Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/13

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7
WHAT WE OWE TO AGASSIZ

He restrained her, saying gently, "Do not frighten it away; the bees are the friends of the flowers."[1]

Agassiz's concern for the promotion of agriculture was evinced by word and deed upon many occasions.[2] In 1861 he supervised the drawings for the "New Edition" of Harris's "Insects injurious to vegetation," and "rendered assistance by way of suggestion and advice throughout" the publication of the work that was the prototype of the later extensive reports and organizations, state and national, in the line of economic entomology. The last chapter of "A Journey in Brazil," published in 1868, was more than half devoted to the agriculture and forestry of that country.

So deeply interested was Agassiz in the problems involved in the improvement of domesticated animals that, at the close of his exhausting summer at Penikese, and only three months before his death, he wrote me a letter of 1,700-1,800 words devoted mainly to that subject. The following sentences are very suggestive:

We naturalists can not afford the expense necessary for making the investigations and answering the questions about which farmers universally expect us to be prepared to give information. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to study the embryology of the horse as I have studied that of the snapping-turtle. But turtle eggs can be had for the asking, while every egg and every embryo of the higher animals will cost the price of a mare or a cow, and so for other species. I do not know one scientific man in the world so placed that he could kill one hundred of these animals a year, for a number of successive years in order to study their embryology; and yet until this is done we shall go on groping in the dark as far as any real improvements in the breeding of stock are concerned.

It is probable that this topic occupied him in his last public effort, a lecture on "The Structural Growth of Domesticated Animals" before the Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture, only twelve days before his death.

On the twenty-eighth of May, 1874, the birthday of Agassiz next following his death, there was held here a Memorial Meeting.[3] It was addressed, among others, by the Hon. John Stanton Gould, then our non-resident lecturer on agriculture, who had witnessed interviews between Agassiz and farmers seeking information as to animals, crops and soils. He said "It was beautiful to see that illustrious man impart the needed facts in language perfectly adapted to the intellectual and scientific status of the inquirer."

  1. See, also, the relation of a botanist, Professor C. F. Millspaugh, Cornell Era, June, 1907, p. 443, and "Proceedings of the Memorial Meeting of the Cambridge Historical Society," May 27, 1907.
  2. It is not easy to account for the omission of entries like agriculture and farmer from the indexes of the volumes by Marcou and Mrs. Agassiz.
  3. It was for the purpose of raising a sum to be added to the "Teachers and Pupils' Fund" in support of a scholarship at the Museum. There was raised $100, of which about one fourth was given by President White.