Ever heard of someone who disagreed with Darwin’s theory of evolution?
That was probably Louis Agassiz.
In the CHF event “Louis Aggasiz: Creator of American Science,” Christoph Irmscher talks about Agassiz’s role in the world of science, as well as how the opinions of highly viewed scientists impacted society. Agassiz lived during the 1800s and was a scientist with a lot of love for what he did, and a lot of hate for his enemies, Darwin being the main one. Darwin’s theory of evolution was countered by Agassiz in the aspect that Agassiz believed that human races had separate origins, and on a scientific level justified racism. Hard to believe by today’s standards, but people listened to and followed this idea of Agassiz’s. Society was being shaped by the opinions of powerful and influential people, similar as it is today, although moving from scientists to celebrities is a bit of a radical change. In America and around the world, people had some uncertainty about science and scientific ideas just as modern theories were beginning to take form, which made it possible for many ideas to spread and for the people to pick which one they wanted to believe the most. Irmscher’s speech also gave a window to what racial issues were beginning to form in America, and how things were slowly moving forwards, or painfully held back.
Irmscher focused on the topic of Agassiz’s racism before moving onto a more inspirational image in his slideshow: a jellyfish. Not any jellyfish though, but a carefully and elaborately drawn one with details and markings of every part of its body. Agassiz brought forth the idea in science of being very precise and doing multiple things over and over to make sure that the results were indeed the same. He introduced the idea of this kind of experimental technique into American science, to which we owe him to this day. Irmscher painted the picture of Agassiz as a hard working scientist, stating “he would search with his students for specimens in the water, sweat glistening on his forehead…” He was not afraid to get into the field and get his hands dirty; to try new things and be alright if he was wrong. Agassiz was also an avid collector to such an extent that I believe it would be called hoarding in today’s time. He collected specimens from anyone, as in ANYONE! The general public was free to donate any samples to Agassiz’s collection, similar to donating things at a museum.
Agassiz made monumental discoveries in his time and launched American science forwards through his experimental techniques and they way he looked at science as something to be tried out for oneself, not examined 10 feet away. Agassiz’s ideas were purely scientific, and Irmscher was fascinated by Agassiz due to the fact that Agassiz had done so many things wrong and yet right in his lifetime and was not afraid to challenge another scientist. One thing is for sure, I will never look at jellyfish the same again.
Picture of Presentation