Teacher Of Teachers In Natural History

Because of its importance to this idea we work with, entrepreneurial conservation, we pay attention to the history of natural sciences.  We are curious, as individuals and collectively, about how we found our way here. In the Books sections of the New York Times Rebecca Scott reviews the Christoph Irmscher study on the Swiss immigrant scientist Louis Agassiz and his contributions to science–and therefore nature and conservation–in his adoptive country:

Nonetheless, there is no arguing with the claim that Agassiz, a Swiss immigrant, was pivotal to the making of American science. He was “one of the first,” Irmscher writes, “to establish science as a collective enterprise.” He was extraordinarily prolific and influential in many fields, including paleontology, zoology, geology and glaciology. He pioneered field research and was among the first to propose that the Earth had endured an ice age. A charismatic teacher whose students in natural history went on to become the teachers and scientists of the next generation, he was also an obsessive collector, enlisting the American public in a vast campaign to send him natural history specimens so he could build a remarkable museum of comparative anatomy. The range of Agassiz’s interests and expertise seems remarkable to a modern reader, given the narrow specialties of contemporary scientific practice, but in many ways, it was this restless curiosity that made him a transitional figure. He may have forged the path for research as a profession ensconced in universities endowed with posts and chairs, but he also belonged to the older age of the ­polymathic natural philosopher.

Read the whole story here.

One thought on “Teacher Of Teachers In Natural History

  1. Pingback: Currently Reading February 4, 2013 | Consilient Interest

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