Part 9 out of 10
hardly afforded landing or foothold. The collections here,
therefore, were small; but a good haul was made with the trawl net,
which gathered half-a-dozen species of echinoderms, some small
fishes, and a number of shells. Fog detained the vessel in Eden
Harbor till a late hour in the morning, but the afternoon was
favorable for the passage through the English Narrows, the most
contracted part of Smythe's Channel. It is, indeed, a mere mountain
defile, through which the water rushes with such force that, in
navigating it, great care was required to keep the vessel off the
rocks. Her anchorage at the close of the day was in Connor's Cove,
a miniature harbor not unlike Borja Bay in the Strait. It was a
tranquil retreat. The water-birds seemed to find it so, for the
steamer ducks were trailing their long wakes through the water, and
a large kind of stormy petrel sailed up to the vessel, and almost
put himself into the hands of the sailors, with whom he remained an
Geologically, Agassiz found Connor's Cove of especial interest. It
runs east and west, opening on the eastern side of the channel; but
the knolls, that is to say, the rounded surfaces at its entrance,
are furrowed across the cove, at right angles with it. In other
words, the movement of the ice, always from south to north, has
been with Smythe's Channel, and across the Strait of Magellan.
Indeed it seemed to Agassiz that all the glacial agency in Smythe's
Channel, the trend of the furrows, the worn surfaces whereon they
were to be found, and the steepness of southern exposures as
compared with the more rounded opposite slopes, pointed to the same
On the third of April Agassiz left with regret this region of ocean
and mountain, glacier, snow-field, and forest. The weeks he had
spent there were all too short for the work he had hoped to do.
Yet, trained as he was in glacial phenomena, even so cursory an
observation satisfied him that in the southern, as in the northern
hemisphere, the present glaciers are but a remnant of the ancient
After two days of open sea and head winds, the next anchorage was
in Port San Pedro, a very beautiful bay opening on the north side
of Corcovado Gulf, with snow mountains in full sight; the Peak of
Corcovado and a wonderfully symmetrical volcanic mountain,
Melimoya, white as purest marble to the summit, were clearly
defined against the sky. Forests clothed the shore on every side,
and the shelving beach met the wood in a bank of wild Bromelia,
most brilliant in color. Not only were excellent collections made
on this beach, but the shore was strewn with large accumulations of
erratics. Among them was a green epidotic rock which Agassiz had
traced to this spot from the Bay of San Antonio on the Patagonian
coast, without ever finding it in place. Some of the larger
boulders had glacial furrows and scratches upon them, and all the
hills bordering the shore were rounded and moutonnee. One of the
great charms for Agassiz in the scenery of all this region, and
especially in the Strait of Magellan, was a kind of home feeling
that it gave him. Although the mountains rose from the ocean,
instead of from the plain as in Switzerland, yet the snow-fields
and the glaciers carried him back to his youth. To him, the sunset
of this evening in the Port San Pedro, with the singular
transparent rose color over the snow mountains, and the soft
succeeding pallor, was the very reproduction of an Alpine sunset.
The next morning brought a disappointment. From this point Agassiz
had hoped to continue the voyage by the inside passage between the
main-land and the island of Chiloe. This was of importance to him,
on account of its geological relation to Smythe's Channel and the
Strait of Magellan. In the absence of any good charts of the
channel, the Captain, after examining the shoals at the entrance,
was forced to decide, almost as much to his own regret as to that
of Agassiz, not to attempt the further passage. Keeping up the
outer coast of Chiloe, therefore, the vessel anchored before Ancud
on the 8th of April. It was a heavenly day. The volcanic peak of
Osorno and the whole snowy Cordilleras were unveiled. The little
town above the harbor, with its outlying farms on the green and
fertile hills around, seemed like the very centre of civilization
to people who had been so long out of the world. It is said to rain
in Ancud three hundred and sixty-five days in the year. But on this
particular afternoon it was a very sunny place, and the inhabitants
seemed to avail themselves of their rare privilege. Groups of
Indians, who had come across the river in the morning to sell their
milk in the town, were resting in picturesque groups around their
empty milk-cans, the women wrapped in their long shawls, the men in
their ponchos and slouched hats; the country people were driving
out their double teams of strong, powerful oxen harnessed to wooden
troughs filled with manure for the fields; the washerwomen were
scrubbing and beating their linen along the roadside; the gardens
of the poorest houses were bright with large shrubs of wild
fuchsia, and, altogether, the aspect of the little place was
cheerful and pretty. Agassiz had but two or three hours for a look
at the geology. Even this cursory glance sufficed to show him that
the drift materials, even to their special mineralogical elements,
were the same as in the Magellan Strait. Here they rested, however,
on volcanic soil.
Stopping at Lota for coal, but not long enough for any scientific
work, the Hassler entered Concepcion Bay on the 15th April, and
anchored near Talcahuana, where she was to remain some three weeks
for the repair of her engine. This quaint, primitive little town is
built upon one of the finest harbors on the Pacific coast. Agassiz
was fortunate in finding, through the kindness of Captain Johnson,
a partially furnished house, where several large vacant rooms,
opening on the "patio," served admirably as scientific
laboratories. Here, then, he established himself with his
assistants. It was soon understood that every living thing would
find a market with him, and all the idle urchins about the town
flocked to the house with specimens. An unceasing traffic of birds,
shells, fish, etc., went on there from morning to night, and to the
various vendors were added groups of Indians coming to have their
photographs taken. There were charming excursions and walks in the
neighborhood, and the geology of the region was so interesting that
it determined Agassiz to go by land from Talcahuana to Valparaiso,
on a search after any glacial tracks that might be found in the
valley lying between the Cordillera of the Andes and the Coast
Range. Meanwhile the Hassler was to go on a dredging expedition to
the island of Juan Fernandez, and then proceed to Valparaiso, where
Agassiz was to join her a fortnight later. Although this expedition
was under the patronage of the Coast Survey, the generosity of Mr.
Thayer, so constantly extended to scientific aims, had followed
Agassiz on this second journey. To his kindness he owed the
possibility of organizing an excursion apart from the direct object
of the voyage. This change of plan and its cause is told in the
following extract from his general report to Professor Peirce:--
While I was transcribing my Report, Pourtales came in with the
statement that he had noticed the first indication of an Andean
glacier in the vicinity. I have visited the locality twice since.
It is a magnificent polished surface, as well preserved as any I
have ever seen upon old glaciated ground or under glaciers of the
present day, with well-marked furrows and scratches. Think of it! a
characteristic surface, indicating glacier action, in latitude 37
degrees south, at the level of the sea! The place is only a few
feet above tide level, upon the slope of a hill on which stand the
ruins of a Spanish fort, near the fishermen's huts of San Vicente,
which lies between Concepcion Bay and the Bay of Aranco. Whether
the polished surface is the work of a glacier descending from the
Andes to the sea-shore or not, I have not yet been able to
determine. I find no volcanic pebbles or boulders in this vicinity,
which, after my experience in San Carlos, I should expect all along
the shore, if the glaciers of the Andes had descended to the level
of the ocean, in this part of the country. The erratics here have
the character of those observed farther south. It is true the
furrows and scratches of this polished surface run mainly from east
to west; but there are some crossing the main trend, at angles
ranging from 20 to 30 degrees, and running south-east-north-west.
Moreover, the magnetic variation is 18 degrees 3 degrees at
Talcahuano April 23rd, the true meridian bearing to the right of
the magnetic. I shall soon know what to make of this, as I start
to-morrow for the interior, to go to Santiago and join the ship
again at Valparaiso. I have hired a private carriage, to be able
to stop whenever I wish so to do. I also take a small seine to fish
for fresh water fishes in the many streams intervening between this
place and Valparaiso. The trend of the glacial scratches in San
Vicente reminds me of a fact I have often observed in New England
near the sea-shore, where the glacial furrows dip to a considerable
extent eastward toward the deep ocean, while further inland their
trend is more regular and due North and South. . .
"I had almost forgotten to say that I have obtained unquestionable
evidence of the cretaceous age of the coal deposits of Lota and the
adjoining localities, north and south, which are generally supposed
to be tertiary lignites. They are overlaid by sandstone containing
Baculites! I need not adduce other evidence to satisfy geologists
of the correctness of my assertion. I have myself collected a great
many of these fossils, in beds resting upon coal-seams. Ever truly
On the 28th of April, then, Agassiz left Talcahuana, accompanied by
Mrs. Agassiz, and by Dr. Steindachner, who was to assist him in
making collections along the way. They were to travel post, along
the diligence road, until they reached Curicu, within half a day of
Santiago, where railroad travel began. It was a beautiful journey,
and though the rainy season was impending, the fair weather was
uninterrupted. The way lay for the most part through an
agricultural district of corn, wheat, and vineyards. In this
strange land, where seasons are reversed, and autumn has changed
places with spring, the work of harvest and vintage was just going
on. The road was full of picturesque scenes: troops of mules might
be met, a hundred at a time, laden with corn-sacks; the queer,
primitive carts of the country creaked along, carrying huge
wine-jars filled with the fresh new juice of the grape; the road
was gay with country people in their holiday dresses; the women,
who wore their bright shawls like a kind of mantle, were sometimes
on foot and sometimes pillioned behind the men, who were invariably
on horseback, and whose brilliant ponchos and fine riding added to
the impression of life and color. Rivers and streams were frequent;
and as there were no bridges, the scenes at the fords, sometimes
crossed on rafts, sometimes on flat boats, worked by ropes, were
exciting and picturesque. For rustic interiors along the road side,
there were the huts of the working people, rough trellises of
tree-trunks interwoven with branches; green as arbors while fresh,
a coarse thatch when dry. There was always a large open space in
front, sheltered by the projecting thatch of the house, and
furnished sometimes with a rough table and benches. Here would be
the women at their work, or the children at play, or sometimes the
drovers taking their lunch of tortillas and wine, while their
animals munched their midday meal hard by. The scenery was often
fine. On the third day the fertile soil, watered by many rivers,
was exchanged for a sandy plain, broken by a thorny mimosa
scattered over the surface. This plain lay between the Cordillera
of the Andes and the Coast Range. As the road advanced farther
inland, the panorama of the Cordilleras became more and more
striking. In the glow of the sunset, the peaks of the abrupt,
jagged walls and the volcano-like summits were defined against the
sky in all their rugged beauty. There was little here to remind one
of the loveliness of the Swiss Alps. With no lower green slopes, no
soft pasturage grounds leading gently up to rocky heights, the
Andes, at least in this part of their range, rise arid, stern, and
bold from base to crest, a fortress wall unbroken by tree or shrub,
or verdure of any kind, and relieved only by the rich and varied
coloring of the rock.
The lodgings for the night were found in small towns along the
road, Tome, Chilian, Linarez, Talca, Curicu, and once, when there
was no inn within reach, at a hospitable hacienda.
A brief sketch of the geological observations made on this
excursion is found in a letter from Agassiz to Mr. Peirce. He never
wrote out, as he had intended to do, a more detailed report.
OFF GUATEMALA, July 29, 1872.
MY DEAR PEIRCE,
. . .I have another new chapter concerning glacial phenomena,
gathered during our land-journey from Talcahuana to Santiago. It is
so complicated a story that I do not feel equal now to recording
the details in a connected statement, but will try to give you the
main facts in a few words.
There is a broad valley between the Andes and the Coast Range, the
valley of Chilian, extending from the Gulf of Ancud, or Port de
Mott, to Santiago and farther north. This valley is a continuation,
upon somewhat higher level, of the channels which, from the Strait
of Magellan to Chiloe, separate the islands from the main-land,
with the sole interruption of Tres Montes. Now this great valley,
extending for more than twenty-five degrees of latitude, is a
CONTINUOUS GLACIER BOTTOM, showing plainly that for its whole
length the great southern ice-sheet has been retreating southward
in it. I could find nowhere any indication that glaciers descending
from the Andes had crossed this valley and reached the shores of
the Pacific. In a few brief localities only did I notice Andean, i.
e. volcanic, erratics upon the loose materials filling the old
glacier bottom. Between Curicu and Santiago, however, facing the
gorge of Tenon, I saw two distinct lateral moraines, parallel to
one another, chiefly composed of volcanic boulders, resting upon
the old drift, and indicating by their position the course of a
large glacier that once poured down from the Andes of Tenon, and
crossed the main valley, without, however, extending beyond the
eastern slope of the Coast Range. These moraines are so well marked
that they are known throughout the country as the cerillos of
Tenon, but nobody suspects their glacial origin; even the
geologists of Santiago assign a volcanic origin to them. What is
difficult to describe in this history are the successive retrograde
steps of the great southern ice-field that, step by step, left
larger or smaller tracts of the valley to the north of it free of
ice, so that large glacial lakes could be formed, and seem, indeed,
always to have existed along the retreating edge of the great
southern glacier. The natural consequence is that there are
everywhere stratified terraces without border barriers (since these
were formed only by the ice that has vanished), resting at
successively higher or lower levels, as you move north or south,
upon unstratified drift of older date; the northernmost of these
terraces being the oldest, while those further south belong to later
steps in the waning of the ice-fields. From these data I infer that
my suggestion concerning the trend of the strike upon the polished
and glaciated surface of the vicinity of Talcahuana, alluded to in
the postscript of my last letter, is probably correct. . .
At Santiago Agassiz rested a day or two. Here, as everywhere
throughout the country, he met with the greatest kindness and
cordiality. A public reception and dinner were urged upon him by
the city, but his health obliged him to decline this and like
honors elsewhere. Among the letters awaiting him here, was one
which brought him a pleasant surprise. It announced his election as
Foreign Associate of the Institute of France,--"one of the eight."
As the crowning honor of his scientific career, this was, of
course, very gratifying to him. In writing soon after to the
Emperor of Brazil, who had expressed a warm interest in his
election, he says: "The distinction pleased me the more because so
unexpected. Unhappily it is usually a brevet of infirmity, or at
least of old age, and in my case it is to a house in ruins that the
diploma is addressed. I regret it the more because I have never
felt more disposed for work, and yet never so fatigued by it."
From Santiago Agassiz proceeded to Valparaiso, where he rejoined
the ship's company. The events of their cruise had been less
satisfactory than those of his land-journey, for, owing to the
rottenness of the ropes, produced by dampness, the hauls of the
dredge from the greatest depths had been lost. Several pauses for
dredging in shallower waters were made with good success,
nevertheless, on the way up the coast to Callao. From there the
Hassler put out to sea once more, for the Galapagos, arriving
before Charles Island on the 10th of June, and visiting in
succession Albemarle, James, Jarvis, and Indefatigable islands.
Agassiz enjoyed extremely his cruise among these islands of such
rare geological and zoological interest. Purely volcanic in
character, and of very recent formation, they yet support a fauna
and flora quite their own, very peculiar and characteristic.
Albemarle Island was, perhaps, the most interesting of all. It is a
barren mountain rising from the sea, its base and slope covered
with small extinct craters. No less than fifty--some perfectly
symmetrical, others irregular, as if blasted out on one side--could
be counted from the deck as the vessel neared the shore. Indeed,
the whole island seemed like some subterranean furnace, of which
these craters were the chimneys. The anchorage was in Tagus Sound,
a deep, quiet bay, less peaceful once, for its steep sides are
formed by the walls of an old crater.
The next day, June 15, was spent by the whole scientific party in a
ramble on shore. The landing was at the foot of a ravine. Climbing
its left bank, they were led by a short walk to the edge of a large
crater, which held a beautiful lake in its cup. It was, in fact, a
crater within a crater, for a second one, equally symmetrical, rose
outside and above it. Following the brink of this lake to its upper
end, they struck across to the head of the ravine. It terminated in
a ridge, which looked down upon an immense field or sea of hardened
lava, spreading over an area of several miles till it reached the
ocean. This ancient bed of lava was full of the most singular and
fantastic details of lava structure. It was a field of charred
ruins, among which were more or less open caves or galleries, some
large enough to hold a number of persons standing upright, others
hardly allowing room to creep through on hands and knees. Rounded
domes were common, sometimes broken, sometimes whole; now and then
some great lava bubble was pierced with a window blasted out of the
side, through which one could look down to the floor of a deep,
The whole company, some six or eight persons, lunched in one of the
caves, resting on the seats formed by the ledges of lava along its
sides. It had an entrance at either end, was some forty feet long,
at least ten feet high in the centre, and perhaps six or eight feet
wide. Probably never before had it served as a banqueting hall.
Such a hollow tunnel or arch had been formed wherever the interior
of a large mass of lava, once cooled, had become heated again, and
had flowed out, leaving the outside crust standing. The whole story
of this lava bed is so clearly told in its blackened and extinct
remains, that it needs no stretch of the imagination to recreate
the scene. It is again, a heaving, palpitating sheet of fire; the
dead slags are aglow, and the burned-out furnaces cast up their
molten, blazing contents, as of old. Now it is the home of the
large red and orange-colored iguanas, of which a number were
captured, both alive and dead. These islands proved, indeed,
admirable collecting grounds, the more interesting from the
peculiarity of their local fauna.
FROM AGASSIZ TO PROFESSOR PEIRCE.
OFF GUATEMALA, July 29.
. . .Our visit to the Galapagos has been full of geological and
zoological interest. It is most impressive to see an extensive
archipelago, of MOST RECENT ORIGIN, inhabited by creatures so
different from any known in other parts of the world. Here we have
a positive limit to the length of time that may have been granted
for the transformation of these animals, if indeed they are in any
way derived from others dwelling in different parts of the world.
The Galapagos are so recent that some of the islands are barely
covered with the most scanty vegetation, itself peculiar to these
islands. Some parts of their surface are entirely bare, and a great
many of the craters and lava streams are so fresh, that the
atmospheric agents have not yet made an impression on them. Their
age does not, therefore, go back to earlier geological periods;
they belong to our times, geologically speaking. Whence, then, do
their inhabitants (animals as well as plants) come? If descended
from some other type, belonging to any neighboring land, then it
does not require such unspeakably long periods for the
transformation of species as the modern advocates of transmutation
claim; and the mystery of change, with such marked and
characteristic differences between existing species, is only
increased, and brought to a level with that of creation. If they
are autochthones, from what germs did they start into existence? I
think that careful observers, in view of these facts, will have to
acknowledge that our science is not yet ripe for a fair discussion
of the origin of organized beings. . .
There is little to tell for the rest of the voyage that cannot be
condensed into a few words. There was a detention for despatches
and for Coast Survey business at Panama,--a delay which was turned
to good account in collecting, both in the Bay and on the Isthmus.
At San Diego, also, admirable collections were made, and pleasant
days were spent. This was the last station on the voyage of the
Hassler. She reached her destination and entered the Golden Gate on
the 24th of August, 1872. Agassiz was touched by his reception in
San Francisco. Attentions and kindnesses were showered upon him
from all sides, but his health allowed him to accept only such
hospitalities as were of the most quiet and private nature. He
passed a month in San Francisco, but was unable to undertake any of
the well-known excursions to the Yosemite Valley or the great
trees. Rest and home became every day more imperative necessities.
1872-1873: AGE 65-66.
Return to Cambridge.
Summer School proposed.
Interest of Agassiz.
Gift of Mr. Anderson.
Prospectus of Penikese School.
Opening of School.
Close of School.
Last Course of Lectures at Museum.
Lecture before Board of Agriculture.
Place of Burial.
In October, 1872, Agassiz returned to Cambridge. To arrange the
collections he had brought back, to write a report of his journey
and its results, to pass the next summer quietly at his Nahant
laboratory, continuing his work on the Sharks and Skates, for which
he had brought home new and valuable material, seemed the natural
sequence of his year of travel. But he found a new scheme of
education on foot; one for which he had himself given the first
impulse, but which some of his younger friends had carefully
considered and discussed in his absence, being confident that with
his help it might be accomplished. The plan was to establish a
summer school of natural history somewhere on the coast of
Massachusetts, where teachers from our schools and colleges could
make their vacations serviceable, both for work and recreation, by
the direct study of nature. No sooner was Agassiz once more at home
than he was confronted by this scheme, and he took it up with
characteristic ardor. Means there were none, nor apparatus, nor
building, nor even a site for one. There was only the ideal, and to
that he brought the undying fervor of his intellectual faith. The
prospectus was soon sketched, and, once before the public, it
awakened a strong interest. In March, when the Legislature of
Massachusetts made their annual visit to the Museum of Comparative
zoology, Agassiz laid this new project before them as one of deep
interest for science in general, and especially for schools and
colleges throughout the land. He considered it also an educational
branch of the Museum, having, as such, a claim on their sympathy,
since it was in the line of the direct growth and continuance of
the same work. Never did he plead more eloquently for the cause of
education. His gift as a speaker cannot easily be described. It was
born of conviction, and was as simple as it was impassioned. It
kept the freshness of youth, because the things of which he spoke
never grew old to him, but moved him to the last hour of his life
as forcibly as in his earlier years.
This appeal to the Legislature, spoken in the morning, chanced to
be read in the evening papers of the same day by Mr. John Anderson,
a rich merchant of New York. It at once enlisted his sympathy both
for the work and for the man. Within the week he offered to
Agassiz, as a site for the school, the island of Penikese, in
Buzzard's Bay, with the buildings upon it, consisting of a
furnished dwelling-house and barn. Scarcely was this gift accepted
than he added to it an endowment of 50,000 dollars for the
equipment of the school. Adjectives belittle deeds like these. The
bare statement says more than the most laudatory epithets.
Agassiz was no less surprised than touched at the aid thus
unexpectedly offered. In his letter of acknowledgment he says: "You
do not know what it is suddenly and unexpectedly to find a friend
at your side, full of sympathy, and offering support to a scheme
which you have been trying to carry out under difficulties and with
very scanty means. I feel grateful to you for making the road so
easy, and I believe you will have the permanent gratitude of
scientific men here and elsewhere, for I have the utmost confidence
that this summer school will give valuable opportunities for
original research, as well as for instruction." At Agassiz's
suggestion the school was to bear the name of "The Anderson School
of Natural History." Mr. Anderson wished to substitute the name of
Agassiz for his own. This Agassiz absolutely refused to permit,
saying that he was but one of many scientific men who had already
offered their services to the school for the coming summer, some of
whom would, no doubt, continue to work for it in the future, and
all of whom would be equally indebted to Mr. Anderson. It was,
therefore, most suitable that it should bear his name, and so it
Thus the material problem was solved. Name and habitation were
found; it remained only to organize the work for which so fitting a
home had been provided. Mr. Anderson's gift was received toward the
close of March, and, in the course of the following month, the
preliminaries were concluded, and the property was transferred to
the trustees of the Anderson School.
Few men would have thought it feasible to build dormitories and
laboratories, and provide working apparatus for fifty pupils as
well as for a large corps of teachers, between May and July. But to
Agassiz no obstacles seemed insurmountable where great aims were
involved, and the opening of the school was announced for the 8th
of July. He left Boston on Friday, the 4th of July, for the island.
At New Bedford he was met by a warning from the architect that it
would be simply impossible to open the school at the appointed
date. With characteristic disregard of practical difficulties, he
answered that it must be possible, for postponement was out of the
question. He reached the island on Saturday, the 5th, in the
afternoon. The aspect was certainly discouraging. The dormitory was
up, but only the frame was completed; there were no floors, nor was
the roof shingled. The next day was Sunday. Agassiz called the
carpenters together. He told them that the scheme was neither for
money, nor for the making of money; no personal gain was involved
in it. It was for the best interests of education, and for that
alone. Having explained the object, and stated the emergency, he
asked whether, under these circumstances, the next day was properly
for rest or for work. They all answered "for work." They
accordingly worked the following day from dawn till dark, and by
night-fall the floors were laid. On Monday, the 7th, the partitions
were put up, dividing the upper story into two large dormitories;
the lower, into sufficiently convenient working-rooms. On Tuesday
morning (the 8th), with the help of a few volunteers, chiefly
ladies connected with the school, who had arrived a day or two in
advance, the dormitories, which were still encumbered by shavings,
sawdust, etc., were swept, and presently transformed into not
unattractive sleeping-halls. They were divided by neat sets of
furniture into equal spaces, above each of which was placed the
name of the person to whom it was appropriated. When all was done,
the large open rooms, with their fresh pine walls, floors, and
ceilings, the rows of white beds down the sides, and the many
windows looking to the sea, were pretty and inviting enough. If
they somewhat resembled hospital wards, they were too airy and
cheerful to suggest sickness either of body or mind.
Next, a large barn belonging to Mr. Anderson's former establishment
was cleared, and a new floor laid there also. This was hardly
finished (the last nails were just driven) when the steamer, with
its large company, touched the wharf. There was barely time to
arrange the seats and to place a table with flowers where the
guests of honor were to sit, and Agassiz himself was to stand, when
all arrived. The barn was, on the whole, not a bad lecture-room on
a beautiful summer day. The swallows, who had their nests without
number in the rafters, flew in and out, and twittered softly
overhead; and the wide doors, standing broadly open to the blue sky
and the fresh fields let in the sea-breeze, and gave a view of the
little domain. Agassiz had arranged no programme of exercises,
trusting to the interest of the occasion to suggest what might best
be said or done. But, as he looked upon his pupils gathered there
to study nature with him, by an impulse as natural as it was
unpremeditated, he called upon them to join in silently asking
God's blessing on their work together. The pause was broken by the
first words of an address no less fervent than its unspoken
prelude.* (* This whole scene is fitly told in Whittier's poem,
"The Prayer of Agassiz".)
Thus the day, which had been anticipated with so much anxiety,
passed off, unclouded by any untoward accident, and at evening the
guests had departed. Students and teachers, a company of some fifty
or sixty persons, were left to share the island with the sea-gulls
whose haunt it was.
We will not enter into the daily details of the school. It was a
new phase of teaching, even for Agassiz, old as he was in the work.
Most of his pupils were mature men and women, some of whom had been
teachers themselves for many years. He had, therefore, trained
minds to deal with, and the experience was at that time as novel as
it was interesting. The novelty has worn off now. Summer schools
for advanced students, and especially for teachers, have taken
their place in the general system of education; and, though the
Penikese school may be said to have died with its master, it lives
anew in many a sea-side laboratory organized on the same plan, in
summer schools of Botany and field classes of Geology. The impetus
it gave was not, and cannot be, lost, since it refreshed and
vitalized methods of teaching.
Beside the young men who formed his corps of teachers, among whom
the resident professors were Dr. Burt G. Wilder, of Cornell
University, and Professor Alpheus S. Packard, now of Brown
University, Agassiz had with him some of his oldest friends and
colleagues. Count de Pourtales was there, superintending the
dredging, for which there were special conveniences, Mr. Charles G.
Galloupe having presented the school with a yacht for the express
purpose. This generous gift gave Agassiz the greatest pleasure, and
completed the outfit of the school as nothing else could have done.
Professor Arnold Guyot, also,--Agassiz's comrade in younger years,
--his companion in many an Alpine excursion,--came to the island to
give a course of lectures, and remained for some time. It was their
last meeting in this world, and together they lived over their days
of youthful adventure. The lectures of the morning and afternoon
would sometimes be followed by an informal meeting held on a little
hill, which was a favorite resort at sunset. There the whole
community gathered around the two old friends, to hear them talk of
their glacial explorations, one recalling what the other had
forgotten, till the scenes lived again for themselves, and became
almost equally vivid for their listeners. The subject came up
naturally, for, strange to say, this island in a New England bay
was very suggestive of glacial phenomena. Erratic materials and
boulders transported from the north were scattered over its
surface, and Agassiz found the illustrations for his lectures on
this topic ready to his hand. Indeed, some of his finest lectures
on the ice-period were given at Penikese.
Nothing could be less artificial, more free from constraint or
formality, than the intercourse between him and his companions of
this summer. He was at home with every member of the settlement.
Ill-health did not check the readiness of his sympathy; languor did
not chill the glow of his enthusiasm. All turned to him for help
and inspiration. Walking over their little sovereignty together,
hunting for specimens on its beaches, dredging from the boats, in
the laboratory, or the lecture-room, the instruction had always the
character of the freest discussion. Yet the work, although combined
with out-of-door pleasures, and not without a certain holiday
element, was no play. On the part of the students, the application
was close and unremitting; on the part of the teachers, the
instruction, though untrammeled by routine, was sustained and
Agassiz himself frequently gave two lectures a day. In the morning
session he would prepare his class for the work of the day; in the
afternoon he would draw out their own observations by questions,
and lead them, by comparison and combination of the facts they had
observed, to understand the significance of their results. Every
lecture from him at this time was a lesson in teaching as well as
in natural history, and to many of his hearers this gave his
lectures a twofold value, as bearing directly upon their own
occupation. In his opening address he had said to them: "You will
find the same elements of instruction all about you wherever you
may be teaching. You can take your classes out, and give them the
same lessons, and lead them up to the same subjects you are
yourselves studying here. And this mode of teaching children is so
natural, so suggestive, so true. That is the charm of teaching from
Nature herself. No one can warp her to suit his own views. She
brings us back to absolute truth as often as we wander."
This was the bright side of the picture. Those who stood nearest to
Agassiz, however, felt that the strain not only of work, but of the
anxiety and responsibility attendant upon a new and important
undertaking, was perilous for him. There were moments when this
became apparent, and he himself felt the danger. He persevered,
nevertheless, to the end of the summer, and only left Penikese when
the school broke up.
In order to keep the story of this final effort unbroken, some
events of great interest to Agassiz and of importance to the Museum
have been omitted. In the spring the Museum had received a grant of
25,000 dollars from the Legislature. To this was added 100,000
dollars, a birthday gift to Agassiz in behalf of the institution he
so much loved. This last sum was controlled by no official body and
was to be expended at his own good will and pleasure, either in
collections, publications, or scientific assistance, as seemed to
him best. He therefore looked forward to a year of greater ease and
efficiency in scientific work than he had ever enjoyed before. On
returning from Penikese, full of the new possibilities thus opened
to him, he allowed himself a short rest, partly at the sea-shore,
partly in the mountains, and was again at his post in the Museum in
His last course of lectures there was on one of his favorite
topics,--the type of Radiates as connected with the physical
history of the earth, from the dawn of organic life till now. In
his opening lecture he said to his class: "You must learn to look
upon fossil forms as the antiquarian looks upon his coins. The
remains of animals and plants have the spirit of their time
impressed upon them, as strongly as the spirit of the age is
impressed upon its architecture, its literature, its coinage. I
want you to become so familiar with these forms, that you can read
off at a glance their character and associations." In this spirit
his last course was conceived. It was as far-reaching and as clear
as usual, nor did his delivery evince failure of strength or of
mental power. If he showed in any way the disease which was even
then upon him, it was by an over-tension of the nerves, which gave
increased fervor to his manner. Every mental effort was, however,
succeeded by great physical fatigue.
At the same time he had undertaken a series of articles in the
"Atlantic Monthly," entitled, "Evolution and Permanence of Type."
They were to have contained his own convictions regarding the
connection between all living beings, upon which his studies had
led him to conclusions so different from the philosophy of the day.
Of these papers, only one was completed. It was his last word upon
science; the correction of the proofsheets was the last act of his
working life, and the article was published after his death. In it
he claimed that the law of evolution, in a certain sense as true to
him as to any so-called evolutionist, was a law "controlling
development, and keeping types within appointed cycles of growth."
He maintained that this law acts within definite limits, and never
infringes upon the great types, each one of which is, in his view,
a structural unit in itself. Even metamorphoses, he adds, "have all
the constancy and invariability of other modes of embryonic growth,
and have never been known to lead to any transition of one species
into another." Of heredity he says: "The whole subject of
inheritance is exceedingly intricate, working often in a seemingly
capricious and fitful way. Qualities, both good and bad, are
dropped as well as acquired, and the process ends sometimes in the
degradation of the type, and the survival of the unfit rather than
the fittest. The most trifling and fantastic tricks of inheritance
are quoted in support of the transmutation theory; but little is
said of the sudden apparition of powerful original qualities, which
almost always rise like pure creations, and are gone with their day
and generation. The noblest gifts are exceptional, and are rarely
inherited; this very fact seems to me an evidence of something more
and higher than mere evolution and transmission concerned in the
problem of life. In the same way the matter of natural and sexual
selection is susceptible of very various interpretations. No doubt,
on the whole, Nature protects her best. But it would not be
difficult to bring together an array of facts as striking as those
produced by the evolutionists in favor of their theory, to show
that sexual selection is by no means always favorable to the
elimination of the chaff, and the preservation of the wheat. A
natural attraction, independent of strength or beauty, is an
unquestionable element in this problem, and its action is seen
among animals as well as among men. The fact that fine progeny are
not infrequently the offspring of weak parents, and vice versa,
points, perhaps, to some innate power of redress by which the
caprices of choice are counterbalanced. But there can be no doubt
that types are as often endangered as protected by the so-called
law of sexual selection."
"As to the influence of climate and physical conditions," he
continues, "we all know their power for evil and for good upon
living beings. But there is, nevertheless, nothing more striking in
the whole book of nature than the power shown by types and species
to resist physical conditions. Endless evidence may be brought from
the whole expanse of land and air and water, showing that identical
physical conditions will do nothing toward the merging of species
into one another, neither will variety of conditions do anything
toward their multiplication. One thing only we know absolutely, and
in this treacherous, marshy ground of hypothesis and assumption, it
is pleasant to plant one's foot occasionally upon a solid fact here
and there. Whatever be the means of preserving and transmitting
properties, the primitive types have remained permanent and
unchanged,--in the long succession of ages, amid all the appearance
and disappearance of kinds, the fading away of one species and the
coming in of another,--from the earliest geological periods to the
present day. How these types were first introduced, how the species
which have successively represented them have replaced one another,
--these are the vital questions to which no answer has been given.
We are as far from any satisfactory solution of this problem as if
development theories had never been discussed."
In conclusion, he sketches the plan of these articles. "I hope in
future articles to show, first, that, however broken the geological
record may be, there is a complete sequence in many parts of it,
from which the character of the succession may be ascertained;
secondly, that, since the most exquisitely delicate structures, as
well as embryonic phases of growth of the most perishable nature,
have been preserved from very early deposits, we have no right to
infer the disappearance of types because their absence disproves
some favorite theory; and, lastly, that there is no evidence of a
direct descent of later from earlier species in the geological
succession of animals."
This paper contained the sentence so often quoted since, "A
physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own nature
demands from us this double allegiance." This expressed the secret
of his whole life. Every fact in nature was sacred to him, as part
of an intellectual conception expressed in the history of the earth
and the beings living upon it.
On the 2nd of December, he was called to a meeting of the
Massachusetts Board of Agriculture at Fitchburg, where he lectured
in the evening on "The structural growth of domesticated animals."
Those who accompanied him, and knew the mental and physical
depression which had hung about him for weeks, could not see him
take his place on the platform, without anxiety. And yet, when he
turned to the blackboard, and, with a single sweep of the chalk,
drew the faultless outline of an egg, it seemed impossible that
anything could be amiss with the hand or the brain that were so
steady and so clear.
The end, nevertheless, was very near. Although he dined with
friends the next day, and was present at a family festival that
week, he spoke of a dimness of sight, and of feeling "strangely
asleep." On the 6th he returned early from the Museum, complaining
of great weariness, and from that time he never left his room.
Attended in his illness by his friends, Dr. Brown-Sequard and Dr.
Morrill Wyman, and surrounded by his family, the closing week of
his life was undisturbed by acute suffering and full of domestic
happiness. Even the voices of his brother and sisters were not
wholly silent, for the wires that thrill with so many human
interests brought their message of greeting and farewell across the
ocean to his bedside. The thoughts and aims for which he had lived
were often on his lips, but the affections were more vivid than the
intellect in these last hours. The end came very peacefully, on the
14th of December, 1873. He lies buried at Mount Auburn. The boulder
that makes his monument came from the glacier of the Aar, not far
from the spot where his hut once stood; and the pine-trees which
are fast growing up to shelter it were sent by loving hands from
his old home in Switzerland. The land of his birth and the land of
his adoption are united in his grave.
last visit to.
"Academy, The Little".
Agassiz, Cecile Braun.
talent as an artist.
Agassiz, Elizabeth Cary.
as a teacher.
becomes pastor at Concise.
Agassiz, Jean Louis Rodolphe.
love of natural history.
boyish studies and amusements.
taste for handicraft; its after use.
adventure with his brother on the ice.
goes to Bienne.
college of Bienne.
own sketch of plans of study at fourteen.
school and college note-books.
distaste for commercial life.
goes to Lausanne.
to the medical school at Zurich.
copies books on natural history.
first excursion in the Alps.
offer of adoption by a Genevese gentleman.
goes to Heidelberg.
described in Braun's letters.
description of Museum at Stuttgart.
"The Little Academy".
"Fresh-water fishes of Europe".
desire to travel.
work on Brazilian fishes.
second vacation trip.
plans for travel with Humboldt.
doctor of philosophy.
at Orbe and Cudrefin.
death of Dr. Mayor.
doctor of medicine.
new interest in medicine.
first work on fossil fishes.
negotiations with Cotta.
studies on cholera.
arrives in Paris.
Cuvier gives him his fossil fishes.
last interview with Cuvier.
offer from Ferussac.
plans for disposing of collection.
first sight of sea.
plans for going to Neuchatel.
inducements to stay in Paris.
call to Neuchatel.
first lecture at Neuchatel.
success as a teacher.
impulse given to science.
call to Heidelberg.
sale of collection.
publishing "Fossil Fishes".
invited to England.
receives Wollaston prize.
views on classification and development.
difficulties in the work on "Fossil Fishes".
first visit to England.
material for "Fossil Fishes".
return to Neuchatel.
first relations with New England.
second visit to England.
receives Wollaston medal.
first glacial work.
sale of original drawings of "Fossil Fishes".
on the Jura.
"glacial theory" announced.
invitation to Geneva.
death of his father.
variety of work.
researches on mollusks.
elected into Royal Society.
new glacial work.
first English letter.
"Etudes sur les Glaciers".
on the glacier of the Aar.
"Hotel des Neuchatelois".
ascent of the Strahleck.
of the Siedelhorn.
second visit to England.
in the Highlands.
researches in the interior of glacier.
ascent of the Ewigschneehorn.
of the Jungfrau.
on the Viescher.
the chalet of Meril.
the Col of Rotthal.
unity in work.
gifts from the king of Prussia.
plans for visiting the United States.
microscopic study of fossil fishes.
publishes "Fossil Fishes".
not an evolutionist.
belief in a Creator.
plan of creation.
last visit to glacier.
receives Monthyon prize.
publishes "Systeme Glaciaire".
sails for America.
arrives in Boston.
visit to New Haven.
Mercantile Library Association.
American scientific men.
lectures on glaciers.
medusae and polyps.
plans for travel.
at East Boston.
first birthday in America.
on the "Bibb".
leaves Prussian service.
professor at Harvard.
removes to Cambridge.
death of his wife.
begins a collection.
excursion to Lake Superior.
"Principles of Zoology" published.
arrival of his children.
examination of Florida reefs.
professor at Charleston, S.C.
laboratory on Sullivan's Island.
the "Hollow Tree".
origin of human race.
receives the "Prix Cuvier".
lectures at Smithsonian Institution.
made regent of.
growth of collections.
illness at Charleston.
relation of living to fossil animals.
return to the north.
invitation to Zurich.
circular on collecting fishes.
new house in Cambridge.
manner of study.
school for young ladies opened.
courses of lectures.
"Contributions to the Natural History of the United States" projected.
laboratory at Nahant.
invitation to Paris.
refusal, and reasons.
receives cross of Legion of Honor.
dangerous state of collections.
an ideal museum.
"Museum of Comparative Zoology" founded.
visit to Europe.
teaching at museum.
attitude during civil war.
urges founding National Academy.
receives Copley medal.
hydrographical distribution of animals.
future of negro race.
visit to Maine.
at Lowell Institute.
at Cooper Institute.
journey to the West.
professor at Cornell University.
address at Humboldt Centennial.
anxiety for Museum.
journey from Talcahuana to Santiago.
elected Foreign Associate of the Institute of France.
at the Galapagos islands.
at San Francisco.
return to Cambridge.
summer school projected.
gift of Penikese.
opening of school.
last lectures at Museum.
last visit to Museum.
Agassiz, Rose Mayor.
sympathy with her son.
Aletsch, glacier of the.
Alps, first excursion in.
first permanent station.
America, native races of.
America, South, native races of.
Anderson School of Natural History.
Austrian custom-house officers.
Beaumont, Elie de.
aids Agassiz with a collection of fossil fishes.
at the Helvetic Association at Neuchatel.
Berlin, University of, quoted.
"Bibb" U.S. Coast Survey steamer.
Bienne, college at.
Bombinator obstetricans, observations on.
Bonaparte, Prince of Canino.
observations upon the geology of,
with reference to the glacial theory.
Botany, questions in.
Brazil, visit to.
fresh-water fauna of.
Brewster, Sir David.
his collection now in Cambridge.
Buch, Leopold von.
invites Agassiz to England.
acts as his guide to fossil fishes.
to glacier tracks.
a convert to glacial theory.
mentioned by Murchison.
Cambridge, first mention of.
Carlsruhe, Agassiz at.
Chiem, lake of.
Chilian, valley of.
Coal deposits at Lota, age of.
Coal mines at Sandy Point.
Coelenterata, Owen on the term.
Collections, growth of.
place of storage.
Concise, Parsonage of.
"Contributions to Natural History of the United States".
Crinoids, deep-sea and fossil, compared.
notes on Spix fishes.
reception of Agassiz.
gives material for fossil fishes.
Cyclopoma spinosum, curious dream about.
accepts glacier theory.
on "Lake Superior".
on Massachusetts cirripedia.
estimation of Darwinism.
De la Rive, A., invites Agassiz to Geneva.
Dinkel, his description of Agassiz.
Echinoderms, relation to medusae.
Egerton, Lord Francis, buys original drawings.
Egerton, Sir Philip.
Embryonic and specific development.
Emperor of Brazil.
first visit to.
generosity of naturalists.
second visit to.
Equality of races.
Escher von der Linth.
"Evolution and Permanence of Type".
Favre, E., quotation from.
Favre, L., quotation from.
Fishes of America.
Fishes of Brazil.
Fishes, Spix's Brazilian.
Fishes of Europe.
of New York.
geological and genetic development.
study of bones.
in English collections.
of the "Old Red".
"Recherches sur les poissons fossiles".
receives Wollaston prize.
Fitchburg, lecture at.
Forbes, James D.
Fossil Alaskan flora.
"Fossil Arctic flora".
Geneva, invitation to.
Geoffrey St. Hilaire's progressive theory, remarks on.
Glacial marks in Scotland.
"Roads of Glen Roy".
in New England.
in New York.
at East Boston.
on Lake Superior.
in New York.
in western prairies.
in South America.
Glacial submarine dykes.
gift from king of Prussia toward.
"Systeme glaciaire" published.
opposition from Buch.
Studer's acceptance of.
"Etudes sur les glaciers" published.
Humboldt's later views.
of the Aar.
in the winter.
caves of the Viescher.
formation of crevasses.
stratification of neve.
Glaciers in Strait of Magellan.
Glen Roy, roads of.
Gray, Francis C.
leaves a sum to found a Museum of Comparative Zoology.
on Agassiz's views.
rambles in vicinity of.
student life at.
Hochstetter, the botanist.
Holbrook, J.E., Mrs.
description of "Saturday Club".
Hospice of the Grimsel.
Hotel des Neuchatelois.
Howe, Dr. S.G.
on the future of the negro race.
Humboldt, Alexander von.
projects of travel with.
writes to L. Coulon.
gives form for letter to the king.
on succession of life.
on Ehrenberg's discoveries.
on his brother's death.
urges concentration and economy.
discourages glacial work.
opposes glacial theory.
on works on "Fossil" and "Fresh-water" fishes.
on his own works.
later views on glacial theory.
farewell words to Agassiz.
Humboldt, William von.
letter concerning his death, from his brother.
Invertebrates, relations of.
Kentucky, fishes of.
Koch, the botanist.
Lake Superior, "Narrative" of.
Lakes in New York, origin of.
Lausanne, Agassiz at the college of.
Lausanne, invitation to.
Lava bed in Albemarle island.
Lawrence, Scientific school established.
Agassiz made professor.
Lea, Isaac, collection of shells.
Agassiz to his brother Auguste.
to his father.
to his father and mother.
to his mother.
to his sister Cecile.
to his sister Olympe.
to his old pupils.
to Elie de Beaumont.
to Bonaparte, Prince of Canino.
to A. Braun.
to Dr. Buckland.
to T.G. Cary.
to James D. Dana.
to L. Coulon.
to A. de la Rive.
to Sir P. Egerton.
to R.W. Emerson.
to Chancellor Favargez.
to S.S. Haldeman.
to Oswald Heer.
to Mrs. Holbrook.
to S.G. Howe.
to A. von Humboldt.
to J.A. Lowell.
to Sir Charles Lyell.
to Charles Martins.
to Dr. Mayor.
to Henri Milne-Edwards.
to Benjamin Peirce.
to Adam Sedgwick.
to Charles Sumner.
Auguste Agassiz to Louis Agassiz.
M. Agassiz to Louis Agassiz.
Madame Agassiz to Louis Agassiz.
A.D. Bache to Louis Agassiz.
Alexander Braun to Louis Agassiz.
Leopold von Buch to Agassiz.
Dr. Buckland to Agassiz.
L. Coulon to Agassiz.
Cuvier to Agassiz.
Charles Darwin to Agassiz.
A. de la Rive to Agassiz.
G.P. Deshayes to Agassiz.
Egerton to Agassiz.
R.W. Emerson to Agassiz.
Edward Forbes to Agassiz.
Oswald Heer to Agassiz.
Dr. Howe to Agassiz.
A. von Humboldt to Agassiz
A. von Humboldt to Agassiz (extract).
H.W. Longfellow to Agassiz.
Sir Charles Lyell to Agassiz.
Lady Lyell to Agassiz.
L. von Martius to Agassiz.
Hugh Miller to Agassiz.
Sir R. Murchison to Agassiz.
Richard Owen to Agassiz.
Benjamin Peirce to Agassiz.
M. Rouland to Agassiz.
Adam Sedgwick to Agassiz.
C.T. von Siebold to Agassiz.
B. Silliman to Agassiz.
Charles Sumner to Agassiz.
Tiedemann to Agassiz.
Alexander Braun to his father.
to his mother.
Charles Darwin to Dr. Tritten.
A. von Humboldt to Madame Agassiz.
to L. Coulon.
to G. Ticknor (extract).
verses on Agassiz's fiftieth birthday.
Long Island Sound.
Lota coal deposits.
Lowell, James Russell.
Lowell, John Amory.
Lyell, Sir Charles.
accepts glacial theory.
Magellan, Strait of.
Maine, visit to.
Man, origin of.
compared with monkeys.
distinction of races.
form of nose.
Man prehistoric in S. America.
Martius, L. von.
Mastodon of U.S. compared to old world.
Mathias, Gulf of.
relation to echinoderms.
Mercantile Library Association, meeting of.
Meril, the chalets of.
on "Footprints of the Creator".
on "Scenes and Legends".
on resemblance of Scotch and Swiss.
on "First Impressions".
Mississippi, fishes in the.
Mollusks, inner moulds of shells of.
collection of skulls.
birthplace of Agassiz.
inscription to Agassiz.
Murchison, Sir R.
on glacial theory.
sends his Russian "Old Red" fishes.
on "Principles of Zoology".
on tertiary geology.
Murchison, Sir R.
Museum of Comparative Zoology.
coral collection begun.
gift from pupils.
idea of museum.
Mr. Gray's legacy.
Harvard University gives land.
work at Museum.
object and scope.
a birthday gift.
last lectures by Agassiz.
Nahant, laboratory at.
National Academy of Sciences founded.
accepts professorship there.
founding of Natural History Society.
New York, city of.
"New York, Natural History of".
the Durer festival.
Paris, Agassiz in.
Academy of Science.
American Philosophical Society.
Phyllotaxis, first hint at the law of.
Playa Parda Cove.
"Poissons d'eau douce".
Port San Pedro.
Portugal, plan for collections in.
Pourtales, L.F. de.
Pourtales, extract from his journal.
"Principles of Zoology".
Radiates, relations of.
Ravenel, St. Julian.
Rickley (Rickly), Mr., director at college at Bienne.
Rivers, American, origin of.
Rosenlaui, glacier of the.
Roththal, Col of.
St. George, Gulf of.
Salamander, fossil, at New Haven.