Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/519

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
515
THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER AGASSIZ

In the death of Alexander Agassiz, America loses its foremost naturalist, as a few months ago in the death of Simon Newcomb it lost its most eminent representative of the exact sciences. Both were born in the year 1835. and in a century preeminent for science both gave distinction to this country when it was relatively backward in scientific productivity. Each maintained his intellectual leadership and continued his researches and publications to the very end of a long life. America is no longer behind the nations of Europe in the number of its scientific workers, but among them all are none to take the places left vacant by Agassiz and Newcomb.

Alexander Agassiz was endowed at birth with the heritage of his great father, Louis Agassiz, whose work at Harvard he carried forward. Born in Switzerland, he came to the United States in 1849 at the age of fourteen and graduated from Harvard College in 1855, continuing graduate studies in mining and chemistry in the Lawrence Scientific School. In 1859 he went to California as an assistant on the coast survey and in the following year became assistant in the museum founded by Louis Agassiz, during whose absence in Brazil he was in charge. From 1860 to 1869 he was engaged in mining in the Lake Superior region and became superintendent of the Calumet and Hecla. copper mines of which he was president at the time of his death. He thus acquired abundant wealth, and was able to give more than half a million dollars to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology and to conduct as he wished his oceanographical expeditions.

In 1869 Mr. Agassiz visited European museums and on his return in 1870 renewed his duties at the Harvard Museum, of which he became curator and director on the death of Louis Agassiz in 1873. He was for a series of years one of the seven fellows who form the corporation of Harvard College, and was on two occasions elected an overseer. In 1875 he visited the western coast of South America and subsequently went to England to assist with the reports of the Challenger expedition, writing the monograph on the Echini. Previously and subsequently to the end of his life, he made a great number of valuable scientific contributions to marine zoology, the embryology of fishes and coral reefs. In awarding to him its Victoria re; search medal, the report of the Royal I Geographical Society said "he has done more for oceanographical research than any other single individual" and summed up his work by noting that for thirty years he had carried out personally oceanographical expeditions over most of the oceans of the world. In 1877-80 he explored the Florida Straits and Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast and the Caribbean Sea. In 1880 he studied the surface fauna of the Gulf Stream; in 1892-4 he investigated the Sandwich Islands, studying recent and extinct reefs. In 1891 he conducted three cruises off the West Coast of Central America, and in 1895-6 he studied the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and in 1897-8 the Fiji Islands. In 1899-1900 he carried out a cruise from San Francisco via the Coral Island groups to Japan. In 1904-5 he investigated the eastern tropical Pacific. In the Indian Ocean in 1901-2 he devoted himself to the Maldive Islands. In 1874-5 he investi-