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A short history of scientific investigations on glaciers

  • Garry K.C. Clarke (a1)

Abstract

Scientific investigations on valley glaciers engaged some of the greatest natural philosophers of the nineteenth century. Among these, Louis Agassiz has unique importance for he personifies the transition from the protoscientific period of de Saussure and Scheuchzer to the scientific one of Forbes and his successors. In this brief history I have attempted to connect the achievements of the past 50 years with the aspirations of our predecessors.

“The air immediately above me seemed filled with rainbow-dust, for the ice-needles glittered with a thousand hues under the decomposition of light upon them, while the dark storm in the valley below offered a strange contrast to the brilliancy of the upper region in which I stood”.

–Louis Agassiz

“To myself, I confess that this now appears the strongest argument of all for considering the glacier as a united mass like a river, in which there is a nice equilibrium between the force of gravitation, acting by hydrostatic pressure, and the molecular resistance of the semi-solid; the degree of regularity of the law which connects the partial movements is wonderful, and I maintain that it is inexplicable except upon the viscous theory”.

–James D. Forbes

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References

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