Louis Agassiz as Mentor

Below: Photograph - The statue of Louis Agassiz - at one time America's most famous scientist - which fell 50 feet from its pedestal on the Stanford University Zoology Building during the 1906 earthquake and embedded itself headfirst in the pavement.

During his career at Harvard (1848-1873), Louis Agassiz served as the direct mentor to a number of students, many of whom went on to become some of America’s most famous scientists. According to David Starr Jordan, the first president of Leland Stanford University, nearly all of the early teachers of biology in America—men born between 1825–1850, most of them prominent in their field of study—were, at one time or another, students of Louis Agassiz. (20) The names of the scientists mentioned by David Starr Jordan form an impressive roster:

Alexander Agassiz, Director of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology;

Joel Asaph Allen, Curator of the American Museum of Natural History;

John Gould Anthony, Director of the conchology department of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology;

Albert Smith Bickmore, American naturalist and one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History;

Jesse Walter Fewkes, Director of the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology;

Samuel Garman, Assistant Director of herpetology and ichthyology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology;

Charles Frédéric Girard, Smithsonian Institution, specialist in ichthyology and herpetology;

Charles Frederic Hartt, Professor at Cornell University;

Alpheus Hyatt, Professor of Biology and Zoology at Boston University;

Joseph LeConte, Professor at the University of California;

Theodore Lyman, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences, a trustee of the Peabody Education Fund, and an overseer of Harvard University;

Charles S. Minot, Professor at Harvard Medical School;

Edward Sylvester Morse, Professor at Imperial University of Tokyo;

Alpheus Spring Packard Jr., Professor at Brown University;

Frederic Ward Putnam, Director of the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of Yale University;

Samuel H. Scudder, distinguished entomologist;

Nathaniel Shaler, Dean of Harvard Graduate School;

Philip Reese Uhler, Professor of Natural Sciences at Johns Hopkins University;

Charles Otis Whitman, founder of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole;

Burt Green Wilder, Professor at Cornell University.

In addition to those he mentored, Agassiz’s closest friends and associates included many of America’s leading early naturalists:

Spencer F. Baird, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries for the United States Fish Commission;

James D. Dana, Professor of Natural History and Geology at Yale College;

Asa Gray, Professor of Natural History at Harvard University, considered the most important American botanist of the 19th century;

Hermann August Hagen, Professor of Entomology, Harvard University;

Jared Potter Kirtland, naturalist, malacologist, and physician, co-founder of Western Reserve University's Medical School and what would become the Cleveland Museum of Natural History;

John P. Lesley, Professor of Geology at the University of Pennsylvania;

Charles Léo Lesquereux, Swiss bryologist and a pioneer of American paleobotany;

William Stimpson, Director of the Department of Invertebrates, Smithsonian Institution, Director of the Academy of Science in Chicago. (21)

Not only did Agassiz serve as mentor for the first generation of America’s prominent scientists, but he also provided the inspiration and organizing force behind what would become one of the greatest museums of natural history in the world, the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology. (22)