of Medicine to that of Doctor 


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


MUNICH, January 18, 1830. 

. . . My resolve to study medicine is now 
confirmed. I feel all that may be done to 
render this study worthy the name of science, 
which it has so long usurped. Its intimate 
alliance with the natural sciences and the en- 
lightenment it promises me regarding them 


are indeed my chief incitements to persevere 
in my resolution. In order to gain time, and 
to strike while the iron is hot (don't be afraid 
it will grow cold ; the wood which feeds the 
fire is good), I have proposed to Euler, with 
whom I am very intimate, to review the medi- 
cal course with me. Since then, we pass all 
our evenings together, and rarely separate be- 
fore midnight, reading alternately French 
and German medical books. In this way, al- 
though I devote my whole day to my own 
work about fishes, I hope to finish my pro- 
fessional studies before summer. I shall then 
pass my examination for the Doctorate in Ger- 
many, and afterward do the same in Lausanne. 
I hope that this decision will please mania. 
My character and conduct are the pledge of 
its accomplishment. 

This, then, is my night-work. I have still 
to tell you what I do by day, and this is more 
important. My first duty is to complete my 
Brazilian Fishes. To be sure, it is only an 
honorary work, but it must be finished, and 
is an additional means of making subsequent 
works profitable. This is my morning occu- 
pation, and I am sure of bringing it to a close 
about Easter. After much reflection, I have 
decided that the best way to turn my Fresh- 


Water Fishes to account, is to finish them com- 
pletely before offering them to a publisher. All 
the expenses being then paid, I could afford, 
if the first publisher should not feel able to 
take them on my own terms, to keep them as 
a safe investment. The publisher himself see- 
ing the material finished, and being sure of 
bringing it out as a complete work, the value 
of which he can on that account better es- 
timate, will be more disposed to accept my 
proposals, while I, on my side, can be more 
exacting. The text for this I write in the 
afternoon. My greatest difficulty at first was 
the execution of the plates. But here, also, 
my good star has served me wonderfully. I 
told you that beside the complete drawings of 
the fishes I wanted to represent their skele- 
tons and the anatomy of the soft parts, which 
has never been done for this class. I shall 
thereby give a new value to the work, and 
make it desirable for all who study compara- 
tive anatomy. The puzzle was to find some 
one who was prepared to draw things of this 
kind; but I have made the luckiest hit, and 
am more than satisfied. My former artist con- 
tinues to draw the fishes, a second draws the 
skeletons (one who had already been engaged 
for several years in the same way, for a work 


upon reptiles), while a young physician, who 
is an admirable draughtsman, makes my ana- 
tomical figures. For my share, I direct their 
work while writing the text, and thus the 
whole advances with great strides. I do not, 
however, stop here. Having by permission of 
the Director of the Museum one of the finest 
collections of fossils in Germany at my dis- 
position, and being also allowed to take the 
specimens home as I need them, I have under- 
taken to publish the ichthyological part of 
the collection. Since it only makes the differ- 
ence of one or two people more to direct, I 
have these specimens also drawn at the same 
time. Nowhere so well as here, where the 
Academy of Fine Arts brings together so many 
draughtsmen, could I have the same facility 
for completing a similar work ; and as it is an 
entirely new branch, in which no one has as 
yet done anything of importance, I feel sure 
of success ; the more so because Cuvier, who 
alone could do it (for the simple reason that 
every one else has till now neglected the fishes), 
is not engaged upon it. Add to this that just 
now there is a real need of this work for the 
determination of the different geological for- 
mations. Once before, at the Heidelberg 
meeting, it had been proposed to me ; the 


Director of the Mines at Strasbourg, M. 
Voltz, even offered to send me at Munich the 
whole collection of fossil fishes from their 
Museum. I did not speak to you of this at 
the time because it would have been of no 
use. But now that I have it in my power to 
carry out the project, I should be a fool to let 
a chance escape me which certainly will not 
present itself a second time so favorably. It 
is therefore my intention to prepare a general 
work on fossil ichthyology. I hope, if I can 
command another hundred louis, to complete 
everything of which I have spoken before 
the end of the summer, that is to say, in July. 
I shall then have on hand two works which 
should surely be worth a thousand louis to me. 
This is a low estimate, for even ephemeral 
pieces and literary ventures are paid at this 
price. You can easily make the calculation. 
They allow three louis for each plate with the 
accompanying text ; my fossils will have about 
two hundred plates, and my fresh-water fishes 
about one hundred and fifty. This seems to 
me plausible. . . . 

This letter evidently made a favorable im- 
pression on the business heads of the family 
at Neuchatel, for it is forwarded to his par- 


ents, with these words from his brother on 
the last sheet : " I hasten, dear father, to send 
you this excellent letter from my brother, 
which has just reached me. They have read 
it here with interest, and Uncle Francois 
Mayor, especially, sees both stability and a 
sound basis in his projects and enterprises." 

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

In the above letter to his brother we have 
the story of his work during the whole winter 
of 1830. That his medical studies did not 
suffer from the fact that, in conjunction with 
them, he was carrying on his two great works 


on the living and the dead world of fishes 
may be inferred from the following account 
of his medical theses. It was written after 
his death, to his son Alexander Agassiz, by 
Professor von Siebold, now Director of the 
Museum in the University of Munich. " How 
earnestly Agassiz devoted himself to the study 
of medicine is shown by the theses (seventy- 
four in number), a list of which was printed, 
according to the prescribed rule and custom, 
with his ' Einladung.' I am astonished at the 
great number of these. The subjects are an- 
atomical, pathological, surgical, obstetrical ; 
they are inquiries into niateria medica, medi- 
cina forensis, and the relation of botany to 
these topics. One of them interested me es- 
pecially. It read as follows. ' Foemina hu- 
mana superior mare.' I would gladly have 
known how your father interpreted that sen- 
tence. Last fall (1873) I wrote him a letter, 
the last I ever addressed to him, questioning 
him about this very subject. That letter, alas ! 
remained unanswered." 

In a letter to his brother just before taking 
his degree, Agassiz says : " I am now deter- 
mined to pursue medicine and natural history 
side by side. Thank you, with all my heart, 
for your disinterested offer, but I shall not 


need it, for I am going on well with my pub- 
lisher, M. Cotta, of Stuttgart. I have great 
hope that he will accept my works, since he 
has desired that they should be forwarded to 
him for examination. I have sent him the 
whole, and I feel very sure he will swallow the 
pill. My conditions would be the only cause 
of delay, but I hope he will agree to them. 
For the fresh-water fishes and the fossils to- 
gether I have asked twenty thousand Swiss 
francs. Should he not consent to this, I shall 
apply to another publisher." 

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


MUNICH, April, 1830. 

. . . My letter to-day must be to you, for 
to you I owe it that I have undertaken the 
work just completed, and I write to thank you 
for having encouraged my zeal. I am very 
sure that no letter from me has ever given 
you greater pleasure than this one will bring ; 
and I can truly say, on my own part, that I 
have never written one with greater satisfac- 
tion. Yesterday I finished my medical ex- 


animation, after having satisfied every require- 
ment of the Faculty. . . . The whole cere- 
mony lasted nine days. At the close, while 
they considered my case, I was sent out of 
the room. On my return, the Dean said to 
me, " The Faculty have been very much ' 
(emphasized) " pleased with your answers ; 
they congratulate themselves on being able 
to give the diploma to a young man who has 
already acquired so honorable a reputation. 
On Saturday, after having argued your thesis, 
you will receive your degree, in the Academic 
Hall, from the Eector of the University." The 
Rector then added that he should look upon 
it as the brightest moment of his Rectorship 
when he conferred upon me the title I had so 
well merited. Next Saturday, then, at the 
very time you receive this letter, at ten o'clock 
in the morning;, the discussion will have be^un, 

O- O ' 

and at twelve I shall have my degree. Dear 
Mother, dismiss all anxiety about me. You 
see I am as good as my word. . . . Write 
soon ; in a few days I go to Vienna for some 
months. . . . 



ORBE, April 7, 1830. 

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

Agassiz was recalled from Vienna in less 

VOL. I. 9 


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


VIENNA, May 11, 1830. 

. . . Since my arrival I have seen so much 
that I hardly know where to begin my narra- 
tive, and what I have seen has suggested re- 
flections on many grave subjects, of a kind I 
had hardly expected to make here. Nowhere 
have I seen establishments on broader or more 
stately foundations, nor do I believe that any- 
where are foreigners allowed more liberal use 
of like institutions. I speak of the university, 
the hospitals, libraries, and collections of all 
sorts. Neither have I seen anywhere else such 
fine churches, and I have more than once felt 
the difference between worshiping within bare 
walls, and in buildings more worthy of devo- 
tional purposes. In one word, I should be 
enchanted with my stay in Vienna if I could 
be free from the idea that I am always sur- 
rounded by an imperceptible net, ready to 
close upon me at the slightest signal. With 


this exception, the only discomfort to a for- 
eigner here, if he is unaccustomed to it, is 
that of being obliged to abstain from all crit- 
icism of affairs in public places ; still more 
must he avoid commenting upon persons. I 
am especiaUy satisfied with my visit from a 
scientific point of view. I have learned, and 
am still learning, the care of the eyes and how 
to operate upon them ; as to medicine, the phy- 
sicians, however good, do not surpass those I 
have already known ; and as I do not believe 
it important that a young physician should 
familiarize himself with a great variety of 
curative methods, I try to observe carefully 
the patient and his disease rather than to re- 
member the medicaments applied in special 
cases. Surgery and midwifery are poorly pro- 
vided, but one has a chance to see many inter- 
esting cases. 

During the last fortnight I have visited the 
collection of natural history often, generally 
in the afternoon. To tell you how I have 
been expected there from the moment I was 
known to be here, and how I was received on 
my first visit, and have been feted since (as 
Ichthyologus primus seculi, so they say), 
would, perhaps, tire you and might seem ego- 
tistical in me, neither of which do I desire. 


But it will not be indifferent to you to know 
that Cotta is disposed to accept my Fishes. 
He has been at Munich for some days, and 
Schimper has been talking with him, and has 
advanced matters more by a few words than 
I had been able to do by much writing. For 
this reason I intend returning soon to Munich 
to complete the business, since Cotta is to be 
there several weeks longer. Thus I shall have 
reached my aim, and be provided from this 
autumn onward with an independent mainte- 
nance. I was often very anxious this past 
winter, in my uncertainty about the means 
of finally making good such large outlays. 
If, however, Cotta makes no other condition 
than that of a certain number of subscrib- 
ers, I shall be sure of them in six months. 
You may thus regard what I have done as a 
speculation happily concluded, and one which 
places me at the summit of my desires, for it 
leaves me free, at last, to work upon my pro- 
lecLS. ... 

A letter to his brother, of the 29th of May, 
just after his return to Munich, gives a retro- 
spect of the Viennese visit, including the per- 
sonal details which he had hesitated to write 
to his father. They are important as showing 


the position he already, at twenty-three years 
of age, held among scientific men. " Every- 
thing," he says, " was open to me as a for- 
eigner, and to my great surprise I was received 
as an associate already known. Was it not 
gratifying to go to Vienna with no recom- 
mendation whatever, and to be welcomed and 
sought by all the scientific men, and afterwards 
presented and introduced everywhere ? In the 
Museum, not only were the rooms opened for 
me when I pleased, but also the cases, and even 
the jars, so that I could take out whatever I 
needed for examination. At the hospital sev- 
eral professors carried their kindness so far, as 
to invite me to accompany them in their pri- 
vate visits. You may fancy whether I profited 
by all this, and how many things I saw." Af- 
ter some account of his business arrangements 
with Cotta, he adds : " Meantime, be at ease 
about me. I have strings enough to my bow, 
and need not feel anxious about the future. 
What troubles me is that the thing I most de- 
sire seems to me, at least for the present, far- 
thest from my reach, namely, the direction 
of a great Museum. When I have finished 
with Cotta I shall begin to pack my effects, 
and shall hope to turn my face homeward 
somewhere about the end of August. I can 



hardly leave earlier, because, for the sake of 
practice, I have begun to deliver zoological 
lectures, open to all who like to attend, and 
I want to complete the course before my de- 
parture. I lecture without even an outline or 
headings before me, but this requires prepara- 
tion. You see I do not lose my time." 

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


ORBE, July, 1830. 

. . . Since your father wrote you on the 
4th of June, dear Louis, we have had no news 
from you, and therefore infer that you are 
working with especial zeal to wind up your 
affairs in Germany and come home as soon as 
possible. Whatever haste you make, however,, 
you will not find us here. Four days ago 
your father became pastor of Concise, and yes- 
terday we went to visit our new home. Noth- 
ing can be prettier, and by all who know the 
place it is considered the most desirable posi- 
tion in the canton. There is a vineyard, a 
fine orchard filled with fruit-trees in full bear- 


ing, and an excellent kitchen garden. A 
never-failing" spring gushes from a grotto, and 
within fifty steps of the house is a pretty 
winding stream with a walk along the bank, 
bordered by shrubbery, and furnished here 
and there with benches, the whole disposed 
with much care and taste. The house also is 
very well arranged. All the rooms look out 
upon the lake, lying hardly a gunshot from 
the windows. There are a parlor and a din- 
ing-room on the first floor, beside two smaller 
rooms ; and on the same floor two doors lead 
out into the flower garden. The kitchen is 
small, and on one side is a pretty ground where 
we can dine in the open air in summer. The 
distribution of rooms in the upper story is the 
same, with a large additional room for the ac- 

' O 

commodation of your father's catechumens. 
A jasmine vine drapes the front of the house 
and climbs to the very roof. . . . 

To this quiet pretty parsonage Madame 
Agassiz became much attached. Her tranquil 
life is well described in a letter written many 
years afterward by one of her daughters. 
66 Here mama returned to her spinning-wheel 
with new ardor. It was a work she much 
liked, and in which she was very skillful. In 


former times at grandpapa's every woman in 
the house, whether mistress or maid, had her 
wheel, and the young ladies were accustomed 
to spin and make up their own trousseaus. 
Later, mama continued her spinning for her 
children, and even for her grandchildren. We 
all preserve as a precious souvenir, table linen 
of her making. We delighted to see her 
at her wheel, she was so graceful, and the 
thread of her thought seemed to follow, so to 
speak, the fine and delicate thread of her work 
as it unwound itself under her touch from the 

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


MUNICH, November 9, 1830. 

. . . According to your wish [this refers 
to a suggestion about a fellow-student in a 
previous letter] I shall not bring any friend 
with me. I long to enjoy the pleasure of 
family life. I shall, however, be accompa- 
nied by one person, for whom I should like 
to make suitable arrangements. He is the 


artist who makes all my drawings. If there 
is no room for him in the house he can be 
lodged elsewhere ; but I wish you could give 
me the use of a well -lighted room, where I 
could work and he could draw at my side 
through the day. Do not be frightened ; he 
is not at my charge ; but it would be a great 
advantage to me if I could have him in the 
house. As I do not want to lose time in the 
mechanical part of my work, I would beg 
papa to engage for me some handy boy, fif- 
teen years old or so, whom I could employ 
in cleaning skeletons and the like. Finally, 
you will receive several boxes for me ; leave 
them unopened till I come, without even pay- 
ing the freight upon them, the most unsat- 
isfactory of all expenses ; and I do not wish 
you to have an unpleasant association with my 

My affairs are all in order with Cotta, and 
I have even concluded the arrangement more 


advantageously than I had dared to hope, 
a thousand louis, six hundred payable on the 
publication of the first number, and four hun- 
dred in installments, as the publication goes 
on. If I had not been in haste to close the 
matter in order to secure myself against all 
doubt, I might have done even better. But I 


hope I have reconciled you thereby to Nat- 
ural History. What remains to be done will 
be the work of less than half a year, during 
which I wish also to get together the materials 
for my second work, on the fossils. Of that 
I have already spoken with my publisher, and 
he will take it on more favorable conditions 
than I could have dictated. Do your best to 
find me subscribers, that we may soon make 
our typographical arrangements. . . . 

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


CONCISE, November 16, 1830. 

. . . You speak of Christmas as the mo- 
ment of your arrival ; let us call it the New 
Year. You will naturally pass some days at 
Neuchatel to be with your brother, to see the 
Messrs. Coulon, etc. ; from there to Cudrefin 
for a look at your collection ; then to Con- 
cise, then to Montagny, Orbe, Lausanne, 
Geneva, etc. : M. le Docteur will be claimed 
and feted by all in turn. And during all 


these indispensable excursions, for which, to 
he within bounds, I allow a month at least, 
it is as clear as daylight that regular work 
must be set aside, if, indeed, the time be not 
wholly lost. Now, for Heaven's sake, what 
will you do, or rather what shall we do, with 
your painter, in this interval employed by you 
elsewhere. Neither is this all. Though the 
date of Cecile's marriage is not fixed, it is 
more than likely to take place in January, 
so that you will be here for the wedding. If 
you will recollect the overturning of the pa- 
ternal mansion when your outfit was prepar- 
ing for Bienne, Zurich, and other places, you 
can form an idea of the state of our rooms 
above and below, large and small, when the 
work of the trousseau begins. Where, in 
Heaven's name, will you stow away a painter 
and an assistant in the midst of half a brigade 
of dress-makers, seamstresses, lace-makers, and 
milliners, without counting the accompanying 
train of friends ? Where would you, or where 
could you, put under shelter your possessions 
(I dare not undertake to enumerate them), 
among all the taffetas and brocades, linens, 
muslin, tulles, laces, etc. ? But what am I say- 
ing ? I doubt if these names are still in ex- 
istence, for quite other appellations are sound- 


ing in my ears, each one of which, to the 
number of some hundred, signifies at least 
twenty yards in width, to say nothing of the 
length. For my part, I have already, notwith- 
standing the approach of winter, put up a 
big nail in the garret, on which to hang my 
bands and surplice. Listen, then, to the con- 
clusion of your father. Give all possible care 
to your affairs in Munich, put them in per- 
fect order, leave nothing to be done, and leave 
nothing behind except the painter. You can 
call him in from here, whenever you think 
you can make use of him. 


MUNICH, November 26, 1830. 

. . . When you receive this I shall be no 
longer in Munich ; by means of a last draft 
on M. Eichthal I have settled with every one,, 
and I hope to leave the day after to-morrow. 
I fully recognize the justice of your observa- 
tions, my dear father, but as you start from a 
mistaken point of view, they do not coincide 
altogether with existing circumstances. I in- 
tend to stay with you until the approach of 
summer, not only with the aim of working 
upon the text of my book, but chiefly in order 
to take advantage of all the fossil collections 


in Switzerland. For that purpose I positively 
need a draughtsman, who, thanks to my pub- 
lisher, is not in my pay, and who must accom- 
pany me in future wherever I go. Since 
there is no room at home, please see how he 
can be lodged in the neighborhood. I have, 
at the utmost, to glance each day at what 
he has done. I can even give him work for 
several weeks in which my presence would be 
unnecessary. If there is a considerable col- 
lection of fossils at Zurich, I shall leave him 
there till he has finished his work, and then 
he will rejoin me ; all that depends upon cir- 
cumstances. In any case he must not be a 
charge to you, still less interfere with our 
family privacy. That I may spend all my 
time with you, I shall at present bring with 
me nothing that is not absolutely necessary. 
We shall see later where I shall place my 
museum. As to visits, they are not to be 
thought of until the spring. I could not bear 
the idea of interruption before the first num- 
ber of my " Fishes ' ' is finished. 

The artist in question was Mr. Dinkel. His 
relations with the family became of a truly 
friendly character. The connection between 
him and Agassiz, most honorable to both par- 


ties, lasted for sixteen years, and was then only 
interrupted by the departure of Agassiz for 
America. During this whole period Mr. Din- 
kel was occupied as his draughtsman, living 
sometimes in Paris, sometimes in England, 
sometimes in Switzerland, w r herever, in short, 
there were specimens to be drawn. In a pri- 
vate letter, written long afterward, he says, 
in speaking of the break in their intercourse 
caused by Agassiz's removal to America : 
" For a long time I felt unhappy at that 
separation. . . . He was a kind, noble-hearted 
friend ; he was very benevolent, and if he had 
possessed millions of money he w r ould have 
spent them for his researches in science, and 
have done good to his fellow-creatures as 
much as possible." 

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



MUNICH, November 7, 1830. 

Were I to leave Munich now, I must sepa- 
rate myself from Agassiz and Schimper, which 
would be neither agreeable nor advantageous 

o o 

for me, nor would it be friendly toward them. 
We will not shorten the time, already too 
scantly measured, which we may still spend 
so quietly, so wholly by ourselves, but rather, 
as long- as it lasts, make the best use of it in 

O ' 

a mutual exchange of what we have learned, 

O f 

trying to encourage each other in the right 
path, and drawing more closely together for 
our whole life to come. Agassiz is to stay till 
the end of the month ; during this time he 
will give us lectures in anatomy, and I shall 
learn a good deal of zoology. Beside all this 
one thing is certain ; namely, that we can re- 
view our medical work much more quietly and 
uninterruptedly here than in Carlsruhe. Add 
to this, the advantage we enjoy here of visit- 
ing the hospitals. . . . The time passes delight- 
fully with us of late, for Agassiz has received 
several baskets of books from Gotta, among 
others, Schiller's and Goethe's complete works, 
the Conversations-Lexicon, medical works, and 
works on natural history. How many books 


a man may receive in return for writing only 
one ! They are, of course, deducted from his 
share of the profits. Yesterday we did noth- 
ing but read Goethe the whole day. 

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

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

" At first, when a mere boy, twelve years of 
age, I did what most beginners do. I picked 
up whatever I could lay my hands on, and 
tried, by such books and authorities as I had 
at my command, to find the names of these 


objects. My highest ambition, at that time, 
was to be able to designate the plants and 
animals of my native country correctly by a 
Latin name, and to extend gradually a similar 
knowledge in its application to the productions 
of other countries. This seemed to me, in 
those days, the legitimate aim and proper work 
of a naturalist. I still possess manuscript 
volumes in which I entered the names of all 
the animals and plants with which I became 
acquainted, and I well remember that I then 
ardently hoped to acquire the same superficial 
familiarity with the whole creation. I did not 
then know how much more important it is 
to the naturalist to understand the structure 
of a few animals, than to command the whole 
field of scientific nomenclature. Since I have 
become a teacher, and have watched the prog- 
ress of students, I have seen that they all 
begin in the same way ; but how many have 
grown old in the pursuit, without ever rising 
to any higher conception of the study of na- 
ture, spending their life in the determination 
of species, and in extending scientific termi- 
nology ! Long before I went to the univer- 
sity, and before I began to study natural 
history under the guidance of men who were 
masters in the science during the early part of 

VOL. I. 10 


this century, I perceived that while nomen- 
clature and classification, as then understood, 
formed an important part of the study, being, 
in fact, its technical language, the study of 
living beings in their natural element was of 
infinitely greater value. At that age, namely, 
about fifteen, I spent most of the time I could 
spare from classical and mathematical studies 
in hunting the neighboring woods and mead- 
ows for birds, insects, and land and fresh- 
water shells. My room became a little mena- 
gerie, while the stone basin under the fountain 
in our yard was my reservoir for all the fishes 
I could catch. Indeed, collecting, fishing, 
and raising caterpillars, from which I reared 
fresh, beautiful butterflies, were then my chief 
pastimes. What I know of the habits of the 
fresh-water fishes of Central Europe I mostly 
learned at that time ; and I may add, that 
when afterward I obtained access to a large 
library and could consult the works of Bloch 
and Lacepede, the only extensive works on 
fishes then in existence, I wondered that they 
contained so little about their habits, natural 
attitudes, and mode of action with which I 
was so familiar. 

" The first course of lectures on zoology I 
attended was given in Lausanne in 1823. It 


consisted chiefly of extracts from Cuvier's 
'Kegne Animal/ and from Lamarck's 'Ani- 
maux sans Vertebres/ I now became aware, 
for the first time, that the learned differ in 
their classifications. With this discovery, an 
immense field of study opened before me, and 
I longed for some knowledge of anatomy, that 
I might see for myself where the truth was. 
During two years spent in the Medical School 
of Zurich, I applied myself exclusively to the 
study of anatomy, physiology, and zoology, 
under the guidance of Professors Schinz and 
Hirzel. My inability to buy books was, per- 
haps, not so great a misfortune as it seemed to 
me ; at least, it saved me from too great de- 
pendence 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 pur- 
chasing 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 usu- 
ally contented myself with turning over the 

leaves of the volumes on natural historv, look- 

i/ ' 

ing at the illustrations, and recording the ti- 
tles of the works, that I might readily con- 
sult them for identification of such objects as 
I should have an opportunity of examining in 


" After spending in this way two years in 
Zurich, I was attracted to Heidelberg by the 
great reputation of its celebrated teachers, 
Tiedemann, Leuckart, Bronn, and others. It 
is true that I was still obliged to give up a 
part of my time to the study of medicine, but 
while advancing in my professional course by a 
steady application to anatomy and physiology, 
I attended the lectures of Leuckart in zoology, 
and those of Bronn in paleontology. The pub- 
lication of Goldf uss's great work on the .fossils 


of Germany was just then beginning, and it 
opened a new world to me. Familiar as I was 
with Cuvier's ' Regne Animal/ I had not then 
seen his ' Researches on Fossil Remains/ 
and the study of fossils seemed to me only an 
extension of the field of zoology. I had no 
idea of its direct connection with geology, or 
of its bearing on the problem of the successive 
introduction of animals on the earth. I had 
never thought of the larger and more philo- 
sophical view of nature as one great world, 
but considered the study of animals only as it 
was taught by descriptive zoology in those 
days. At about this time, however, I made 
the acquaintance of two young botanists, 
Bra tin and S chimp er, both of whom have 
since become distinguished in the annals of 
science. Botany had in those days received a 
new impulse from the great conceptions of 
Goethe. The metamorphosis of plants was 
the chief study of my friends, and I could not 
but feel that descriptive zoology had not 
spoken the last word in our science, and that 
grand generalizations, such as were opening 
upon botanists, must be preparing for zoolo- 
gists also. Intimate contact with German 
students made me feel that I had neglected 
my philosophical education ; and when, in the 


year 1827, the new University of Munich 
opened, with Schelling as professor of philos- 
ophy, Oken, Schubert, and Wagler as pro- 
fessors of zoology, Dollinger as professor of 
anatomy and physiology, Martins and Zucca- 
rini as professors of botany, Fuchs and Kobell 
as professors of mineralogy, I determined to 
go there with my two friends and drink new 
draughts of knowledge. During the years I 
passed at Munich I devoted myself almost ex- 
clusively to the different branches of natural 
science, neglecting more and more my medical 
studies, because I began to feel an increasing 
confidence that I could fight my way in the 
world as a naturalist, and that I was therefore 
justified in following my strong bent in that 
direction. My experience in Munich was very 
varied. With Dollinger I learned to value 
accuracy of observation. As I was living in 
his house, he gave me personal instruction in 
the use of the microscope, and showed me his 
own methods of embryological investigation. 
He had already been the teacher of Karl 
Ernst von Baer ; and though the pupil outran 
the master, and has become the pride of the 
scientific world, it is but just to remember that 
he owed to him his first initiation into the 
processes of embryological research. Dollin- 


ger was a careful, minute, persevering observer, 
as well as a deep thinker ; but he was as indo- 
lent with his pen as he was industrious with 
his brain. He gave his intellectual capital to 
his pupils without stint or reserve, and noth- 
ing delighted him more than to sit down for 
a quiet talk on scientific matters with a few 
students, or to take a ramble with them into 
the fields outside the city, and explain to them 
as he walked the result of any recent in- 
vestigation he had made. If he found him- 


self understood by his listeners he was satis- 
fied, and cared for no farther publication of 
his researches. I could enumerate many works 
of masters in our science, which had no other 
foundation at the outset than these inspiriting 
conversations. No one has borne warmer tes- 
timony to the influence Dollinger has had in 
this indirect way on the progress of our sci- 
ence than the investigator I have already 
mentioned as his greatest pupil, von Baer. 
In the introduction to his work on embryol- 
ogy he gratefully acknowledges his debt to 
his old teacher. 

" Among the most fascinating of our pro- 
fessors was Oken. A master in the art of 
teaching, he exercised an almost irresistible 
influence over his students. Constructing the 


universe out of his own brain, deducing from 
a priori conceptions all the relations of the 
three kingdoms into which he divided all liv- 
ing beings, classifying the animals as if by 
magic, in accordance with an analogy based 
on the dismembered body of man, it seemed to 
us who listened that the slow laborious pro- 
cess of accumulating precise detailed knowl- 
edge could only be the work of drones, while 
a generous, commanding spirit might build 
the world out of its own powerful imagina- 
tion. The temptation to impose one's own 
ideas upon nature, to explain her mysteries 
by brilliant theories rather than by patient 
study of the facts as we find them, still leads 
us away. With the school of the physio-phi- 
losophers began (at least in our day and gen- 
eration) that overbearing confidence in the 
abstract conceptions of the human mind as 
applied to the study of nature, which still im- 
pairs the fairness of our classifications and 
prevents them from interpreting truly the 
natural relations binding together all living 1 

o o o 

beings. And yet, the young naturalist of 
that day who did not share, in some degree, 
the intellectual stimulus given to scientific pur- 
suits by physio-philosophy would have missed 
a part of his training. There is a great dis- 


tance between the man who, like Oken, at- 
tempts to construct the whole system of na- 
ture from general premises and the one who, 
while subordinating his conceptions to the 
facts, is yet capable of generalizing the facts, 
of recognizing their most comprehensive rela- 
tions. No thoughtful naturalist can silence 
the suggestions, continually arising in the 
course of his investigations, respecting the 
origin and deeper connection of all living be- 
ings ; but he is the truest student of nature 
who, while seeking the solution of these great 
problems, admits that the only true scientific 
system must be one in which the thought, the 
intellectual structure, rises out of and is based 
upon facts. The great merit of the physio- 
philosophers consisted in their suggestiveness. 
They did much in freeing our age from the 
low estimation of natural history as a science 
which prevailed in the last century. They 
stimulated a spirit of independence among 
observers ; but they also instilled a spirit of 
daring, which, from its extravagance, has been 
fatal to the whole school. He is lost, as an 
observer, who believes that he can, with im- 
punity, affirm that for which he can adduce 
no evidence. It was a curious intellectual 
experience to listen day after day to the lee- 


tures of Oken, while following at the same 
time Schelling's courses, where he was shift- 
ing the whole ground of his philosophy from 
its negative foundation as an a priori doc- 
trine to a positive basis, as an historical 
science. He unfolded his views in a succes- 
sion of exquisite lectures, delivered during 
four consecutive years. 

" Among my fellow-students were many 
young men who now rank among the highest 
lights in the various departments of science, 
and others, of equal promise, whose early death 
cut short their work in this world. Some of 
us had already learned at this time to work 
for ourselves ; not merely to attend lectures 
and study from books. The best spirit of 
emulation existed among us ; we met often 
to discuss our observations, undertook fre- 
quent excursions in the neighborhood, deliv- 
ered lectures to our fellow-students, and had, 
not infrequently, the gratification of seeing 
our university professors among the listeners. 
These exercises were of the highest value to 


me as a preparation for speaking, in later 
years, before larger audiences. My study 
was usually the lecture-room. It would hold 
conveniently from fifteen to twenty persons, 
and both students and professors used to call 


our quarters " The Little Academy." In that 
room I made all the skeletons represented on 
the plates of Wagler's " Natural System of 
Reptiles ; ' there I once received the great 
anatomist, Meckel, sent to me by Dollinger, 
to examine my anatomical preparations and 
especially the many fish-skeletons I had made 
from fresh-water fishes. By my side were 
constantly at work two artists ; one engaged 
in drawing various objects of natural history, 
the other in drawing fossil fishes. I kept al- 
ways one and sometimes two artists in my 
pay ; it was not easy, with an allowance of 
$250 a year, but they were even poorer than 
I, and so we managed to get along together. 
My microscope I had earned by writing. 

" I had hardly finished the publication of 
the Brazilian Fishes, when I began to study 
the works of the older naturalists. Professor 
Dollinger had presented me with a copy of 
Eondelet, which was my delight for a long 
time. I was especially struck by the naivete of 
his narrative and the minuteness of his descrip- 
tions as well as by the fidelity of his wood- 
cuts, some of which are to this day the best 
figures we have of the species they represent. 
His learning overwhelmed me ; I would gladly 
have read, as he did, everything that had been 
written before my time ; but there were au- 


thors who wearied me, and I confess that at 
that age Linnaeus was among the number. I 

O C) 

found him dry, pedantic, dogmatic, conceited ; 
while I was charmed with Aristotle, whose 
zoology I have read and re-read ever since at 
intervals of two or three years. I must, how- 
ever, do myself the justice to add, that after 
I knew more of the history of our science I 
learned also duly to reverence LinnaBus. But 
a student, already familiar with the works of 
Cuvier, and but indifferently acquainted with 
the earlier progress of zoology, could hardly 
appreciate the merit of the great reformer of 
natural history. His defects were easily per- 
ceived, and it required more familiarity than 
mine then was with the gradual growth of 
the science, from Aristotle onward, to under- 
stand how great and beneficial an influence 
Linnseus had exerted upon modern natural 

" I cannot review my Munich life without 
deep gratitude. The city teemed with re- 
sources for the student in arts, letters, philos- 
ophy, and science. It was distinguished at 
that time for activity in public as well as in 
academic life. The king seemed liberal ; he 
was the friend of poets and artists, and aimed 
at concentrating all the glories of Germany 
in his new university. I thus enjoyed for a 


few years the example of the most brilliant 
intellects, and that stimulus which is given by 
competition between men equally eminent in 
different spheres of human knowledge. Un- 
der such circumstances a man either subsides 
into the position of a follower in the ranks 
that gather around a master, or he aspires to 
be a master himself. 

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


1830-1832 : ,ET. 23-25. 

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

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

Thus quietly engaged in his ichthyological 
studies, carrying on his work on the fossil 


fishes, together with that on the fresh-water 

' O 

fishes of Central Europe, he passed nearly a 
year at home. He was not without patients 
also in the village and its environs, but had, 
as yet, no prospect of permanent professional 
employment. In the mean time it seemed 
daily more and more necessary that he should 
carry his work to Paris, to the great centre of 
scientific life, where he could have the widest 
field for comparison and research. There, also, 
he could continue and complete to the best 
advantage his medical studies. His poverty 
was the greatest hindrance to any such move. 
He was not, however, without some slight in- 
dependent means, especially since his publish- 
ing arrangements provided in part for the 
carrying on of his work. His generous uncle 
added something to this, and an old friend 
of his father's, M. Christinat, a Swiss clergy- 
man with whom he had been from boyhood 
a great favorite, urged upon him his own con- 
tribution toward a work in which he felt the 
liveliest interest. Still the prospect with 
which he left for Paris in September, 1831, 
was dark enough, financially speaking, though 
full of hope in another sense. On the road 
he made several halts for purposes of study, 
combining, as usual, professional with scien- 


tific objects, hospitals with museums. He was, 
perhaps, a little inclined to believe that the 
most favorable conditions for his medical stud- 
ies were to be found in conjunction with the 
best collections. He had, however, a special 
medical purpose, being earnest to learn every- 
thing regarding the treatment and the limita- 
tion of cholera, then for the first time making 

' O 

its appearance in Western Europe with fright- 
ful virulence. Believing himself likely to con- 
tinue the practice of medicine for some years 
at least, he thought his observations upon this 
scourge would be of great importance to him. 
His letters of this date to his father are full 
of the subject, and of his own efforts to ascer- 
tain the best means of prevention and defense. 
The following answer to an appeal from his 
mother shows, however, that his delays caused 
anxiety at home, lest the small means he could 
devote to his studies in Paris should be con- 
sumed on the road. 


CARLSRUHE, November, 1831. 

... I returned day before yesterday from 
my trip in Wlirtemberg, and though I al- 
ready knew what precautions had been taken 
everywhere in anticipation of cholera, I do 


not think my journey was a useless one, and 
am convinced that my observations will not 
be without interest, chiefly for myself, of 
course, but of utility to others also I hope. 
Your letter being so urgent, I will not, how- 
ever, delay my departure an instant. Between 
to-day and to-niorrow I shall put in order the 
specimens lent me by the Museum, and then 
start at once. ... In proportion to my previ- 
ous anxiety is my pleasure in the prospect of 
going to Paris, now that I am better fitted to 
present myself there as I could wish. I have 
collected for my fossil fishes all the materials 
I still desired to obtain from the museums of 
Carlsruhe, Heidelberg, and Strasbourg, and 
have extended my knowledge of geology suf- 
ficiently to join, without embarrassment at 
least, in conversation upon the more recent 
researches in that department. Moreover, 
Braun has been kind enough to give me a 
superb collection, selected by himself, to serve 
as basis and guide in my researches. I leave 
it at Carlsruhe, since I no longer need it. ... 
I have also been able to avail myself of the 
Museum of Carlsruhe, and of the mineralog- 
ical collection of Braun's father. Beside the 
drawings made by Dinkel, I have added to 
my work one hundred and seventy-one pages 

VOL. I. 11 


of manuscript in French (I have just counted 
them), written between my excursions and in 
the midst of other occupations. ... I could 
not have foreseen so rich a harvest. 

Thus prepared, he arrived in Paris with his 
artist on the 16th of December, 1831. On 
the 18th he writes to his father. ..." Dinkel 
and I had a very pleasant journey, though the 
day after our arrival I was so fatigued that I 
coul d hardly move hand or foot, that was 
yesterday. Nevertheless, I passed the even- 
ing very agreeably at the house of M. Cuvier, 
who sent to invite me, having heard of my 
arrival. To my surprise, I found myself not 
quite a stranger, rather, as it were, among 
old acquaintances. I have already given you 
my address, Rue Copeau (Hotel du Jardin du 
Roi, No. 4). As it happens, M. Perrotet, a 
traveling naturalist, lives here also, and has at 
once put me on the right track about what- 
ever I most need to know. There are in the 
house other well-known persons besides. I am 
accommodated very cheaply, and am at the 
same time within easy reach of many things, 
the neighborhood of which I can turn to good 
account. The medical school, for instance, 
is within ten minutes' walk ; the Jardin des 


Plantes not two hundred steps away ; while 
the Hospital (de la Pitie), where Messieurs 
Andral and Lesfranc teach, is opposite, and 
nearer still. To-day or to-morrow I shall de- 
liver my letters, and then set to work in good 

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


PARIS, January 15, 1832. 

. . . My expectations in coming here have 
been more than fulfilled. In scientific mat- 
ters I have found all that I knew must exist 
in Paris (indeed, my anticipations were rather 
below than above the mark), and beside that 
I have been met everywhere with courtesy, 
and have received attentions of all sorts. M. 
Cuvier and 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. And 
yet it is not the same thing ; this extreme, 
but formal politeness chills you instead of 
putting you at your ease ; it lacks cordiality. 


and, to tell the truth, I would gladly go 
away were I not held fast by the wealth of 
material of which I can avail myself for in- 
struction. In the morning I follow the clin- 
ical courses at the Pitie. . . . At ten o'clock, 
or perhaps at eleven, I breakfast, and then go 
to the Museum of Natural History, where I 
stay till dark. Between five and six I dine, 
and after that turn to such medical studies as 
do not require daylight. So pass my days, 
one like another, with great regularity. I 
have made it a rule not to go out after din- 
ner, I should lose too much time. . . . On 
Saturday only I spend the evening at M. Cu- 


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


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


PARIS, February 16, 1832. 

... I have also a piece of good news to 
communicate, which will, I hope, lead to very 
favorable results for me. I think I told you 
when I left for Paris that my chief anxiety 
was lest I might not be allowed to examine, 
and still less to describe, the fossil fishes and 
their skeletons in the Museum. Knowing that 
Cuvier intended to write a work on this sub- 
ject, I supposed that he would reserve these 
specimens for himself. I half thought he 
might, on seeing my work so far advanced, 
propose to me to finish it jointly with him, 
but even this I hardly dared to hope. It 
was on this account, with the view of increas- 
ing my materials and having thereby a bet- 
ter chance of success with M. Cuvier, that I 


desired so earnestly to stop at Strasbourg and 
Carlsruhe, where I knew specimens were to 
be seen which would have a direct bearing on 
my aim. The result has far surpassed my 
expectation. I hastened to show nay material 
to M. Cuvier the very day after my arrival. 
He received me with great politeness, though 
with a certain reserve, and immediately gave 
me permission to see everything in the galler- 
ies of the Museum. But as I knew that he 
had put together in private collections all that 
could be of use to himself in writing his book, 
and as he had never said a word to me of his 
plan of publication, I remained in a painful 
state of doubt, since the completion of his 
work would have destroyed all chance for the 
sale of mine. Last Saturday I was passing 
the evening there, and we were talking of 
science, when he desired his secretary to bring 
him a certain portfolio of drawings. He 
showed me the contents ; they were drawings 
of fossil fishes and notes which he had taken 
in the British Museum and elsewhere. After 
looking it through with me, he said he had 
seen with satisfaction the manner in which 
I had treated this subject ; that I had in- 
deed anticipated him, since he had intended 
at some future time to do the same thing; 


but that as I had given it so much attention, 
and had done my work so well, he had decided 
to renounce his project, and to place at my 
disposition all the materials he had collected 
and all the preliminary notes he had taken. 

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

This trust from Cuvier proved to be a leg- 
acy. Less than three months after the date 
of this letter Agassiz went, as often hap- 
pened, to work one morning with him in his 
study. It was Sunday, and he was employed 
upon something which Cuvier had asked him 
to do, saying, " You are young ; you have time 
enough for it, and I have none to spare." They 
worked together till eleven o'clock, when Cu- 
vier invited Agassiz to join him at breakfast. 


After a little time spent over the breakfast 
table in talk with the ladies of the family, 
while Cuvier opened his letters, papers, etc., 
they returned to the working room, and were 
busily engaged in their separate occupations 
when Agassiz was surprised to hear the clock 
strike five, the hour for his dinner. He ex- 
pressed his regret that he had not quite fin- 
ished his work, but said that as he belonged to 
a student's table his dinner would not wait for 
him, and he would return soon to complete 
his task. Cuvier answered that he was quite 
right not to neglect his regular hours for 
meals, and commended his devotion to study, 
but added, " Be careful, and remember that 
work kills." They were the last words he 
heard from his beloved teacher. The next 
day, as Cuvier was going up to the tribune in 
the Chamber of Deputies, he fell, was taken 
up paralyzed, and carried home. Agassiz 
never saw him again. 1 

In order to keep intact these few data re- 
specting his personal relations with Cuvier, as 
told in later years by Agassiz himself, the 

1 This warning of Cuvier, " Work kills," strangely recalls 
Johannes Miiller's " Blood clings to work ; " the one seems 
the echo of the other. See Memoir of Johannes Muller, by 
Rudolf Virchow, p. 38. 


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

Meanwhile one daily anxiety embittered his 
scientific happiness. The small means at his 
command could hardly be made, even with the 
strictest economy, to cover the necessary ex- 
penses of himself and his artist, in which were 
included books, drawing materials, fees, etc. 
He was in constant terror lest he should be 
obliged to leave Paris, to give up his investiga- 
tions on the fossil fishes, and to stop work on 
the costly plates he had begun. The truth 
about his affairs, which he would gladly have 
concealed from those at home as long as 
possible, was drawn from him by an acciden- 
tal occurrence. His brother had written to 
him for a certain book, and, failing to receive 


it, inquired with some surprise why his com- 
mission was neglected. Agassiz's next letter, 
about a month later than the one to his uncle, 
gives the explanation. 


PARIS, March, 1832. 

. . . Here is the book for which you asked 
me, price, 18 francs. I shall be very sorry 
if it comes too late, but I could not help it. 
... In the first place I had not money enough 
to pay for it without being left actually penni- 
less. You can imagine that after the fuel 
bill for the winter is paid, little remains for 
other expenses out of my 200 francs a month, 
five louis of which are always due to my com- 
panion. Far from having anything in ad- 
vance, my month's supply is thus taken up at 
once. . . . Beside this cause of delay, you 
can have no idea what it is to hunt for any- 
thing in Paris when you are a stranger there. 
As I go out only in two or three directions 
leading to my work, and might not otherwise 
leave my own street for a month at a time, I 
naturally find myself astray when I am off this 
beaten track. . . . You have asked me sev- 
eral times how I have been received by those 
to whom I had introductions. Frankly, after 


having delivered a few of my letters, I have 
never been again, because I cannot, in my 
position, spare time for visits. . . . Another 
excellent reason for staying away now is that 
I have no presentable coat. At M. Cuvier's 
only am I sufficiently at ease to go in a frock 
coat. . . . Saturday, a week ago, M. de Fe- 
russac offered me the editorship of the zoo- 
logical section of the " Bulletin ; ' it would 
be worth to me an additional thousand francs, 
but would require two or three hours' work 
daily. Write me soon what you think about 
it. In the midst of all the encouragements 
which sustain me and renew my ardor, I am 
depressed by the reverse side of my position. 

This letter drew forth the following one. 


CONCISE, March, 1832. 

. . . Much as your letter to your uncle de- 
lighted us, that to your brother has saddened 
us. It seems, my dear child, that you are 
painfully straitened in means. I understand 
it by personal experience, and in your case I 
have foreseen it ; it is the cloud which has 
always darkened your prospects to me. I 
want to talk to you, my dear Louis, of your 


future, which has often made me anxious. 
You know your mother's heart too well to 
misunderstand her thought, even should its ex- 
pression be unacceptable to you. With much 
knowledge, acquired by assiduous industry, 
you are still at twenty-five years of age living 
on brilliant hopes, in relation, it is true, with 
great people, and known as having distin- 
guished talent. Now, all this would seem to me 
delightful if you had an income of fifty thou- 
sand francs ; but, in your position, you must 
absolutely have an occupation which will enable 
you to live, and free you from the insupport- 
able weight of dependence on others. From 
this day forward, my dear child, you must 
look to this end alone if you would find it pos- 
sible to pursue honorably the career you have 
chosen. Otherwise constant embarrassments 
will so limit your genius, that you will fall 
below your own capacity. If you follow our 
advice you will perhaps reach the result of 
your work in the natural sciences a little later, 
but all the more surely. Let us see how you 
can combine the work to which you have al- 
ready consecrated so much time, with the pos- 
sibility of self-support. It appears from your 
letter to your brother that you see no one in 
Paris ; the reason seems to me a sad one, but it 


is unanswerable, and since you cannot change 
it, you must change your place of abode and 
return to your own country. You have al- 
ready seen in Paris all those persons whom 
you thought it essential to see ; unless you 
are strangely mistaken in their good-will, you 
will be no less sure of it in Switzerland than 
in Paris, and since you cannot take part in 
their society, your relations with them will be 
the same at the distance of a hundred leagues 
as they are now. You must therefore leave 
Paris for Geneva, Lausanne, or Neuchatel, or 
any city where you can support yourself by 
teaching. This seems to me the most ad- 


vantageous course for you. If before fixing 
yourself permanently you like to take your 
place at the parsonage again, you will always 
find us ready to facilitate, as far as we can, 
any arrangements for your convenience. Here 
you can live in perfect tranquillity and with- 
out expense. 

There are two other subjects which I want 
to discuss with you, though perhaps I shall 
not make myself so easily understood. You 
have seen the handsome public building in 
process of construction at Neuchatel. It will 
be finished this year, and I am told that the 
Museum will be placed there. I believe the 


collections are very incomplete, and the city of 
Neuchatel is rich enough to expend something 
in filling the blanks. It has occurred to me, 
my dear, that this would be an excellent op- 
portunity for disposing of your alcoholic speci- 
mens. They form, at present, a capital yield- 
ing no interest, requiring care, and to be en- 
joyed only at the cost of endless outlay in glass 
jars, alcohol, and transportation, to say nothing 
of the rent of a room in which to keep them. 
All this, beside attracting many visitors, is too 
heavy a burden for you, from which you may 
free yourself by taking advantage of this rare 
chance. To this end you must have an im- 
mediate understanding with M. Coulon, lest 
he should make a choice elsewhere. Your 
brother, being on the spot, might negotiate 
for you. . . . Finally, my last topic is Mr. 
Dinkel. You are very fortunate to have 
found in your artist such a thoroughly nice 
fellow ; nevertheless, in view of the expense, 
you must make it possible to do without him. 
I see you look at me aghast ; but where a sac- 
rifice is to be made we must not do it by 
halves ; we must pull up the tree by the roots. 
It is a great evil to be spending more than one 



PARIS, March 25, 1832. 

... It is true, dear mother, that I am 
greatly straitened ; that I have much less 
money to spend than I could wish, or even 
than I need; on the other hand, this makes 
me work the harder, and keeps me away from 
distractions which might otherwise tempt me. 
. . . With reference to my work, however, 
things are not quite as you suppose, as re- 
gards either my stay here or my relations with 
M. Cuvier. Certainly, I hope that I should 
lose neither his good- will nor his protection on 
leaving here ; on the contrary, I am sure that 
he would be the first to advise me to accept 
any professorship, or any place which might be 
advantageous for me, however removed from 
my present occupations, and that his counsels 
would follow me there. But what cannot fol- 
low me, and what I owe quite as much to 
him, is the privilege of examining all the col- 
lections. These I can have nowhere but in 
Paris, since even if he would consent to it I 
could not carry away with me a hundred 
quintals of fossil fish, which, for the sake of 
comparison, I must have before my eyes, nor 
thousands of fish-skeletons, which would alone 


fill some fifty great cases. It is this which 
compels me to stay here till I have finished 
my work. I should add that M. filie de Beau- 
mont has also been kind enough to place at 
my disposition the fossil fishes from the col- 
lection at the Mining School, and that M. 
Brongniart has made me the same offer re- 
garding his collection, which is one of the 
finest among those owned by individuals in 
Paris. . . . 

As to my collections, I had already thought 
of asking either the Vaudois government or 
the city of Neuchatel to receive them into 
the Museum, merely on condition that they 
should provide for the expenses of exhibi- 
tion and preservation, making use of them, 
meanwhile, for the instruction of the public. 
I should be sorry to lose all right to them, 
because I hope they may have another final 
destination. I do not despair of seeing the 
different parts of Switzerland united at some 
future day by a closer tie, and in case of such 
a union a truly Helvetic university would be- 
come a necessity ; then, my aim would be to 
make my collection the basis of that which 
they would be obliged to found for their 
courses of lectures. It is really a shame that 
Switzerland, richer and more extensive than 


many a small kingdom, should have no uni- 
versity, when some states of not half its size 
have even two ; for instance, the grand duchy 
of Baden, one of whose universities, that of 
Heidelberg, ranks among the first in all Ger- 
many. If ever I attain a position allowing 
me so to do, I shall make every effort in my 
power to procure for my country the greatest 
of benefits : namely, that of an intellectual 
unity, which can arise only from a high de- 
gree of civilization, and from the radiation of 
knowledge from one central point. 

I, too, have considered the question about 
Dinkel, and if, when I have finished my work 
here, my position is not changed, and I have 
no definite prospect, such as would justify me 
in keeping him with me, well ! then we 
must part ! I have long been preparing my- 
self for this, by employing him only upon 
what is indispensable to the publication of my 
first numbers, hoping that these may procure 
me the means of paying for such illustrations 
as I shall further need. As my justification 
for having engaged him in the first instance, 
and continued this expense till now, I can 
truly say that it is in a great degree through 
his drawings that M. Cuvier has been able to 
judge of my work, and so has been led to 

VOL I. 12 


make a surrender of all his materials in my 
favor. I foresaw clearly that this was my 
only chance of competing with him, and it 
was not without reason that I insisted so 
strongly on having Dinkel with me in pass- 
ing through Strasbourg and subsequently at 
Carlsruhe. Had I not done so, M. Cuvier 
might still be in advance of me. Now my 
mind is at rest on this score ; I have already 
written you all about his kindness in offering 
me the work. Could I only be equally for- 
tunate in its publication ! 

M. Cuvier urges me strongly to present my 
book to the Academy, in order to obtain a 
report upon its contents. I must first finish 
it, however, and the task is not a light one. 
For this reason, above all, I regret my want 
of means ; but for that I could have the draw- 
ings made at once, and the Academy report, 
considered as a recommendation, would cer- 
tainly help on the publication greatly. But 
in this respect I have long been straitened; 
Auguste knows that I had at Munich an art- 
ist who was to complete what I had left there 
for execution, and that I stopped his work on 
leaving Concise. If the stagnation of the 
book-trade continues I shall, perhaps, be forced 
to give up Dinkel also ; for if I cannot be- 


gin the publication, which will, I hope, bring 
me some return, I must cease to accumulate 
material in advance. Should business revive 
soon, however, I may yet have the pleasure of 
seeing all completed before I leave Paris. 

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

P. S. My love to Auguste. To-day (Sun- 
day) I went again to see M. Humboldt about 
Auguste's * plan, but did not find him. 

Then follow several pages, addressed to his 

1 Concerning a business undertaking in Mexico. 


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

" The aim of our researches upon fossil ani- 
mals is to ascertain what beings have lived at 
each one of these (geological) epochs of crea- 
tion, and to trace their characters and their 
relations with those now living ; in one word, 
to make them live again in our thought. It 
is especially the fishes that I try to restore 
for the eyes of the curious, by showing them 
which ones have lived in each epoch, what 
were their forms, and, if possible, by drawing 
some conclusions as to their probable modes 
of life. You will better understand the diffi- 
culty of my work when I tell you that in 
many species I have only a single tooth, a 


scale, a spine, as my guide in the reconstruc- 
tion of all these characters, although some- 
times we are fortunate enough to find species 
with the fins and the skeletons complete. . . . 

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

To this period belongs a curious dream 
mentioned by Agassiz in his work on the fos- 
sil fishes. 1 It is interesting both as a psycho- 
logical fact and as showing how, sleeping and 
waking, his work was ever present with him. 
He had been for two weeks striving to deci- 
pher the somewhat obscure impression of a fos- 
sil fish on the stone slab in which it was pre- 
served. Weary and perplexed he put his work 
aside at last, and tried to dismiss it from his 
mind. Shortly after, he waked one night per- 
suaded that while asleep he had seen his fish 
with all the missing features perfectly restored. 

1 Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles. Cyclopoma spinosum 
Agassiz. Vol. iv. tab. 1, pp. 20, 21. 


But when he tried to hold and make fast the 
image, it escaped him. Nevertheless, he went 
early to the Jardin des Plantes, thinking that 
on looking anew at the impression he should 
see something which would put him on the 
track of his vision. In vain, the blurred 
record was as blank as ever. The next night 
he saw the fish again, but with no more satis- 
factory result. When he awoke it disappeared 
from his memory as before. Hoping that the 
same experience might be repeated, on the 
third night he placed a pencil and paper be- 
side his bed before going to sleep. Accord- 
ingly toward morning the fish reappeared in 
his dream, confusedly at first, but at last with 
such distinctness that he had no longer any 
doubt as to its zoological characters. Still 
half dreaming, in perfect darkness, he traced 
these characters on the sheet of paper at the 
bedside. In the morning he was surprised to 
see in his nocturnal sketch features which he 
thought it impossible the fossil itself should 
reveal. He hastened to the Jardin des Plantes, 
and, with his drawing as a guide, succeeded in 
chiseling away the surface of the stone under 
which portions of the fish proved to be hid- 
den. When wholly exposed it corresponded 
with his dream and his drawing, and he sue- 


ceeded in classifying it with ease. He often 
spoke of this as a good illustration of the 
well-known fact, that when the body is at rest 
the tired brain will do the work it refused be- 


1832 : ,ET. 25. 

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

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


PARIS, March, 1832. 

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

I mentioned in a postscript to my last letter 
that I had called yesterday on M. de Hum- 


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


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

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


PARIS, April 11, 1832. 

I should scold your son, Madame, for hav- 
ing spoken to you of the slight mark of inter- 
est 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 re- 
ceived from your hand. Accept my warmest 
thanks for it. How happy you are to have 
a son so distinguished by his talents, by the 
variety and solidity of his acquirements, and, 
withal, as modest as if he knew nothing, 
in these days, too, when youth is generally 
characterized by a cold and scornful amour- 
propre. One might well despair of the world 
if a person like your son, with information so 
substantial and manners so sweet and prepos- 
sessing, should fail to make his way. I ap- 
prove highly the Neuchatel plan, and hope, 


in case of need, to contribute to its success. 
One must aim at a settled position in life. 

Pray excuse, Madame, the brevity of these 
lines, and accept the assurance of my respect- 
ful regard. HUMBOLDT. 

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


PARIS, March 27, 1832. 

I am very uneasy, my dearest M. Agassiz, at 
being still without any letter from Cotta. Has 
he been prevented from writing by business, 
or illness perhaps? You know how tardy he 
always is about writing. Yesterday (Mon- 
day) I wrote him earnestly again concerning 
your affair (an undertaking of such moment 
for science), and urged upon him the issuing 
of the fossil and fresh-water fishes in alternate 
numbers. In the mean time, I fear that the 
protracted delay may weigh heavily on you 
and your friends. A man so laborious, so 
gifted, and so deserving of affection as you 
are should not be left in a position where 
lack of serenity disturbs his power of work. 
You will then surely pardon my friendly good- 
will toward you, my dear M. Agassiz, if I en- 


treat you to make use of the accompanying 
small credit. You would do more for me I 
am sure. Consider it an advance which need 
not be paid for years, and which I will gladly 
increase when I go away or even earlier. It 
would pain me deeply should the urgency of 
my request made in the closest confidence, 
in short, a transaction as between two friends 
of unequal age, be disagreeable to you. I 
should wish to be pleasantly remembered by a 
young man of your character. 

Yours, with the most affectionate respect, 


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

My benefactor and friend, it is too much ; 
I cannot find words to tell you how deeply 
your letter of to-day has moved me. I have 
just been at your house that I might thank 
you in person with all my heart ; but now I 
must wait to do so until I have the good for- 
tune to meet you. At what a moment does 
your help come to me ! I inclose a letter from 


my dear mother that you may understand my 
whole position. My parents will now readily 
consent that I should devote myself entirely to 
science, and I am freed from the distressing 
thought that I may be acting contrary to their 
wishes and their will. But they have not the 
means to help me, and had proposed that I 
should return to Switzerland and give lessons 
either in Geneva or Lausanne. I had already 
resolved to follow this suggestion in the course 
of next summer, and had also decided to part 
with Mr. Dinkel, my faithful companion, as 
soon as he should have finished the most in- 
dispensable drawings of the fossils on which 
he is now engaged here. I meant to tell you 
of this on Sunday, and now to-day comes your 
letter. Imagine what must have been my feel- 
ing, after having resolved on renouncing what 
till now had seemed to me noblest and most 
desirable in life, to find myself unexpectedly 
rescued by a kind, helpful hand, and to have 
again the hope of devoting my whole powers 
to science, you can judge of the state into 
which your letter has thrown me. . . . 

Soon after this event Agassiz made a short 
excursion with Braun and Dinkel to the coast 
of Normandy ; worth noting, because he now 


saw the sea for the first time. He wrote 
home : " For five days we skirted the coast 
from Havre to Dieppe ; at last I have looked 
upon the sea and its riches. From this ex- 
cursion of a few days, which I had almost 
despaired of making, I bring back new ideas, 
more comprehensive views, and a more accu- 
rate knowledge of the great phenomena pre- 
sented by the ocean in its vast expanse." 

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


PARIS, March 27, 1832. 

. . . When I had the pleasure of seeing 
you last summer I several times expressed my 
strong desire to establish myself near you, and 
my intention of taking some steps toward ob- 
taining the professorship of natural history 
to be founded in your Lyceum. The matter 


must be more advanced now than it was last 
year, and you would oblige me greatly by giv- 
ing me some information concerning it. I 
have spoken of my project to M. de Humboldt, 
whom I often see, and who kindly interests 
himself about my prospects and helps me with 
his advice. He thinks that under the circum- 
stances, and especially in my position, meas- 
ures should be taken in advance. There is an- 
other point of great importance for me about 
which I wished also to speak to you. Though 
you have seen but a small part of it, you 
nevertheless know that in my different jour- 
neys, partly through my relations with other 
naturalists, partly by exchange, I have made a 
very fair collection of natural history, espe- 
cially rich in just those classes which are less 
fully represented in your museum. My collec- 
tion might, therefore, fill the gaps in that of 
the city of Neuchatel, and make the latter 
more than adequate for the illustration of a 
full course of natural history. Should an in- 
crease of your zoological collection make part 
of your plans for the Lyceum, I venture to 
believe that mine would fully answer your 
purpose. In that case I would offer it to you, 
since the expense of arranging it, the rent of 
a room in which to keep it, and, in short, its 


support in general, is beyond my means. I 
must find some way of relieving myself from 
this burden, although it will be hard to part 
with these companions of my study, upon 
which I have based almost all my investiga- 
tions. I have spoken of this also to M. de 
Humboldt, who is good enough to show an 
interest in the matter, and will even take all 
necessary steps with the government to facili- 
tate this purchase. You would render me the 
greatest service by giving me your directions 
about all this, and especially by telling me : 
1. On whom the nomination to the professor- 
ship depends? 2. With whom the purchase 
of the collection would rest? 3. What you 
think I should do with reference to both ? Of 
course you will easily understand that I can- 
not give up my collections except under the 
condition that I should be allowed the free use 
of them. . . . 

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



PARIS, May, 1832. 

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


opening of the new Lyceum. 

Monsieur Coulon was commissioned to thank 
me, and to request me in the name of the board 
to keep the place in mind ; should I prefer 
it, however, he doubts not that whatever the 
city could not do might be made good by 
subscription before next autumn, in which 
case I could enter upon office at once. He 
requests a prompt answer in order that he 
may make all needful preparations. Only too 

VOL. I. 13 


gladly would I have consulted you about vari- 
ous propositions made to me here in the last 
few days, and have submitted my course to 
your approval, had it not been that here, as in 
Neuchatel, a prompt answer was urged. Al- 
though guided rather by instinct than by any- 
thing else, I think, nevertheless, that I have 
chosen rightly. In such moments, when one 
cannot see far enough in advance to form an 
accurate judgment upon deliberation, feeling 
is, after all, the best adviser ; that inner im- 
pulse, which is a safe guide if other consid- 
erations do not confuse the judgment. This 
says to me, " Go to Neuchatel ; do not stay 
in Paris." But I speak in riddles; I must 
explain myself more clearly. Last Monday 
Levrault sent for me in order to propose that 
Valenciennes and I should jointly undertake 
the publication of the Cuvierian fishes. ... I 
was to give a positive answer this week. I 
have carefully considered it, and have decided 
that an unconditional engagement would lead 
me away from my nearest aim, and from what 
I look upon as the task of my life. The al- 
ready published volumes of the System of 
Ichthyology lie too far from the road on which 
I intend to pursue my researches. Finally, 
it seems to me that in a quiet retired place 


like Neuchatel, whatever may be growing up 
within me will have a more independent and 
individual development than in this restless 
Paris, where obstacles or difficulties may not 
perhaps divert me from a given purpose, but 
may disturb or delay its accomplishment. I 
will therefore so shape my answer to Levrault 
as to undertake only single portions of the 
work, the choice of these, on account of my 
interest in the fossil and the fresh-water fishes, 
being allowed me, with the understanding, 
also, that I should be permitted to have these 
collections in Switzerland and work them up 
there. From Paris, also, it would not be so 
easy to transfer myself to Germany, whereas 
I could consider Neuchatel as a provisional 
position from which I might be called to a 
German university. . . . 

In the mean time, while waiting hopefully 
the result of his negotiations with Neuchatel, 
Agassiz had organized with his friends, the two 
Brauns, a bachelor life very like the one he 
and Alexander had led with their classmates in 
Munich. The little hotel where they lodged 
had filled up with young German doctors, who 
had come to visit the hospitals in Paris and 
study the cholera. Some of these young men 


had been their fellow-students at the univer- 
sity, and at their request Agassiz and Braun 
resumed the practice of giving private lectures 
on zoology and botany, the whole being con- 
ducted in the most informal manner, admitting 
absolute freedom of discussion, as among inti- 
mate companions of the same age. Such an 
interchange naturally led to very genial rela- 
tions between the amateur professors and their 
class, and on the eve of Agassiz's birthday 
(28th of May) his usual audience prepared for 
him a very pleasant surprise. Returning from 
a walk after dusk he found Braun in his room. 
Continuing his stroll within four walls, he and 
his friend paced the floor together in earnest 
talk, when, at a signal, Braun suddenly drew 
him to the window, threw it open, and on the 
pavement below stood their companions, sing- 
ing a part song, composed in honor of Agas- 
siz. Deeply moved, he withdrew from the win- 
dow in time to receive them as they trooped 
up the stairway to offer their good wishes. 
They presently led the way to another room 
which they had dressed with flowers, Agassiz's 
name, among other decorations, being braided 
in roses beneath two federal flags crossed on 
the wall. Here supper was laid, and the rest 
of the evening passed gayly with songs and 


toasts, not only for the hero of the feast and 
for friends far and near, but for the progress 
of science, the liberty of the people, and the 
independence of nations. There could be no 
meeting of ardent young Germans and Swiss 
in those days without some mingling of pa- 
triotic aspirations with the sentiment of the 

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


PARIS, June 4, 1832. 

I have received your kind letter with great 
pleasure and hasten to reply. What you write 
gives me the more satisfaction because it 
opens to me in the near future the hope of 
establishing myself in your neighborhood and 
devoting to my country the fruits of my labor. 
It is true, as you suppose, that the death of 
M. Cuvier has sensibly changed my position ; 
indeed, I have already been asked to continue 
his work on fishes in connection with M. Va- 
lenciennes, who made me this proposition the 
day after your letter reached me. The condi- 
tions offered me are, indeed, very tempting, 


but I am too little French by character, and 
too anxious to live in Switzerland, not to pre- 
fer the place you can offer me, however small 
the appointments, if they do but keep me 
above actual embarrassment. I say thus much 
only in order to answer that clause in your 
letter where you touch upon this question. I 
would add that I leave the field quite free in 
this respect, and that I am yours without re- 
serve, if, indeed, within the fortnight, the ur- 
gency of the Parisians does not carry the day, 
or, rather, as soon as I write you that I have 
been able finally to withdraw. You easily un- 
derstand that I cannot bluntly decline offers 
which seem to those who make them so bril- 
liant. But I shall hold out against them to 
the utmost. My course with reference to my 
own publications will have shown you that I 
do not care for a lucrative position from per- 
sonal interest ; that, on the contrary, I should 
always be ready to use such means as I may 
have at my disposition for the advancement of 
the institution confided to my care. 

My work will still detain me for four or five 
months at Paris, my time being after that 
completely at my disposal. The period at 
which I should like to begin my lectures is 
therefore very near, and I think if your people 


are favorably disposed toward the creation of 
a new professorship we must not let them 
grow cold. But you have shown me so much 
kindness that I may well leave to your care, 
in concert with your friends, the decision of 
this point ; the more so since you are willing 
to take charge of my interests, until you see 
the success of what you are pleased to look 
upon as an advantage to your institution, 
while for me it is the realization of a sincere 
desire to do what I can for the advancement of 
science, and the instruction of our youth. . . . 

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

" I can easily understand that the brilliant 
offers made you in Paris strongly counterbal- 
ance a poor little professorship of natural his- 
tory at Neuchatel, and may well cause you to 
hesitate ; especially since your scientific career 
there is so well begun. On the other hand, 
you cannot doubt our pleasure in the pros- 
pect of having you at Neuchatel, not only 


because of the friendship felt for you by 
many persons here, but also on account of 
the lustre which a chair of natural history so 
filled would shed upon our institution. Of 
this our subscribers are well aware, and it ac- 
counts for the rapid filling of the list. I am 
very anxious, as are all these gentlemen, to 
know your decision, and beg you therefore to 
let us hear from you as soon as possible." 

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


POTSDAM, July 25, 1832. 

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

Through our common friend, M. von Buch, 
I have known for many years that you study 
natural history with a success equal to your 


zeal, and that you have brought together fine 
collections, which you place at the disposal of 
others with a noble liberality. It gratifies me 
to see your kindness shown to a young man 
to whom I am so warmly attached, and one 
whom the illustrious Cuvier, whose loss we 
must ever deplore, would have recommended 
with the same heartiness, for his faith, like 
mine, was based on those admirable works of 
Agassiz which are now nearly completed. . . . 
I have strongly advised M. Agassiz not to 
accept the offers made to him at Paris since 
M. Cuvier's death, and his decision has antici- 
pated my advice. How happy it would be for 
him, and for the completion of the excellent 
works on which he is engaged, could he this 
very year be established on the shores of your 
lake ! I have no doubt that he will receive 
the powerful protection of your worthy gov- 
ernor, to whom I shall repeat my requests, 
and who honors me, as well as my brother, 
with a friendship I warmly appreciate. M. 
von Buch also has promised me, before leav- 
ing Berlin for Bonn and Vienna, to add his 
entreaty to mine. . . . He is almost as much 
interested as myself in M. Agassiz and his 
work on fossil fishes, the most important ever 
undertaken, and equally exact in its relation 


to zoological characters and to geological de- 
posits. . . . 

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


PARIS, July, 1832. 

... I would most gladly have answered 
your delightful letter at once, and have told 
you how smoothly all has gone at Neuchatel. 
Your letters to M. de Coulon and to General 
von Pfiiel have wrought marvels; but they 
are now inclined to look upon me there as a 
wonder from the deep, 1 and I must exert my- 
self to the utmost lest my actual presence 
should give the lie to fame. It is all right. 
I shall be the less likely to relax in devotion 
to my work. 

The real reason of my silence has been that 
I was unwilling to acknowledge so many evi- 
dences of efficient sympathy and friendly en- 
couragement by an empty letter. I wished 
especially to share with you the final result of 
my investigations on the fossil fishes, and for 
that purpose it was necessary to revise my 

1 Ein blaues Meerwunder. 


manuscripts and take an account of my ta- 
bles in order to condense the whole in a few 
phrases. I have already told you that the in- 
vestigation of the living fishes had suggested 
to me a new classification, in which families as 
at present circumscribed respectively received 
new, and to my thinking more natural posi- 
tions, based upon other considerations than 
those hitherto brought forward. I did not at 
first lay any special stress on my classification. 
. . . My object was only to utilize certain 
structural characters which frequently recur 
among fossil forms, and which might there- 
fore enable me to determine remains hitherto 
considered of little value. . . . Absorbed in 
the special investigation, I paid no heed to 
the edifice which was meanwhile unconscious- 
ly building itself up. Having however com- 
pleted the comparison of the fossil species in 
Paris, I wanted, for the sake of an easy revis- 
ion of the same, to make a list according to 
their succession in geological formations, with 
a view of determining the characteristics more 
exactly and bringing them by their enumera- 
tion into bolder relief. What was my joy and 
surprise to find that the simplest enumeration 
of the fossil fishes according to their geolog- 
ical succession was also a complete statement 


of the natural relations of the families among 
themselves ; that one might therefore read the 
genetic development of the whole class in the 
history of creation, the representation of the 
genera and species in the several families be- 
ing therein determined ; in one word, that the 
genetic succession of the fishes corresponds 
perfectly with their zoological classification, 
and with just that classification proposed by 
me. The question therefore in characterizing 
formations is no longer that of the numerical 
preponderance of certain genera and species, 
but of distinct structural relations, carried 
through all these formations according to a 
definite direction, following each other in an 
appointed order, and recognizable in the or- 
ganisms as they are brought forth. ... If 
my conclusions are not overturned or modi- 
fied through some later discovery, they will 
form a new basis for the study of fossils. 
Should you communicate my discovery to oth- 
ers I shall be especially pleased, because it 
may be long before I can begin to publish it 
myself, and many may be interested in it. 
This seems to me the most important of my 
results, though I have also, partly from per- 
fect specimens, partly from fragments, identi- 
fied some five hundred extinct species, and 


more than fifty extinct genera, beside reestab- 
lishing three families no longer represented. 

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


1832-1834: .ET. 25-27. 

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

THE following autumn Agassiz assumed the 
duties of his professorship at Neuchatel. His 
opening lecture " Upon the Relations between 
the different branches of Natural History and 
the then prevailing tendencies of all the 
Sciences ' was given on the 12th of Novem- 
ber, 1832, at the Hotel de Ville. Judged by 
the impression made upon the listeners as re- 
corded at the time, this introductory discourse 
must have been characterized by the same 
broad spirit of generalization which marked 
Agassiz's later teaching. Facts in his hands 
fell into their orderly relation as parts of a 
connected whole, and were never presented 


merely as special or isolated phenomena. 
From the beginning his success as an instruc- 
tor was undoubted. He had, indeed, now en- 
tered upon the occupation which was to be 
from youth to old age the delight of his life. 
Teaching was a passion with him, and his 
power over his pupils might be measured by 
his own enthusiasm. He was intellectually, 
as well as socially, a democrat, in the best 
sense. He delighted to scatter broadcast the 
highest results of thought and research, and 
to adapt them even to the youngest and most 
uninformed minds. In his later American 
travels he would talk of glacial phenomena 
to the driver of a country stage-coach among 
the mountains, or to some workman, splitting 
rock at the road-side, with as much earnest- 
ness as if he had been discussing problems 
with a brother geologist ; he would take the 
common fisherman into his scientific confi- 
dence, telling him the intimate secrets of fish- 
structure or fish - embryology, till the man 
in his turn grew enthusiastic, and began to 
pour out information from the stores of his 
own rough and untaught habits of observa- 
tion. Agassiz's general faith in the suscepti- 
bility of the popular intelligence, however un- 
trained, to the highest truths of nature, was 


contagious, and he created or developed that 
in which he believed. 

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

Beside his classes at the gymnasium, Agas- 
siz collected about him, by invitation, a small 
audience of friends and neighbors, to whom 
he lectured during the winter on botany, on 
zoology, on the philosophy of nature. The 
instruction was of the most familiar and in- 
formal character, and was continued in later 


years for his own children and the children 
of his friends. In the latter case the subjects 
were chiefly geology and geography in connec- 
tion with botany, and in favorable weather 
the lessons were usually given in the open air, 
One can easily imagine what joy it must have 
been for a party of little playmates, boys and 
girls, to be taken out for long walks in the 
country over the hills about Neuchatel, and 
especially to Chaumont, the mountain which 
rises behind it, and thus to have their lessons, 
for which the facts and scenes about them fur- 
nished subject and illustration, combined with 
pleasant rambles. From some high ground 
affording a wide panoramic view Agassiz 
would explain to them the formation of lakes, 
islands, rivers, springs, water-sheds, hills, and 
valleys. He always insisted that physical ge- 
ography could be better taught to children in 
the vicinity of their own homes than by books 
or maps, or even globes. Nor did he think a 
varied landscape essential to such instruction. 
Undulations of the ground, some contrast of 
hill and plain, some sheet of water with the 
streams that feed it, some ridge of rocky soil 
acting as a water-shed, may be found every- 
where, and the relation of facts shown per- 
haps as well on a small as on a large scale. 

VOL. I. 14 


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 flow- 
ers, fruits, or dried plants. To each child in 
succession was explained separately what had 
first been told to all coUectively. When the 
talk was of tropical or distant countries pains 
were taken to procure characteristic specimens, 
and the children were introduced to dates, 
bananas, cocoa-nuts, and other fruits, not easily 
to be obtained in those days in a small inland 
town. They, of course, concluded the lesson 
by eating the specimens, a practical illustration 
which they greatly enjoyed. A very large 
wooden globe, on the surface of which the va- 
rious features of the earth as they came up 
for discussion could be shown, served to make 
them more clear and vivid. The children took 
their own share in the instruction, and were 
themselves made to point out and describe 
that which had just been explained to them. 
They took home their collections, and as a 
preparation for the next lesson were often 
called upon to classify and describe some unu- 
sual specimen by their own unaided efforts. 
There was no tedium in the class. Agassiz's 


lively, clear, and attractive method of teach- 
ing awakened their own powers of observa- 
tion in his little pupils, and to some at least 
opened permanent sources of enjoyment. 

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

It was not long before his growing reputa- 
tion brought him invitations from elsewhere. 
One of the first of these was from Heidelberg. 


HEIDELBERG, December 4, 1832. 

. . . Last autumn, when I had the pleasure 
of meeting you in Carlsruhe, I proposed to 


you to give some lectures on Natural History 
at this university. Professor Leuckart, who 
till now represented zoology here, is called to 
Freiburg, and you would therefore be the 
only teacher in that department. The uni- 
versity being so frequented, a numerous audi- 
ence may be counted upon. The zoological 
collection, by no means an insignificant one, 
is open to your use. Professor Leuckart re- 
ceived a salary of five hundred florins. This 
is now unappropriated, and I do not doubt 
that the government, conformably to the prop- 
osition of the medical faculty, would give you 
the appointment on the same terms. By your 
knowledge you are prepared for the work of 
an able academical teacher. My advice is, 
therefore, that you should not bind yourself 
to any lyceum or gymnasium, as a permanent 
position ; such a place would not suit a cul- 
tivated scientific man, nor does it offer a field 
for an accomplished scholar. Consider care- 
fully, therefore, a question which concerns the 
efficiency of your life, and give me the re- 
sult of your deliberation as soon as possible. 
Should it be favorable to the acceptance of my 
proposition, I hope you will find yourself here 
at Easter as full professor, with a salary of 
five hundred florins, and a fitting field of ac- 


tivity for your knowledge. The fees for lec- 
tures and literary work might bring you in 
an additional fifteen hundred gulden yearly. 
If you accede to this offer send me your inau- 
gural dissertation, and make me acquainted 
with your literary work, that I may take the 
necessary steps with the Curatorio. Consider 
this proposition as a proof of my high appre- 
ciation of your literary efforts and of my re- 
gard for you personally. 

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


December, 1832. 

... At last I am in Neuchatel,^ having, in- 
deed, begun my lectures some weeks ago. I 
have been received in a way I could never have 
anticipated, and which can only be due to 
your good- will on my behalf and your friendly 
recommendation. You have my warmest 
thanks for the trouble you have taken about 
me, and for your continued sympathy. Let 
me show you by my work in the years to come, 
rather than by words, that I am in earnest 


about science, and that my spirit is not irre- 
sponsive to a noble encouragement such as 
you have given me. 

You will have received my letter from Carls- 
ruhe. Could I only tell you all that I have 
since thought and observed about the history 
of our earth's development, the succession of 
the animal populations, and their genetic clas- 
sification ! It cannot easily be compressed 
within letter limits; I will, nevertheless, at- 
tempt it when my lectures make less urgent 
claim upon me, and my eyes are less fatigued. 
I should defer writing till then were it not 
that to-day I have something of at least out- 
side interest to announce. It concerns the in- 
closed letter received to-day. (The offer of 
a professorship at Heidelberg.) Should you 
think that I need not take it into considera- 
tion, and you have no time to answer me, let 
me know your opinion by your silence. I will 
tell you the reasons which would induce me 
to remain for the present in Neuchatel, and I 
think you will approve them. First, as my 
lectures do not claim a great part of my time 
I shall have the more to bestow on other work ; 
add to this the position of Neuchatel, so favor- 
able for observations such as I propose making 
on the history of development in several classes 


of animals; then the hope of freeing myself 
from the burden of my collections ; and next, 
the quiet of my life here with reference to 
my somewhat overstrained health. Beside my 
wish to remain, these favorable circumstances 
furnish a powerful motive, and then I am sat- 
isfied that people here would assist me with 
the greatest readiness should my publications 
not succeed otherwise. As to the publication 
of my fishes, I can, after all, better direct the 
lithographing of the plates here. I have just 
written to Cotta concerning this, proposing 
also that he should advance the cost of the 
lithographs. I shall attend to it all carefully, 
and be content for the present with my small 
means. Prom the gradual sale he can, little 
by little, repay my expenses, and I shall ask 
no profit until the success of the work war- 
rants it. I await his answer. This proposal 
seems to me the best and the most likely to 
advance the publication of this work. 

Since I arrived here some scientific efforts 
have been made with the help of M. Cou- 
lon. We have already founded a society of 
Natural History, 1 and I hope, should you 
make your promised visit next year, you will 
find this germ between foliage and flower at 

1 Societe des Sciences Naturelles de Neuchatel. 


least, though perhaps not yet ripened into 
seed. . . . 

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

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


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


BERLIN, January 21, 1833. 

... It gives me great pleasure to acknowl- 
edge the flattering welcome offered by you 
and your fellow-citizens to M. Agassiz, who 
stands so high in science, and whose intel- 
lectual qualities are enhanced by his amiable 
character. They write me from Heidelberg 
that they intend the place of M. Leuckart in 
zoology for my young friend. The choice is 
proposed by M. Tiedemann, and certainly noth- 
ing could be more honorable to M. Agassiz. 
Nevertheless, I hope that he will refuse it. 
He should remain for some years in your 
country, where a generous encouragement fa- 
cilitates the publication of his work, which is 
of equal importance to zoology and geology. 

I have spoken with M. Ancillon, and have 
left with him an official notice respecting the 
purchase of the Agassiz collection. The dif- 
ficulty will be found, as in all human affairs, 
in the prose of life, in money. M. Ancillon 
writes me this morning : " Your paper in fa- 
vor of M. Agassiz is a scientific letter of credit 


which we shall try to honor. The acquisition 
of a superior man and a superior collection 
at the same time would be a double conquest 
for the principality of Neuehatel. I have re- 
quested a report from the Council of State on 
the means of accomplishing this, and I hope 
that private individuals may do something 
toward it." Thus you see the affair is at 
least on the right road. I do not think, how- 
ever, that the royal treasury will give at pres- 
ent more than a thousand Prussian crowns 
toward it. ... 

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

Agassiz was now threatened with a great 
misfortune. Already, in Paris, his eyes had 
begun to suffer from the strain of microscopic 
work. They now became seriously impaired ; 


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


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



NEUCHATEL, January 27, 1833. 

... A thousand thanks for your last most 
welcome letter. I can hardly tell you what 
pleasure it gave me, or how I am cheered and 
stimulated to new activity by intercourse with 
you on so intimate a footing. Since I wrote 
you, some things have become more clear to me, 
as, for instance, my purpose of publishing the 
" Fossil Fishes ' ' here. Certain doubts remain 
in my mind, however, about which, as well as 
about other matters, I would ask your advice. 
Now that Cotta is dead, I cannot wait till I 
have made an arrangement with his successor. 
I therefore allow the "Fresh-Water Fishes " to 
lie by and drive on the others. Upon careful 
examination I have found, to my astonishment, 
that all necessary means for the publication of 
such a work are to be had here : two good 
lithographers and two printing establishments, 
both of which have excellent type. I have 
sent for Weber to engrave the plates, or draw 
them on stone ; he will be here at the end of 
the month. Then I shall begin at once, and 

O ' 

hope in May to send out the first number. 
The great difficulty remains now in the distri- 
bution of the numbers, and in finding a suffi- 


cient sale so that they may follow each other 
with regularity. I think it better to begin the 
publication as a whole than to send out an 
abridgment in advance. The species can be 
characterized only by good illustrations. A 
summary always requires farther demonstra- 
tion, whereas, if I give the plates at once I 
can shorten the text and present the general 
results as an introduction to the first number. 
With twelve numbers, of twenty plates each, 
followed by about ten pages of text, I can tell 
all that I have to say. The cost of one hun- 
dred and fifty copies printed here would, ac- 
cording to careful inquiry, be covered by 
seventy subscriptions if the price were put at 
one louis-d'or the number. 

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

Both the magistrates and private individ- 


uals here are now much interested in public 
instruction, and I am satisfied that sooner or 
later my collection will be purchased, though 
nothing has been said about it lately. 1 

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


SANS Souci, July 4, 1833. 

... I am happy in your success, my dear 
Agassiz, happy in your charming letter of 
May 22d, happy in the hope of having been 

1 His collection was finally purchased by the city of Neu- 
chatel in the spring of 1833. 


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

Your prospectus is full of interest, and does 
ample justice to those who have provided you 
with materials. To name me among them 
was an affectionate deceit, the ruse of a noble 
soul like yours ; I am a little vexed with you 
about it. 1 

1 The few words which called forth this protest from Hum- 
boldt were as follows. After naming all those from whom he 
had received help in specimens or otherwise, Agassiz con- 
cludes : 

" Finally, I owe to M. de Humboldt not only important 
notes on fossil fishes, but so many kindnesses in connection 
with my work that in enumerating them I should fear to 
wound the delicacy of the giver." This will hardly seem an 
exaggeration to those who know the facts of the case. 


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

With all my affection for you, my dear 
friend, it would be impossible for me to take 
charge of the distribution of your numbers 
or the returns. The publishing houses of 
Dtinmiler or of Humblot and Dunker would 
be useful to you at Berlin. I find it difficult 
to believe that you will navigate successfully 
among these literary corsairs ! I have had a 
short eulogium of your work inserted in the 
Berliner Staats-Zeitung. You see that I do 
not neglect your interests, and that, for love 
of you, I even turn journalist. You have 
omitted to state in your prospectus whether 


your plates are lithographed, as I fear they 
are, and also whether they are colored, which 
seems to nae unnecessary. Have your superb 
original drawings remained in your posses- 
sion, or are they included in the sale of your 
collection ? . . . 

I could not make use of your letter to the 
King, and I have suppressed it. You have 
been ill-advised as to the forms. " Erhabener 
Konig" has too poetical a turn ; we have here 
the most prosaic and the most degrading offi- 
cial expressions. M. de Pfuel must have some 
Arch-Prussian with him, who would arrange 
the formula of a letter for you. At the head 
there must be " Most enlightened, most power- 
ful King, all gracious sovereign and lord." 
Then you begin, " Your Eoyal Majesty, deep- 
ly moved, I venture to lay at your feet most 
humbly my warmest thanks for the support 
so graciously granted to the purchase of my 
collection for the Gymnasium in Neuchatel. 
Did I know how to write," etc. The rest of 
your letter was very good ; put only " so much 
grace as to answer ' ' instead of " so much kind- 
ness." You should end with the words, " I 
remain till death, in deepest reverence, the 
most humble and faithful servant of your 
Royal Majesty." The whole on small folio, 

VOL. I. 15 


sealed, addressed outside, " To the King's Maj- 
esty, Berlin." Send the letter, not through me, 
but officially, through M. de Pfiiel. 1 

The letter to the King is not absolutely 
necessary, but it will give pleasure, for the 
King likes any affectionate demonstration from 
the country that has now become yours. 2 It 
will be useful, also, with reference to our re- 
quest for the purchase of some copies, which 
we will make to the King as soon as the first 
number has appeared. Had I obtained the 
King's name for you to-day (which would have 
been difficult, since the King detests subscrip- 
tions), we should have spoiled the sequence. 
It seems to me that a letter of acknowledge 

1 At the head there must be "Allerdurchlauchtigster, gross- 
machtigster Kb'nig, allergnadigster Konig und Herr." Then 
you begin, " Euer konigliehen Majestat, wage ich meinen leb- 
haftesten Dank fur die allergnadigst bewilligte Unterstii- 
tzung zum Aukauf naeiner Sammlung fiir das Gymnasium 
in Neuchatel tief geriihrt alleruuterthauigst zu Fiissen zu 
legen. Wiisste ich zu schreiben," etc. The rest of your let- 
ter was very good, put only, " so vieler Gnade zu entspre- 
chen " instead of " so vieler Giite." You should end with 
the words, " Ich ersterbe in tief ster Ehrfurcht Euer konigli- 
cher Majestat aller unter thanigsten getreuester." The whole 
on small folio, sealed, addressed outside, "An des Konig's 
Majestat, Berlin." 

These forms are no longer in use. They belong to a past 

2 It may not be known to all readers that Neuchatel was 
then under Prussian sovereignty. 


ment from you to M. Ancillon would be very 
suitable also. Do not think it is too late. 
One addresses him as " Monsieur et plus votre 
Excellence." I am writing the most pedantic 
letter in the world in answer to yours, so full 
of charm. It must seem to you absurd that 
I write you in French, when you, French by 
origin, or rather by language, prefer to write 
me in German. Pray tell me, did you learn 
German, which you write with such purity, as 
a child ? 

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

I wish I could have been present at your 
course of lectures. What you tell me of them 
delights me, though I am ready to do battle 
with you about those metamorphoses of our 
globe which have even slipped into your title. 


I see by your letter that you cling to the idea 
of internal vital processes of the earth, that 
you regard the successive formations as differ- 
ent phases of life, the rocks as products of 
metamorphosis. I think this symbolical lan- 
guage should be employed with great reserve. 
I know that point of view of the old " Natur- 
philosophie ; " I have examined it without pre- 
judice, but nothing seems to me more dissimi- 
lar than the vital action of the metamorphosis 
of a plant in order to form the calyx or the 
flower, and the successive formation of beds 
of conglomerate. There is order, it is true, 
in the superposed beds, sometimes an alterna- 
tion of the same substance, an interior cause, 
sometimes even a successive development, 
starting from a central heat; but can the 
term life be applied to this kind of move- 
ment? Limestone does not generate sand- 
stone. I do not know that there exists what 
physiologists call a vital force, different from, 
or opposed to, the physical forces which we 
recognize in all matter; I think the vital 
process is only a particular mode of action, of 
limitation of those physical forces ; action, the 
nature of which we have not yet fully sounded. 
I believe there are nervous storms (electric) 
like those which set fire to the atmosphere, 


but that special action which we call organic, 
in which every part becomes cause or effect, 
seems to me distinct from the changes which 
our planet has undergone. I pause here, for 
I feel that I must annoy you, and I care for 
you too much to run that risk. Moreover, a 
superior man like yourself, my dear friend, 
floats above material things and leaves a mar- 
gin for philosophic doubt. 

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

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


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

Although Agassiz was at this time only 
twenty-six years of age, his correspondence 
already shows that the interest of scientific 
men, all over Europe, was attracted to him 
and to his work. From investigators of note 
in his own country, from those of France, 
Italy, and Germany, from England, and even 
from America, the distant El Dorado of natu- 
ralists in those days, came offers of coopera- 


tion, accompanied by fossil fishes or by the 
drawings of rare or unique specimens. He 
was known in all the museums of Europe as 
an indefatigable worker and collector, seeking 
everywhere materials for comparison. 

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

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

o * 

collections of fossil remains. 



OXFORD, December 25, 1833. 

... I should very much like to put into 
your hands what few materials I possess in the 
Oxford Museum relating to fossil fishes, and 
am also desirous that you should see the fos- 
sil fish in the various provincial museums of 
England, as well as in London. Sir Philip 
Egerton has a very large collection of fishes 
from Engi and Oeningen, which he wishes to 
place at your disposition. Like myself, he 
would willingly send you drawings, but draw- 
ings made without knowledge of the ana- 
tomical details which you require, cannot well 
represent what the artist himself does not 
perceive. I would willingly lend you my spec- 
imens, if I could secure them against the 
barbarous hands of the custom-house officials. 
What I would propose to you as a means of 
seeing all the collections of England, and 
gaining at the same time additional subscrip- 
tions for your work, is, that you should come 
to England and attend the British Associa- 
tion for the Advancement of Science in Sep- 
tember next. There you will meet all the 
naturalists of England, and I do not doubt 
that among them you will find a good many 


subscribers. You will likewise see a new mine 
of fossil fishes in the clayey schist of the coal 
formation at Newhaven, on the banks of the 
Forth, near Edinburgh. You can also make 
arrangements to visit the museums of York, 
Whitby, Scarborough, and Leeds, as well as 
the museum of Sir Philip Egerton, on your 
way to and from Edinburgh. You may, like- 
wise, visit the museums of London, Cam- 
bridge, and Oxford ; everywhere there are 
fossil fishes ; and traveling by coach in Eng- 
land is so rapid, easy, and cheap, that in six 
weeks or less you can accomplish all that I have 
proposed. As I seriously hope that you will 
come to England for the months of August 
and September, I say nothing at present of any 
other means of putting into your hands the 
drawings or specimens of our English fossil 
fishes. I forgot to mention the very rich col- 
lection of fossil fishes in the Museum of Mr. 
Mantell, at Brighton, where, I think, you 
could take the weekly steam-packet for Rot- 
terdam as easily as in London, and thus ar- 
rive in Neuchatel from London in a very few 
days. . . . 



... I thank you most warmly for the very 
important information you have so kindly 
given me respecting the rich collections of 
England ; I will, if possible, make arrange- 
ments to visit them this year, and in that case 
I will beg you to let me have a few letters of 
recommendation to facilitate my examination 
of them in detail. Not that I question for a 
moment the liberality of the English natural- 
ists. All the continental savants who have vis- 
ited your museums have praised the kindness 
shown in intrusting to them the rarest objects, 
and I well know that the English rival other 


nations in this respect, and even leave them far 
behind. But one must have merited such 
favors by scientific labors ; to a beginner they 
are always a free gift, wholly undeserved. . . . 

A few months later Agassiz received a very 
gratifying and substantial mark of the inter- 
est felt by English naturalists in his work. 


SOMERSET HOUSE, LONDON, February 4, 1834. 

... It is with the greatest pleasure that 
I announce to you good news. The Geolog- 


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

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



NEUCHATEL, March 25, 1834. 

. . .. You cannot imagine the joy your let- 
ter has given me. The prize awarded to me 
is at once so unexpected an honor and so wel- 
come 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 sa- 
vant, I need not be ashamed of my penury, 
since I have spent the little I had, wholly in 
scientific researches. I do not, therefore, hes- 
itate to confess to you that at no time could 
your gift have given me greater pleasure. 
Generous friends have helped me to bring out 
the first number of my " Fossil Fishes ; ' the 
plates of the second are finished, but I was 
greatly embarrassed to know how to print a 
sufficient number of copies before the returns 
from the first should be paid in. The text is 
ready also, so that now, in a fortnight, I can 
begin the distribution, and, the rotation once 
established, I hope that preceding numbers 
will always enable me to publish the next in 
succession without interruption. I even count 
upon this resource as affording me the means 
of making a journey to England before long. 
If no obstacle arises I hope to accomplish this 


during the coming summer, and to be pres- 
ent at the next meeting of the English natu- 

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

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


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

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

" Researches on the Fossil Fishes : compris- 
ing an Introduction to the Study of these Ani- 
mals ; the Comparative Anatomy of Organic 
Systems which may contribute to facilitate the 
Determination of Fossil Species ; a New Classi- 
fication of Fishes expressing their Relations to 
the Series of Formations ; the Explanation of 


the Laws of their Succession and Develop- 
ment during all the Changes of the Terres- 
trial Globe, accompanied by General Geolog- 
ical 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 

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

o J 


The Introduction presents, as it were, the 
prelude to this vast chapter of natural history 
in the simultaneous appearance of the four 
great types of the animal kingdom : Radiates, 
Mollusks, Articulates, and Vertebrates. Then 
comes the orderly development of the class by 
which the vertebrate plan was first expressed, 
namely, the fishes. Underlying all its divis- 
ions and subdivisions, is the average expression 
of the type in the past and present ; the Pla- 
coids and Ganoids, with their combination of 
reptilian and fishlike features, characterizing 
the earlier geological epochs, while in the later 
the simple bony fishes, the Cycloids and Cte- 
noids, take the ascendency. Here, for the first 
time, Agassiz presents his " synthetic or pro- 
phetic types," namely, early types embracing, 
as it were, in one large outline, features after- 
ward individualized in special groups, and 
never again reunited. No less striking than 
these general views of structural relations are 
the clearness and simplicity with which the dis- 
tribution of the whole class of fishes in rela- 
tion to the geological formations, or, in other 
words, to the physical history of the earth, is 
shown. In reading this introductory chapter, 
one familiar with Agassiz as a public teacher 
will almost hear his voice marshaling the long 


procession of living beings, as he was wont 
to do, in their gradual introduction upon the 
earth. Indeed, his whole future work in ich- 
thyology, and one might almost say in gen- 
eral zoology, was here sketched. 

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

" Notwithstanding these striking differ- 
ences," says the author in the opening of the 
fifth chapter on the relations of fishes in gen- 
eral, " it is none the less evident to the atten- 
tive observer that one single idea has presided 
over the development of the whole class, and 
that all the deviations lead back to a primary 
plan, so that even if the thread seem broken 
in the present creation, one can reunite it on 
reaching the domain of fossil ichthyology." 

Having shown how the present creation has 

1 Vol. i. chapter v. pp. 92, 93. 
VOL. I. 16 


given him the key to past creations, how the 
complete skeleton of the living fishes has ex- 
plained the scattered fragments of the ancient 
ones, especially those of which the soft carti- 
laginous structure was liable to decay, he pre- 
sents two modes of studying the type as a 
whole ; either in its comparative anatomy, in- 
cluding in the comparison the whole history 
of the type, fossil and living, or in its com- 
parative embryology. " The results," he adds, 
" of these two methods of study complete and 
control each other." In all his subsequent 
researches indeed, the history of the individ- 
ual in its successive phases went hand in hand 
with the history of the type. He constantly 
tested his zoological results by his embryolog- 
ical investigations. 

After a careful description of the dorsal 
chord in its embryological development, he 
shows that a certain parallelism exists between 
the comparative degrees of development of 
the vertebral column in the different groups 
of fishes, and the phases of its embryonic de- 
velopment in the higher fishes. Farther on 
he shows a like coincidence between the devel- 
opment of the system of fins in the different 
groups of fishes, arid the gradual growth and 
differentiation of the fins in the embryo of the 


higher living fishes. 1 " There is, then," he 
concludes, " as we have said above, a certain 
analogy, or rather a certain parallelism, to be 
established between the embryological devel- 
opment of the Cycloids and Ctenoids, and the 
genetic or paleontological development of the 
whole class. Considered from this point of 
view, no one will dispute that the form of the 
caudal fin is of high importance for zoolog- 
ical and paleontological considerations, since 
it shows that the same thought, the same 
plan, which presides to-day over the forma- 
tion of the embryo, is also manifested in the 
successive development of the numerous crea- 
tion which have formerly peopled the earth." 
Agassiz says himself in his Preface : "I have 
succeeded in expressing the laws of succes- 
sion and of the organic development of fishes 
during all geological epochs ; and science may 
henceforth, in seeing the changes of this class 
from formation to formation, follow the pro- 
gress of organization in one great division of 
the animal kingdom, through a complete se- 
ries of the ages of the earth." This is not 
inconsistent with his position as the leading 
opponent of the development or Darwinian 

1 Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles, vol. i. chapter v. p. 


theories. To him, development meant devel- 
opment of plan as expressed in structure, not 
the change of one structure into another. To 
his apprehension the change was based upon 
intellectual, not upon material causes. He 
sums up his own conviction with reference to 
this question as follows : l " Such facts pro- 
claim aloud principles not yet discussed in 
science, but which paleontological researches 
place before the eyes of the observer with an 
ever-increasing persistency. I speak of the 
relations of the creation with the creator. 
Phenomena closely allied in the order of their 
succession, and yet without sufficient cause in 
themselves for their appearance ; an infinite 
diversity of species without any common ma- 
terial bond, so grouping themselves as to pre- 
sent the most admirable progressive develop- 
ment to which our own species is linked, 
are these not incontestable proofs of the ex- 
istence of a superior intelligence whose power 
alone could have established such an order 
of things ? . . . 

"More than fifteen hundred species of fossil 
fishes, which I have learned to know, tell me 
that species do not pass insensibly one into 

1 Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles, vol. i. chapter vi. pp. 
171, 172. " Essay on the Classification of Fishes." 


another, but that they appear and disappear 
unexpectedly, without direct relations with 
their precursors ; for I think no one will seri- 
ously pretend that the numerous types of Cy- 
cloids and Ctenoids, almost all of which are 
contemporaneous with one another, have de- 
scended from the Placoids and Ganoids. As 
well might one affirm that the Mammalia, and 

O ' 

man with them, have descended directly from 
fishes. All these species have a fixed epoch of 
appearance and disappearance ; their existence 
is even limited to an appointed time. And yet 
they present, as a whole, numerous affinities 
more or less close, a definite coordination in a 
given system of organization which has inti- 
mate relations with the mode of existence of 
each type, and even of each species. An in- 
visible thread unwinds itself throughout all 
time, across this immense diversity, and pre- 
sents to us as a definite result, a continual 
progress in the development of which man is 
the term, of which the four classes of verte- 
brates are intermediate forms, and the totality 
of invertebrate animals the constant accessory 

The difficulty of carrying out comparisons 
so rigorous and extensive as were needed in 


order to reconstruct the organic relations be- 


tween the fossil fishes of all geological for- 
mations and those of the present world, is 
best told by the author. 1 " Possessing no fos- 
sil fishes myself, and renouncing forever the 
acquisition of collections so precious, I have 
been forced to seek the materials for my work 
in ah 1 the collections of Europe containing 
such remains; I have, therefore, made fre- 
quent 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 di- 
rectly the various specimens of the same spe- 
cies 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 ex- 
haustion of all the faculties, involved in such 
a method. The hurry of traveling, joined to 
the lack of the most ordinary facilities for 
observation, has not rendered my task more 

1 Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles, vol. i. Addition a la 


easy. I therefore claim indulgence for such 
of my identifications as a later examination, 
made at leisure, may modify, and for descrip- 
tions which sometimes bear the stamp of the 
precipitation with which they have been pre- 

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


1834-1837: JET. 27-30. 

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

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


OXFORD, August 26, 1834. 

... I am rejoiced to hear of your safe ar- 
rival in London, and write to say that I am 


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

I cannot tell certainly what day I shall 
leave Oxford until I see M. Ara^o, whom I 

O ' 

hope you will meet at my house, on your 
arrival in Oxford. I shall hope to see you 
Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. 
Pray come to my house in Christ Church, with 
your baggage, the moment you reach Ox- 
ford. . . . 

Agassiz always looked back with delight on 
this first visit to Great Britain. It was the 
beginning of his life -long friendship with 
Buckland, Sedgwick, Murchison, Lyell, and 


others of like pursuits and interests. Made 
welcome in many homes, he could scarcely 
respond to all the numerous invitations, social 
and scientific, which followed the Edinburgh 

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


threw new light on the history, of fossil fishes, 
a work which detained him in England for 
several years. 

Agassiz made at this time two friends, 
whose sympathy and cooperation in his scien- 
tific work were invaluable to him for the rest 
of his life. Sir Philip Egerton and Lord Cole 
(Earl of Enniskillen) owned two of the most 
valuable collections of fossil fishes in Great 
Britain. 1 To aid him in his researches, their 
most precious specimens were placed at Agas- 
siz' s disposition ; his artist was allowed to 
work for months on their collections, and 
even after Agassiz came to America, they 
never failed to share with him, as far as possi- 
ble, the advantages arising from the increase 
of their museums. From this time his corre- 
spondence with them, and especially with Sir 
Philip Egerton, is closely connected with the 
ever-growing interest as well as with the diffi- 
culties of his scientific career. Keluctantlv, 

/ * 

and with many a backward look, he left Eng- 
land in October, and returned to his lectures 
in Neuchatel, taking with him such specimens 
as were indispensable to the progress of his 
work. Every hour of the following winter 
which could be spared from his lectures was 
devoted to his fossil fishes. 

1 Now the property of the British Museum. 


A letter of this date from Professor Silliman, 
of New Haven, Connecticut, marks the begin- 
ning of his relations with his future New Eng- 
land home, and announces his first New Eng- 
land subscribers. 


UNITED STATES OF N. AMERICA, April 22, 1835. > 

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

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

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

Boston Athenaeum, by its Librarian. 

Benjamin Green, Esq., President of the Bos- 
ton Natural History Society. 

I shall make application to some other insti- 

1 The American Journal of Science and Arts. 


tutions or individuals, but do not venture to 
promise anything more than my best exer- 
tions. . . . 

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


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


BERLIN, May, 1835. 

I am to blame for my neglect of you, my 
dear friend, but when you consider the grief 
which depresses me, 1 and renders me unfit to 
keep up my scientific connections, you will 
not be so unkind as to bear me any ill-will 
for my long silence. You are too well aware 
of my high esteem for your talents and your 
character you know too well the affection- 
ate friendship I bear you to fear for a mo- 
ment that you could be forgotten. 

I have seen the being I loved most, and 

1 Owing to the death of his brother, William von Humboldt. 


who alone gave me some interest in this arid 
land, slowly decline. For four long years my 
brother had suffered from a weakness of all 
the muscles, which made me always fear that 
the seat of the trouble was the medulla oblon- 
gata. Yet his step was firm ; his head was en- 
tirely clear. The higher intellectual faculties 
retained all their energy. He was engaged 
from twelve to thirteen hours a day on his 
works, reading or rather dictating, for a nerv- 
ous trembling of the hand prevented him from 
using a pen. Surrounded by a numerous fam- 
ily ; living on a spot created, so to speak, by 
himself, and in a house which he had adorned 
with antique statues ; withdrawn also from 
affairs, he was still attached to life. The ill- 
ness which carried him off in ten days an 
inflammation of the chest was but a secon- 
dary symptom of his disease. He died with- 
out pain, with a strength of character and a 
serenity of mind worthy of the greatest ad- 
miration. It is cruel to see so noble an intel- 
ligence struggle during ten long days against 
physical destruction. We are told that in 
great grief we should turn with redoubled 
energy to the study of nature. The advice is 
easy to give ; but for a long time even the 
wish for distraction is wanting:. 



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

I am about finishing my long and weari- 
some work of (illegible) ; a critical examination 
into the geography of the Middle Ages, of 


which fifty sheets are already printed. I will 
send you the volumes as soon as they appear, 
in octavo. I devoured your fourth number ; 
the plates are almost finer than the previous 
ones ; and the text, though I have only looked 
it through hastily, interested me deeply, espe- 
cially the analytical catalogue of Bolca, and 
the more general and very philosophical views 
of fishes in general, pp. 57-64. The latter is 
also remarkable in point of style. . . . 

M. von Buch, who has just left me, sends 
you a warm greeting. None the less does he 
consider the method of issuing your text in 
fragments from different volumes, altogether 
diabolical. I also complain a little, though in 
all humility ; but I suppose it to be connected 
with the difficulty of concluding any one fam- 
ily, when new materials are daily accumulat- 
ing on your hands. Continue then as before. 

In my judgment, M. Agassiz never does 
wrong. . . . 

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



(LONDON), October , 1835. 

... I cannot express to you my pleasure in 
reading your letter of May 10th (which was, 
unhappily, only delivered to me on my pas- 
sage through Carlsruhe, at the end of July). 
. . . To know that I have occupied your 
thoughts a moment, especially in days of trial 
and sorrow such as you have had to bear, 
raises me in my own eyes, and redoubles my 
hope for the future. And just now such en- 
couragement is particularly cheering under 
the difficulties which I meet in completing 
my task in England. I have now been here 
nearly two months, and I hope before leaving 
to finish the description of all that I brought 
together at the Geological Society last year. 
Knowing that you are in Paris, however, I 
cannot resist the temptation of going to see 
you ; indeed, should your stay be prolonged 
for some weeks, it would be my most direct 
path for home. I should like to tell you a 
little of what I have done, and how the world 
has gone with me since we last met. ... I 
have certainly committed an imprudence in 
throwing myself into an enterprise so vast 
in proportion to my means as my " Fossil 

VOL. I. 17 


Fishes." But, having begun it, I have no al- 
ternative ; my only safety is in success. I 
have a firm conviction that I shall bring my 
work to a happy issue, though often in the 
evening I hardly know how the mill is to be 
turned to-morrow. . . . 

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


His second visit to England, during which 
the above letter was written, was chiefly spent 
in reviewing the work of his artist, whom he 
now reinforced with a second draughtsman, 

M. Weber, the same who had formerlv worked 

x / 

with him in Munich. He also attended the 
meeting of the British Association in Dublin, 
stayed a few days at Oulton Park for another 
look at the collections of Sir Philip Egerton, 
made a second grand tour among the other 
fossil fishes of England and Ireland, and re- 
turned to Neuchatel, leaving his two artists 
in London with their hands more than full. 

While Agassiz thus pursued his work on 
fossil fishes with ardor and an almost perilous 
audacity, in view of his small means, he found 
also time for various other investigations. Dur- 
ing the year 1836, though pushing forward 
constantly the publication of the " Poissons 
Fossiles," his "Prodromus of the Class of 
Echinodermata ' ' appeared in the Memoirs of 
the Natural History Society of Neuchatel, as 
well as his paper on the fossil Echini belong- 
ing to the Neocomien group of the Neuchatel 
Jura, accompanied by figures. Not long after, 
he published in the Memoirs of the Helvetic 
Society his descriptions of fossil Echini pecul- 
iar to Switzerland, and issued also the first 


number of a more extensive work, " Monogra- 
phic d'Echinodermes." During this year he 
received a new evidence of the sympathy of 
the English naturalists, in the Wollaston medal 
awarded to him by the London Geological 

The summer of 1836 was an eventful one 
for Agassiz, the opening, indeed, of a new 
and brilliant chapter in his life. The at- 
tention of the ignorant and the learned had 
alike been called to the singular glacial phe- 
nomena of movement and transportation in 
the Alpine valleys. The peasant had told his 
strange story of boulders carried on the back 
of the ice, of the alternate retreat and advance 
of glaciers, now shrinking to narrower limits, 
now plunging forward into adjoining fields, 
by some unexplained power of expansion and 
contraction. Scientific men were awake to 
the interest of these facts, but had consid- 
ered them only as local phenomena. Venetz 
and Charpentier were the first to detect their 
wider significance. The former traced the an- 
cient limits of the Alpine glaciers as defined 
by the frame-work of debris or loose material 
they had left behind them ; and Charpentier 
went farther, and affirmed that all the erratic 
boulders scattered over the plain of Switzer- 


land and on the sides of the Jura had been 
thus distributed by ice and not by water, as 
had been supposed. 

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

During this otherwise delightful summer, he 
was not without renewed anxiety lest he should 
be obliged to suspend the publication of the 
Fossil Fishes for want of means to carry it on. 
On this account he writes from Bex to Sir 
Philip Egerton in relation to the sale of his 
original drawings, the only property he pos- 


sessed. " It is absolutely impossible/' he says, 
" for me to issue even another number until 
this sale is effected. ... I shall consider my- 
self more than repaid if I receive, in exchange 
for the whole collection of drawings, simply 
what I have expended upon them, provided 
I may keep those which have yet to be litho- 
graphed until that be done." 

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

During his sojourn at Bex, Agassiz's intel- 
lect and imagination had been deeply stirred 
by the glacial phenomena. In the winter of 
1837, on his return to Neuchatel, he investi- 
gated anew the slopes of the Jura, and found 
that the facts there told the same story. Al- 
though he resumed with unabated ardor his 


various works on fishes, radiates, and mol- 
lusks, a new chapter of nature was all the 
while unfolding itself in his fertile brain. 
When the Helvetic Association assembled at 
Neuchatel in the following summer, the young 
president, from whom the members had ex- 
pected to hear new tidings of fossil fishes, 
startled them by the presentation of a glacial 
theory, in which the local erratic phenomena 
of the Swiss valleys assumed a cosmic sig- 
nificance. It is worthy of remark here that 
the first large outlines in which Agassiz, when 
a young man, planned his intellectual work 
gave the key-note to all that followed. As 
the generalizations on which all his future 
zoological researches were based, are sketched 
in the Preface to his " Poissons Fossiles," so 
his opening address to the Helvetic Society 
in 1837 unfolds the glacial period as a whole, 
much as he saw it at the close of his life, af- 
ter he had studied the phenomena on three 
continents. In this address he announced his 
conviction that a great ice-period, due to a tem- 
porary oscillation of the temperature of the 
globe, had covered the surface of the earth 
with a sheet of ice, extending at least from 
the north pole to Central Europe and Asia* 
" Siberian winter," he says, "established itself 


for a time over a world previously covered 
with a rich vegetation and peopled with large 
mammalia, similar to those now inhabiting the 
warm regions of India and Africa. Death en- 


veloped all nature in a shroud, and the cold, 
having reached its highest degree, gave to 
this mass of ice, at the maximum of tension, 
the greatest possible hardness." In this novel 
presentation the distribution of erratic boul- 
ders, instead of being classed among local 
phenomena, was considered " as one of the ac- 
cidents accompanying the vast change occa- 
sioned by the fall of the temperature of our 
globe before the commencement of our epoch." 
This was, indeed, throwing the gauntlet 
down to the old expounders of erratic phe- 
nomena upon the principle of floods, freshets, 
and floating ice. Many well-known geologists 
were present at the meeting, among them Leo- 
pold von Buch, who could hardly contain his 
indignation, mingled with contempt, for what 
seemed to him the view of a youthful and in- 
experienced observer. One would have liked 
to hear the discussion which followed, in spe- 
cial section, between Von Buch, Charpentier, 
and Agassiz. Elie de Beaumont, who should 
have made the fourth, did not arrive till later. 
Difference of opinion, however, never dis- 


turbed the cordial relation which existed be- 
tween Von Buck and his young opponent. In- 
deed, A^assiz's reverence and admiration for 

t O 

Yon Buch was then, and continued through- 
out his life, deep and loyal. 

Not alone from the men who had made 
these subjects their special study, did Agassiz 
meet with discouragements. The letters of 


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

The next letter shows that Humboldt was 
seriously anxious lest this new field of activ- 


ity, with its fascinating speculations, should 
draw Agassiz away from his ichthyological re- 


BERLIN, December 2, 1837. 

I have this moment received, my dear 
friend, by the hand of M. de W either, the 
cabinet minister, your eighth and ninth num- 
bers, with a fine pamphlet of text. I hasten 
to express my warm thanks, and I congratu- 
late the public on your somewhat tardy res- 
olution to give a larger proportion of text. 
One should flatter neither the king, nor the 
people, nor one's dearest friend. I maintain, 
therefore, that no one has told you forcibly 
enough how the very persons who justly ad- 
mire your work, constantly complain of this 
fragmentary style of publication, which is the 
despair of those who have not the leisure to 
place your scattered sheets where they belong 
and disentangle the skein. 1 

I think you would do well to publish for 
a while more text than plates. You could do 

1 Owing to the irregularity with which he received and 
was forced to work up his material, Agassiz was often either 
in advance or in arrears with certain parts of his subject, so 
that his plates and his text did not keep pace with each other, 
thus causing his readers much annoyance. 


this the better because your text is excellent, 
full of new and important ideas, expressed 
with admirable clearness. The charming let- 
ter (again without a date) which preceded 
your package impressed me painfully. I see 
you are ill again ; you complain of congestion 
of the head and eyes. For mercy's sake take 
care of your health which is so dear to us. 
I am afraid you work too much, and (shall 
I say it frankly?) that you spread your in- 
tellect over too many subjects at once. I 
think that you should concentrate your moral 
and also your pecuniary strength upon this 
beautiful work on fossil fishes. In so doing 
you will render a greater service to positive 
geology, than by these general considerations 
(a little icy withal) on the revolutions of the 
primitive world ; considerations which, as you 
well know, convince only those who give 
them birth. In accepting considerable sums 
from England, you have, so to speak, con- 
tracted obligations to be met only by complet- 
ing a work which will be at once a monument 
to your own glory and a landmark in the his- 
tory of science. Admirable and exact as your 
researches on other fossils are, your contem- 
poraries claim from you the fishes above all. 
You will say that this is making you the slave 


of others ; perfectly true, but such is the 
pleasing position of affairs here below. Have 
I not been driven for thirty-three years to busy 
myself with that tiresome America, and am I 
not, even yet, daily insulted because, after 
publishing thirty - two volumes of the great 
edition in folio and in quarto, and twelve hun- 
dred plates, one volume of the historical sec- 
tion is wanting? We men of letters are the 
servants of an arbitrary master, whom we have 
imprudently chosen, who flatters and pets us 
first, and then tyrannizes over us if we do 
not work to his liking. You see, my dear 
friend, I play the grumbling old man, and, at 
the risk of deeply displeasing you, place my- 
self on the side of the despotic public. . . . 

With reference to the general or periodical 
lowering of the temperature of the globe, I 
have never thought it necessary, on account 
of the elephant of the Lena, to admit that 
sudden frost of which Cuvier used to speak. 
What I have seen in Siberia, and what has 
been observed in Captain Beechey's expedition 
on the northwest coast of America, simply 
proves that there exists a layer of frozen drift, 
in the fissures of which (even now) the muscu- 
lar flesh of any animal which should acciden- 
tally fall into them would be preserved intact. 


It is a slight local phenomenon. To me, the 
ensemble of geological phenomena seems to 
prove, not the prevalence of this glacial sur- 
face on which you would carry along your 
boulders, but a very high temperature spread- 
ing almost to the poles, a temperature favor- 
able to organizations resembling those now 
living in the tropics. Your ice frightens me, 
and gladly as I would welcome you here, my 
dear friend, I think, perhaps, for the sake of 
your health, and also that you may not see 
this country, always so hideous, under a sheet 
of snow and ice (in February), you would do 
better to come two months later, with the 
first verdure. This is suggested by a letter 

received yesterday by M. d'O , which 

alarmed me a little, because the state of your 
eyes obliged you to write by another hand. 
Pray do not think of traveling before you are 
quite well. I close this letter, feeling sure that 
it does not contain a line which is not an ex- 
pression of friendship and of the high esteem 
I bear you. The magnificence of your last 
numbers, eight and nine, cannot be told. How 
admirably executed are your Macropoma, the 
Ophiopris procerus, Mantell's great beast, the 
minute details of the Dercetis, Psamniodus, 
. . . the skeletons. . . . There is nothing 


like it in all that we possess upon vertebrates. 
I have also begun to study your text, so rich 
in well arranged facts ; the monograph of the 
Lepidostei, the passage upon the bony rays, 
and, dear Agassiz, I could hardly believe my 
eyes, sixty-five continuous pages of the third 
volume, without interruption ! You will spoil 
the public. But, rny good friend, you have 
already information upon a thousand species ; 
" claudite jam rivos ! ' You say your work 
can go on if you have two hundred subscrib- 
ers ; but if you continue to support two travel- 
ing draughtsmen, I predict, as a practical man, 
that it cannot go on. You cannot even pub- 
lish what you have gathered in the last five 
years. Consider that in attempting to give a 
review of all the fossil fishes which now exist 
in collections, you pursue a phantom which 
ever flies before you. Such a work would 
not be finished in less than fifteen years, and 
besides, this now is an uncertain element. 
Cannot you conquer yourself so far as to 
finish what you have in your possession at 
present ? Recall your artists. With the rep- 
utation you enjoy in Europe, whatever might 
essentially change your opinion on certain or- 
ganisms would willingly be sent to you. If 
you continue to keep two ambassadors in for- 


eign lands, the means you destine for the 
engraving and printing will soon be absorbed. 
You will struggle with domestic difficulties, 
and at sixty years of age (tremble at the 
sight of this number ! ) you will be as un- 
certain as you are to-day, whether you pos- 
sess, even in your coUection of drawings, all 
that is to be found among amateurs. How 
exhaust an ocean in which the species are 
indefinitely increasing ? Finish, first, what 
you have this December, 1837, and then, if 
the subject does not weary you, publish the 
supplements in 1847. You must not forget 
that these supplements will be of two kinds : 
1st. Ideas which modify some of your old 
views. 2d. New species. Only the first kind 
of supplement would be really desirable. Fur- 
thermore, you must regain your intellectual 
independence and not let yourself be scolded 
any more by M. de Humboldt. Little will 
it avail you should I vanish from the scene 
of this world with your fourteenth number ! 
When I am a fossil in my turn I shall still ap- 
pear to you as a ghost, having under my arm 
the pages you have failed to interpolate and 
the volume of that eternal America which I 
owe to the public. I close with a touch of fun, 
in order that my letter may seem a little less 


like preaching. A thousand affectionate re- 
membrances. No more ice, not much of echi- 
nodernis, plenty of fish, recall of ambassadors 
in partibus, and great severity toward the 
book-sellers, an infernal race, two or three of 
whom have been killed under me. 


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

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


December 22, 1837. 

. . . Pray reinstate me in the good graces 
of my unknown benefactor among you. By 
a great mistake the reports of the Society for- 
warded to me from Neuchatel have been sent 
back. As it is weh 1 known at the post-office 
that I do not keep the piles of educational 
journals sent to me from France, the postage 
on them being much too heavy for my means, 
they took it for granted that this journal, the 
charges on which amounted to several crowns, 
was of the number. I am very sorry. I do 


not even know the contents of the journal, 
but I suppose it contained papers of yours, 
full of genius and ardor. I like your way of 
looking at nature, and I think you render 
great service to science by your observations. 
A right spirit will readily lead you to see that 
this is the true road to glory, far preferable to 
the one which leads to vain analogies and 
speculations, the time for which is long past. 
I am grieved to hear that you are not well, 
and that your eyes refuse their service. M. 
de Humboldt tells me that you are seeking a 
better climate here, in the month of February. 
You may find it, perhaps, thanks to our stoves. 
But as we shall still have plenty of ice in the 
streets, your glacial opinions will not find a 
market at that season. I should like to pre- 
sent you with a memoir or monograph of 
mine, just published, on Spirifer and Orthis, 
but I will take good care to let no one pay 
postage on a work which, by its nature, can 
have but a very limited interest. ... I will 
await your arrival to give you these descrip- 
tions. I am expecting the numbers of your 
Fossil Fishes, which have not yet come. Hum- 
boldt often speaks of them to me. Ah ! how 
much I prefer you in a field which is wholly 
your own than in one where you break in 

VOL. I. 18 


upon the measured and cautious tread, intro- 
duced by Saussure in geology. You, too, will 
reconsider all this, and will yet treat the views 
of Saussure and Escher with more respect. 
Everything here turns to infusoria. Ehren- 
berg has just discovered that an apparently 
sandy deposit, twenty feet in thickness, under 
the " Luneburgerheyde," is composed entirely 
of infusoria of a kind still living in the neigh- 
borhood of Berlin. This layer rests upon a 
brown deposit known to be ten feet in thick- 
ness. The latter consists, for one fifth of the 
depth, of pine pollen, which burns. The rest 
is of infusoria. Thus these animals, which 
the naked eye has not power to discern, have 
themselves the power to build up mountain 


1837-1839: ^T. 30-32. 

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

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



GENEVA, May 12, 1836. 

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

If I weary you with a second letter, how- 
ever, it is not only to remind you of your 
promise about the " Bibliotheque Universelle," 
but for another object still more important 
and urgent. The matter stands thus. Our 
academic courses have just opened under fa- 
vorable auspices. The number of students 
is much increased, and, especially, we have a 
good many from Germany and England. This 
circumstance makes us feel more strongly the 
importance of completing our organization, 
and of doing this wisely and quickly. I will 
not play the diplomat with you, but will 
frankly say, without circumlocution, that you 
seem to me the one essential, the one indis- 


pensable man. After having talked with some 
influential persons here, I feel sure that if you 
say to me, " I will come," I can obtain for 
you the following conditions : 1st. A regular 
salary of three thousand francs, beside the 
student fees, which, in view of the character 
of your instruction, your reputation, and the 
novelty of your course, I place too low at a 
thousand francs ; of this I am convinced. 2d. 
The vacant professorship is one of geology 
and mineralogy, but should you wish it De la 
Planche will continue to teach the mineralogy, 
and you will replace it by paleontology, or 
any other subject which may suit you. . . . 
Add to this resource that of a popular course 
for the world outside, ladies and others, which 
you might give in the winter, as at Neu- 
chatel. The custom here is to pay fifty francs 
for the course of from twenty-five to thirty 
lectures. You will easily see that for such 
a course you would have at least as large an 
audience here as at Neuchatel. This is the 
more likely because there is a demand for 
these courses, Pictet being dead, and M. Rossi 
and M. de Castella having ceased to give 
them. No one has come forward as their 
heir, fine as the inheritance is ; some are too 
busy, others have not the kind of talent 


needed, and none have attempted to replace 
these gentlemen in this especial line, one in 
which you excel, both by your gifts and your 
fortunate choice of a subject more in vogue 
just now than any other. Come then, to 
work in this rich vein before others present 
themselves for the same purpose. Finally, 
since I must make up your budget, the " Bib- 
liotheque Universelle," which pays fifty francs 
a sheet, would be always open to you ; there 
you could bring the fruits of your produc- 
tive leisure. Certainly it would be easy for 
you to make in this way an additional thou- 
sand francs. 

Here, then, is a statement, precise and full, 
of the condition of things, and of what you 
may hope to find here. The moment is pro- 
pitious ; there is a movement among us just 
now in favor of the sciences, and this winter 
the plan of a large building for our museum 
and library will be presented to our common 
council. The work should begin next sum- 
mer; you well know how much we should 
value your ideas and your advice on this sub- 
ject. There may also be question of a direc- 
tor for the museum, and of an apartment for 
him in the new edifice ; you will not doubt to 
whom such a place would be offered. But let 


us not draw upon the future ; let us limit our- 
selves to the present, and see whether what I 
propose suits you. . . . Come ! let yourself be 
persuaded. Sacrifice the capital to a provin- 
cial town. At Berlin, no doubt, you would be 
happy and honored ; at Geneva, you would 
be the happiest, the most honored. Look at 
, who shone as a star of the first magni- 
tude at Geneva, and who is but a star of sec- 
ond or third rank in Paris. This, to be sure, 
would not be your case ; nevertheless, I am 
satisfied that at Geneva, where you would be 
a second de Saussure, your position would be 
still more brilliant. I know that these motives 
of scientific self-love have little weight with 


you ; nevertheless, wishing to omit nothing, I 
give them for what they are worth. But my 
hope rests far more on the arguments I have 
first presented ; they come from the heart, and 
with you the heart responds as readily as the 
genius. But enough ! I will not fatigue you 
with farther considerations. I think I have 
given you all the points necessary for your 
decision. Be so kind as to let me know as 
soon as possible what you intend to do. Have 
the kindness also not to speak of the contents 
of this letter, and remember that it is not the 
Rector of the Academy of Geneva, but the 


Professor Auguste de la Bive, who writes in 
his own private person. Promptitude and 
silence, then, are the two recommendations 
which I make to you while we await the Yes 
we so greatly desire. . . . 

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

The summer of 1837 was a sad one to 
Agassiz and to his whole family ; his father 
died at Concise, carried off by a fever while 
still a comparatively young man. The pretty 
parsonage, to which they were so much at- 


tached, passed into other hands, and thence- 
forward the home of Madame Agassiz was 
with her children, among whom she divided 
her time. 

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


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

All this work could hardly be carried on 
single handed. In 1837 M. Edouard Desor 
joined Agassiz in Neuchatel, and became for 
many years his intimate associate in scientific 
labors. A year or two later M. Charles Vogt 
also united himself to the band of investiga- 
tors and artists who had clustered about Agas- 
siz as their central force. M. Ernest Favre 
says of this period of his life : " He displayed 


during these years an incredible energy, of 
which the history of science offers, perhaps, 
no other example." 

Among his most important zoological re- 
searches at this time were those upon mol- 
lusks. His method of studying this class was 
too original and too characteristic to be passed 
by without notice The science of conchology 
had heretofore been based almost wholly upon 
the study of the empty shells. To Agassiz 
this seemed superficial. Longing to know 
more of the relation between the animal and 
its outer covering, he bethought himself that 
the inner moulding of the shell would give 
at least the form of its old inhabitant. For 
the practical work he engaged an admirable 
moulder, M. Stahl, who continued to be one 
of his staff at the lithographic establishment 
until he became permanently employed at the 
Jardin des Plantes. With his help and that 
of M. Henri Ladame, professor of physics and 
chemistry at Neuchatel, who prepared the del- 
icate metal alloys in which the first mould was 
taken, Agassiz obtained casts in which the 
form of the animals belonging to the shells 
was perfectly reproduced. This method has 
since passed into universal use. By its aid he 
obtained a new means of ascertainino* the re- 


lations between fossil and living mollusks. It 
was of vast service to him in preparing his 
" Etudes critiques sur les Mollusques f ossiles," 
a quarto volume with nearly one hundred 

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


NEUCHATEL, August 10, 1838. 

. . . These last months have been a time 
of trial to me, and I have been forced to give 
up my correspondence completely in order to 
meet the ever-increasing demands of my work. 
You know how difficult it is to find a quiet 
moment and an easy mind for writing, when 
one is pursued by printing or lithographic 
proofs, and forced besides to prepare unceas- 
ing occupation for numerous employes. Add 
to this the close research required by the work 
of editing, and you surely will find an excuse 
for my delay. I think I have already written 
you that in order to have everything under my 
own eye, I had founded a lithographic estab- 
lishment at Neuchatel in the hope of avoid- 
ing in future the procrastinations to which 


my proofs were liable when the work was done 
at Munich. ... I hope that my new publica- 
tions will be sufficiently well received to jus- 
tify me in supporting an establishment unique 
of its kind, which I have founded solely in the 
interest of science and at the risk of my peace 
and my health. If I give you all these details, 
it is simply to explain my silence, which was 
caused not by pure negligence, but by the de- 
mands of an undertaking in the success of 
which my very existence is involved. . . . 
This week I shall forward to the Secretary of 
the British Association for the Advancement 
of Science all that I have been able to do 
thus far, being unable to bring it myself, 
as I had hoped. You would oblige me greatly 
if you would give a look at these different 
works, which may, I hope, have various claims 
on your interest. First, there is the tenth 
number of the "Fossil Fishes," though the 
whole supply of publisher's copies will only 
be sent a few weeks later. Then there are 
the seven first plates of my sea-urchins, en- 
graved with much care and with many details. 
A third series of plates relates to critical stud- 
ies on fossil mollusks, little or erroneously 
known, and on their internal casts. This is a 
quite novel side of the study of shells, and 


will throw light on the organization of ani- 
mals known hitherto only by the shell. I 
have made a plaster collection of them for the 
Geological Society. They have been packed 
some time, but my late journey to Paris has 
prevented me from forwarding them till now. 
As soon as I have a moment, I shall make out 
the catalogue and send it on. When you go 
to London, do not fail to examine them ; the 
result is curious enough. Finally, the plates 
for the first number of my " Fresh - Water 
Fishes ' are in great part finished, and also 
included in my package for Newcastle. . . . 
The plates are executed by a new process, and 
printed in various tints on different stones, re- 
sulting in a remarkable uniformity of coloring 
in all the impressions. . . . 

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


form for many a year, that of becoming a 
member of a body so illustrious as the Royal 
Society of London. . . . 

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

While Agassiz's various zoological works 
were thus pressed with unceasing activity, the 
glaciers and their attendant phenomena, which 
had so captivated his imagination, were ever 
present to his thought. In August of the 
year 1838, a year after he had announced at 
the meeting of the Helvetic Society his com- 
prehensive theory respecting the action of the 
ice over the whole northern hemisphere, he 
made two important excursions in the Alps. 
The first was to the valley of Hassli, the 
second to the glaciers of Mont Blanc. In 
both he was accompanied by his scientific 
collaborator, M. Desor, whose intrepidity and 
ardor hardly fell short of his own ; by Mr. 
Dinkel as artist, and by one or two students 
and friends. These excursions were a kind 
of prelude to his more prolonged sojourns on 
the Alps, and to the series of observations car- 


ried on by him and his companions, which at- 
tracted so much attention in later years. But 
though Agassiz carried with him, on these 
first explorations, only the simplest means of 
investigation and experiment, they were no 
amateur excursions. On these first Alpine 
journeys he had in his mind the sketch he 
meant to fill out. The significance of the 
phenomena was already clear to him. What 
he sought was the connection. Following 
the same comparative method, he intended to 
track the footsteps of the ice as he had gath- 
ered and put together the fragments of his 
fossil fishes, till the scattered facts should fall 
into their natural order once more and tell 
their story from beginning to end. 

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

These excursions, though not without their 
dangers and fatigues, were full of charm for 


men who, however serious their aims, were 
still young enough to enter like boys into the 
spirit of adventure. Agassiz himself was but 
thirty-one ; an ardent pedestrian, he delighted 
in feats of walking and climbing. His friend 
Dinkel relates that one day, while pausing at 
Grindelwald for refreshment, they met an el- 
derly traveler who asked him, after listening 
awhile to their gay talk, in which appeals were 
constantly made to " Agassiz," if that was 
perhaps the son of the celebrated professor 
of Neuchatel. The answer amazed him ; he 
could hardly believe that the young man be- 
fore him was the naturalist of European rep- 
utation. In connection with this journey oc- 
curs the first attempt at an English letter 
found among Agassiz's papers. It is addressed 
to Buckland, and contains this passage : " Since 
I saw the glaciers I am quite of a snowy hu- 
mor, and will have the whole surface of the 
earth covered with ice, and the whole prior 
creation dead by cold. In fact, I am quite 
satisfied that ice must be taken [included] in 
every complete explanation of the last changes 
which occurred at the surface of Europe." 
Considered in connection with their subse- 
quent work together in the ancient ice-beds 
and moraines of England, Scotland, Ireland, 

VOL I. 19 


and Wales, it is curious to find Buckland an- 
swering : "I am sorry that I cannot entirely 
adopt the new theory you advocate to explain 
transported blocks by moraines ; for suppos- 
ing it adequate to explain the phenomena of 
Switzerland, it would not apply to the gran- 
ite blocks and transported gravel of England, 
which I can only explain by referring to cur- 
rents of water." During the same summer 
Mrs. Buckland writes from Interlaken, in the 
course of a journey in Switzerland with her 
husband. ..." We have made a good tour 
of the Oberland and have seen glaciers, etc., 
but Dr. Buckland is as far as ever from agree- 
ing with you." We shall see hereafter how 
completely he became a convert to Agassiz's 
glacial theory in its widest acceptation. 

One friend, scarcely mentioned thus far in 
this biography, was yet, from the beginning, 
the close associate of Agassiz's glacier work. 
Arnold Guyot and he had been friends from 
boyhood. Their university life separated them 
for a time, Guyot being at Berlin while Agas- 
siz was at Munich, and they became colleagues 
at Neuchatel only after Agassiz had been for 
some years established there. From that time 
forward there was hardly any break in their 
intercourse ; they came to America at about 


the same time, and finally settled as profes- 
sors, the one at Harvard College, in Cam- 
bridge, Massachusetts, and the other at the 
College of New Jersey, in Princeton. They 
shared all their scientific interests ; and when 
they were both old men, Guyot brought to 
Agassiz's final undertaking, the establishment 
of a summer school at Penikese, a coopera- 
tion as active and affectionate as that he had 
given in his youth to his friend's scheme for 
establishing a permanent scientific summer 
station in the high Alps. 

In a short visit made by Agassiz to Paris in 
the spring of 1838 he unfolded his whole 
plan to Guyot, then residing there, and per- 
suaded him to undertake a certain part of the 
investigation. During this very summer of 
1838, therefore, while Agassiz was tracing the 
ancient limits of the ice in the Bernese Ober- 
land and the Haut Valais, and later, in the 
valley of Chamounix, Guyot was studying the 
structure and movement of the ice during a 
six weeks' tour in the central Alps. At the 
conclusion of their respective journeys they 
met to compare notes, at the session of the 
Geological Society of France, at Porrentruy, 
where Agassiz made a report upon the gen- 
eral results of his summer's work; while Guyot 


read a paper, the contents of which have 
never been fully published, upon the move- 
ment of glaciers and upon their internal fea- 
tures, including the laminated structure of the 
ice, the so-called blue bands, deep down in the 
mass of the glacier. 1 In the succeeding years 
of their glacial researches together, Guyot took 
for his share the more special geological prob- 
lems, the distribution of erratic boulders and 
of the glacial drift, as connected with the an- 
cient extension of the glaciers. This led him 
away from the central station of observation 
to remoter valleys on the northern and south- 
ern slopes of the Alps, where he followed the 
descent of the glacial phenomena to the plains 
of central Europe on the one side and to those 
of northern Italy on the other. We therefore 
seldom hear of him with the band of workers 
who finally settled on the glacier of the Aar, 
because his share of the undertaking became 
a more isolated one. It was nevertheless an 
integral part of the original scheme, which was 
carried on connectedly to the end, the results 
of the work in the different departments being 
constantly reported and compared. So much 
was this the case, that the intention of Agas- 

1 See Memoir of Louis Agassiz, by Arnold Guyot, written 
for the United States National Academy of Sciences, p. 38. 


siz had been to embody the whole in a publi- 
cation, the first part of which should contain 
the glacial system of Agassiz ; the second the 
Alpine erratics, by Guyot; while the third 
and final portion, by E. Desor, should treat of 
the erratic phenomena outside of Switzerland. 
The first volume alone was completed. Un- 
locked for circumstances made the continuation 
of the work impossible, and the five thousand 
specimens of the erratic rocks of Switzerland 
collected by Professor Guyot, in preparation 
for his part of the publication, are now depos- 
ited in the College of New Jersey, at Prince- 

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



NEUCHATEL, September 10, 1839. 

. . . Under these circumstances, I thought 
I could not do better than to pass some weeks 
in the solitude of the high Alps ; I lived 
about a fortnight in the region of the glaciers, 
ascending some new field of ice every day, and 
trying to scale the sides of our highest peaks. 
I thus examined in succession all the glaciers 
descending from the majestic summits of 
Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, whose nu- 
merous crests form a most gigantic amphithe- 
atre, which lifts itself above the everlasting 
snow. Afterward I visited the sea of ice 
which, under the name of the glacier of 
Aletsch, flows from the Jungfrau, the Monch, 
and the Eiger toward Brieg; thence I went 
to the glacier of the Rhone, and from there, 
establishing my headquarters at the Hospice 
of the Grimsel, I followed the glacier of the 
Aar to the foot of the Finsteraarhorn. There 
I ascertained the most important fact that 
I now know concerning the advance of gla- 
ciers, namely, that the cabin constructed by 
Hugi in 1827, at the foot of the Absch- 
wung, is now four thousand feet lower down. 
Slight as is the inclination of the glacier, this 


cabin has been carried on by the ice with as- 
tonishing rapidity, and still more important is 
it that this rapidity has been on the increase; 
for in 1830 the cabin was only some hundred 
feet from the rock, in 1836 it had already 
passed over a distance from [word torn away] 
of two thousand feet, and in the last three 
years it has again doubled that distance. Not 
only have I confirmed my views upon glaciers 
and their attendant phenomena, on this new 
ground, but I have completed my examina- 
tion of a number of details, and have had be- 
sides the satisfaction of convincing one of my 
most severe opponents of the exactness of my 
observations, namely, M. Studer, who accom- 
panied me on a part of these excursions. . . . 

The winter of 1840 was fully occupied by 
the preparation for the publication of the 
"Etudes sur les Glaciers," which appeared 
before the year was out, accompanied by an 
atlas of thirty-two plates. The volume of 
text consisted of an historical resume of all 
that had previously been done in the study of 
glaciers, followed by an account of the obser- 
vations of Agassiz and his companions during 
the last three or four years upon the glaciers 
of the Alps. Their structure, external aspect, 


needles, tables, perched blocks, gravel cones, 
rifts, and crevasses, as well as their movements, 
mode of formation, and internal temperature, 
were treated in succession. But the most in- 
teresting chapters, from the author's own 
point of view, and those which were most 
novel for his readers, were the concluding 
ones upon the ancient extension of the Swiss 
glaciers, and upon the former existence of an 
immense, unbroken sheet of ice, which had 
once covered the whole northern hemisphere. 
No one before had drawn such vast conclu- 
sions from the local phenomena of the Alpine 
valleys. " The surface of Europe," says Agas- 
siz, " adorned before by a tropical vegetation 
and inhabited by troops of large elephants, 
enormous hippopotami, and gigantic carniv- 
ora, was suddenly buried under a vast mantle 
of ice, covering alike plains, lakes, seas and 
plateaus. Upon the life and movement of 
a powerful creation fell the silence of death. 
Springs paused, rivers ceased to flow, the rays 
of the sun, rising upon this frozen shore (if, 
indeed, it was reached by them), were met 
only by the breath of the winter from the 
north and the thunders of the crevasses as 
they opened across the surface of this icy 
sea." The author goes on to state that on 

1 Etudes sur les Glaciers. Chapter xviii. p. 315. 


the breaking up of this universal shroud the 
ice must have lingered longest in mountainous 
strongholds, and that all these fastnesses of 
retreat became, as the Alps are now, centres 
of distribution for the broken debris and 
rocky fragments which are found scattered 
with a kind of regularity along certain lines, 
and over given areas in northern and central 
Europe. How he followed out this idea in 
his subsequent investigations will be seen here- 


1840-1842: .ET. 33-35. 

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

IN the summer of 1840 Agassiz made his 
first permanent station on the Alps. Hitherto 
the external phenomena, the relation of the 
ice to its surroundings, and its influence upon 
them, had been the chief study. Now the 
glacier itself was to be the main subject of in- 
vestigation, and he took with him a variety of 
instruments for testing temperatures : barome- 
ters, thermometers, hygrometers, and psychoni- 
eters ; beside a boring apparatus, by means of 
which self-registering thermometers might be 
lowered into the heart of the glacier. To 
these were added microscopes for the study of 


such insects and plants as might be found in 
these ice-bound regions. The Hospice of the 
Grhnsel was selected as his base of supplies, 
and as guides Jacob Leuthold and Johann 
Wahren were chosen. Both of these had ac- 
companied Hugi in his ascension of the Fin- 
steraarhorn in 1828, and both were therefore 
thoroughly familiar with all the dangers of 
Alpine climbing. The lower Aar glacier was 
to be the scene of their continuous work, and 
the centre from which their ascents of the 
neighboring summits would be made. Here, 
on the great median moraine, stood a huge 
boulder of micaceous schist. Its upper sur- 
face projected so as to form a roof, and by 
closing it in on one side with a stone wall, 
leveling the floor by a judicious arrangement 
of flat slabs, and rigging a blanket in front 
to serve as a curtain across the entrance, the 
whole was presently transformed into a rude 
hut, where six persons could find sleeping- 
room. A recess, sheltered by the rock out- 
side, served as kitchen and dining-room ; while 
an empty space under another large boulder 
was utilized as a cellar for the keeping of pro- 
visions. This was the abode so well known 
afterward as the Hotel des Neuchatelois. Its 
first occupants were Louis Agassiz, Edouard 


Desor, Charles Vogt, Francois de Pourtales, 
Celestin Nicolet, and Henri Coulon. It af- 
forded, perhaps, as good a shelter as they 
could have found in the old cabin of Hugi, 
where they had hoped to make their tempo- 
rary home. In this they were disappointed, 
for the cabin had crumbled on its last glacial 
journey. The wreck was lying two hundred 
feet below the spot where they had seen the 
walls still standing the year before. 

The work was at once distributed among: 


the different members of the party, Agas- 
siz himself, assisted by his young friend and 
favorite pupil, Francois de Pourtales, retain- 
ing for his own share the meteorological ob- 
servations, and especially those upon the inter- 
nal temperature of the glaciers. 1 To M. Vogt 
fell the microscopic study of the red snow 
and the organic life contained in it; to M. 
Nicolet, the flora of the glaciers and the sur- 
rounding rocks ; to M. Desor, the glacial phe- 
nomena proper, including those of the mo- 
raines. He had the companionship and assist- 

1 See "Tables of Temperature, Measurements," etc., in 
Agassiz's Systems Glaciaire. These results are also recorded 
in a volume entitled Sejours dans les Glaciers, by Edouard 
Desor, a collection of very bright and entertaining articles 
upon the excursions and sojourns made in the Alps, during 
successive summers, by Agassiz and his scientific staff. 


ance of M. Henri Coulon in the long and 
laborious excursions required for this part of 
the work. 

This is not the place for scientific details. 
For the results of Agassiz's researches on the 
Alpine glaciers, to which he devoted much of 
his time and energy during ten years, from 
1836 to 1846, the reader is referred to his 
two larger works on this subject, the " Etudes 
sur les Glaciers," and the " Systeme Glaciaire." 
Of the work accomplished by him and his 
companions during these years this slight sum- 
mary is given by his friend Guyot. 1 " The 
position of eighteen of the most prominent 
rocks on the glacier was determined by care- 
ful triangulation by a skillful engineer, and 
measured year after year to establish the rate 
of motion of every part. The differences in 
the rate of motion in the upper and lower 
part of the glacier, as well as in different sea- 
sons of the year, was ascertained ; the amount 
of the annual melting was computed, and all 
the phenomena connected with it studied. All 
the surrounding peaks, the Jungfrau, the 
Schreckhorn, the Finsteraarhorn, most of them 

1 See Biographical Sketch, published by Professor A. 
Guyot, under the auspices of the United States National 


until then reputed unscalable, were ascend- 
ed, and the limit of glacial action discovered ; 
in short all the physical laws of the glacier 
were brought to light." 

We now return to the personal narrative. 
After a number of days spent in the study of 
the local phenomena, the band of workers 
turned their attention to the second part of 
their programme, namely, the ascent of the 
Strahleck, by crossing which and descending 
on the other side, they intended to reach Grin- 
delwald. One morning, then, toward the end 
of August, their guides, according to agree- 
ment, aroused them at three o'clock, an 
hour earlier than their usual roll-call. The 
first glance outside spread a general chill of 
disappointment over the party, for they found 
themselves beleaguered by a wall of fog on 
every side. But Leuthold, as he lighted the 
fire and prepared breakfast, bade them not 
despair, the sun might make all right. In a 
few moments, one by one, the summits of the 
Schreckhorn, the Finsteraarhorn, the Ober- 
aarhorn, the Altmaner, the Scheuchzerhorn, 
lighted by the first rays of the sun, came out 
like islands above the ocean of mist, which 
softly broke away and vanished with the ad- 
vancing light. In about three hours they 


reached the base of the Strahleck. Their two 
guides, Leuthold and Wahren, had engaged 
three additional men for this excursion, so that 
they now had five guides, none of whom were 
superfluous, since they carried with them va- 
rious barometric instruments which required 
careful handling. They began the ascent in 
single file, but the slopes soon became so steep 
and the light snow (in which they floundered 
to the knees at every step) so deep, that the 
guides resorted to the usual method in such 
cases of tying them all together. The two 
head guides alone, Leuthold and Wahren, re- 
mained detached, clearing the snow in front 
of them, cutting steps in the ice, and giving 
warning, by cry and gesture, of any hidden 
danger in the path. At nine o'clock, after an 
hour's climbing, they stepped upon the small 
plateau, evenly covered with unbroken snow, 
formed by the summit of the Strahleck. 

The day had proved magnificent. With a 
clear sky above them, they looked down upon 
the valley of Grindelwald at their feet, while 
around and below them gathered the Schei- 
deck and the Faulhorn, the pyramidal outline 
of the Niesen, and the chain of the Stock- 
horn. In front lay the great masses of the 
Eiger and the Monch, while to the southwest 


the Jungfrau rose above the long chain of 
the Viescherhorner. The first pause of silent 
wonder and delight, while they released them- 
selves from their cords and arranged their in- 
struments, seems to have been succeeded by 
an outburst of spirits ; for in the journal of 
the youngest of the party, Francois de Pour- 
tales, then a lad of seventeen, we read : " The 
guides began to wrestle and we to dance, 
when suddenly we saw a female chamois, fol- 
lowed by her young, ascending a neighboring 
slope, and presently four or five more stretched 
their necks over a rock, as if to see what was 
going on. Breathless the wrestlers and the 
dancers paused, fearing to disturb by the 
slightest movement creatures so shy of human 
approach. They drew nearer until within easy 
gunshot distance, and then galloping along the 
opposite ridge disappeared over the summit." 
The party passed more than an hour on 
the top of the Strahleck, making observations 
and taking measurements. Then having rested 
and broken their fast with such provisions as 
they had brought, they prepared for a descent, 
which proved the more rapid, since much of it 
was a long slide. Tied together once more, 
they slid, wherever they found it possible 
to exchange the painful and difficult walking 












for this simpler process. " Once below these 
slopes of snow/' says the journal of young 
de Pourtales again, " rocks almost vertical, or 
narrow ledges covered with grass, served us 
as a road and brought us to the glacier of the 
Grindelwald. To reach the glacier itself we 
traversed a crevasse of great depth, and some 
twenty feet wide, on a bridge of ice, one or 
two feet in width, and broken toward the end, 
where we were obliged to spring across. Once 
on the glacier the rest was nothing. The race 
was to the fastest, and we were soon on the 
path of the tourists." Reaching the village of 
Grindelwald at three o'clock in the afternoon, 
they found it difficult to persuade the people 
at the inn that they had left the glacier of 
the Aar that morning. From Grindelwald 


they returned by the Scheideck to the Grim- 
sel, visiting on their way the upper glacier of 
Grindelwald, the glacier of Schwartzwald, and 
that of Rosenlaui, in order to see how far these 
had advanced since their last visit to them. 
After a short rest at the Hospice of the Grim- 
sel, Agassiz returned with two or three of his 
companions to their cabin on the Aar glacier 
for the purpose of driving stakes into the 
holes previously bored in the ice. He hoped 
by means of these stakes to learn the f ollow- 

VOL. I. 20 


ing year what had been the rate of movement 
of the glacier. The summer's work closed 
with the ascent of the Siedelhorn. In all 
these ascents, the utmost pains was taken to 
ascertain how far the action of the ice might 
be traced upon these mountain peaks and the 
limits determined at which the polished sur- 
faces ceased, giving place to the rough, an- 
gular rock which had never been modeled by 
the ice. 

Agassiz had hardly returned from the Alps 
when he started for England. He had long 
believed that the Highlands of Scotland, the 
hilly Lake Country of England, and the moun- 
tains of Wales and Ireland, would present the 
same phenomena as the valleys of the Alps. 
Dr. Buckland had offered to be his guide in 
this search after glacier tracks, as he had for- 
merly been in the hunt after fossil fishes in 
Great Britain. When, therefore, the meeting 
of the British Association at Glasgow, at 
which they were both present, was over, they 
started together for the Highlands. In a lec- 
ture delivered by Agassiz, at his summer 
school at Penikese, a few months before his 
death, he recurred to this journey with the 
enthusiasm of a young man. Recalling the 
scientific isolation in which he then stood, op- 


posed as he was to all the prominent geolo- 
gists of the day, he said : " Among the older 
naturalists, only one stood by me. Dr. Buck- 
land, Dean of Westminster, who had come to 
Switzerland at my urgent request for the ex- 
press purpose of seeing my evidence, and who 
had been fully convinced of the ancient ex- 
tension of ice there, consented to accompany 
me on my glacier hunt in Great Britain. We 
went first to the Highlands of Scotland, and 
it is one of the delightful recollections of my 
life that as we approached the castle of the 
Duke of Argyll, standing in a valley not un- 
like some of the Swiss valleys, I said to Buck- 
land : ' Here we shall find our first traces of 
glaciers ; ' and, as the stage entered the val- 
ley, we actually drove over an ancient termi- 
nal moraine, which spanned the opening of 
the valley." In short, Agassiz found, as he 
had anticipated, that in the mountains of 
Scotland, Wales, and the north of England, 
the valleys were in many instances traversed 
by terminal moraines and bordered by lateral 
ones, as in Switzerland. Nor were any of 
the accompanying phenomena wanting. The 
characteristic traces left by the ice, as well 
known to him now as the track of the game 
to the hunter ; the peculiar lines, furrows, 


and grooves ; the polished surfaces, the roches 
moutonnees ; the rocks, whether hard or soft, 
cut to one level, as by a rigid instrument ; the 
unstratified drift and the distribution of loose 
material in relation to the ancient glacier- 
beds, all agreed with what he already knew 
of glacial action. He visited the famous 
" roads of Glen Roy ' ' in the Grampian Hills, 
where so many geologists had broken a lance 
in defense of their theories of subsidence and 
upheaval, of ancient ocean -levels and sea- 
beaches, formed at a time when they believed 
Glen Roy and the adjoining valleys to have 
been so many fiords and estuaries. To Agas- 
siz, these parallel terraces explained them- 
selves as the shores of a glacial lake, held 
back in its bed for a time by neighboring gla- 
ciers descending from more sheltered valleys. 
The terraces marked the successively lower 
levels at which the water stood, as these bar- 
riers yielded, and allowed its gradual escape. 1 
The glacial action in the whole neighborhood 
was such as to leave no doubt in the mind of 

1 For details, see a paper by Agassiz on " The Glacial The- 
ory and its Recent Progress " in the Edinburgh New Philo- 
sophical Journal, October, 1842, accompanied by a map of 
the Glen Roy region, and also an article entitled " Parallel 
Roads of Glen Roy, in Scotland," in the second volume of 
Agassiz's Geological Sketches. 


Agassiz that Glen Roy and the adjoining 
glens, or valleys, had been the drainage-bed 
for the many glaciers formerly occupying the 
western ranges of the Grampian Hills. He 
returned from his tour satisfied that the moun- 
tainous districts of Great Britain had all been 
centres of glacial distribution, and that the 
drift material and the erratic boulders, scat- 
tered over the whole countrv, were due to ex- 

/ ' 

actly the same causes as the like phenomena 
in Switzerland. On the 4th of November, 
1840, he read a paper before the Geological 
Society of London, giving a summary of the 
scientific results of their excursion, followed 
by one from Dr. Buckland, who had become 
an ardent convert to his views. Apropos of 
this meeting, Dr. Buckland writes in advance 
as follows : 

TAYMOUTH CASTLE, October 15, 1840. 

. . . Lyell has adopted your theory in 
to to ! ! ! On my showing him a beautiful 
cluster of moraines, within two miles of his 
father's house, he instantly accepted it, as 
solving a host of difficulties that have all his 
life embarrassed him. And not these only, 
but similar moraines and detritus of moraines, 
that cover half of the adjoining counties are 


explicable on your theory, and he has con- 
sented to my proposal that he should imme- 
diately lay them all down on a map of the 
county and describe them in a paper to be 
read the day after yours at the Geological So- 
ciety. I propose to give in my adhesion by 
reading, the same day with yours, as a sequel 
to your paper, a list of localities where I have 
observed similar glacial detritus in Scotland, 
since I left you, and in various parts of Eng- 

There are great reefs of gravel in the lime- 
stone valleys of the central bog district of 
Ireland. They have a distinct name, which I 
forget. No doubt they are moraines ; if you 
have not, ere you get this, seen one of them, 
pray do so. 1 But it will not be worth while 
to go out of your way to see more than one ; 
all the rest must follow as a corollary. I 
trust you will not fail to be at Edinboro' on 
the 20th, and at Sir W. Trevelyan's on the 
24th. . . . 

A letter of later date in the same month 

1 Agassiz was then staying at Florence Court, the seat 
of the Earl of Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh, Ireland, 
While there he had an opportunity of studying most interest- 
ing glacial phenomena. 


shows that Agassiz felt his views to be slowly 
gaining ground among his English friends. 


LONDON, November 24, 1840. 

. . . Our meeting on Wednesday passed 
off very well ; none of my facts were dis- 
turbed, though Wheweh 1 and Murchison at- 
tempted an opposition ; but as their objec- 
tions were far-fetched, they did not produce 
much effect. I was, however, delighted to 
have some appearance of serious opposition, 
because it gave me a chance to insist upon 
the exactness of my observations, and upon 
the want of solidity in the objections brought 
against them. Dr. Buckland was truly elo- 
quent. He has now full possession of this 
subject ; is, indeed, completely master of it. 

I am happy to tell you that everything is 
definitely arranged with Lord Francis, 1 and 
that I now feel within myself a courage which 
doubles my strength. I have just written to 
thank him. To-morrow I shall devote to the 
fossils sent me by Lord Enniskillen, a list of 
which I will forward to you. . . . 

1 Apropos of the sale of his original drawings of fossil 
fishes to Lord Francis Egerton. 


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


BERLIN, August 15, 1840. 

I am the most guilty of mortals, my dear 
friend. There are not three persons in the 
world whose remembrance and affection I 
value more than yours, or for whom I have a 
warmer love and admiration, and yet I allow 
half the year to pass without giving you a sign 
of life, without any expression of my warm 
gratitude for the magnificent gifts I owe to 
you. 1 

I am a little like my republican friend who 
no longer answers any letters because he does 
not know where to begin. I receive on an 
average fifteen hundred letters a year. I 
never dictate. I hold that resort in horror. 
How dictate a letter to a scholar for whom 
one has a real regard ? I allow myself to be 
drawn into answering the persons I know 
least, whose wrath is the most menacing. My 
nearer friends (and none are more dear to me 

1 Probably the plates of the Fresh - Water Fishes and other 
illustrated publications. 


than yourself) suffer from my silence. I count 
with reason upon their indulgence. The tone 
of your excellent letters shows that I am right. 
You spoil me. Your letters continue to be 
always warm and affectionate. I receive few 
like them. Since two thirds of the letters ad- 
dressed to me (partly copies of letters written 
to the king or the ministers) remain unan- 
swered, I am blamed, charged with being a 
parvenu courtier, an apostate from science. 
This bitterness of individual claims does not 
diminish my ardent desire to be useful. I act 
oftener than I answer. I know that I like 
to do good, and this consciousness gives me 
tranquillity in spite of my over burdened life. 
You are happy, my dear Agassiz, in the more 
simple and yet truly proud position which you 
have created for yourself. You ought to take 
satisfaction in it as the father of a family, as 
an illustrious savant, as the originator and 
source of so many new ideas, of so many 
great and noble conceptions. 

Your admirable work on the fossil fishes 
draws to a close. The last number, so rich in 
discoveries, and the prospectus, explaining the 
true state of this vast publication, have soothed 
all irritation regarding it. It is because I am 
so attached to you that I rejoice in the calmer 


atmosphere you have thus established about 
you. The approaching completion of the 
fossil fishes delivers me also from the fear 
that a too great ardor might cause you irrep- 
arable losses. You have shown not only what 
a talent like yours can accomplish, but also 
how a noble courage can triumph over seem- 
ingly insurmountable obstacles. 

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


it is all that I have been able to obtain, and 
these few copies, with the king's name as sub- 
scriber, will always be useful to you. 

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

Shall I tell you anything of my own poor 
and superannuated works ? The sixth volume 
is wanting to my " Geography of the Fifteenth 
Century ' (Examen Critique). It will appear 
this summer. I am also printing the second 
volume of a new work to be entitled " Central 
Asia." It is not a second edition of " Asiatic 


Fragments," but a new and wholly different 
work. The thirty-five sheets of the last vol- 
ume are printed, but the two volumes will 
only be issued together. You can judge of 
the difficulty of printing at Paris and correct- 
ing proofs here, at Poretz or at Toplitz. I 
am just now beginning to print the first num- 
ber of my physics of the world, under the 
title of " Cosmos : ' in German, " Ideen zur 
einer physischen Weltbeschreibung." It is 
in no sense a reproduction of the lectures I 
gave here. The subject is the same, but the 
presentation does not at all recall the form of 
a popular course. As a book, it has a some- 
what graver and more elevated style. A 
" spoken book ' is always a poor book, just 
as lectures read are poor however weU pre- 
pared. Published courses of lectures are my 
detestation. Cotta is also printing a volume 
of mine in German, " Physikalische geogra- 
phische Erinnerungen." Many unpublished 
things concerning the volcanoes of the Andes, 
about currents, etc. And all this at the age 
when one begins to petrify ! It is very rash ! 
May this letter prove to you and to Madame 
Agassiz that I am petrifying only at the ex- 
tremities, the heart is still warm. Retain 
for me the affection which I hold so dear. 



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

recorded in the " Systeme Glaciaire." 


In E. Desor 's " Se jours dans les Glaciers ' 


is found an interesting description of the in- 
cidents of this excursion and the appearance 
of the glaciers in winter. In ascending the 
course of the Aar they frequently crossed the 
shrunken river on natural snow bridges, and 
approaching the Handeck over fearfully steep 
slopes of snow they had some difficulty in 
finding the thread of water which was all that 
remained of the beautiful summer cascade. 
On the glacier of the Aar they found the 
Hotel des Neuchatelois buried in snow, while 
the whole surface of the glacier as well as the 
surrounding peaks, from base to summit, wore 
the same spotless mantle. The Finsteraar- 
horn alone stood out in bold relief, black 
against a white world, its abrupt slopes afford- 
ing no foothold for the snow. The scene was 
far more monotonous than in summer. Cre- 
vasses, with their blue depths of ice, were 
closed ; the many-voiced streams were still ; 
the moraines and boulders were only here and 
there visible through the universal shroud. 
The sky was without a cloud, the air trans- 
parent, but the glitter of the uniform white 
surface was exquisitely painful to the eyes 
and skin, and the travelers were obliged to 
wrap their heads in double veils. They found 
the glacier of Rosenlaui less enveloped in 


snow than that of the Aar ; and though the 
magnificent ice-cave, so well known to trav- 
elers for its azure tints, was inaccessible, they 
could look into the vault and see that the 
habitual bed of the torrent was dry. The 
journey was accomplished in a week without 
any untoward accident. 

In the summer of 1841 Agassiz made a 
longer Alpine sojourn than ever before. The 
special objects of the season's work were the 
internal structure of these vast moving fields 
of ice, the essential conditions of their origin 
and continued existence, the action of water 
within them as influencing their movement, 
and their own agency in direct contact with 
the beds and walls of the valleys they occu- 
pied. The fact of their former extension and 
their present oscillations might be considered 
as established. It remained to explain these 
facts with reference to the conditions prevail- 
ing- within the mass itself. In short, the in- 

O ' 

vestigation was passing from the domain of 
geology to that of physics. Agassiz, who was 
as he often said of himself no physicist, was 
the more anxious to have the cooperation of 
the ablest men in that department, and to 
share with them such facilities for observation 
and such results as he had thus far accumu- 


lated. In addition to his usual collaborators, 
M. Desor and M. Vogt, he had, therefore, in- 
vited as guests, during part of the season, 
the distinguished physicist, Professor James 
D. Forbes, of Edinburgh, who brought with 
him his friend, Mr. Heath, of Cambridge. 1 
M. Escher de la Linth took also an active part 
in the work of the later summer. To his 
working corps Agassiz had added the foreman 
of M. Kahli, an engineer at Bienne, to whom 
he had confided his plans for the summer, and 
who furnished him with a skilled workman to 
direct the boring operations, assist in measure- 
ments, etc. The artist of this year was M. 
Jaques Burkhardt, a personal friend of Agas- 
siz, and his fellow-student at Munich, where he 
had spent some time at the school of art. As 
a draughtsman he was subsequently associated 
with Agassiz in his work at various times, and 
when they both settled in America Mr. Burk- 
hardt became a permanent member of Agas- 
siz's household, accompanied him on his jour- 
neys, and remained with him in relations of 
uninterrupted and affectionate regard till his 
own death in 1867. He was a loyal friend 

1 As the impressions of Mr. Forbes were only made known 
in connection with his own later and independent researches 
it is unnecessary to refer to them here. 

WORK IN SUMMER OF 1841. 321 

and a warm-hearted man, with a thread of 
humor running through his dry good sense, 
which made him a very amusing and attractive 

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

VOL. I. 21 


Agassiz was not satisfied with the report 
of his instruments from these unknown re- 
gions. He determined to be lowered into one 
of the so-called wells in the glacier, and thus 
to visit its interior in person. For this pur- 
pose he was obliged to turn aside the stream 
which flowed into the well into a new bed 
which he caused to be dug for it. This done, 
he had a strong tripod erected over the open- 
ing, and, seated upon a board firmly attached 
by ropes, he was then let down into the well, 
his friend Escher lying flat on the edge of 
the precipice, to direct the descent and listen 
for any warning cry. Agassiz especially de- 
sired to ascertain how far the laminated or 
ribboned structure of the ice (the so-called 
blue bands) penetrated the mass of the gla- 
cier. This feature of the glacier had been 
observed and described by M. Guyot (see 
p. 292), but Mr. Forbes had called especial at- 
tention to it, as in his belief connected with 
the internal conditions of the glacier. It was 
agreed, as Agassiz bade farewell to his friends 
on this curious voyage of discovery, that he 
should be allowed to descend until he called 
out that they were to lift him. He was low- 
ered successfully and without accident to a 
depth of eighty feet. There he encountered 


an unforeseen difficulty in a wall of ice which 
divided the well into two compartments. He 
tried first the larger one, but finding it split 
again into several narrow tunnels, he caused 
himself to be raised sufficiently to enter the 
smaller, and again proceeded on his downward 
course without meeting any obstacle. Wholly 
engrossed in watching the blue bands, still 
visible in the glittering walls of ice, he was 
only aroused to the presence of approaching 
danger by the sudden plunge of his feet into 
water. His first shout of distress was misun- 
derstood, and his friends lowered him into the 
ice-cold gulf instead of raising him. The sec- 
ond cry was effectual, and he was drawn up, 
though not without great difficulty, from a 
depth of one hundred and twenty-five feet. 
The most serious peril of the ascent was 
caused by the huge stalactites of ice, between 
the points of which he had to steer his way. 
Any one of them, if detached by the friction 
of the rope, might have caused his death. He 
afterward said : " Had I known all its dangers, 
perhaps I should not have started on such an 
adventure. Certainly, unless induced by some 
powerful scientific motive, I should not advise 
any one to follow my example." On this per- 
ilous journey he traced the laminated structure 


to a depth of eighty feet, and even beyond, 
though with less distinctness. 


The summer closed with their famous as- 
cent of the Jungfrau. The party consisted 
of twelve persons : Agassiz, Desor, Forbes, 
Heath, and two travelers who had begged to 
join them, M. de Chatelier, of Nantes, and 
M. de Pury, of Neuchatel, a former pupil of 
Agassiz. The other six were guides ; four 
beside their old and tried friends, Jacob Leu- 
thold and Johann Wahren. They left the hos- 
pice of the Grimsel on the 27th of August, 
at four o'clock in the morning. Crossing the 
Col of the Oberaar they descended to the 
snowy plateau which feeds the Viescher gla- 
cier. In this grand amphitheatre, walled in 
by the peaks of the Viescherhorner, they 
rested for their midday meal. In crossing 
these fields of snow, while walking with per- 
fect security upon what seemed a solid mass, 
they observed certain window-like openings in 
the snow. Stooping to examine one of them, 
they looked into an immense open space, 
filled with soft blue light. They were, in fact, 
walking on a hollow crust, and the small win- 
dow was, as they afterward found, opposite a 
large crevasse on the other side of this ice- 
cavern, through which the light entered, flood- 


ing the whole vault and receiving from its icy 
walls its exquisite reflected color. 1 

Once across the fields of snow and neve, a 
fatiguing walk of five hours brought them to 
the chalets of Meril, 2 where they expected to 
sleep. The night which should have prepared 
them for the fatigue of the next day was, 
however, disturbed by an untoward accident. 
The ladder left by Jacob Leuthold when last 
here with Hugi in 1832, nine years before, 
and upon which he depended, had been taken 
away by a peasant of Viesch. Two messen- 
gers were sent in the course of the night to 
the village to demand its restoration. The 
first returned unsuccessful ; the second was 
the bearer of such threats of summary pun- 
ishment from the whole party that he carried 
his point, and appeared at last with the re- 
covered treasure on his back. They had, in 
the mean while, lost two hours. They should 
have been on their road at three o'clock; it 
was now five. Jacob warned them therefore 
that they must make all speed, and that any 
one who felt himself unequal to a forced 

1 The effect is admirably described by M. Desor in his 
account of this excursion, Sejours dans les Glaciers, p. 367. 

2 Sometimes Moril, but I have retained the spelling of M. 
Desor. E. C. A. 


march should stay behind. No one responded 
to his suggestion, and they were presently on 
the road. 

Passing Lake Meril, with its miniature ice- 
bergs, they reached the glacier of the Aletsch 
and its snow-fields, where the real difficulties 
and dangers of the ascent were to begin. In 
this great semicircular space, inclosed by the 
Jungfrau, the Monch, and the lesser peaks of 
this mountain group, lies the Aletsch reser- 
voir of snow or neve*. As this spot presented 
a natural pause between the laborious ascent 
already accomplished and the immense decliv- 
ities which lay before them yet to be climbed, 
they named it Le Repos, and halted there for 
a short rest. Here they left also every need- 
less incumbrance, taking only a little bread 
and wine, in case of exhaustion, some meteor- 
ological instruments, and the inevitable lad- 
der, axe, and ropes of the Alpine climber. 
On their left, to the west of the amphitheatre, 
a vast passage opened between the Jungfrau 
and the Kranzberg, and in this could be dis- 
tinguished a series of terraces, one above the 
other. The story is the usual one, of more 
or less steep slopes, where they sank in the 
softer snow or cut their steps in the icy sur- 
faces ; of open crevasses, crossed by the lad- 


der, or the more dangerous ones, masked by 
snow, over which they trod cautiously, tied 
together by the rope. But there was nothing 
to appall the experienced mountaineer with 
firm foot and a steady head, until they reached 
a height where the summit of the Jungfrau 
detached itself in apparently inaccessible iso- 
lation from all beneath or around it. To all 
but the guides their farther advance seemed 
blocked by a chaos of precipices, either of 
snow and ice or of rock. Leuthold remained 
however quietly confident, telling them he 
clearly saw the course he meant to follow. 
It began by an open gulf of unknown depth, 
though not too wide to be spanned by their 
ladder twenty-three feet in length. On the 
other side of this crevasse, and immediately 
above it, rose an abrupt wall of icy snow. 
Up this wall Leuthold and another guide led 
the way, cutting steps as they went. When 
half way up they lowered the rope, holding 
one end, while their companions fastened the 
other to the ladder, so that it served them as 
a kind or hand-rail, by which to follow. At 
the top they found themselves on a terrace, 
beyond which a far more moderate slope led to 
the Col of Roththal, overlooking the Aletsch 
valley on one side, the Roththal on the other. 


From this point the ascent was more and 
more steep and very slow, as every step had 
to be cut. Their difficulties were increased, 
also, by a mist which gathered around them, 
and by the intense cold. Leuthold kept the 
party near the border of the ridge, because 
there the ice yielded more readily to the 
stroke of the axe ; but it put their steadiness 
of nerve to the greatest test, by keeping the 
precipice constantly in view, except when hid- 
den by the fog. Indeed, they could drive 
their alpenstocks through the overhanging 
rim of frozen snow, and look sheer down 
through the hole thus made to the amphithe- 
atre below. One of the guides left them, un- 
able longer to endure the sight of these prec- 
ipices so close at hand. As they neared their 
goal they feared lest the mist might, at the 
last, deprive them of the culminating moment 
for which they had braved such dangers. But 
suddenly, as if touched by their perseverance, 
says M. Desor, the veil of fog lifted, and the 
summit of the Jungfrau, in its final solitude, 
rose before them. There was still a certain 
distance to be passed before they actually 
reached the base of the extreme peak. Here 
they paused, not without a certain hesitation, 
for though the summit lay but a few feet 

.. p , , ; 

/: ^'/j.-'-?: !> i$f^ 

fc;.:; ; ;;l%p|e 


l*ffiiSi"i ^iTwX-'i*^ 



: . ; / / ^ ?ir:ii!' ' ; - l; ;.;:: : -' 

' > . < -:l Jhvf/'iW' (' ' : 'J / 

' . -vv^.'.lii',:-:-^^/^ , 

^'SIS^:--S3y / 

;lw /; 

From c* portrait by J. Burkhardi. 


above them, they were separated from it by a 
sharp and seemingly inaccessible ridge. Even 
Agassiz, who was not easily discouraged, said, 
as he looked up at this highest point of the 
fortress they had scaled : " We can never 
reach it." For all answer, Jacob Leuthold, 
their intrepid guide, flinging down every- 
thing which could embarrass his movements, 
stretched his alpenstock over the ridge as a 
grappling pole, and, trampling the snow as he 
went, so as to flatten his giddy path for those 
who were to follow, was in a moment on the 
top. To so steep an apex does this famous 
peak narrow, that but one person can stand 
on the summit at a time, nor was even this 
possible till the snow was beaten down. Re- 
turning on his steps, Leuthold, whose quiet, 
unflinching audacity of success was conta- 
gious, assisted each one to stand for a few 
moments where he had stood. The fog, the 
effect of which they had so much feared, now 
lent something to the beauty of the view from 
this sublime foothold. Masses of vapor rolled 
up from the Roththal on the southwest, but, 
instead of advancing to envelop them, paused 
at a little distance arrested by some current 
from the plain. The temperature being be- 
low freezing point, the drops of moisture in 


this wall of vapor were congealed into ice- 
crystals, which glittered like gold in the sun- 
light and gave back all the colors of the rain- 

When all the party were once more assem- 
bled at the base of the peak, Jacob, whose 
resources never failed, served to each one a 
little wine, and they rested on the snow before 
beginning their perilous descent. Of living 
things they saw only a hawk, poised in the 
air above their heads ; of plants, a few li- 
chens, where the surface of the rock was ex- 
posed. It was four o'clock in the afternoon 
before they started on their downward path, 
turning their faces to the icy slope, and feel- 
ing for the steps behind them, some seven 
hundred in all, which had been cut in ascend- 
ing. In about an hour they reached the 
Col of the Roththal, where the greatest diffi- 
culties of the ascent had begun and the 
greatest dangers of the descent were over. 
So elated were they by the success of the day, 
and so regardless of lesser perils after those 
they had passed through, that they were now 
inclined to hurry forward incautiously. Ja- 
cob, prudent when others were rash, as he 
was bold when others were intimidated, con- 
stantly called them to order with his : " Htib- 


schle ! nur immer hiibschle ! ' (" Gently ! al- 
ways gently ! ") 

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


their journey, three leagues of which yet lay 
before them, and at half-past eleven arrived 
at the chalets of Meril, which they had left at 

On the morrow the party broke up, and 
Agassiz and Desor, accompanied by their 
friend, M. Escher de la Linth, returned to 
the Grimsel, and after a day's rest there re- 
paired once more to the Hotel des Neuchate- 
lois. They remained on the glacier until the 
5th of September, spending these few last 
days in completing their measurements, and in 
planting the lines of stakes across the glacier, 
to serve as a means of determining its rate 
of movement during the year, and the com- 
parative rapidity of that movement at certain 
fixed points. Thus concluded one of the most 
eventful seasons Agassiz and his companions 
had yet passed upon the Alps. 1 

1 Though quoting his exact language only in certain in- 
stances, the account of this and other Alpine ascensions de- 
scribed above has been based upon M. E. Desor's Sejours 
dans les Glaciers. His very spirited narratives, added to my 
own recollections of what I had heard from Mr. Agassiz 
himself on the same subject, have given me my material. 
E. C. A. 


1842-1843: JET. 35-36. 

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

ALTHOUGH his glacier work was now so 
prominent a feature of Agassiz's scientific 
life, his zoological studies, especially his ich- 
thyological researches, and more especially his 
work on fossil fishes, went on with little inter- 
ruption. His publications upon Fossil Mol- 
lusks, 1 upon Tertiary Shells, 2 upon Living and 
Fossil Echinoderms, 3 with many smaller mon- 
ographs on special subjects, were undertaken 

1 Etudes Critiques sur les Mollusques Fossiles, 4 nos., 4, with 
100 plates. 

2 Iconographie des Coquilles Tertiaires repute'es identiques 
sur les vivans, 1 no., 4, 14 plates. 

3 Monographic d'Echinodermes vivans et fossiles, 4 nos., 4, 
with 37 plates. 


and completed during the most active period 
of his glacial investigations. More surprising 
is it to find him, while pursuing new lines of 
investigation with passionate enthusiasm, en- 
gaged at the same time upon works seemingly 
so dry and tedious as his " Nomenclator Zo- 
ologicus," and his " Bibliographia Zoologia3 
et Geologic." 

The former work, a large quarto volume 
with an Index, 1 comprised an enumeration of 
all the genera of the animal kingdom, with 
the etymology of their names, the names of 
those who had first proposed them, and the 
date of their publication. He obtained the 
cooperation of other naturalists, submitting 
each class as far as possible for revision to the 
leaders in their respective departments. 

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

..." Have the kindness to accept for the 
library of the Academy the fifth number of 
a work upon the sources of zoological criti- 
cism, the publication of which I have just 
begun. It is a work of patience, demanding 

1 The Index was also published separately as an octavo. 


long and laborious researches. I had con- 
ceived the plan in the first years of my stud- 
ies, and since then have never lost sight of it. 
I venture to believe it will be a barrier against 
the Babel of confusion which tends to over- 
whelm the domain of zoological synonymy. 
My book will be called ' Nomenclator Zoolog- 

5 ?> 


The Bibliographia (4 volumes, 8) was in 
some measure a complement of the Nomen- 
clator, and contained a list of all the authors 
named in the latter, with notices of their 
works. It appeared somewhat later, and was 
published by the Ray Society in England, in 
1848, after Agassiz had left Europe for the 
United States. The material for this work 
also had been growing upon his hands for 
years. Feeling more and more the impor- 
tance of such a register as a guide for stu- 
dents, he appealed to naturalists in all parts 
of Europe for information upon the scientific 
bibliography of their respective countries, and 
at last succeeded in cataloguing, with such 
completeness as was possible, all known works 
and all scattered memoirs on zoology and 
geology. Unable to publish this costly but 
unremunerative material, he was delighted to 


give it up to the Ray Society. The first 
three volumes were edited with corrections 
and additions by Mr. H. E. Strickland, who 
died before the appearance of the fourth vol- 
ume, which was finally completed under the 
care of his father-in-law, Sir William Jar- 

The ability, so eminently possessed by Agas- 
siz of dealing with a number of subjects at 
once, was due to no superficial versatility. 
To him his work had but one meaning. It 
was never disconnected in his thought, and 
therefore he turned from his glaciers to his 
fossils, and from the fossil to the living world, 
with the feeling that he was always dealing 
with kindred problems, bound together by the 
same laws. Nowhere is this better seen than 
in the records of the scientific society of Neu- 
chatel, the society he helped to found in the 
first months of his professorship, and to which 
he always remained strongly attached, being 
a constant attendant at its sessions from 1833 
to 1846. Here we find him from month to 
month, with philosophic breadth of thought, 
treating of animals in their widest relations, or 
describing minute structural details with the 
skill of a specialist. He presents organized 
beings in their geological succession, in their 


geographical distribution, in their embryonic 
development. He reviews and remodels laws 
of classification. Sometimes he illustrates the 
fossil by the living world, sometimes he finds 
the key to present phenomena in the remote 
past. He reconstructs the history of the gla- 
cial period, and points to its final chapter in 
the nearest Alpine valleys, connecting these 
facts again with like phenomena in distant 
parts of the globe. But however wide his 
range and however various his topics, under 
his touch they are all akin, all coordinate 
parts of a whole which he strives to under- 
stand in its entirety. A few extracts from 
his correspondence will show him in his dif- 
ferent lines of research at this time. 

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


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

... A letter from vou was to me one of 


the greatest of pleasures, and with great de- 
light (though, I fear, imperfectly) I have exe- 
cuted the commission you gave me. It should 

have been done much sooner had not the 
VOL. i. 22 


storms been so bad in the sea near this that, 
until three clays ago, I was not able to procure 
a living sea-urchin from which to make the 


drawings required. . . . You have made all 
the geologists glacier-mad here, and they are 
turning Great Britain into an ice-house. Some 
amusing and very absurd attempts at opposi- 
tion to your views have been made by one or 
two pseudo - geologists ; among others, poor 
, who has read a paper at the Eoyal So- 
ciety here, maintaining that all the appear- 
ances you refer to glaciers were caused by 
blocks of ice which floated this way in the Del- 
uge ! and that the fossils of the pleistocene 
strata were mollusks, etc., which, climbing 
upon the ice-blocks, were carried to warmer 
seas against their will ! ! To my mind, one of 
the best proofs of the truth of your views lies 
in the decidedly arctic character of the pleis- 
tocene fauna, which must be referred to the 
glacier time, and by such reference is easily 
understood. I mean during the summer to 
collect data on that point, in order to present 
a mass of geological proofs of your theory. 

Dr. Traill tells me you are proposing to 
visit England again during the coming sum- 
mer. If you do, I hope we shall meet, when 
I shall have many things to show you, which 


time did not permit when you were here. I 
look anxiously for the forth-coming number 
of your history of the Echinodermata. . . . 


June 13, 1842. 

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

I send this letter to you by my friend, Ad- 
miral Sir Charles Malcolm, who passes through 
Neuchatel on his way to Geneva. Accom- 
panying it is a copy of my last discourse, 
which I request you to accept and to read all 
parts of it. You will see that I have grappled 


honestly and according to my own faith with 
your ice, but have never lost sight of your 
great merit. My concluding paragraph will 
convince you and all your friends that if I am 
wrong it is not from any preconceived no- 
tions, but only because I judge from what you 
will call incomplete evidence. Your " Venez 
voir ! ' ' still sounds in my ears. . . . 

Murchison remained for many years an op- 
ponent of the glacial theory in its larger appli- 
cation. In the discourse to which the above 
letter makes allusion (Address at the Anni- 
versary Meeting of the Geological Society of 
London, 1842 *) is this passage : " Once grant 
to Agassiz that his deepest valleys of Switzer- 
land, such as the enormous Lake of Geneva, 
were formerly filled with snow and ice, and I 
see no stopping place. From that hypothesis 
you may proceed to fill the Baltic and the 
northern seas, cover southern England and half 
of Germany and Russia with similar icy sheets, 
on the surfaces of which all the northern boul- 
ders might have been shot off. So long as the 
greater number of the practical geologists of 
Europe are opposed to the wide extension of 

1 Extract from Report in vol. 33 of the Edinburgh New 
Philosophical Journal. 


a terrestrial glacial theory, there can be little 
risk that such a doctrine should take too deep 
a hold of the mind. . . . The existence of 
glaciers in Scotland and England (I mean in 
the Alpine sense) is not, at all events, estab- 
lished to the satisfaction of what I believe to 
be by far the greater number of British geolo- 

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

During the summer of 1842, at about the 

O 7 

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



OXFORD, July 22, 1842. 

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

The following is the letter referred to above. 


Yesterday (and the previous days) I had 
some most interesting work in examining the 
marks left by extinct glaciers. I assure you, 
an extinct volcano could hardly leave more 
evident traces of its activity and vast powers. 


I found one with the lateral moraine quite 
perfect, which Dr. Buckland did not see. Pray 
if you have any communication with Dr. Buck- 
land give him my warmest thanks for having 
guided me, through the published abstract of 
his memoir, to scenes, and made me under- 
stand them, which have given me more de- 
light than I almost remember to have experi- 
enced since I first saw an extinct crater. The 
valley about here and the site of the inn at 
which I am now writing must once have been 
covered by at least 800 or 1,000 feet in thick- 
ness of solid ice ! Eleven years ago I spent a 
whole day in the valley where yesterday every- 
thing but the ice of the glaciers was palpably 
clear to me, and I then saw nothing but plain 
water and bare rock. These glaciers have 
been grand agencies. I am the more pleased 
with what I have seen in North Wales, as it 
convinces me that my view of the distribution 
of the boulders on the South American plains, 
as effected by floating ice, is correct. I am 
also more convinced that the valleys of Glen 
Roy and the neighboring parts of Scotland 
have been occupied by arms of the sea, and 
very likely (for in that point I cannot, of 
course, doubt Agassiz and Buckland) by gla- 
ciers also. 


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


BERLIN, March 2, 1842. 

. . . When one has been so long separated, 
even accidentally, from a friend as I have 
been from you, my dear Agassiz, it is dif- 
ficult to find beginning or end to a letter. 
The kindly remembrance which you send me 
is evidence that my long silence has not 
seemed strange to you. ... It would be 
wasting words to tell you how I have been 
prevented, by the distractions of my life, al- 
ways increasing with old age, from acknowl- 
edging the admirable things received from 
you, upon living and fossil fishes, echino- 
derms, and glaciers. My admiration of your 


boundless activity, of your beautiful intellect- 
ual life, increases with every year. This ad- 
miration for your work and your bold excur- 
sions is based upon the most careful reading 
of all the views and investigations, for which 
I have to thank you. This very week I have 
read with great satisfaction your truly philo- 
sophical address, and your long treatise in 
Cotta's fourth " Jahresschrift." Even L. von 
Buch confessed that the first half of your 
treatise, the living presentation of the succes- 
sion of organized beings, was full of truth, 
sagacity, and novelty. 

I in no way reproach you, my dear friend, 
for the urgent desire expressed in all your 
letters, that your oldest friends should accept 
your comprehensive geological view of your 
ice-period. It is very noble and natural to 
wish that what has impressed us as true 
should also be recognized by those we love. 
... I believe I have read and compared all 
that has been written for and against the ice- 
period, and also upon the transportation of 
boulders, whether pushed along or carried by 
floods or gliding over slopes. My own opin- 
ion, as you know, can have no weight or au- 
thority, since I have not myself seen the 
most decisive points. Indeed I am, perhaps 


wrongly, inclined to look upon all geological 
theories as having their being in a mythical 
region, in which, with the progress of phys- 
ics, the phantasms are modified century by 
century. But the " elephants caught in the 
ice," and Cuvier's " instantaneous change of 
climate," seem to me no more intelligible to- 
day than when I wrote my Asiatic fragments. 
According to all that we know of the de- 
crease of heat in the earth, I cannot under- 
stand such a change of temperature in a 
space of time which does not also allow for 
the decaying of flesh. I understand much 
better how wolves, hares, and dogs, should 
they fall to-day into clefts of the frozen re- 
gions of Northern Siberia (and the so-called 
" elephant-ice " is in plain prose only porphy- 
ritic drift mixed with ice-crystals, true drift 
material), might retain their flesh and mus- 
cles. . . . But I am only a grumbling re- 
bellious subject in your kingdom. . . . Do 
not be vexed with a friend who is more than 
ever impressed with your services to geology, 
your philosophical views of nature, your pro- 
found knowledge of organized beings. . . . 

With old attachment and the warmest 
friendship, your 



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

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


NEUCH!TEL, June, 1842. 

... I am hard at work on the fishes of the 
" Old Red," and will send you at Manchester a 
part at least of the plates, with a general sum- 
mary of the species of that formation. I aim 
to finish the work with such care that it shall 
mark a sensible advance in ichthyology. I 
hope it will satisfy you. . . . You ask me how 
I intend to finish my Fossil Fishes ? As f ol- 


lows : As soon as the number on the species 
of the " Old Red ' ' is finished, I shall complete 
the general outline of the work as I did with 
volume 4, in order that the arrangement and 
character of ah 1 the families in the four orders 
may be studied in their zoological affinities, 
with their genera and principal species. But 
as this outline can no longer contain the in- 
numerable species now known to me, I take 
up monographically the species from the dif- 
ferent geological formations in the order of 
the deposits, and publish as many supple- 
ments as there are great formations rich in 
fossil fishes. I shall limit myself to the species 
described in the body of the work, merely 
adding the description of the new species 
in each deposit, and such additions as I may 
have to make for those already known. In 
this way, those who wish to study fossil fishes 
from the zoological stand-point can turn to 
the work in the original form, while those 
who wish to study them in their geological 
relations can confine themselves to the sup- 
plements. By means of double registers at 
the end of each volume, these two distinct 
parts of the work will be again united as a 
complete whole. This is the only plan I have 
been able to devise by which I could publish 


in succession all my materials without burden- 
ing my first subscribers, who will thus be free 
to accept the supplements or not, as they pre- 
fer. Should you have occasion to mention 
this arrangement to the friends of fossil ich- 
thyology, pray do so ; it seems to me for the 
interest of the matter that it should be known. 
... I propose to resume with new zeal my 
researches upon the fossil fishes as soon as I 
return from an excursion I wish to make in 
July and August to the glacier of the Aar, 
where I hope, by a last visit this year, to con- 
clude my labors on this subject. You will be 
glad to learn that the beautiful barometer you 
gave me has been my faithful companion in 
the Alps. ... I have the pleasure to tell you 
that the King of Prussia has made me a hand- 
some gift of nearly 200 for the continuance 
of my glacial work. I feel, therefore, the 
greater certainty of completing what remains 
for me to do. . . . 

The campaign of 1842 opened on the 4th 
of July. The boulder had ceased to be a 
safe shelter, and was replaced by a rough 
frame cabin covered with canvas. If the 
party had some regrets in leaving their pic- 
turesque hut beneath the rock, the greater 


comfort of the new abode consoled them. It 
had several divisions. A sleeping - place for 
the guides and workmen was partitioned off 
from a middle room occupied by Agassiz and 
his friends, while the front space served as 
dining-room, sitting-room, and laboratory. 
This outer apartment boasted a table and one 
or two benches ; even a couple of chairs were 
kept as seats of honor for occasional guests. 
A shelf against the wall and a few pegs ac- 
commodated books, instruments, coats, etc., 
and a plank floor, on which to spread their 
blankets at night, was a good exchange for 
the frozen surface of the glacier. 1 

1 In bidding farewell to the boulder which had been the 
first " Hotel des Neuchatelois " we may add a word of its 
farther fortunes. It had begun to split in 1841, and was 
completely rent asunder in 1844, after which frost and rain 
completed its dismemberment. Strange to say, during the 
last summer (1884) certain fragments of the mass have been 
found, inscribed with the names of some of the party; one of 
the blocks bearing beside names, the mark No. 2. The ac- 
count says : " The middle stone, the one numbered 2, was at 
the intersecting point of two lines drawn from the Pavilion 
Dollfuss to the Scheuchzerhorn on the one part, and from 
the Rothhorn to the Thierberg on the other." According to 
the measurements taken by Agassiz, the Hotel des Neuchate- 
lois in 1840 stood at 797 metres from the promontory of 
Abschwung. We are thus enabled, by referring to the large 
glacier map of Wild and Stengel, to compare the present 
with the then position of the stone, and thereby ascertain the 
progress of the glacier since the time in question. Thus the 


Mr. Wild, an engineer of known ability, 
was now a member of their party, as a topo- 
graphical survey was to be one of the chief 
objects of the summer's work. The results of 
this survey, which was continued during two 
summers, are embodied in the map accom- 
panying Agassiz's " Systenie Glaciaire." Ex- 
periments upon the extent and connection of 
the net-work of capillary fissures that admit- 
ted water into the interior of the glaciers, oc- 
cupied Agassiz's own attention during a great 
part of the summer. In order to ascertain 
this, colored liquids were introduced into the 
glacier by means of boring, and it was found 
that they threaded their way through the mass 
of the ice and reappeared at lower points with 
astonishing rapidity. A gallery was cut at a 
depth of ten metres below the surface, through 
a wall of ice intervening between two cre- 
vasses. The colored liquid poured into a hole 
above soon appeared on the ceiling of the 
gallery. The experimenters were surprised to 
find that at night the same result was obtained, 
and that the liquid penetrated from the surface 
to the roof of the gallery even more quickly 

boulder still contributes something toward the sequel of the 
work begun by those who once found shelter beneath it. 
E. C. A. 


than during the day. This was explained by 
the fact that the fissures were then free from 
any moisture arising from surface melting, so 
that the passage through them was unim- 
peded. 1 

The comparative rate of advance in the 
different parts of the glacier was ascertained 
this summer with greater precision than before. 
The rows of stakes planted in a straight line 
across the glacier by Agassiz and Escher de 
la Linth, in the previous September, now de- 
scribed a crescent with the curve turned to- 
ward the terminus of the glacier, showing, 
contrary to the expectation of Agassiz, that 
the centre moved faster than the sides. The 

1 Distrust has been thrown upon these results by the fail- 
ure of more recent attempts to repeat the same experiments. 
In reference to this, Agassiz himself says : " The infiltra- 
tion has been denied in consequence of the failure of some 
experiments in which an attempt was made to introduce 
colored fluids into the glacier. To this I can only answer 
that I succeeded completely myself in the self-same experi- 
ment which a later investigator found impracticable, and that 
I see no reason why the failure of the latter attempt should 
cast a doubt upon the success of the former. The explana- 
tion of the difference in the result may perhaps be found in 
the fact that as a sponge gorged with water can admit no 
more fluid than it already contains, so the glacier, under cer- 
tain circumstances, and especially at noonday in summer, may 
be so soaked with water that all attempts to pour colored 
fluids into it would necessarily fail." See Geological Sketches, 
by L. Agassiz, p. 236. 


I s S . > 



correspondence of the curve in the stratifica- 
tion with that of the line of stakes confirmed 
this result. The study of the stratification 
of the snow was a marked feature of the sea- 
son's work, and Agassiz believed, as will be 
seen by a later letter, that he had established 
this fact of glacial structure beyond a doubt. 

The origin and mode of formation of the 
crevasses also especially occupied the observ- 
ers. On the 7th of August, Agassiz had an 
opportunity of watching this phenomenon in 
its initiation. Attracted to a certain spot on 
the glacier by a commotion among his work- 
men, he found them alarmed at the singu- 
lar noises and movements in the ice. "I 
heard," he says, " at a little distance a sound 
like the simultaneous discharge of fire-arms ; 
hurrying in the direction of the noise, it was 
repeated under my feet with a movement like 
that of a slight earthquake ; the ground 
seemed to shift and give way under me, but 
now the sound differed from the preceding, 
and resembled a crumbling of rocks, without, 
however, any perceptible sinking of the sur- 
face. The glacier actually trembled, never- 
theless ; for a block of granite three feet in 
diameter, perched on a pedestal two feet high, 
suddenly fell down. At the same instant a 

VOL. I. 23 


crack opened between my feet and ran rap- 
idly across the glacier in a straight line." 
On this occasion Agassiz saw three crevasses 
formed in an hour and a half, and heard oth- 
ers opening at a greater distance from him. 
He counted eight new fissures in a space of 
one hundred and twenty-five feet. The phe- 
nomenon continued throughout the evening, 
and recurred, though with less frequency, dur- 
ing the night. The cracks were narrow, the 
largest an inch and a half in width, and their 
great depth was proved by the rapidity with 
which they drained any standing water in 
their immediate vicinity. "A boring-hole," 
says Agassiz, " one hundred and thirty feet 
deep and six inches in diameter, full of water, 
was completely emptied in a few minutes, 
showing that these narrow cracks penetrated 
to great depths." 

The summer's work included observations 
also on the comparative movement of the gla- 
cier during the day and night, on the surface 
waste of the mass, its reparation, on the neVe* 
and snow of the upper regions, on the merid- 
ian holes, the sun-dials of the glaciers, as they 

1 Extract from a letter of Louis Agassiz to M. Arago dated 
from the Hotel des Neuchatelois, Glacier of the Aar, August 
7, 1842. 


have been called. 1 On the whole, the most 
important result of the campaign was the 
topographical survey of the glacier, recorded 
in the map published in Agassiz's second 
work on the glacier. 

At about this time there begin to be occa- 
sional references in his correspondence to a 
journey of exploration in the United States. 
Especially was this plan in frequent discus- 
sion between him and Charles Bonaparte, 
Prince of Canino, a naturalist almost as ardent 
as himself, with whom he had long been in 
intimate scientific correspondence. In April, 
1842, the prince writes him : " I indulge my- 
self in dreaming of the journey to America in 
which you have promised to accompany me. 

1 " Here and there on the glacier there are patches of loose 
material, dust, sand, or gravel, accumulated by diminutive 
water-rills and small enough to become heated during the 
day. They will, of course, be warmed first on their eastern 
side, then still more powerfully on their southern side, and, 
in the afternoon, with less force again, on their western side, 
while the northern side will remain comparatively cool. 
Thus around more than half of their circumference they 
melt the ice in a semicircle, and the glacier is covered with 
little crescent-shaped troughs of this description, with a 
steep wall on one side and a shallow one on the other, and a 
little heap of loose materials in the bottom. They are the 
sun-dials of the glacier, recording the hour by the advance 
of the sun's rays upon them." Geological Sketches, by L. 
Agassiz, p. 293. 


What a relaxation ! and at the same time 
what an amount of useful work ! ' Again, a 

few months later, " You must keep me well 
advised of your plans, and I, in my turn, will 
try so to arrange my affairs as to find my- 
self free in the spring of 1844 for a voyage, 
the chief object of which will be to show my 
oldest son the country where he was born, 
and where man may develop free of shackles. 
The mere anticipation of this journey is de- 
lightful to me, since I shall have you at my 
side, and may thus feel sure that it will make 
an epoch in science." This letter is answered 
from the glacier ; the first part refers to the 
Nomenclator, in regard to which he often con- 
sulted the prince. 


GLACIER OF THE AAR, September 1, 1842. 

... I thank you most sincerely for the 
pains you have so kindly taken with my proof, 
and for pointing out the faults and omissions 
you have noticed in my register of birds. I 
made the corrections at once, and have taken 
the liberty of mentioning on the cover of this 
number the share you have consented to take 
in my Nomenclator. I shall try to do better 
and better in the successive classes, but you 


well know the impossibility of avoiding grave 
errors in such a work, and that they can be 
wholly weeded out only in a second and third 
edition. I should have written sooner in an- 
swer to your last, had not your letter reached 
me on the Glacier of the Aar, where I have 
been since the beginning of July, following 
up observations, the results of which become 
every day more important and more convincing. 
The most striking fact, one which I think I 
have placed beyond the reach of doubt, is the 
primitive stratification of the neVe, or fields 
of snow, stratified from the higher regions 
across the whole course of the glacier to its 
lower extremity. I have prepared a general 
map, with transverse sections, showing how 
the layers lift themselves on the borders of 
the glacier and also at their junction, where 
two glaciers meet at the outlet of adjoining 
valleys ; and how, also, the waving lines formed 
by the layers on the surface change to sharper 
concentric curves with a marked axis, as the 
glacier descends to lower levels. For a full 
demonstration of the matter, I ought to send 
you my map and plans, of which I have, as 
yet, no duplicates ; but the fact is incontest- 
able, and you will oblige me by announcing 
it in the geological section at Padua. M. 


Charpentier, who is going to your meeting, 
will contest it,, but you can tell him from me 
that it is as evident as the stratification of the 
Neptunic rocks. To see and understand it 
fully, however, one must stand well above the 
glacier, so as to command the surface as a 
whole in one view. I would add that I am 
not now alluding to the blue and white bands 
in the ice of which I spoke to you last year ; 
this is a quite distinct phenomenon. 

I wish I could accept your kind invitation, 
but until I have gone to the bottom of the 
glacier question and terminated my " Fossil 
Fishes," I do not venture to move. It is no 
light task to finish all this before our long 
journey, to which I look forward, as it draws 
nearer, with a constantly increasing interest. 
I am very sorry not to join you at Florence. 
It would have been a great pleasure for me to 
visit the collections of northern Italy in your 
company. ... I write you on a snowy day, 
which keeps me a prisoner in my tent ; it is 
so cold that I can hardly hold my pen, and 
the water froze at my bedside last night. 
The greatest privation is, however, the lack of 
fruit and vegetables. Hardly a potato once 
a fortnight, but always and every day, morn- 
ing and night, mutton, everlasting mutton, 


and rice soup. As early as the end of July 
we were caught for three days by the snow ; I 
fear I shall be forced to break up our encamp- 
ment next week without having finished my 
work. What a contrast between this life and 
that of the plain ! I am afraid my letter may 
be long on the road before reaching the mail, 
and I pause here that I may not miss the 
chance of forwarding it by a man who has 
just arrived with provisions and is about to 
return to the hospice of the Grimsel, where 
some trustworthy guide will undertake to de- 
liver it at the first post-office. 

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


NEUCHATEL, December 15, 1842. 

... In the last few months I have made 
an important step in the identification of fos- 
sil fishes. The happy idea occurred to me of 
applying the microscope to the study of frag- 
ments of their bones, especially those of the 
head, and I have found in their structure 
modifications as remarkable and as numerous 
as those which Mr. Owen discovered in the 


structure of teeth. Here there is a vast new 
field to explore. I have already applied it to 
the identification of the fossil fishes in the 
Old Red of Russia sent me for that purpose 
by Mr. Murchison. You will find more ample 
details about it in my report to him. I con- 
gratulate myself doubly on the results ; first, 
because of their great importance in paleon- 
tology, and also because they will draw more 
closely my relations with Mr. Owen, whom I 
always rejoice to meet on the same path with 
myself, and whom I believe incapable of jeal- 
ousy in such matters. . . . The only point 
indeed, on which I think I may have a little 
friendly difference with him, is concerning the 
genus Labyrinthodon, which I am firmly re- 
solved, on proofs that seem to me conclusive, to 
claim for the class of fishes. 1 As soon as I have 
time I will write to Mr. Owen, but this need 
not prevent you from speaking to him on the 
subject if you have an early opportunity to do 
so. I am now exclusively occupied with the 
fossil fishes, which at any cost I wish to finish 
this winter. . . . Before even returning to 
my glacier work, I will finish my monograph 
of the Old Red, so that you may present it at 

1 On seeing Owen's evidence some years later, Agassiz at 
once acknowledged himself mistaken on this point. 


the Cork meeting, which it will be impossible 
for me to attend. ... I am infinitely grate- 
ful to you and Lord Enniskillen for your will- 
ingness to trust your Sheppy fishes to me ; I 
shall thus be prepared in advance for a strict 
determination of these fossils. Having them 
for some time before my eyes, I shall be- 
come familiar with all the details. When I 
know them thoroughly, and have compared 
them with the collections of skeletons in the 
Museums of Paris, of Leyden, of Berlin, and 
of Halle, I will then come to England to see 
what there may be in other collections which 
I cannot have at my disposal here. 

The winter of 1843, apart from his duties 
as professor, was devoted to the completion of 
the various zoological works on which he was 
engaged, and to the revision of materials he 
had brought back from the glacier. His hab- 
its with reference to physical exercise were 
very irregular. He passed at once from the 
life of the mountaineer to that of the closet 
student. After weeks spent on the snow and 
ice of the glacier, constantly on foot and in 
the open air, he would shut himself up for a 
still longer time in his laboratory, motionless 
for hours at his microscope by day, and writ- 


ing far into the night, rarely leaving his 
work till long after midnight. He was also 
forced at this time to press forward his pub- 
lications in the hope that he might have some 
return for the sums he had expended upon 
them. This was indeed a very anxious pe- 
riod of his life. He could never be brought 
to believe that purely intellectual aims were 
not also financially sound, and his lithographic 
establishment, his glacier work, and his costly 
researches in zoology had proved far beyond 
his means. The prophecies of his old friend 
Humboldt were coming true. He was entan- 
gled in obligations, and crushed under the 
weight of his own undertakings. He began 
to doubt the possibility of carrying out his 
plan of a scientific journey to the United 


NEUCHATEL, April, 1843. 

... I have worked like a slave all winter 
to finish my fossil fishes ; you will presently 
receive my fifteenth and sixteenth numbers, 
forwarded two days since, with more than 
forty pages of text, containing many new ob- 
servations. I shall allow myself no interrup- 
tion until this work is finished, hoping there- 


by to obtain a little freedom, for if my posi- 
tion here is not changed I shall be forced to 
seek the means of existence elsewhere. Mean- 
time, extravagant projects present themselves, 
as is apt to be the case when one is in diffi- 
culties. That of accompanying you to the 
United States was so tempting, that I am bit- 
terly disappointed to think that its execution 
becomes impossible in my present circum- 
stances. All my projects for further publi- 
cations must also be adjourned, or perhaps 
renounced. . . . Possibly, when my work on 
the fossil fishes is completed, the sale of some 
additional copies may help me to rise again. 
And yet I have not much hope of this, since 
all the attempts of my friends to obtain sub- 
scriptions for me in France and Russia have 
failed : because the French government takes 
no interest in what is done out of Paris ; and 
in Russia such researches, having little direct 
utility, are looked upon with indifference. Do 
you think any position would be open to me 
in the United States, where I might earn 
enough to enable me to continue the publica- 
tion of my unhappy books, which never pay 
their way because they do not meet the wants 
of the world ? 


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

The summer's work continued and com- 
pleted that of the last season. On leaving 
the glacier the year before they had marked 
a net-work of loose boulders, such as travel 
with the ice, and also a number of fixed points 
in the valley walls, comparing and registering 


their distance from each other. They had 
also sunk a line of stakes across the glacier. 
The change in the relative position of the two 
sets of signals and the curve in their line of 
stakes gave them, self-recorded, as it were, 
the rate of advance of the glacier as a whole, 
and also the comparative rate of progression 
in its different parts. Great pains was also 
taken durino; the summer to measure the ad- 


vance in every twenty-four hours, as well as 
to compare the diurnal with the nocturnal 
movement, and to ascertain the amount of 
surface waste. The season was an unfavor- 
able one, beginning so late and continuing so 
cold that the period of work was shortened. 


1843-1846 : -ET. 36-39. 

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

IN 1843 the " Recherches sur les Poissons 
Fossiles " was completed, and fast upon its foot- 
steps, in 1844, followed the author's " Mon- 
ograph on the Fossil Fishes of the Old Red 
Sandstone, or the Devonian System of Great 
Britain and Russia," a large quarto volume of 
text, accompanied by forty-one plates. Noth- 
ing in his paleontological studies ever inter- 
ested Agassiz more than this curious fauna 
of the Old Red, so strange in its combinations 
that even well-informed naturalists had attrib- 
uted its fossil remains to various classes of 
the animal kingdom in turn, and, indeed, long 


remained in doubt as to their true nature. 
Agassiz says himself in his Preface : " I can 
never forget the impression produced upon me 
by the sight of these creatures, furnished with 
appendages resembling wings, yet belonging, 
as I had satisfied myself, to the class of fishes. 
Here was a type entirely new to us, about to 
reenter (for the first time since it had ceased 
to exist) the series of beings ; nor could any- 
thing, thus far revealed from extinct creations, 
have led us to anticipate its existence. So 
true is it that observation alone is a safe guide 
to the laws of development of organized be- 
ings, and that we must be on our guard against 
all those systems of transformation of species 
so lightly invented by the imagination." 

The author goes on to state that the discov- 
ery of these fossils was mainly due to Hugh 
Miller, and that his own work had been con- 
fined to the identification of their character 
and the determination of their relations to the 
already known fossil fishes. This work, upon 
a type so extraordinary, implied, however, in- 
numerable and reiterated comparisons, and a 
minute study of the least fragments of the re- 
mains which could be procured. The materials 
were chiefly obtained in Scotland ; but Sir 
Eoderick Murchison also contributed his own 


collection from the Old Red of Russia, and 
various other specimens from the same local- 
ity. Not only on account of their peculiar 
structure were the fishes of the Old Red in- 
teresting to Agassiz, but also because, with 
this fauna, the vertebrate type took its place 
for the first time in what were then supposed 
to be the most ancient fossiliferous beds. 
When Agassiz first began his researches on 
fossil fishes, no vertebrate form had been dis- 
covered below the coal. The occurrence of 
fishes in the Devonian and Silurian beds 
threw the vertebrate type back, as he believed, 
into line with all the invertebrate classes, and 
seemed to him to show that the four great 
types of the animal kingdom, Radiates, Mol- 
lusks, Articulates, and Vertebrates, had ap- 
peared together. 1 "It is henceforth demon- 
strated," says Agassiz, "that the fishes were 
included in the plan of the first organic com- 
binations which made the point of departure 
for all the living inhabitants of our globe in 
the series of time." 

In his opinion this simultaneity of appear- 
ance, as well as the richness and variety dis- 
played by invertebrate classes from the begin- 

1 Introduction to the Poissons Fossiles du Vieux Ores Rouge, 
p. 22. 


ning, made it l " impossible to refer the first 
inhabitants of the earth to a few stocks, sub- 
sequently differentiated under the influence 
of external conditions of existence." . . . He 
adds : 2 " I have elsewhere presented my views 
upon the development through which the suc- 
cessive creations have passed during the his- 
tory of our planet. But what I wish to prove 
here, by a careful discussion of the facts re- 
ported in the following pages, is the truth of 
the law now so clearly demonstrated in the 
series of vertebrates, that the successive crea- 
tions have undergone phases of development 
analogous to those of the embryo in its growth 
and similar to the gradations shown by the 
present creation in the ascending series, which 
it presents as a whole. One may consider it 
as henceforth proved that the embryo of the 
fish during its development, the class of fishes 
as it at present exists in its numerous families, 
and the type of fish in its planetary history, 
exhibit analogous phases through which one 
may follow the same creative thought like a 
guiding thread in the study of the connection 

1 Introduction to the Poissons Fossiles du Vieux Gres Rouge, 
p. 21. 

2 Introduction to the Poissons Fossiles du Vieux Gres Rouge, 
p. 24. 

VOL I. 24 


between organized beings." Following this 
comparison closely, he shows how the early 
embryonic condition of the present fishes is 
recalled by the general disposition of the fins 
in the fishes of the Old Red Sandstone, and 
especially by the caudal fin, making the un- 
evenly lobed tail, so characteristic of these 
ancient forms. This so called heterocercal 
tail is only known to exist, as a permanent 
adult feature, in the sturgeons of to-day. The 
form of the head and the position of the 
mouth and eyes in the fishes of the Old Red 
were also shown to be analogous with embry- 
onic phases of our present fishes. From these 
analogies, and also from the ascendency of 
fishes as the only known vertebrate, and there- 
fore as the highest type in those ancient de- 
posits, Agassiz considered this fauna as repre- 
senting " the embryonic age of the reign of 
fishes ; ' ' and he sums up his results in conclu- 
sion in the following words : " The facts, taken 
as a whole, seem to me to show, not only that 
the fishes of the Old Red constitute an inde- 
pendent fauna, distinct from those of other 
deposits, but that they also represent in their 
organization the most remarkable analogy with 
the first phases of embryonic development in 
the bony fishes of our epoch, and a no less 


marked parallelism with the lower degrees of 
certain types of the class as it now exists on 
the surface of the earth." 

It has been said by one of the biographers 
of Agassiz, 1 in reference to this work upon the 
fishes of the Old Red Sandstone : " It is dif- 
ficult to understand why the results of these 
admirable researches, and of later ones made 
by him, did not in themselves lead him to sup- 
port the theory of transformation, of which 
they seem the natural consequence." It is 
true that except for the frequent allusion to a 
creative thought or plan, this introduction to 
the Fishes of the Old Red might seem to be 
written by an advocate of the development 
theory rather than by its most determined 
opponent, so much does it deal with laws of 
the organic world, now used in support of 
evolution. These comprehensive laws, an- 
nounced by Agassiz in his " Poissons Fos- 
siles," and afterward constantly reiterated by 
him, have indeed been adopted by the writers 
on evolution, though with a wholly different 
interpretation. No one saw more clearly than 
Agassiz the relation which he first pointed 
out, between the succession of animals of the 
same type in time and the phases of their em- 

1 Louis Agassiz : Notice biographique, par Ernest Favre. 


bryonic growth to-day, and he often said, in 
his lectures, " the history of the individual is 
the history of the type." But the coincidence 
between the geological succession, the embry- 
onic development, the zoological gradation, 
and the geographical distribution of annuals 
in the past and the present, rested, according 
to his belief, upon an intellectual coherence 
and not upon a material connection. So, also, 
the variability, as well as the constancy, of 
organized beings, at once so plastic and so 
inflexible, seemed to him controlled by some- 
thing more than the mechanism of self-adjust- 
ing forces. In this conviction he remained 
unshaken all his life, although the develop- 
ment theory came up for discussion under so 
many various aspects during that time. His 
views are now in the descending scale ; but to 
give them less than their real prominence here 
would be to deprive his scientific career of its 
true basis. Belief in a Creator was the key- 
note of his study of nature. 

In summing up the comprehensive results 
of Agassiz's paleontological researches, and 
especially of his " Fossil Fishes," Arnold 
Guyot says : l 

" Whatever be the opinions which many 

1 See Biographical Memoir of Louis Agassiz, p. 28. 


may entertain as to the interpretation of some 
of these generalizations, the vast importance 
of these results of Agassiz's studies may be 
appreciated by the incontestable fact, that 
nearly all the questions which modern pale- 
ontology has treated are here raised and in 
great measure solved. They already form a 
code of general laws which has become a 
foundation for the geological history of the 
life-system, and which the subsequent investi- 
gations of science have only modified and ex- 
tended, not destroyed. Nowhere did the mind 
of Agassiz show more power of generalization, 
more vigor, or more originality. The discov- 
ery of these great truths is truly his work ; 
he derived them immediately from nature by 
his own observations. Hence it is that all his 
later zoological investigations tend to a com- 
mon aim, namely, to give by farther studies, 
equally conscientious but more extensive, a 
broader and more solid basis to those laws 
which he had read in nature and which he 
had proclaimed at that early date in his im- 
mortal work, ' Poissons Fossiles.' Let us not 
be astonished that he should have remained 
faithful to these views to the end of his life. 
It is because he had seen that he believed, 
and such a faith is not easily shaken by new 



NEUCHATEL, September 7, 1844. 

... I write in all haste to ask for any ad- 
dress to which I can safely forward my report 
on the Slieppy fishes, so that they may arrive 
without fail in time for the meeting at York. 
Since my last letter I have made progress in 
this kind of research. I have sacrificed all 
my duplicates of our present fishes to furnish 
skeletons. I have prepared more than a hun- 
dred since I last wrote you, and I can now 
determine the family, and even the genus, sim- 
ply by seeing the skull. There remains noth- 
ing impossible now in the determination of 
fishes, and if I can obtain certain exotic gen- 
era, which I have not as yet, I can make an 
osteology of fishes as complete as that which 
we possess for the other classes of vertebrates. 
Every family has its special type of skull. 
All this is extremely interesting. I have al- 
ready corrected a mass of inaccurate identifi- 
cations established upon external characters ; 
and as for fossils, I have recognized and char- 
acterized seventeen new genera among the less 
perfect undetermined specimens you have sent 
me. Several families appear now for the first 
time among the fossils. I have been able to 


determine to what family all the doubtful 
genera belong ; indeed Sheppy will prove as 
rich in species as Mont Bolca. When you 
see your specimens again you will hardly 
recognize them, they are so changed ; I have 
chiseled and cleaned them, until they are al- 
most like anatomical preparations. Try to 
procure as many more specimens as possible 
and send them to me. I cannot stir from 
Neuchatel, now that I am so fully in the 
spirit of work, and besides it would be a use- 
less expense. . . . You will receive with my 
report the three numbers which complete my 
monograph of the Fishes of the Old Red. I 
feel sure, in advance, that you will be satis- 
fied with them. . . . 


September 15, 1844. ]" 

... I have only this day received your 
letter of the 6th, and I fear much you will 
scarcely receive this in time to make it avail- 
able. I shall not be able to reach York for 
the commencement of the meeting, but hope 
to be there on Saturday, September 28th. A 
parcel will reach me in the shortest possible 
time addressed Sir P. Egerton, Donnington 


Kectory, York. I am delighted with the 
bright results of your comparison of the 
Sheppy fossils with recent forms. You ap- 
pear to have opened out an entirely new 
field of investigation, likely to be productive 
of most brilliant results. Should any acci- 
dent delay the arrival of your monograph for 
the York meeting, I shall make a point of 
communicating to our scientific friends the 
contents of your letter, as I know they will 
rejoice to hear of the progress of fossil ich- 
thyology in your masterly hands. When 
next you come, I wish you could spend a few 
days here. We are surrounded on all sides 
by the debris of the moraines of the ancient 
glaciers that descended the flank of Ben 
Wyvis, and I think you would find much to 
interest you in tracing their relations. We 
have also the Cromarty Fish-beds within a 
few miles, and many other objects of geolog- 
ical interest. ... I shall see Lord Enniskillen 
at York, and will tell him of your success. We 
shall, of course, procure all the Sheppy fish 
we can either by purchase or exchange. . . . 

The pressure of work upon his various pub- 
lications detained Agassiz at home during the 
summer of 1844. For the first time he was 


unable to make one of the glacial party this 
year, but the work was carried on uninterrupt- 
edly, and the results reported to him. Mean- 
time his contemplated journey to the United 
States flitted constantly before him. 


NEUCHATEL, November 19, 1844. 

. . . Your idea of an illustrated American 
ichthyology is admirable. But for that we 
ought to have with us an artist clever enough 
to paint fishes rapidly from the life. Work 
but half done is no longer permissible in 
our days. ... In this matter I think there 
is a justice due to Rafinesque. However 
poor his descriptions, he nevertheless first rec- 
ognized the necessity of multiplying genera 
in ichthyology, and that at a time when the 
thing was far more difficult than now. Sev- 
eral of his genera have even the priority over 
those now accepted, and I think in the United 
States it would be easier than elsewhere to 
find again a part of the materials on which 
he worked. We must not neglect from this 


time forth to ask Americans to put us in the 
way of extending this work throughout North 
America. If you accept me for your collabo- 
rator, I will at once do all that I can on my 


side to bring together notes and specimens. 
I will write to several naturalists in the United 
States, and tell them that as I am to accom- 
pany you on your voyage I should be glad to 
know in advance what they have done in ich- 
thyology, so that we may be the better pre- 
pared to profit by our short sojourn in their 
country. However, I will do nothing before 
having your directions, which, for the sake of 
the matter in hand, I should be glad to re- 
ceive as early as possible. . . . 

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


NEUCHATEL, January 7, 1845. 

... I have received an excellent piece of 
news from Humboldt, which I hasten to share 
with you. I venture to believe that it will 
please you also. ... I had written to Hum- 
boldt of our plans, and of your kind offer to 
take me with you to the United States, tell- 
ing him at the same time how much I regret- 


ted that I should be unable to visit the regions 
which attracted me the most from a geolog- 
ical point of view, and asking him if it would 
be possible to interest the king in this jour- 
ney and obtain means from his majesty for a 
longer stay on the other side of the Atlantic. 
I have just received a delightful and most 
unexpected reply. The king will grant me 
15,000 francs for this object, so that I shall, 
in any event, be able to make the journey. 
All the more do I desire to make it in your 
society, and I think by combining our forces 
we shall obtain more important results ; but I 
am glad that I can do it without being a bur- 
den to you. Before answering Humboldt, I 
am anxious to know whether your plans are 
definitely decided upon for this summer, and 
whether this arrangement suits you. . . . 

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

" Am I then to go without you," he writes 
" is this irrevocable ? If I were to defer my 
departure till September would it then be pos- 
sible for you to leave Home ? It would be 


too delightful if we could make this journey 
together. I wish also, before starting, to re- 
view everything that has been done of late in 
paleontology, zoology, and comparative anat- 
omy, that I may, in behalf of all these sciences, 
take advantage of the circumstances in which 
I shall be placed. . . . Whatever befalls me, 
I feel that I shall never cease to consecrate 
my whole energy to the study of nature ; its 
all powerful charm has taken such possession 
of me that I shall always sacrifice everything 
to it ; even the things which men usually 
value most." 

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

Humboldt writes him not without anxiety 
lest his determination to complete all the tasks 
he had undertaken, including the Nornenclator, 


should involve him in endless delays and per- 


BERLIN, September 16, 1845. 

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

Your letter reached me, unaccompanied, 
however, by the books it announces. They 
are to come, no doubt, in some other way. 
Spite of the demands made upon me by the 
continuation of my " Cosmos," I shall find 


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


The following correspondence with Profes- 
sor Adam Sedgwick is of interest, as showing 
his attitude and that of Agassiz toward ques- 
tions which have since acquired a still greater 
scientific importance. 


April 10, 1845. > 

MY DEAR PROFESSOR, The British Asso- 
ciation is to meet here about the middle of 
June, and I trust that the occasion will again 
bring you to England and give me the great 
happiness of entertaining you in Trinity Col- 
lege. Indeed, I wish very much to see you ; 
for many years have now elapsed since I last 
had that pleasure. May God long preserve 
your life, which has been spent in promoting 
the great ends of truth and knowledge ! Your 
great work on fossil fishes is now before me, 
and I also possess the first number of your 
monograph upon the fishes of the Old Red 
Sandstone. I trust the new numbers will fol- 
low the first in rapid succession. I love now 
and then to find a resting - place ; and your 
works always give me one. The opinions of 
Geoffrey St. Hilaire and his dark school seem 
to be gaining some ground in England. I 


detest them, because I think them untrue. 
They shut out all argument from design and 
all notion of a Creative Providence, and in so 
doing they appear to me to deprive physiology 
of its life and strength, and language of its 
beauty and meaning. I am as much offended 
in taste by the turgid mystical bombast of 
Geoffroy as I am disgusted by his cold and 
irrational materialism. When men of his 
school talk of the elective affinity of organic 
types, I hear a jargon I cannot comprehend, 
and I turn from it in disgust ; and when they 
talk of spontaneous generation and transmuta- 
tion of species, they seem to me to try nature 
by an hypothesis, and not to try their hypoth- 
esis by nature. Where are their facts on 
which to form an inductive truth ? I deny 
their starting condition. " Oh ! but ' they re- 
ply, " we have progressive development in ge- 
ology." Now, I allow (as all geologists must 
do) a kind of progressive development. For 
example, the first fish are below the reptiles ; 
and the first reptiles older than man. I say, 
we have successive forms of animal life 
adapted to successive conditions (so far, prov- 
ing design), and not derived in natural suc- 
cession in the ordinary way of generation. 
But if no single fact in actual nature allows 


us to suppose that the new species and orders 
were produced successively in the natural way, 
how did they begin ? I reply, by a way out 
of and above common known, material nature, 
and this way I call creation. Generation and 
creation are two distinct ideas, and must be 
described by two distinct words, unless we 
wish to introduce utter confusion of thought 


and language. In this view I think you agree 
with me ; for I spoke to you on the subject 
when we met (alas, ten years since !) at Dub- 
lin. Would you have the great kindness to 
give me your most valuable opinion on one or 
two points ? 

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

(2.) Is the organic type of fish higher now 
than it was during the carboniferous period, 
when the Sauroids so much abounded? If 

VOL. I. 25 


the progressive theory of Geoffroy be true, in 
his sense, each class of animals ought to be 
progressive in its organic type. It appears to 
me that this is not true. Pray tell me your 
own views on this point. 

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

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


tion of the fish of the Old Red, with reference 
to some intelligible scale. 

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

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



NEUCHATEL, June, 1845. 

... I reproach myself for not acknowledg- 
ing at once your most interesting letter of 
April 10th. But you will easily understand 
that in the midst of the rush of work conse- 
quent upon my preparation for a journey of 
several vears' duration I have not noticed the 


flight of time since I received it, until to-day, 


when the si^ht of the date fills rae with con- 


fusion. And yet, for years, I have not re- 
ceived a letter which has given me greater 
pleasure or moved me more deeply. I have 
felt in it and have received from it that vigor 
of conviction which gives to all you say or 
write a virile energy, captivating alike to the 
listener or the reader. Like you, I am pained 
by the progress of certain tendencies in the 
domain of the natural sciences ; it is not only 
the arid character of this philosophy of nature 
(and by this I mean, not natural philosophy, 
but the " Natur-philosophie " of the Germans 
and French) which alarms me. I dread quite 
as much the exaggeration of religious fanati- 
cism, borrowing fragments from science, im- 
perfectly or not at all understood, and then 
making use of them to prescribe to scientific 
men what they are allowed to see or to find 
in Nature. Between these two extremes it is 
difficult to follow a safe road. The reason 
is, perhaps, that the domain of facts has not 
yet received a sufficiently general recognition, 
while traditional beliefs still have too much 
influence upon the study of the sciences. 

Wishing to review such ideas as I had 
formed upon these questions, I gave a public 
course this winter upon the plan of creation 


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

I find it impossible to attribute the biolog- 
ical phenomena, which have been and still are 
going on upon the surface of our globe, to the 
simple action of physical forces. I believe 
they are due, in their entirety, as well as in- 
dividually, to the direct intervention of a crea- 
tive power, acting freely and in an autonomic 
way. ... I have tried to make this intentional 
plan in the organization of the animal king- 
dom evident, by showing that the differences 
between animals do not constitute a material 
chain, analogous to a series of physical phe- 
nomena, bound together by the same law, but 
present themselves rather as the phases of a 
thought, formulated according to a definite 
aim. I think we know enough of compara- 
tive anatomy to abandon forever the idea of 


the transformation of the organs of one type 
into those of another. The metamorphoses of 
certain animals, and especially of insects, so 
often cited in support of this idea, prove, by 
the fixity with which they repeat themselves 
in innumerable species, exactly the contrary. 
In the persistency of these metamorphoses, 
distinct for each species and known to repeat 
themselves annually in a hundred thousand 
species, and to have done so ever since the 
present order of things was established on the 
earth, have we not the most direct proof that 
the diversity of types is not due to external 
natural influences ? I have f oUowed this idea 
in all the types of the animal kingdom. I 
have also tried to show the direct intervention 
of a creative power in the geographical dis- 
tribution of organized beings on the surface 
of the globe when the species are definitely 
circumscribed. As evidence of the fixity of 
generic types and the existence of a higher 
and free causal power, I have made use of a 
method which appears to me new as a process 
of reasoning. The series of reptiles, for in- 
stance, in the family of lizards, shows apodal 
forms, forms with rudimentary feet, then with 
a successively larger number of fingers until 
we reach, by seemingly insensible gradations, 


the genera Anguis, Ophisaurus, and Pseudo- 
pus, the Chamosauria, Chirotes, Bipes, Sepo, 
Seine us, and at last the true lizards. It would 
seem to any reasonable man that these types 
are the transformations of a single primitive 
type, so closely do the modifications approach 
each other ; and yet I now reject any such 
supposition, and after having studied the facts 
most thoroughly, I find in them a direct proof 
of the creation of all these species. It must 
not be forgotten that the genus Anguis be- 
longs to Europe, the Ophisaurus to North 
America, the Pseudopus to Dalmatia and the 
Caspian steppe, the Sepo to Italy, etc. Now, 
I ask how portions of the earth so absolutely 
distinct could have combined to form a con- 
tinuous zoological series, now so strikingly dis- 
tributed, and whether the idea of this develop- 
ment could have started from any other source 
than a creative purpose manifested in space ? 
These same purposes, this same constancy in 
the employment of means toward a final end, 
may be read still more clearly in the study of 
the fossils of the different creations. The 
species of all the creations are materially and 
genealogically as distinct from each other as 
those of the different points on the surface of 
the globe. I have compared hundreds of spe- 


cies reputed identical in various successive de- 
posits, species which are always quoted in 
favor of a transition, however indirect, from 
one group of species to another, and I have 
always found marked specific differences be- 
tween them. In a few weeks I will send you 
a paper which I have just printed on this sub- 
ject, where it seems to me this view is very 
satisfactorily proved. The idea of a procrea- 
tion of new species by preceding ones is a gra- 
tuitous supposition opposed to all sound phys- 
iological notions. And yet it is true that, 
taken as a whole, there is a gradation in the 
organized beings of successive geological for- 
mations, and that the end and aim of this 
development is the appearance of man. But 
this serial connection of all successive creat- 
ures is not material ; taken singly these groups 
of species show no relation through interme- 
diate forms genetically derived one from the 
other. The connection between them becomes 
evident only when they are considered as a 
whole emanating from a creative power, the 
author of them all. To your special questions 
I may now very briefly reply. 

Have fishes descended from a primitive 
type? So far am I from thinking this pos- 
sible, that I do not believe there is a single 


specimen of fossil or living fish, whether ma- 
rine or fresh-water, that has not been created 
with reference to a special intention and a 
definite aim, even though we may be able to 
detect but a portion of these numerous rela- 
tions and of the essential purpose. 

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

Can the fishes of the Old Red be considered 
the embryos of those of later epochs? Of 
course they are the first types of the verte- 
brate series, including the most ancient of the 
Silurian system ; but they each constitute an 
independent fauna, as numerous in the places 
where these earlier fishes are found, as the 
present fishes in any area of similar extent 
on our sea-shore to-day. ^ I now know one 
hundred and four species of fossil fish from 


the Old Red, belonging to forty-four genera, 
comprised under seven families, between sev- 
eral of which there is but little analogy as 
to organization. It is therefore impossible to 
look upon them as coming from one primitive 
stock. The primitive diversity of these types 
is quite as remarkable as that of those be- 
longing to later epochs. It is nevertheless 
true that, regarded as part of the general 
plan of creation, this fauna presents itself as 
an inferior type of the vertebrate series, con- 
necting itself directly in the creative thought 
with the realization of later forms, the last of 
which (and this seems to me to have been the 
general end of creation) was to place man at 
the head of organized beings as the key-stone 
and term of the whole series, the final point 
in the premeditated intention of the primitive 
plan which has been carried out progressively 
in the course of time. I would even say that I 
believe the creation of man has closed creation 
on this earth, and I draw this conclusion from 
the fact that the human genus is the first 
cosmopolite type in Nature. One may even 
affirm that man is clearly announced in the 
phases of organic development of the animal 
kingdom as the final term of this series. 
Lastly: Is there any reason to believe that 


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

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

" A numerous audience assembled on the 
26th of March for the opening of a course by 
Professor Agassiz on the ' Plan of Creation.' 
It is with an ever new pleasure that our pub- 
lic come together to listen to this savant, still 
so young and already so celebrated. Not con- 
tent with pursuing in seclusion his laborious 
scientific investigations, he makes a habit of 
communicating, almost annually, to an audi- 
ence less restricted than that of the Academy 
the general result of some of his researches. 
All the qualities to which Mr. Agassiz has 
accustomed his listeners were found in the 
opening prelude ; the fullness and freedom of 
expression which give to his lectures the char- 
acter of a scientific causerie ; the dignified 


ease of bearing, joined with the simplicity and 
candor of a savant who teaches neither by 
aphorisms nor oracles, but who frankly admits 
the public to the results of his researches ; 
the power of generalization always based upon 
a patient study of facts, which he knows how 
to present with remarkable clearness in a lan- 
guage that all can understand. We will not 
follow the professor in tracing the outlines 
of his course. Suffice it to say that he in- 
tends to show in the general development of 
the animal kingdom the existence of a definite 
preconceived plan, successively carried out ; in 
other words, the manifestation of a higher 
thought, the thought of God. This crea- 
tive thought may be studied under three 
points of view : as shown in the relations 
which, spite of their manifold diversity, con- 
nect all the species now living on the surface 
of the globe ; in their geographical distribu- 
tion ; and in the succession of beings from 
primitive epochs until the present condition 
of things." 

The summer of 1845 was the last which 
Agassiz passed at home. It was broken by 
a short and hurried visit to the glacier of 
the Aar, respecting which no details have 
been preserved. He did not then know that 


he was taking a final leave of his cabin among 
the rocks and ice. Affairs connected with the 
welfare of the institution in Neuchatel, with 
which he had been so long connected, still 
detained him for a part of the winter, and he 
did not leave for Paris until the first week in 
March, 1846. His wife and daughters had 
already preceded him to Germany, where he 
was to join them again on his way to Paris, 
and where they were to pass the period of his 
absence, under the care of his brother-in-law, 
Mr. Alexander Braun, then living at Carls- 
ruhe. His son was to remain at school at 

It was two o'clock at night when he left 
his home of so many years. There had been 
a general sadness at the thought of his depar- 
ture, and every testimony of affection and 
respect accompanied him. The students came 
in procession with torchlights to give him a 
parting serenade, and many of his friends 
and colleagues were also present to bid him 
farewell. Mr. Louis Favre says in his Me- 
moir, " Great was the emotion at Neuchatel 
when the report was spread abroad that Agas- 
siz was about to leave for a long journey. It 
is true he promised to come back, but the New 
World might shower upon him such marvels 


that his return could hardly be counted upon. 
The young people, the students, regretted 
their beloved professor not only for his scien- 
tific attainments, but for his kindly disposi- 
tion, the charm of his eloquence, the inspira- 
tion of his teaching ; they regretted also the 
gay, animated, untiring companion of their 
excursions, who made them acquainted with 
nature, and knew so well how to encourage 
and interest them in their studies." 

Pausing at Carlsruhe on his journey, he 
proceeded thence to Paris, where he was wel- 
comed with the greatest cordiality by scien- 
tific men. In recognition of his work on the 
" Fossil Fishes " the Mouthy on Prize of Phys- 
iology was awarded him by the Academy. 
He felt this distinction the more because the 
bearing of such investigations upon experi- 
mental physiology had never before been 
pointed out, and it showed that he had suc- 
ceeded in giving a new direction and a more 
comprehensive character to paleontological 
research. He passed some months in Paris, 
busily occupied with the publication of the 
" Systerne Glaciaire," his second work on the 
glacial phenomena. The "Etudes sur les 
Glaciers' had simply contained a resume of 
all the researches undertaken upon the Al- 


pine fields of ice and the results obtained up 
to 1840, inclusive of the author's own work 
and his wider interpretation of the facts. The 
" Systeme Glaciaire ' was, on the contrary, an 
account of a connected plan of investigation 
during a succession of years, upon a single 
glacier, with its geodetic and topographic fea- 
tures, its hydrography, its internal structure, its 
atmospheric conditions, its rate of annual and 
diurnal progress, and its relations to surround- 
ing glaciers. All the local phenomena, so far 
as they could be observed, were subjected to 
a strict scrutiny, and the results corrected by 
careful comparison, during five seasons. As 
we have seen, and as Agassiz himself says in 
his Preface, this band of workers had " lived 
in the intimacy of the glacier, striving to draw 
from it the secret of its formation and its an- 
nual advance." The work was accompanied 
by three maps and nine plates. In such a 
volume of detail there is no room for pictur- 
esque description, and little is told of the 
wonderful scenes they witnessed by day and 
night, nothing of personal peril and adven- 

This task concluded, he went to England, 
where he was to spend the few remaining 
days previous to his departure. Among the 


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

" Your illegible but much attached friend, 


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


Published by 



By Louis AGASSIZ. With Illustrations. 
i6mo, $1.50. 


I. General Sketch of the Early Progress in Natural History. 
II. Nomenclature and Classification. 

III. Categories of Classification. 

IV. Classification and Creation. 

V. Different Views respecting Orders. 
VI. Gradation among Animals. 
VII. Analogous Types. 
VIII. Family Characteristics. 
IX. The Character of Genera. 
X. Species and Breeds. 
XI. Formation of Coral Reefs. 
XII. Age of Coral Reefs as showing Permanence of Species. 

XIII. Homologies. 

XIV. Alternate Generations. 
XV. The Ovarian Egg. 

XVI. Embryology and Classification. 

Skillfully planned, and tersely written ; and while embodying 
many general hints as to the method by which scientific truth has 
been reached, it sketches the history of science in past times. 
The knowledge which it imparts so gracefully is of the most 
interesting character, and is enforced by apposite and practical 
illustration. A more delightful scientific work we have never 
chanced to encounter ; and we therefore cordially commend it to 
all classes of readers. New York Albion. 

Never before has science been so completely popularized. 
Philadelphia Press. 


By Louis AGASSIZ. First Series. With Illustrations. 

i6mo, $1.50. 


I. America the Old World. 
II. The Silurian Beach. 

III. The Fern Forests of the Carboniferous Period. 

IV. Mountains and their Origin. 
V. The Growth of Continents. 

VI. The Geological Middle Age. 

VII. The Tertiary Age, and its Characteristic Animals. 
VIII. The Formation of Glaciers. 
IX. Internal Structure and Progression of Glaciers. 
X. External Appearance of Glaciers. 

This work has been extensively read and admired for the sim- 
plicity and beauty of its style, the vividness of its descriptions of 
Nature, and the grandeur of its views of the world's progress. 
Professor Agassiz reviews the prominent events of the successive 
eras in a manner that cannot fail to charm and instruct the most 
unscientific reader. American Journal of Science. 

The style of these essays is clear ; the information such as to 
stimulate, as well as enlighten, the mind ; and the illustrations 
serve as good aids to the thorough comprehension of the text. 
Boston Transcript. 

By Louis AGASSIZ. Second Series. i6mo, $1.50. 

I. Glacial Period. 
II. The Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, in Scotland. 

III. Ice-Period in America. 

IV. Glacial Phenomena in Maine. 

V. Physical History of the Valley of the Amazon. 

This volume, taken in connection with the first series of " Geo- 
logical Sketches," presents in a permanent form, and in their 
proper order, all the essays Professor Agassiz wrote in his ma- 
turer years on geological and glacial phenomena. 

These papers, rich with accumulated stores of scientific lore, 
and seeming, in their simple but animated and engaging style, to 
be genuine outgrowths of their author's temperament, as well as 
of his wisdom, need no recommendation. Boston Advertiser. 

We commend them as giving in popular form the general out- 
line and many local details of the glacial theory which Agassiz 
elaborated to cosmic proportions from Charpentier's more limited 
groundwork, and for which he labored and battled against potent 
adversaries during many years, until from a hypothesis he reduced 
it to a demonstration. New York World. 

The simple grace of style, the pure and idiomatic English, itself 
a model for the student, the clearness of illustration, the certainty 
of the author's grasp of his subject, give them a wonderful charm, 
even to those who neither know nor care for their subject. Some 
men can make any subject interesting to any one. Among these 
Professor Agassiz was prominent. Portland Press. 


By Professor and Mrs. Louis AGASSIZ. With eight 
full-page Illustrations and many smaller ones, from 
photographs and sketches. 8vo, $5.00. 


I. Voyage from New York to Rio de Janeiro. 
II. Rio de Janeiro and its Environs Juiz de Fora. 

III. Life in Rio Fazenda Life. 

IV. Voyage up the Coast to Para. 
V. From Para to Manaos. 

VI. Life at Manaos Voyage from Manaos to Tabatinga. 
VII. Life in Tefee. 

VIII. Return to Manaos Amazonian Picnic. 
IX. Manaos and its Neighborhood. 

X. Excursion to Mauhes and its Neighborhood. 
XI. Return to Manaos Excursion on the Rio Negro. 
XII. Down the River to Para Excursions on the Coast. 

XIII. Physical History of the Amazons. 

XIV. Ceara. 

XV. Public Institutions of Rio Organ Mountains. 
XVI. General Impressions of Brazil. 

The volume possesses a high degree of interest in the richness 
of its details concerning the manners and customs, social life, and 
natural scenery, of Brazil, its animated and often picturesque nar- 
rative, and the graceful freedom and simplicity of its style. New 
York Tribune. 

The narrative is interwoven with some of the more general re- 
sults of Prof. Agassiz's scientific observations, especially his in- 

quiries into the distribution of the fishes in the greatest hydro- 
graphic basin in the world, and the proof of the former existence 
of glaciers throughout its extent. The vegetation of the tropics, 
seen by Prof. Agassiz from a paleontological point of view, is 
drawn in charming pictures by Mrs. Agassiz's pen- Journal of 
Travel and Natural History (London). 

A most charming and instructive volume. It will be an indis- 
pensable companion for every traveller in Brazil ; and its intrinsic 
merits assure for it general favor and circulation. Pall Mall Ga- 

A more charming volume of travels we have seldom met with. 
Springfield Republican. 

It is impossible to give the reader an idea of the wealth in the 
volume. Boston Transcript. 


With one hundred and eighty-five Illustrations. 
8vo, $3.00. 

This beautiful volume is an admirable companion for the sea- 
side resident or tourist, especially for all who are capable of pleas- 
ure from looking at or studying the life of the sea. Professor 
Alexander Agassiz gives the results of his own extended observa- 
tions and profound researches, relating to the structure, habits, 
growth, development from the embryo, and other characteristics 
of New England polyps, jelly-fishes or medusae, and star-fishes, 
illustrating his descriptions with numerous artistic figures ; and 
Mrs. Agassiz adds to the volume the charm of her graceful pen. 
" Seaside Studies in Natural History" is a work for the learned 
as well as unlearned, fitted to give all delight and instruction. 
Professor JAMES D. DANA, in American Journal of Science. 


Edited by ELIZABETH C. AGASSIZ. With Portraits and 
Illustrations. 2 vols. crown Svo. 

This volume gives a full account of Professor _ Agassiz, his 
work and writings, and also contains copious selections from his 
correspondence. It is the most extended biography of him which 
has ever been published. 







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