Louis Agassiz

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Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, also known as Louis Agassiz, was a multi-talented Swiss-born biologist. Louis was a geologist, teacher, physician, and a major innovator in the field of natural sciences, well known for his research on extinct fishes and glacier activity. Louis, the son of a preacher father and a scientist mother, was a devout follower of both religion and science. He was initially homeschooled, but after completing his secondary education in Bienne, he moved to Lausanne to conclude his elementary education. Louis studied medicine at the universities of Zurich, Heidelberg, and Munich, but excelled in natural history, particularly botany. Louis moved to Paris after earning his Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Medicine and studied geology and zoology under the tutelage of Humboldt and Cuvier. He spent thirteen years investigating several streams of natural science after landing a teaching job in Neuchatel, Switzerland. Following his excellent speech at the Lowell Institute in Boston, Louis was given a chair at Harvard. His teaching methods were unique and original, and they revolutionized natural science education in the United States. He has worked on a number of projects in recent years, including the construction of a permanent school for students interested in zoological science and marine biology. Continue reading to learn more about his life and work.

Childhood and Adolescence

Louis was born on May 28th, 1807, in Motier, Fribourg, to Protestant preacher Jean Louis Rodolphe and Rose Mayor Agassiz. Jean was the last of a long line of Protestant preachers, and he instilled a religious sensibility in his son. Agassiz’s mother, on the other hand, pushed him to pursue science.

Louis was initially homeschooled before attending Bienne to complete his secondary education. In Lausanne, he completed his elementary schooling.
He was educated as a physician in Germany, like many of his contemporaries, at the universities of Zurich, Heidelberg, and Munich.

Louis studied with Dollinger and Oken, two major German biologists who were supporters of ‘Naturphilosophie,’ a theory that propagated philosophical linkages within the biological world, and which impacted many of Louis’s works in an indirect way.

Two important scientists worked on a collection of Brazilian fishes from 1819 to 1829, which was passed over to Agassiz in 1826. When one of them died, Agassiz was given the task of finishing the job. Many of Agassiz’s scientific studies in later years were also motivated by his fascination with fish.

Agassiz finished the work in 1829 and published it as ‘Selecta Genera et Species Piscium.’ Agassiz released a prospectus for ‘History of the Fresh Water Fishes of Central Europe’ the following year. This was printed in sections from time to time.

Erlangen awarded him a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1829. He obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree from Munich the following year.
Agassiz arrived in Paris on December 16th, 1831, to study comparative autonomy under Cuvier, Europe’s most recognized naturalist.

Their relationship lasted only a few months, but Cuvier was clearly impressed by Agassiz’s work and shared his notes and sketches on fossil fishes with him; Agassiz was regarded as Cuvier’s intellectual heir.

Louis Agassiz’s Career

After Cuvier’s death in 1832, Agassiz accepted a teaching job at the ‘University of Neuchatel,’ where he spent the next thirteen years studying glaciology, paleontology, and systematics.
Louis began investigating glaciers in 1836, aided by colleagues such as Venetz and Charpentier. His research led to the hypothesis of the Ice Age and how it once engulfed the Earth.

Agassiz published two volumes on fossil echinoderms between 1838 and 1842.
He presented his observations in 1840 in ‘Étudesur Les glaciers.’
‘Nomenclature Zoologicus,’ a collection of animal names, was completed during his years in Neuchâtel, from 1842 to 1846.

Louis was invited by J.A. Lowell to do a lecture tour at the ‘Lowell Institute of Boston’ in 1846. His talks in the United States were so well received that he was given a position as a professor at ‘Harvard University.’

In 1847, he expanded on his Ice Age theory, publishing his findings in ‘Systemeglaciere.’ In the same year, his lectures led to the formation of Harvard University’s ‘Lawrence Scientific School,’ which Louis led.

He founded the ‘Museum of Comparative Zoology’ in 1859 and was chosen as its first director, a position he held for fourteen years.
Louis worked as a non-resident instructor at ‘Cornell University’ throughout his time at Harvard.

In 1852, he accepted a position in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to teach comparative anatomy.
His declining health prevented him from continuing to teach, so he returned to the field to concentrate on Brazilian fish.

In his life, Agassiz went on two notable expeditions: one to Brazil in 1865 and another to California six years later. Elizabeth and he meticulously documented their trip to Brazil in a journal.
John Anderson gave him the money and an island in 1873 to start a school of marine zoology, but it had to close after Agassiz’s death.

His Major Projects

His book ‘Recherchessur Les poisons fossils,’ which contains all of the material about fossil fishes, is regarded as a Bible for extinct life and species researchers.
In 1851, he released his ‘Essay on Classification,’ which contained all of his key ideas about the natural world, including how all living beings were created by one God, which was a major issue of conflict between him and Charles Darwin.

Achievements and Awards

The ‘Geological Society of London gave Louis the ‘Wollaston Medal’ in 1836 for his exceptional work on fossil ichthyology.
He was chosen as a foreign member of the ‘Royal Society of London’ in 1838.

Agassiz was appointed as a Foreign Honorary Member of the ‘American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1846.

Personal History and Legacy

Agassiz had two marriages. He married Elizabeth Cabot Cary after the death of his first wife in 1850. She was a well-known Boston writer and advocate for women’s rights.

From his first marriage, he produced three children. His two daughters and son Alexander joined him in the United States once he had established down.
On December 14, 1873, he died and was laid to rest in the ‘Mount Auburn Cemetery.’

Estimated Net worth

Louis Agassiz Shaw Junior has a net worth of $ USD 10 million and earns a living as a teacher and inventor. We don’t have enough information about Louis Agassiz Shaw Junior’s cars or his lifestyle.

Trivia

Charles Darwin, the founder of evolution, was influenced by Louis’ taxonomy of the animal kingdom and parallelisms. Darwin, unlike Louis, was not a firm believer in parallelism. On the other hand, Agassiz was a firm believer in evolution and saw the hand of One Creator at work across nature.