The Story behind the Story of "The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz"


The Tomtate, Haemulon aurolineatum. Illustration by Diana Rome Peebles 1998. Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Marine Fisheries.

Louis Agassiz was a famous Swiss-born ichthyologist (i.e., a scientist who studied fish) who lived 1807-1873, and who taught at Harvard University. He founded the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology and served as its director from 1859 until his death in 1873. He was well known for his insistence on close, first-hand observation.

The story above exists in many different versions, but they appear to derive from only two originals, one by Samuel H. Scudder and one by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, both well-known students of Professor Agassiz. Samuel Scudder went on to become a prominent entymologist and a foremost expert on insects, while Nathaniel Shaler made a name for himself as a geologist. The version included on this Web site is by Samuel Scudder, which is a fuller, more detailed account than Shaler's. Other versions can be accessed via the links below.


For more information on any of the following, please click on the appropriate name: