Sivut kuvina

VOL. XLVIII. No. 2.-JUNE, 1912.





An Address delivered May 1, 1912, in Dedication of the New Building
of the Academy.

In a country lying among the Jura mountains and a portion of France adjacent to this district on the west — in four towns distant less than forty miles from a common centre were born four men who have made extraordinary contributions to the scientific possessions of the world.

Cuvier was born at Montbéliard in 1769; Louis Agassiz at Môtiers in 1807; Pasteur at Dôle in 1822; and Alexander Agassiz at Neuchâtel in 1835.

Cuvier was more distinctly than any other man the master of Louis Agassiz and his controlling influence was evident to the very end of the latter's life. Pasteur's scientific labors have contributed to the health and happiness of mankind in the highest degree. Fame had sounded Louis Agassiz's praises in Europe before he came to this country, and from the day of his arrival in America until his death he was the undoubted leader in his scientific domain. To Alexander Agassiz fell the most difficult of all tasks, that of maintaining an independent position for himself by the side of his distinguished father and in the same departments of science. He proved himself capable of doing so. Some may remember the speech made by him at the centennial celebration of the foundation of this Academy. He thanked the chairman for not introducing him as the distinguished son of a distinguished father. He desired above all things to be judged by his own accomplishments, devoted and loving son he ever was; but he had all the independence of the stock from which he sprang and jealously asserted it.

Few regions on the earth's surface have borne within comparatively brief limits of time a richer harvest of great men.

Alexander Agassiz's mother was Cécile Braun, member of a well known family of Baden, which has given to the world notable names in science and affairs. She was herself a cultivated woman with unusual artistic talent.

Louis Agassiz came to this country in 1846, leaving for the time being his family behind; his wife died in 1848 at Freiburg im Breisgau,

whither she had removed from Neuchâtel to the company of her own relatives. Alexander came here into contact with Professor C. T. E. von Siebold, whose character and great scientific attainments did not fail to make a deep impression upon him. Soon after his mother's death in 1848 he came to this country and joined his father at Cambridge. He was prepared for college in the high school of that city and was graduated from Harvard College in the class of 1855.

He received degrees from the Lawrence Scientific School in 1857 and again in 1862, the studies pursued there were Chemistry, Civil Engineering and Zoology. This choice of studies shows that at this time. he was not yet settled in his mind as to his life work he had for a short time an interest in a Pennsylvania coal mine, and had thought of taking up the occupation of railroad engineering. He was appointed assistant in the United States Coast Survey in 1859 and was employed in charting the mouth of the Columbia River, Oregon; and in the survey of the northwest boundary, he found time in the intervals. of his official duties to study the marine life of San Francisco harbor and to make collections at other points on the Pacific coast for the Museum at Cambridge.

Whatever his own plans may have been, powers beyond his control had been at work to determine his career, he vainly thought it might be in fields remote from those in which his father had labored, but indulgent fates brought him back to the natural sciences and here he remained for that part of his activities in which he found his highest satisfaction. He had lived all his life in an atmosphere of science, he had an inheritance from both father and mother of the mental qualities that promised him successes in these fields.

Louis Agassiz's second marriage, in 1850, to Elizabeth C. Cary, brought into the family a very strong and happy influence in the same direction, and ultimately the valued companionship for Alexander Agassiz which nearly reached the span of his own life.

Another important influence in his preparation for life is to be found in the state of Cambridge social life at this time. The native and unstinted hospitality of the father aided by the gracious manner in which Mrs. Agassiz received his guests brought to this open house every traveler of scientific prominence. The college society of the fifties and the association with the neighboring city could not easily be found elsewhere; some idea may be formed of its quality by reading the lines in which Lowell pictures the scenes, from which his great friend had been recently removed by death. There was no

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