Expeditions and Discoveries Sponsored Exploration and Scientific Discovery in the Modern Age

Hassler Expedition to South America, 1871–1872

Louis Agassiz, an influential Harvard professor and founder of the University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, was invited by Superintendent of the Survey Benjamin Pierce to lead a deep-sea dredging expedition to South America aboard the US Coast Survey Steamer Hassler. The Hassler circumnavigated South America and visited, among other locations, the Galapagos Islands. Agassiz investigated evidence for Darwin’s theory of evolution, collected deep-sea specimens to analyze their relation to the fossil forms of earlier eras, and observed the glaciers and moraines of the southern Andes. Count L. F. Pourtalès directed the dredging operations, Franz Steindachner oversaw specimen collection, former Harvard President Thomas Hill served as a physicist, and J. H. Blake served as artist, documenting the expedition. Elizabeth Cary Agassiz accompanied her husband on the trip and published her account of the expedition in newspapers.

Selected Manuscripts and Records in Expeditions and Discoveries

Selected Publications


The following sources were used in writing this page

  • Agassiz, Elizabeth Cary. Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1888.
  • Dobbs, David. Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral. New York: Pantheon, 2005.
  • Gould, Stephen Jay. "This View of Life." Natural History. 90: 12 (Dec. 1981), p. 7–10.
  • Lurie, Edward. Louis Agassiz: A Life in Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.
  • Lurie, Edward. Nature and the American Mind: Louis Agassiz and the Culture of Science. New York: Science History, 1974.
  • Marcou, Jules. Life, Letters, and Works of Louis Agassiz. New York: Macmillan, 1896.