The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), June 21, 1848

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SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITION TO LAKE SUPERIOR. - We understand, says the New York Herald, that Prof. Louis Agassiz, accompanied by the Superintendent of the Mineralogical Cabinet of Paris, Dr. Keller, from Germany, Dr. John Leconte, of this city, entomologist, Dr. Cabot, editor of the Mass. Quarterly Review, Dr. Stout, of this city, and several students from the University at Cambridge, are about proceeding on a scientific expedition to Lake Superior. The party meets at Sault Ste. Marie, where they will procure canoes and guides, and go almost completely around the lake, making large collections of animals, birds and fishes, as well as geological and mineral collections. From thence they return by way of Lakes Michigan and Erie, visiting Niagara and Trenton Falls. This is the largest body of scientific men ever out on a geologic survey, and as they are to visit regions hitherto almost unexplored, the journal of it will be very interesting.

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This was a very important expedition of discovery. Many specimens from it are part of the permanent collections of the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian. Geologist and biologist Agassiz, newly installed as a professor at Harvard was to become one of the preeminent scientists of the 19th century. A book which he and fellow traveller J. E. Cabot wrote about this trip was a best-seller among scientists and laymen alike [Louis Agassiz, Lake Superior: its physical character, vegetation and animals compared with those of other and similar regions. Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1850.]. In it he put forth his theory of ice ages, now a seminal part of North American geology.
J. L. Leconte is one of the great names in American entomology, having identified and classified much of the insect fauna of North America. After this trip he made a major expedition to California and later accompanied the crews surveying for the Union Pacific Railroad west across the Great Plains, classifying insects all the way.
Philosopher, publisher and artist James Elliot Cabot was an intimate of Ralph Waldo Emerson and activist Theodore Parker, and was considered one of the great minds of the era.
The "Superintendent of the Mineralogical Cabinet of Paris" was Dr. Jules Marcou, who compiled a major series of geologic maps of North America in the 1850's and later published the first significant geological map of the world.
Dr. William Keller was probably the prominent German glacier expert. With these and several other luminaries, plus nine students, it's hard to believe the group covered so much territory. - "We passed very slowly through the woods, . . . partly because at every second step one or other of our professors would fall, with a cry of wonder, before some flower or insect which presented him with a new type." - A. C. Doyle, The Lost World, 1912.
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June 21, 1848
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Dave Swayze
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), June 21, 1848