The scientific dons of Cambridge

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Von Humboldt wrote to say that he had now “read and compared all that has been w1itten for and against the ice-period” and that he was no closer to accepting the theory. He quoted Mme de Sevigne’s saying that “grace from on high comes slowly.” And added, “I especially desire it for the glacial period.” The turnabout was at hand, however. Charles Lyell, the most outstanding British geologist of the nineteenth century, closely read the Etudes sur les Glaciers and found himself enlightened. “Lyell has adopted your theory in toto!!!” a friend wrote to Agassiz. “On my showing him a beautiful cluster of moraines, within two miles of his father’s house, he instantly accepted it, as solving a host of difficulties that have all his life embarrassed him.” Charles Darwin hurried out into the countryside to see for himself if there were “marks left by extinct glaciers.” He wrote to a friend, “I assure you, an extinct volcano could hardly leave more evident co-working space amsterdam traces of its activity and vast powers ….T he valley about here and the site of the inn at which I am now writing must once have been covered by at least eight hundred or a thousand feet in thickness of solid ice! Eleven years ago I spent a whole day in tl1e valley where yesterday everything but the ice of the glaciers was palpably clear to me, and I then saw nothing but plain water and bare rock.” The scientific dons of Cambridge continued stubborn, but-as would happen witl1 the theory of plate tectonics in the years following the revelations of the nineteen-sixties-geologists in expanding numbers accepted the glacial picture, and before long tlrnre was a low percentage that did not entlmsiastically subscribe. Delivering an address in i862 to the Geological Society of London, Sir co-working space amsterdam zuidas Roderick Murchison declared without shame that he, too, now saw the picture. He sent a copy of his address to Agassiz witl1 a note that said, “I have had the sincerest pleasure in avowing that I was wrong in opposing as I did your grand and original idea of my native mountains. Yes! I am now convinced that glaciers did descend from the mountains to the plains as they do now in Greenland.”

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