Louis Agassiz, a student once complained, would “lock a student up in a room full of turtle-shells, or lobster-shells, or oyster-shells, without a book or a word to help him, and not let him out till he had discovered all the truths which the objects contained.”
Agassiz was a demanding teacher of geology and zoology for generations of prominent scientists. Born on May 28, 1807 in Switzerland, he argued scientifically for the existence of ice ages, discovered evidence of glacial movement in the Scottish Highlands and created a new way to classify fish.
He came to the United States in 1846 to investigate the natural history of the continent. He also delivered a Lowell Institute lecture, The Plan of Creation as shown in the Animal Kingdom. That lecture led to his appointment to the faculty at Harvard, where he founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
In 1873 he was given $50,000 the island of Penikese in Buzzard’s Bay by a philanthropist. Agassiz established a school there, but it failed after his death. It is, however, considered a precursor to the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.
Louis Agassiz died on Dec. 14, 1873, in Cambridge, Mass. Mount Agassiz in Bethlehem, N.H., in the White Mountains is named after him.