Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/11

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY



JULY, 1907



WHAT WE OWE TO AGASSIZ[1]
By Professor BURT G. WILDER
CORNELL UNIVERSITY

THIS day, one hundred years ago, was born in Switzerland a man-child destined to astonish and uplift the world. Christened Jean Louis Rodolphe, he was and is known as Louis Agassiz, or simply Agassiz, his eminent son being distinguished as Alexander.

Why is this centennial celebrated here and elsewhere? Rather, by such as know what Agassiz was, what he did, and what he tried to do, would it be asked. Why is not this day observed in all lands, by all classes, yea, even in behalf of animals, plants, the rocks and the very elements?

For, from a child, Agassiz loved nature and humanity. The one he strove to interpret, the other to cheer and enlighten. He was a naturalist in the broadest sense, a sense broader than is possible in these days. His thirst for knowledge was equaled only by his desire to impart it, and his ability to earn money was surpassed only by his determination to spend it for the welfare of man and the glory of God.

More or less complete accounts of Agassiz have been published in various books and periodicals. A partial list of these is included. By far the best, although lacking many desirable details and restricted by the relationship, is the "Life and Correspondence" by his wife. My admiration for this grows with each re-reading. In respect to both subject and style it might well be included among the entrance requirements in English. It portrays an eminent scholar, indefatigable collector and teacher, sincere patriot, staunch friend and fascinating personality in a manner so just, so vivid and inspiring that, were it practicable, in place of the many spoken observances of this centenary, I

  1. Address at the Centenary of Louis Agassiz delivered, at the request of President J. G. Schurman, in Barnes Hall, Cornell University, May 28, 1907.