Chapter 11: 1842-1843: Aet. 35-36.
- Zoological work uninterrupted by glacial researches. -- various Publications.—‘Nomenclator Zoologicus.’— ‘Bibliographia Zoologiae et Geologiae.’ -- correspondence with English naturalists. -- correspondence with Humboldt. -- glacial campaign of 1842. -- correspondence with Prince de Canino concerning journey to United States. -- fossil fishes from the old Red Sandstone. -- glacial campaign of 1843. -- death of Leuthold, the guide.
Although his glacier work was now so prominent a feature of Agassiz's scientific life, his zoological studies, especially his ichthyological researches, and more especially his work on fossil fishes, went on with little interruption. His publications upon Fossil Mollusks,1 upon Tertiary Shells,2 upon Living and Fossil Echinoderms,3 with many smaller monographs on special subjects, were undertaken  and completed during the most active period of his glacial investigations. More surprising is it to find him, while pursuing new lines of investigation with passionate enthusiasm, engaged at the same time upon works seemingly so dry and tedious as his ‘Nomenclator Zoologicus,’ and his ‘Bibliographia Zoologiae et Geologiae.’ The former work, a large quarto volume with an Index,4 comprised an enumeration of all the genera of the animal kingdom, with the etymology of their names, the names of those who had first proposed them, and the date of their publication. He obtained the cooperation of other naturalists, submitting each class as far as possible for revision to the leaders in their respective departments. In his letter of presentation to the library of the Neuchatel Academy, addressed to M. le Baron de Chambrier, President of the Academic Council, Agassiz thus describes the Nomenclator. . . .‘Have the kindness to accept for the library of the Academy the fifth number of a work upon the sources of zoological criticism, the publication of which I have just begun. It is a work of patience, demanding  long and laborious researches. I had conceived the plan in the first years of my studies, and since then have never lost sight of it. I venture to believe it will be a barrier against the Babel of confusion which tends to overwhelm the domain of zoological synonymy. My book will be called “Nomenclator Zoologicus.” ’. . . The Bibliographia (4 volumes, 8°) was in some measure a complement of the Nomenclator, and contained a list of all the authors named in the latter, with notices of their works. It appeared somewhat later, and was published by the Ray Society in England, in 1848, after Agassiz had left Europe for the United States. The material for this work also had been growing upon his hands for years. Feeling more and more the importance of such a register as a guide for students, he appealed to naturalists in all parts of Europe for information upon the scientific bibliography of their respective countries, and at last succeeded in cataloguing, with such completeness as was possible, all known works and all scattered memoirs on zoology and geology. Unable to publish this costly but unremunerative material, he was delighted to  give it up to the Ray Society. The first three volumes were edited with corrections and additions by Mr. H. E. Strickland, who died before the appearance of the fourth volume, which was finally completed under the care of his father-in-law, Sir William Jardine. The ability, so eminently possessed by Agassiz of dealing with a number of subjects at once, was due to no superficial versatility. To him his work had but one meaning. It was never disconnected in his thought, and therefore he turned from his glaciers to his fossils, and from the fossil to the living world, with the feeling that he was always dealing with kindred problems, bound together by the same laws. Nowhere is this better seen than in the records of the scientific society of Neuchatel, the society he helped to found in the first months of his professorship, and to which he always remained strongly attached, being a constant attendant at its sessions from 1833 to 1846. Here we find him from month to month, with philosophic breadth of thought, treating of animals in their widest relations, or describing minute structural details with the skill of a specialist. He presents organized beings in their geological succession, in their  geographical distribution, in their embryonic development. He reviews and remodels laws of classification. Sometimes he illustrates the fossil by the living world, sometimes he finds the key to present phenomena in the remote past. He reconstructs the history of the glacial period, and points to its final chapter in the nearest Alpine valleys, connecting these facts again with like phenomena in distant parts of the globe. But however wide his range and however various his topics, under his touch they are all akin, all coordinate parts of a whole which he strives to understand in its entirety. A few extracts from his correspondence will show him in his different lines of research at this time. The following letter is from Edward Forbes, one of the earliest explorers of the deep-sea fauna. Agassiz had asked him for some help in his work upon echinoderms.
Murchison remained for many years an opponent of the glacial theory in its larger application. In the discourse to which the above letter makes allusion (Address at the Anniversary Meeting of the Geological Society of London, 18425) is this passage: ‘Once grant to Agassiz that his deepest valleys of Switzerland, such as the enormous Lake of Geneva, were formerly filled with snow and ice, and I see no stopping place. From that hypothesis you may proceed to fill the Baltic and the northern seas, cover southern England and half of Germany and Russia with similar icy sheets, on the surfaces of which all the northern boulders might have been shot off. So long as the greater number of the practical geologists of Europe are opposed to the wide extension of  a terrestrial glacial theory, there can be little risk that such a doctrine should take too deep a hold of the mind. . . . The existence of glaciers in Scotland and England (I mean in the Alpine sense) is not, at all events, established to the satisfaction of what I believe to be by far the greater number of British geologists.’ Twenty years later, with rare candor, Murchison wrote to Agassiz as follows; by its connection, though not by its date, the extract is in place here: ‘I send you my last anniversary address, which I wrote entirely myself; and I beg you to believe that in the part of it that refers to the glacial period, and to Europe as it was geographically, I have had the sincerest pleasure in avowing that I was wrong in opposing as I did your grand and original idea of my native mountains. Yes! I am now convinced that glaciers did descend from the mountains to the plains as they do now in Greenland.’ During the summer of 1842, at about the same date with Murchison's letter disclaiming the glacial theory, Agassiz received, on the other hand, a new evidence, and one which must have given him especial pleasure, of the favorable impression his views were making in some quarters in England. 
The following is the letter referred to above.
 In the same strain is this extract from another letter of Humboldt's, written two or three months later.
The campaign of 1842 opened on the 4th of July. The boulder had ceased to be a safe shelter, and was replaced by a rough frame cabin covered with canvas. If the party had some regrets in leaving their picturesque hut beneath the rock, the greater  comfort of the new abode consoled them. It had several divisions. A sleeping-place for the guides and workmen was partitioned off from a middle room occupied by Agassiz and his friends, while the front space served as dining-room, sitting-room, and laboratory. This outer apartment boasted a table and one or two benches; even a couple of chairs were kept as seats of honor for occasional guests. A shelf against the wall and a few pegs accommodated books, instruments, coats, etc., and a plank floor, on which to spread their blankets at night, was a good exchange for the frozen surface of the glacier.6  Mr. Wild, an engineer of known ability, was now a member of their party, as a topographical survey was to be one of the chief objects of the summer's work. The results of this survey, which was continued during two summers, are embodied in the map accompanying Agassiz's ‘Systeme Glaciaire.’ Experiments upon the extent and connection of the net-work of capillary fissures that admitted water into the interior of the glaciers, occupied Agassiz's own attention during a great part of the summer. In order to ascertain this, colored liquids were introduced into the glacier by means of boring, and it was found that they threaded their way through the mass of the ice and reappeared at lower points with astonishing rapidity. A gallery was cut at a depth of ten metres below the surface, through a wall of ice intervening between two crevasses. The colored liquid poured into a hole above soon appeared on the ceiling of the gallery. The experimenters were surprised to find that at night the same result was obtained, and that the liquid penetrated from the surface to the roof of the gallery even more quickly  than during the day. This was explained by the fact that the fissures were then free from any moisture arising from surface melting, so that the passage through them was unimpeded.7 The comparative rate of advance in the different parts of the glacier was ascertained this summer with greater precision than before. The rows of stakes planted in a straight line across the glacier by Agassiz and Escher de la Linth, in the previous September, now described a crescent with the curve turned toward the terminus of the glacier, showing, contrary to the expectation of Agassiz, that the centre moved faster than the sides. The  correspondence of the curve in the stratification with that of the line of stakes confirmed this result. The study of the stratification of the snow was a marked feature of the season's work, and Agassiz believed, as will be seen by a later letter, that he had established this fact of glacial structure beyond a doubt. The origin and mode of formation of the crevasses also especially occupied the observers. On the 7th of August, Agassiz had an opportunity of watching this phenomenon in its initiation. Attracted to a certain spot on the glacier by a commotion among his workmen, he found them alarmed at the singular noises and movements in the ice. ‘I heard,’ he says, ‘at a little distance a sound like the simultaneous discharge of fire-arms; hurrying in the direction of the noise, it was repeated under my feet with a movement like that of a slight earthquake; the ground seemed to shift and give way under me, but now the sound differed from the preceding, and resembled a crumbling of rocks, without, however, any perceptible sinking of the surface. The glacier actually trembled, nevertheless; for a block of granite three feet in diameter, perched on a pedestal two feet high, suddenly fell down. At the same instant a  crack opened between my feet and ran rapidly across the glacier in a straight line.’8 On this occasion Agassiz saw three crevasses formed in an hour and a half, and heard others opening at a greater distance from him. He counted eight new fissures in a space of one hundred and twenty-five feet. The phenomenon continued throughout the evening, and recurred, though with less frequency, during the night. The cracks were narrow, the largest an inch and a half in width, and their great depth was proved by the rapidity with which they drained any standing water in their immediate vicinity. ‘A boring-hole,’ says Agassiz, ‘one hundred and thirty feet deep and six inches in diameter, full of water, was completely emptied in a few minutes, showing that these narrow cracks penetrated to great depths.’ The summer's work included observations also on the comparative movement of the glacier during the day and night, on the surface waste of the mass, its reparation, on the neve and snow of the upper regions, on the meridian holes, the sun-dials of the glaciers, as they  have been called.9 On the whole, the most important result of the campaign was the topographical survey of the glacier, recorded in the map published in Agassiz's second work on the glacier. At about this time there begin to be occasional references in his correspondence to a journey of exploration in the United States. Especially was this plan in frequent discussion between him and Charles Bonaparte, Prince of Canino, a naturalist almost as ardent as himself, with whom he had long been in intimate scientific correspondence. In April, 1842, the prince writes him: ‘I indulge myself in dreaming of the journey to America in which you have promised to accompany me.  What a relaxation! and at the same time what an amount of useful work.’ Again, a few months later, ‘You must keep me well advised of your plans, and I, in my turn, will try so to arrange my affairs as to find myself free in the spring of 1844 for a voyage, the chief object of which will be to show my oldest son the country where he was born, and where man may develop free of shackles. The mere anticipation of this journey is delightful to me, since I shall have you at my side, and may thus feel sure that it will make an epoch in science.’ This letter is answered from the glacier; the first part refers to the Nomenclator, in regard to which he often consulted the prince.
No sooner is Agassiz returned from the glacier than we meet him again in the domain of his fossil fishes.
The winter of 1843, apart from his duties as professor, was devoted to the completion of the various zoological works on which he was engaged, and to the revision of materials he had brought back from the glacier. His habits with reference to physical exercise were very irregular. He passed at once from the life of the mountaineer to that of the closet student. After weeks spent on the snow and ice of the glacier, constantly on foot and in the open air, he would shut himself up for a still longer time in his laboratory, motionless for hours at his microscope by day, and writing  far into the night, rarely leaving his work till long after midnight. He was also forced at this time to press forward his publications in the hope that he might have some return for the sums he had expended upon them. This was indeed a very anxious period of his life. He could never be brought to believe that purely intellectual aims were not also financially sound, and his lithographic establishment, his glacier work, and his costly researches in zoology had proved far beyond his means. The prophecies of his old friend Humboldt were coming true. He was entangled in obligations, and crushed under the weight of his own undertakings. He began to doubt the possibility of carrying out his plan of a scientific journey to the United States.
 In the following July we find him again upon the glacier. But the campaign of 1843 opened sadly for the glacial party. Arriving at Meiringen they heard that Jacob Leuthold was ill and would probably be unable to accompany them. They went to his house, and found him, indeed, the ghost of his former self, apparently in a rapid decline. Nevertheless, he welcomed them gladly to his humble home, and would have kept them for some refreshment. Fearing to fatigue him, however, they stayed but a few moments. As they left, one of the party pointed to the mountains, adding a hope that he might soon join them. His eyes filled with tears; it was his only answer, and he died three days later. He was but thirty-seven years of age, and at that time the most intrepid and the most intelligent of the Oberland guides. His death was felt as a personal grief by the band of workers whose steps he had for years guided over the most difficult Alpine passes. The summer's work continued and completed that of the last season. On leaving the glacier the year before they had marked a net-work of loose boulders, such as travel with the ice, and also a number of fixed points in the valley walls, comparing and registering  their distance from each other. They had also sunk a line of stakes across the glacier. The change in the relative position of the two sets of signals and the curve in their line of stakes gave them, self-recorded, as it were, the rate of advance of the glacier as a whole, and also the comparative rate of progression in its different parts. Great pains was also taken during the summer to measure the advance in every twenty-four hours, as well as to compare the diurnal with the nocturnal movement, and to ascertain the amount of surface waste. The season was an unfavorable one, beginning so late and continuing so cold that the period of work was shortened.