Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/12

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6
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

could wish that the coming Memorial Day might be partly devoted to its perusal — out-of-doors — by every man, woman and child.[1]

In enumerating the grounds upon which this commemoration might be well-nigh cosmic in its scope, so far as possible I shall use the words of Agassiz hmiself or of others fitly representing the several groups.

The following account of the "Glacial Theory" is condensed from the address[2] at the unveiling of the Agassiz tablet in our Memorial Chapel, June 17, 1885, by the geologist and paleontologist, Professor J. S. Newberry:

"In 1837 the Association of Swiss Naturalists met at Neufchatel, and Agassiz then advanced the theory of a general glacial epoch of which he may justly be called the author. At first it met with violent opposition [Marcou says, p. 108, 'it was like a pistol-shot fired into the midst of the assembly'], but this only stimulated those who had adopted it to greater enthusiasm in their researches. ... One of the motives which led Agassiz to America was his ardent desire to see for himself whether the glacial record was the same for the New as for the Old World. ... Many years before his death he had the satisfaction of knowing that his theory was applicable to the whole northern hemisphere, and the pleasure of studying a similar record in southern South America." I wish there were time to quote from Mrs. Agassiz's volume (pp. 317-332) the graphic, indeed thrilling, story of his life upon the glaciers. He once caused himself to be lowered into a crevasse to the depth of one hundred and twenty-five feet, when death would have attended either the fraying of the rope by sharp edges of ice or the dislodgement of the huge stalactites between which he had to steer his way.

Agassiz was a well-informed botanist. His "Lake Superior" and "A Journey in Brazil" deal largely with vegetation; two or three smaller papers are botanic, and one of the courses before the Lowell Institute was, he told me, upon trees and plants.[3] A member of the administrative staff of our College of Agriculture related to me the following incident: During Agassiz's stay here in 1868 he often walked about the then very open campus. She and her brother, little children, conceived a great admiration for him, called him "our Frenchman," and used to offer him flowers. On one occasion she was about to pluck a red clover upon which a bumblebee had just alighted.

  1. The only other comparable biography is the "Life, Letters and Works" by Marcou, and it will he quoted frequently. Its peculiarities are well stated in The Nation for May 7, 1896. In a letter to me, dated March 21, 1896, he expresses his regret at the inadvertent omission of "some of the best" from the enumeration of Agassiz's pupils and assistants.
  2. As printed in the "Proceedings in memory of Louis Agassiz and in honor of Hiram Sibley," pp. 11-12.
  3. May this be that which was given in 1853 under the title, "Natural History"?