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Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 09 Make every mistake into an opportunity for learning

Identifier

024962

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

LOUIS AGASSIZ AS A TEACHER ILLUSTRATIVE EXTRACTS ON HIS METHOD OF INSTRUCTION WITH AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE BY LANE COOPER [PROFESSOR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE IN CORNELL UNIVERSITY MARINE BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY LIBRARY WOODS HOLE, MASS. W. H. 0. I. 1917 ]

Agassiz handled all specimens with the greatest care, and naturally had little patience with clumsiness; the following incident illustrates both his kindly spirit and his self-restraint.

At one of the lectures he had handed down for inspection a very rare and costly fossil, from the coal-measures, I think; including the matrix, it had about the size and shape of the palm of the hand. He cautioned us not to drop it. When it had reached about the middle of the audience a crash was heard. The precious thing had been dropped by a new and somewhat uncouth assistant whom we will call Dr. X.

He hastily gathered up the pieces and rushed out of the room. For a few seconds Agassiz stood as if himself petrified; then, without even an 'Excuse me,' he vanished by the same door.

Presently he returned, flushed, gazing ruefully at the fragments in his hand, covered with mucilage or liquid glue. After a pause, during which those who knew him not awaited an explosive denunciation of gaucherie, Agassiz said quietly: 'In Natural History it is not enough to know how to study specimens; it is also necessary to know how to handle them' and then proceeded with his lecture.

The source of the experience

Agassiz, Louis

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Rosie Rock-Evans