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His Letters and Recollections Recently Edited in Book Form by His Son, G. R. Agassiz '84.


One of the most recent biographies of note and one that should be of interest to every Harvard man, is the "Letters and Recollections of Alexander Agassiz; With a Sketch of His Life and Work," edited by his son, G. R. Agassiz '84. The biography is unique and extremely entertaining. It could hardly be improved upon, for it gives a vivid idea of a great man's personality and of the amazing work which he accomplished.

A review of this important biography was recently published in the Boston Transcript and a few extracts from it, showing his life from the time of his entrance to college, are printed below.

"He entered Harvard at fifteen and a half and graduated with many famous men. His thorough schooling abroad had made him already proficient in Latin and Greek, but his son says: 'Agassiz had, however, no natural sympathy for the classics and the scientific trend given to his early studies had intensified a dislike of the subtle analysis, of language and the dryness of grammatical hair-splitting'.

"He was pre-eminent in the subjects that interested him-especially mathematics and chemistry; but what was "the more than modest laboratory in the basement of University Hall"? He was strong and wiry; he rowed bow-oar on the university crew which, through the action of Charles W. Eliot, one of its members, in buying crimson handkerchiefs to make them more easily recognizable, established that color as the token of Harvard.

"After graduating he took up chemistry and natural history in the Lawrence Scientific School.

"At this time the Museum was in a shanty and stuffed with more than it could hold. In spite of Agassiz's immense labors in connection with the Museum, which was handicapped by lack of space, lack of funds and lack of helpers, he managed to accomplish no end of original work in zo-ology.

"Agassiz one day in 1867 met Charles W. Eliot, professor of chemistry in the Institute of Technology, and said to him: 'Eliot, I am going to Michigan for some years as superintendent of the Calumet & Hecla mines. I want to make money; it is impossible to be a productive naturalist in this country without money. I am going to get some money if I can and then I will be a naturalist. If I succeed, I can then get my own papers and drawings printed and help my father at the Museum.' The story of his struggle to make the mines a paying investment, to undo the false steps that had been taken, and of the marvelous success that ultimately attended it reads like a romance.

"To give a complete resume of all the scientific interests of Agassiz's life would occupy a broadside. His triumphs in oceanography alone in all parts of the watery hemispheres are well worthy of a whole article.

To the University and the museum he gave more than a million and a half, and more will ultimately revert to that cherished institution. He wrote: 'I want to go down as the man of science and not to be temporarily known by a kind of cheap noteriety as an American millionaire.'"

"The thoroughness and ease with which he worked, his great reserve, his quiet and entire devotion to those he loved, his occasional outbursts of mirth, his unfailing charm--all of these belonged to the scientific man of cosmopolitan friendship and faure."

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