It took Christoph Irmscher ten years to write this biography of Louis Agassiz. I found this to be a fascinating biography of a nineteenth century scientist. I knew nothing about the man before. I read this book. Irmscher is an English professor at Indiana University. He does an excellent job of researching. He picks out the most interesting aspects of Louis Agassiz's life. One of Agassiz's passion is the study of jellyfish. I learned that a jelly fish's body is ninety-eight percent water. also learned that a jellyfish melts as soon it leaves the water. These may seem like very simple facts about jellyfish. It is enough information to make me want to learn more about them. I also learned that a starfish has five eyes. There is a reference to an animal called the guanaco in this book. I have never heard of this animal, Irmscher raises my curiosity to find more information about this animal with this one reference.
Agassiz's other passion is the study of glaciers..He wrote an entire book about how glaciers move, and the impact glaciers can have on the physical environment. Irmscher devotes an entire chapter of the book about Agassiz's attitudes about race. I found it interesting that a nature scientist would be interested in matters about race. Agassiz opposed slavery. He even worked on a commission to put former slaves to work after the Civil War. Agassiz could not embrace social equality between black and white people This is not an unusual stance for people in the nineteenth century. I admire Agassiz's efforts to help former slaves find jobs though.
Irmscher spends another chapter on Louis Agassiz's wife Elizabeth. She founded a school in Massachusetts for girls and taught English. She even served as the first President of Radcliffe College. She wrote a book about marine life and about her journey to Brazil with her husband. I am so impressed by the achievements and intelligence of Elizabeth Agassiz. A whole entire book could be written about her life based on the information that Irmscher provides. Christoph Irmscher raises my interest in zoology and geology with this biography.
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