Article ID: CBB001251738

Louis Agassiz and the Fossil Reefs of Iowa (2012)


Louis Agassiz's public lectures in population centers on the east coast of the United States are well known, but he also took his ideas to smaller towns in the heart of the continent. These visits by `the people's naturalist' were sometimes touted by local press in these relatively young settlements as a validation of their communities' cultural sophistication. In 1864, Agassiz gave a lecture on fossil Devonian `reefs' at Iowa City, Iowa. According to local tradition, the lecture inspired so much public enthusiasm that a neighboring settlement was subsequently named Coralville. Agassiz tied the Iowa fossils to his own work on modern reefs in Florida, arguing that Devonian expansion of the North American continent had proceeded by coral growth in a manner not unlike the more recent formation of the Florida peninsula. Agassiz's coral work was a centerpiece of his public attacks on the idea of evolution, but it also served to popularize the idea that the Earth had a long history prior to the appearance of humanity.

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Authors & Contributors
McGowan, Christopher
Figueirôa, Silvia Fernanda de Mendonça
Brice, William R.
Knell, Simon J.
Dobbs, David
Brown, Barbara E.
History of Science
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
University of Chicago Press
Pantheon Books
University of California Press
Oxford University Press
Earth sciences
Natural history
Darwin, Charles Robert
Agassiz, Jean Louis Rodolphe
Agassiz, Alexander
Hartt, Charles Frederic
Gardiner, John Stanley
Dawson, John William
United States
Great Britain
Iowa (U.S.)
Indian Ocean
19th century
20th century
21st century
18th century
20th century, early
Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.)

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