Agassiz, Alexander (ăgˈəsē) [key], 1835–1910, American naturalist and industrialist, b. Neuchâtel, Switzerland; son of Louis Agassiz, stepson of Elizabeth Cary Agassiz. He came to the United States in 1849 and studied at Harvard, receiving degrees in engineering (B.S., 1857) and natural history (B.S., 1862). Throughout his life he was connected in various capacities with Harvard. In 1871 he consolidated the Calumet and Hecla copper mines on Lake Superior and, as president, successfully developed the combined interests. He adopted safety and welfare measures relating to the mines. Agassiz contributed much of his fortune to science—chiefly in endowments to Harvard and to the Museum of Comparative Zoology which his father helped to found there. In 1877 he began oceanographic explorations, including detailed observations of the Pacific and the Caribbean. Noting that the deep-sea animals of the two are similar, he suggested that the Caribbean was a bay of the Pacific that had been cut off in the Cretaceous period by the rise of the Panama isthmus. His chief work is Revision of the Echini (2 vol., 1872–74).
See study by his son G. R. Agassiz (1913).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Geology and Oceanography: Biographies