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Guyot, Arnold

Guyot, Arnold

Guyot, Arnold

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Photograph by Pach Bro's, 841 B'way, N.Y.

Source: United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division

Arnold [Henri] Guyot (1807-1884), who in 1855 began the first systematic instruction in geology at Princeton, was born at Boudevilliers near Neuchatel, Switzerland. He obtained his doctoral degree at Berlin with a dissertation on "Natural Classification of Lakes." Between 1839 and 1848 he taught physical geography and history at the Academy of Neuchatel. In 1848 the Academy was closed, and at the suggestion of his friend Louis Agassiz, he came to the United States. He gave a series of lectures at the Lowell Institute in Boston titled "The Earth and Man," which became the basis for a highly successful text of the same name, recently reprinted (1971) by the Arno Press. In 1854 he was appointed Professor of Geology and Physical Geography at the College of New Jersey and the following year began what is now the Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences. Guyot's interests were in glaciology, physical geography, meteorology, and cartography. His early studies on the flow of ice and the distribution of glacial erratics in Switzerland served to underpin the theory of glaciation that had been advanced and championed by his close associate Agassiz.

In this country his main activities focused on hypsometric measurements of the eastern mountains from New England to North Carolina, on meteorology, and on the reform of geographic teaching in colleges and secondary schools.

He was intimately involved in the formative years of weather forecasting in the United States and was responsible for selecting and equipping some fifty meteorological observation stations for the network developed through the efforts of Joseph Henry for the Smithsonian Institution. He spent many summers making barometric measurements to determine mountain elevations from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia along what is now the Appalachian Trail. He used these occasions as field exercises in which Princeton students could practice barometric techniques, an early example of the long tradition of Princeton geology to include students in faculty field research as part of their educational experience.

Guyot's many texts, geographic atlases, and wall charts continued to be published long after his death.

In 1856 he founded what is now the Princeton Museum of Natural History and continued to contribute specimens to it until his death at the age of 78. He was the first incumbent of the Blair Professorship of Geology, the second oldest endowed chair at Princeton. Three Mt. Guyots -- in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on the North Carolina-Tennessee line in the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Colorado Rockies -- were named in his honor, as were the Guyot Glacier in southeastern Alaska and the Guyot Crater on the moon. The great flat-topped seamounts that characterize many parts of the ocean floor were named "guyots" in his honor by Harry H. Hess. And of course there is Guyot Hall.

Few memorabilia remain of Guyot's life. At Princeton there are forty-six cloth wall hangings that he used for illustrative materials in his classroom. In Guyot Hall is the field toilet kit he carried on his mountain explorations. In Guyot Hall also are his handwritten labels of the glacial erratic stones he collected in the 1840s in Switzerland, the specimens themselves being long gone. In front of Nassau Hall stands the Guyot boulder, a glacial erratic given to Princeton by Arnold Guyot's former students at the Academy of Neuchatel.

Source: Sheldon Judson as quoted in Leitch p. 232 ff