Horace Bénédict de Saussure (1740-1799)
 

Horace Bénédict de Saussure, a Swiss geologist and meteorologist, took his research further beyond the theological realm. In this engraving by Ambroise Tardieu, circa , based upon a painting, Saussure is holding a pick ax and what appears to be a compass in his left hand. He appears to be in the Alps, perhaps at the base camp of Mont Blanc. He looks in awe of nature, his gaze looking up to the heavens. The depiction of both the scientific tools, and the heaven-bound gaze show Saussure's use of both his religious and scientific knowledge.

In his fourteen trips to the Alps, he made experiments on heat, cold, the weight of the atmosphere, electricity, and magnetism. He also discovered fifteen different minerals, which proved to himself that there were differences between rocks--that all rocks were not the same, and from here he theorized that perhaps these minerals existed in other parts of the world. His records were published in his Voyages dans les Alpes, précédes dún essai sur l'histoire des envirous de Genéve, or Voyages in the Alps, preceding a history of the environment of Geneve, where he wrote "I did not believe my eyes, it seemed to me that it was a dream, when I saw under my feet these majestic summits, these frightening needles, South, Argentière, the Giant, whose same bases had been for me of a so difficult and so dangerous access."

Saussure did not arrive at a general system for the earth, yet he provided valuable data for those who followed him, such as Charles Lyell, who said "his theoretical observations are mere modifications of the old cosmological doctrines."

 


Copyright 2002: History 257 - Mount Holyoke College
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