Life

PortraitElizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz (1822-1907) was the wife of Louis Agassiz, well-known Swiss naturalist and founder of the MCZ. However, although she worked closely with Agassiz and heavily influenced his work, she is most remembered for her own work in natural history and also for helping found Radcliffe College.

Elizabeth Agassiz' father was a successful businessman and her mother came from a wealthy, well connected Boston family. She married Louis Agassiz in 1850, managed his household and became his assistant. In 1855 the couple opened a day school for girls in their home; Harvard professors including James Lowell and Benjamin Pierce taught classes as did Louis Agassiz himself. So did Alexander Agassiz (Louis' son and Elizabeth's stepson) and Alexander's two sisters, Ida and Pauline. Later, the Agassiz family founded a coeducational school of marine natural science on Penikese Island in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts. 

Although she had been educated at home and had no formal scientific training, Elizabeth helped organize and manage several of Louis's expeditions and she co-authored with Louis an account of their trip to the Amazon. She was the official record keeper for the Hassler Expedition to South America and wrote articles about it for the Atlantic Monthly. In addition she wrote two natural history books for children, one with her stepson Alexander, to whom she was very close. 

An advocate for women's education, Elizabeth Agassiz was instrumental in helping establish what became Radcliffe College and served as its first president.