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Harvard People

May 2024
1min read

While reading Gerard Fiel’s “… to thy jubilee throng” (August/September issue), 1 noticed the picture of Benjamin Peirce and Louis Agassiz, “two of Harvard’s most eminent scientists,” with a globe between them. The name Benjamin Peirce stimulated my memory enough to send me searching for my two-volume first edition of Elsie Venner , written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and published by Ticknor and Fields in 1861.

My hunch was correct. On the flyleaf of Volume I there was an inscription, “Benjamin Peirce from his friend and classmate—O. W. Holmes.” Both professors were born in 1809. Holmes was the author and physician; Peirce was the astronomer and mathematician.

Curiosity also prompted me to check out the Harvard gentleman on the other side of the globe. Prof. Louis Agassiz, “zoologist and geologist,” was also a colleague of Holmes. Holmes outlived these friends and wrote memorial verses in their honor:

A F AREWELL TO A GASSIZ


How the mountains talked together Looking down upon the weather, When they heard our friend had planned his Little trip among the Andes! How they’ll bare their snowy scalps To the climber of the Alps When the cry goes through their passes Here comes the great Agassiz!

B ENJAMIN P EIRCE


For him the Architect of all Unroofed our planet’s starlit hall; Through voids unknown to worlds unseen His clearer vision rose serene. With us on earth he walked by day, His midnight path how far away! We knew him not so well who knew The patient eyes his soul looked through.

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