Skip to main content

Harvard People

March 2023
1min read

While reading Gerard Fiel’s “… to thy jubilee throng” (August/September issue), 1 noticed the picture of Benjamin Peirce and Louis Agassiz, “two of Harvard’s most eminent scientists,” with a globe between them. The name Benjamin Peirce stimulated my memory enough to send me searching for my two-volume first edition of Elsie Venner , written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and published by Ticknor and Fields in 1861.

My hunch was correct. On the flyleaf of Volume I there was an inscription, “Benjamin Peirce from his friend and classmate—O. W. Holmes.” Both professors were born in 1809. Holmes was the author and physician; Peirce was the astronomer and mathematician.

Curiosity also prompted me to check out the Harvard gentleman on the other side of the globe. Prof. Louis Agassiz, “zoologist and geologist,” was also a colleague of Holmes. Holmes outlived these friends and wrote memorial verses in their honor:


How the mountains talked together Looking down upon the weather, When they heard our friend had planned his Little trip among the Andes! How they’ll bare their snowy scalps To the climber of the Alps When the cry goes through their passes Here comes the great Agassiz!


For him the Architect of all Unroofed our planet’s starlit hall; Through voids unknown to worlds unseen His clearer vision rose serene. With us on earth he walked by day, His midnight path how far away! We knew him not so well who knew The patient eyes his soul looked through.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "December 1986"

Authored by: John A. Garraty

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

When Elsie Parrish was fired, her fight for justice led to dramatic changes in the nation’s highest court.

Authored by: Bethany Ewald Bultman

New Orleans cuisine—with its French roux, African okra, Indian filé, and Spanish peppers—is literally a gastronomic melting pot. Here’s how it all came together.

Authored by: Henry I. Kurtz

Fifty years ago these rough-and-ready tin soldiers were sold from bins cheap and by the handful. Today collectors are seeking them for their bright, simple vitality.

Authored by: Peter Baida

It began early. It’s not going away. It’s about a lot more than payoffs and ward politics.
And it’s about a lot more than New York.

Authored by: Ronald H. Spector

Historians have failed to help Americans understand what the war was all about. So charges this scholar, author, and Vietnam veteran.

Featured Articles

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.