Alexander Emanuel Agassiz

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Alexander Emanuel Agassiz (December 17, 1835 – March 27, 1910), son of Louis Agassiz and stepson of Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz, was an American scientist and engineer.



Agassiz was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and emigrated to the United States with his father in 1849. He graduated from Harvard University in 1855, subsequently studying engineering and chemistry, and taking the degree of bachelor in Biological Science at the Lawrence scientific school of the same institution in 1857; and in 1859 became an assistant in the United States Coast Survey.

Thenceforward he became a specialist in marine ichthyology, but devoted much time to the investigation, superintendence and exploitation of mines. E. J. Hulbert, a friend of Agassiz's brother-in-law, Quincy Adams Shaw, had discovered a rich copper lode known as the Calumet conglomerate on the Keweenaw Peninsula Lake Superior in Michigan. He persuaded them, along with a group of friends, to purchase a controlling interest in the mines, which later became known as the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company based in Calumet, Michigan. Up until the summer of 1866, Agassiz worked as an assistant in the museum of natural history that his father founded at Harvard. That summer, he took a trip to see the mines for himself and he afterwards became treasurer of the enterprise.

Over the winter of 1866 and early 1867, mining operations began to falter due to the difficulty of extracting copper from the conglomerate. Hulbert had sold his interests in the mines and had moved on to other ventures. But Agassiz refused to give up hope for the mines, and he returned to the mines in March 1867 with his wife and young son. At that time, Calumet was a remote settlement, virtually inaccessible during the winter and very far removed from civilization even during the summer. With insufficient supplies at the mines, Agassiz struggled to maintain order, while back in Boston, Shaw was saddled with debt and the collapse of their interests. Shaw obtained financial assistance from John Simpkins, the selling agent for the enterprise to continue operations.

Agassiz continued to live at Calumet, making gradual progress in stabilising the mining operations, such that he was able to leave the mines under the control of a general manager and return to Boston in 1868 before winter closed navigation.

The mines continued to prosper and in May 1871, several mines were consolidated to form the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company with Shaw as its first president. In August, 1871, Shaw "retired" to the board of directors and Agassiz became president, a position he held until his death.

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