Correspondence of Alexander E. R. Agassiz (1835-1910)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The correspondence of Alexander E. R. Agassiz is mainly about coral reefs. There are letters to Sir Charles Wyville Thomson and to Sir John Murray (1841-1914). There is also material on Agassiz's life and scientific work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Naturalist Alexander Emmanuel Rodolphe Agassiz was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland, in 1835, and he arrived in the USA in 1849 after his father, the Swiss naturalist and geologist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873) accepted a Professorship of Zoology at Harvard University. The younger Agassiz studied at Harvard where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1855 and at the Lawrence Scientific School where he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1857. In 1859 Agassiz was an Assistant on the United States Coast Survey and then from 1860 until 1865 he was an Assistant in Zoology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Between 1866 and 1869 he developed the Calumet and Hecla Copper Mines, Lake Superior, of which he was also Superintendent. In 1875 Agassiz was a member of an expedition to South America which inspected the copper mines of Peru and Chile and which surveyed Lake Titicaca in Peru. That year too he became Curator and Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. In 1891 he was an Assistant on the US Fish Commission. Agassiz assisted Sir Wyville Thomson in the examination and classification of the collections from H.M.S. Challenger. He took part in explorations of the Florida Reef in 1876, 1882, and 1896, in dredging expeditions during the US Coast Survey, 1877-1880, and in explorations of the Bahamas in 1893 and of the Bermudas in 1894. He was involved in explorations of the coral reefs of the Fiji Islands in 1897, the Great Barrier Reef in 1898, and the Hawaiian Islands in 1899. There were deep sea explorations of the Panamic Region and Galapagos in 1891, an expedition to the Tropical Pacific in 1900 and to the Eastern Pacific in 1904-1905. In 1898, Agassiz became President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Alexander Agassiz died on 29 March 1910.

Conditions Governing Access

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Note

The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who, 1897-1916 (London: A. & C. Black, 1920). (2) Who was who in America, Vol.1. 1897-1942 (Chicago: The A. N. Marquis Co., 1943).

Other Finding Aids

An important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Related Material

The Index to Manuscripts shows, at various shelfmarks, references to letters and postcards of Agassiz to others.

Additional Information

The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who, 1897-1916 (London: A. & C. Black, 1920). (2) Who was who in America, Vol.1. 1897-1942 (Chicago: The A. N. Marquis Co., 1943).