CHF: Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science – Extra Credit Write-up

The talk concerned a famous German scientist, from the 1800s, named Louis Agassiz from the 1800s. We learned he was one of the first people to challenge the old testament, go beyond religious explanations (however, he was devoted to his religion), and research in depth the concept of the “Ice Age” (he didn’t come up with the idea of the Ice Age, but the concept of the Earth having a huge reduction in temperature for a long period of time may be most attributed to Agassiz; according to the speaker). He was known for working right along side his workers, planned to spread his knowledge to everyone, including the common folk and become the most successful scientist of all time. Agassiz lived in America for a portion of his life, moving there when he was 46 years old. Despite his tremendous feats, he was extremely racist. The point his speaker made was that Agassiz’s challenges to old ideas, his confidence, maybe arrogance, and excitement towards work revolutionized the way we go about studying science.

I’m going to start off on a bad note, just so we can get it out of the way, because Agassiz did seem like a great man, but had his flaws. Racism. Agassiz was extremely racist. The speaker showed studies that Louis Agassiz did, in order to prove the differences, between caucasians and people of African decent. He wrote about the superiority of caucasians and the idea that the Book of Genesis should only be for caucasians. However, the speaker did make it clear that he was not super into speaking about his ideas on race. On the other hand, Agassiz had many respectable traits as well:

Agassiz’s ambitious mentality was mirrored by many of the founding fathers mentality. He strove to be the best, and worked hard to do so, just as many of the founding fathers, veterans, and writers of American history.

Agassiz was very devoted and excited to do his work, and worked right alongside his workers (according to his understudy Humboldt), and understudies. This dedication and work ethic reminds me of the dedication many of the famous people we have learned about. Many politicians of the time, such as Andrew Hamilton almost cared too much about their work, and often did more work than they needed to. He pursued the idea that everyone should be a scientist, and spoke to the common folk about these ideas. By doing this he influenced a wide range of people, not just the top of the social spectrum. Politicians, writers, and other people of influence of American history, such as Thomas Paine, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were known for speaking and working to influence the likes of the common people.

Agassiz challenged old ideas, society, and most of the science world at the time. Challenging old ideas and society has been a theme throughout much of A.P. U.S. History. Agassiz challenging the ideas of religious explanation, was similar to the founding father’s challenging the government system, “monarchy.” Both ultimately proved good points, and have their teachings heard (and believed by many) today.

Agassiz didn’t only come up with new ideas. He also refined and bent old ideas, such as the theory of an Ice Age. This is a basic idea that politicians of American history definitely did. Paine didn’t “come up” with the idea of democracy or republicanism, but if it weren’t for him, our government might be completely different. Hamilton didn’t come up with the idea of a society that had a focus on international manufacturing, but if it weren’t for him, our country might not manufacture as many goods as it does internationality. This seemingly sensible, yet genius idea of building on others ideas are emphasized both in the talk about Louis Agassiz, as well as the learnings of the formation of America.


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