Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF AGASSI’S Discours de Neuchatel, THE 1837 “STARTING POINT OF ALL THAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ON THE ICE AGE”. Louis Agassi's “epoch making” and quite dramatic Neuchatel Address was given in 1837 before the Helvetic Society of Natural Science in Neuchatel (The American Naturalist, XXXII, 1898, 166). In it, “Agassiz propounded the theory that within a geologically recent period the whole northern hemisphere, as far down as the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas, had been covered with a vast sheet of moving glacial ice, maintaining that the glacial drift around Neuchatel did not come from the Alps, but from the North” (ibid).
Agassiz’s address presented “a bold theory, so strange, apparently so improbably, so contrary to all accepted notions [that it] took everyone by surprise. Coming as it did from a recognized and favorite leader in science it could not help making a great sensation” – and that it did (Memoir of Louis Agassiz, 1807-1873, National Academy of the Sciences, 64). His address launched the widespread exploration of prior ice ages and historical climate change.
The paper offered here “Upon Glaciers, Moraines, and Erratic Blocks; being the Address delivered at the opening of the Helvetic Natural History Society, at Neuchatel” was published the year after Agassiz’s speech and is, as stated, the first English translation of his address. While the original address, obviously given in French, “occupies such an important place in the history of the progress of geology,” it is also extremely rare because the “number of copies of the small volume [of the Helvetic Society in which it was published], “Actes de la Societe Helvetique reunie a Neuchatel” was extremely limited… [and] “because it never was printed separately” (Marcou, Life, Letters, and Works of Louis Agassiz, Vol. 1, 89).
While his 1840 work, Etudes sur les glaciers, is the more widely known of Agassiz’s publications, it is in the address offered here, presented a full three years earlier, that Agassiz first presented his theory of the existence of a European-wide glaciation – and it is this address that first galvanized the scientific world.
Louis Agassiz was “Swiss-born American naturalist, geologist, and teacher who made revolutionary contributions to the study of natural science with landmark work on glacier activity” (Manjunath, 100 People Who Changed History and the World, 98). Agassiz’s 1837 address advocated the existence – at some point in the past - of a European-wide glaciation. Having “studied the glacial formations of Switzerland [he] compared them with the geology of England and central Europe” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography, I). “His hypothesis was as follows: ancient glaciers had not only encroached farther south than the Alps, but had in fact, reached southern Europe, Asia, and North America which led to an “ice age”” (The Life and Work of Louis Agassiz). Item #1571
CONDITION & DETAILS: Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black. Complete (two volumes, 23 and 24 bound together). Not ex-library. , viii, [422pp.], 448pp. Fully indexed. Plates. Marbled text block. Tightly and solidly bound in contemporary leather and marbled boards and text block; 5 raised bands at the spine; gilt-lettered morocco spine labels. The edge tips are a bit rubbed and scuffed. The interior is in fine condition.