Friday, March 02, 2007

Who was Louis Agassiz?

We received positive feedback on a recent entry about Charles Sumner, after whom the Roslindale elementary school is named, so from time to time, we will post other profiles of the men and women immortalized in the names of Boston schools. The Louis Agassiz Elementary School in Jamaica Plain is named after a Swiss-American zoologist, glaciologist, and geologist (born 1807, died 1873), who is recognized as one of the first world-class American scientists. He earned early acclaim by becoming the first to propose that the earth had been subject to an Ice Age. Funded by the King of Prussia, Agassiz emigated to America, and eventually settled in Boston, where he became a professor at Harvard College in 1847. Some historians have raised concerns about Agassiz's claims about the inferiority of the black race and contend that the underlying racism in his research may have "provided a good deal of fuel for the cause of slavery." Though Agassiz later denounced slavery and sided with the North in the Civil War, his views on race and his rejection of Darwinism continue to mar his legacy.
Agassiz's daughter Ida later married Boston Symphony Orchestra founder Henry L. Higginson, after whom the Roxbury elementary school is named.

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