The surface of Europe

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“The surface of Europe, adorned before by a tropical vegetation and inhabited by troops of large elephants, enormous hippopotami, and gigantic carnivora, was suddenly buried under a vast mantle of ice, covering alike plains, lakes, seas, and plateaus,” he wrote in his Etudes sur les Glaciers (1840). “Upon the life and movement of a powerful creation fell the silence of death. Springs paused, rivers ceased to flow, the rays of the sun, rising upon this frozen shore (if, indeed, it was reached by them), were met only by the breath of the winter from the north and the thunders of the crevasses as they opened across the surface of this icy sea.” The reception all this got continued to be colder than the ice. Von Buch, author of co-working space maastricht the first geological map of Germany and already celebrated for his studies of volcanism, did not conceal his indignation. In fact, he had apparently removed Agassiz’s name from consideration for a professorial chair at the University of Berlin. Sir Roderick Murchison, the Scottish geologist who had identified and named the Silurian system, warned that he was prepared to “make fight.” Addressing the Geological Society of London, he said, “Once grant to Agassiz that his deepest valleys of Switzerland, such as the enormous Lake of Geneva, were formerly filled with snow and ice, and I see no stopping place. From that hypothesis you may proceed to fill the Baltic and the northern seas, cover southern England and half of Germany and Russia with similar icy sheets, on the surfaces of which all the northern boulders might have been shot off. So long as the greater number of the practical geologists of Europe are co-working space amsterdam opposed to the wide extension of a terrestrial glacial theory, there can be little risk that such a doctrine should take too deep a hold of the mind.” Whatever the cause, the effects Agassiz was studying impressed von Humboldt as purely local phenomena. Agassiz’s “descente aux enfers” -into the innards of the glacier-alarmed his friend as a physical risk commensurate with the risk Agassiz was taking with his paleontological reputation.

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