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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index A > Louis Agassiz Quotes > Nature

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Louis Agassiz
(28 May 1807 - 14 Dec 1873)

Swiss-American naturalist and geologist who published several volumes describing and classifying fossil fish. He is also known for significant work on glacier activity.


Louis Agassiz Quotes on Nature (14 quotes)

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Louis Agassiz quote: A laboratory of natural history is a sanctuary where nothing profane should be tolerated
A laboratory of natural history is a sanctuary where nothing profane should be tolerated. I feel less agony at improprieties in churches than in a scientific laboratory.
— Louis Agassiz
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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Absorbed in the special investigation, I paid no heed to the edifice which was meanwhile unconsciously building itself up. Having however completed the comparison of the fossil species in Paris, I wanted, for the sake of an easy revision of the same, to make a list according to their succession in geological formations, with a view of determining the characteristics more exactly and bringing them by their enumeration into bolder relief. What was my joy and surprise to find that the simplest enumeration of the fossil fishes according to their geological succession was also a complete statement of the natural relations of the families among themselves; that one might therefore read the genetic development of the whole class in the history of creation, the representation of the genera and species in the several families being therein determined; in one word, that the genetic succession of the fishes corresponds perfectly with their zoological classification, and with just that classification proposed by me.
— Louis Agassiz
Quoted in Elizabeth Cary Agassiz (ed.), Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence (1885), Vol. I, 203-4.
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I have devoted my whole life to the study of Nature, and yet a single sentence may express all that I have done. I have shown that there is a correspondence between the succession of Fishes in geological times and the different stages of their growth in the egg,—this is all. It chanced to be a result that was found to apply to other groups and has led to other conclusions of a like nature.
— Louis Agassiz
In Methods of Study in Natural History (1863), 23.
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I now never make the preparations for penetrating into some small province of nature hitherto undiscovered without breathing a prayer to the Being who hides His secrets from me only to allure me graciously on to the unfolding of them.
— Louis Agassiz
As quoted in E.P. Whipple, 'Recollections of Agassiz', in Henry Mills Alden (ed.), Harper's New Monthly Magazine (June 1879), 59, 103.
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In 1847 I gave an address at Newton, Mass., before a Teachers’ Institute conducted by Horace Mann. My subject was grasshoppers. I passed around a large jar of these insects, and made every teacher take one and hold it while I was speaking. If any one dropped the insect, I stopped till he picked it up. This was at that time a great innovation, and excited much laughter and derision. There can be no true progress in the teaching of natural science until such methods become general.
— Louis Agassiz
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In the real changes which animals undergo during their embryonic growth, in those external transformations as well as in those structural modifications within the body, we have a natural scale to measure the degree or the gradation of those full grown animals which corresponds in their external form and in their structure, to those various degrees in the metamorphoses of animals, as illustrated by embryonic changes, a real foundation for zoological classification.
— Louis Agassiz
From Lecture 4, collected in Twelve Lectures on Comparative Embryology: Delivered Before the Lowell Institute in Boston: December and January 1848-9 (1849), 29.
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It must be for truth’s sake, and not for the sake of its usefulness to humanity, that the scientific man studies Nature. The application of science to the useful arts requires other abilities, other qualities, other tools than his; and therefore I say that the man of science who follows his studies into their practical application is false to his calling. The practical man stands ever ready to take up the work where the scientific man leaves it, and adapt it to the material wants and uses of daily life.
— Louis Agassiz
Methods of Study in Natural History (1863),24.
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Louis Agassiz quote: Lay aside all conceit Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have fol
Lay aside all conceit. Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have followed for years some slim thread which once in a while has broadened out and disclosed some treasure worth a life-long search.
— Louis Agassiz
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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One naturally asks, what was the use of this great engine set at work ages ago to grind, furrow, and knead over, as it were, the surface of the earth? We have our answer in the fertile soil which spreads over the temperate regions of the globe. The glacier was God’s great plough.
— Louis Agassiz
In 'Ice-Period in America', Geological Sketches (1875), 99.
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Philosophers and theologians have yet to learn that a physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own nature demands from us this double allegiance.
— Louis Agassiz
Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America (1857).
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The combination in time and space of all these thoughtful conceptions [of Nature] exhibits not only thought, it shows also premeditation, power, wisdom, greatness, prescience, omniscience, providence. In one word, all these facts in their natural connection proclaim aloud the One God, whom man may know, adore, and love; and Natural History must in good time become the analysis of the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe….
— Louis Agassiz
In Essay on Classification (1851), 205.
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The office of science is not to record possibilities; but to ascertain what nature does ... As far as Darwinism deals with mere arguments of possibilities or even probabilities, without a basis of fact, it departs from the true scientific method and injures science, as most of the devotees of the new ism have already done.
— Louis Agassiz
'Professor Agassiz on the Darwinian Theory ... Interesting Facsimile Letter from the Great Naturalist', Scientific American, 1874, 30, 85.
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The study of Nature is intercourse with the highest mind. You should never trifle with Nature. At her lowest her works are the works of the highest powers, the highest something in the universe, in whichever way we look at it… This is the charm of Study from Nature itself; she brings us back to absolute truth wherever we wander.
— Louis Agassiz
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147. Last sentence included with the quote in Peter Haring Judd (ed.), Affection: Ninety Years of Family Letters, 1850s-1930s: Haring, White, Griggs, Judd Families of New York and Waterbury, Connecticut (206), 102, where it is also noted that this comes from what must have been one of his last lectures since Agassiz died shortly thereafter.
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You cannot do without one specialty. You must have some base-line to measure the work and attainments of others. For a general view of the subject, study the history of the sciences. Broad knowledge of all Nature has been the possession of no naturalist except Humboldt, and general relations constituted his specialty.
— Louis Agassiz
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 146.
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See also:
  • 28 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Agassiz's birth.
  • Louis Agassiz: A Life in Science, by Edward Lurie. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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