Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz – Educator and Naturalist

Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz (1822 – 1907)

Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz
(1822 – 1907)

On December 5, 1822, American educator and naturalist Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz was born. A researcher of natural history, she was a contributing author to many scientific published works with her husband, Louis Agassiz.

Elisabeth Cabot Agassiz received no formal education but it is assumed that she was taught at home and studied languages as well as drawing, music, and reading. She started socializing with intellectuals after her sister got married to Harvard’s Professor Cornelius Conway Felton and met Louis Agassiz in 1846. They got married four years later and Elisabeth was responsible for the household, the finances and the children (from her husband’s previous marriage). Also, the couple worked closely together in his fields of research. She accompanied Louis Agassiz as the main writer and record keeper during the Thayer Expedition to Brazil from 1865 to 1866 and the Hassler Expedition through the Strait of Magellan from 1871 to 1872. [1]

Next to their research, Elisabeth Cabot Agassiz supported female education and conducted a school for girls. This way, she was not only able to provide for her family, but also pioneered in the education for women. However, after her husband, Louis Agassiz passed away, Elizabeth devoted herself to the care of her grandchildren and writing a memoir of her husband, which was titled Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence, published in 1885. Also, the women increased her interest in women’s education even further and became enthusiastic about the idea of a college for women taught by the faculty of Harvard University. In 1879, she helped to open the Harvard Annex in Cambridge and was appointed its president when it was incorporated as the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women. The institution was later renamed to Radcliffe College.[1,2]

During her lifetime, Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz published several works including A First Lesson in Natural History, published in 1859, Seaside Studies in Natural History, published in 1865, and A Journal in Brazil. During her studies, Agassiz was often assisted by her stepson Alexander Emanuel Agassiz. [1,3]

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture on Women in Science by Professor Williams.

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