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5 The Grand Synthesis

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Chapter Summary

The ice-age theory Agassiz presented in July 1837 was based on a synthesis of various foregoing theories he had worked out together with Schimper. Both of them were indebted to Venetz and de Charpentier for important input. The motivation driving Agassiz and Schimper to work out their grand synthesis was not of a geological nature. Their intention was to underpin their speculative interpretation of natural history influenced by romantic natural philosophy. The ice ages were metaphorically speaking the motor behind the development of living organisms. When Agassiz presented the new theory to a larger scientific audience in summer 1837, he encountered similar to Venetz in 1829 harsh criticism and rejection. These considerations formulated together with Schimper were too contradictory to the established theories about the Earth and climate history.

Keywords:glaciers; ice-age theory; Karl Friedrich Schimper; Louis Agassiz



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