Guyot, Arnold [Henri]

Guyot, Arnold [Henri] (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.

Sheldon Judson

Guyot Hall, named for Princeton's first professor of geology and geography, Arnold Guyot, was given to the University by the mother of Cleveland H. Dodge 1879. In planning what was to become the home of the biology and geology departments, Professor William Berryman Scott, then chairman of both, sent out a faculty committee to study other important American laboratory buildings. The floor plans, worked out by the departments concerned and drawn up by Professor Gilbert Van Ingen, were accepted by the architects Parrish and Schroeder with scarcely any change. ``Being, thus, practically designed by the men who were to use it,'' Professor Scott said thirty years after the building's completion in 1909, ``Guyot Hall has always been a very satisfactory place in which to work.''

The building contained about two acres of floor space and some 100 rooms. The ground floor was assigned to the Natural History Museum so that it might attract the attention of people on their way to lecture-laboratory rooms and offices on other floors. On the second floor a large central reading room housed the two departmental libraries; they eventually outgrew this space and were separated.

In exterior design, Guyot followed the Tudor Gothic style inaugurated in Blair and Little Halls, but with the red brick and limestone trim first used in Seventy-nine Hall. Added as an extra Gothic feature, in keeping with Guyot's purpose, were many extinct and living animals and plants represented by stone carvings on the molding around the building -- some 200 of them, students discovered in a survey they made in the 1950s. These gargoyle-like ornaments were created in the studio of Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of the Mount Rushmore presidential portraits, in South Dakota.

Several additions were made to Guyot in the 1960s to accommodate the growth of the two departments. The George M. Moffett Biological Laboratory was built in 1960 with funds provided by the Whitehall Foundation, established by George M. Moffett '04 and the National Institutes of Health. That same year a one-story addition was made for geology, and in 1964 a larger three-story addition for geochemistry and geophysics was built with help from the National Science Foundation. All three additions were designed by O'Connor and Kilham.

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

The Natural History Museum, founded in 1856 by Arnold Guyot, had previously been housed in Nassau Hall in what is now the Faculty Room; it expanded rapidly after the completion of Guyot Hall. The museum possesses several hundred thousand geological, biological, and archaeological specimens. The mineralogical collections contain a sample of almost every available mineral and gem in the world. Fossil vertebrates brought back by Princeton scientific expeditions to the Far West, Patagonia, and elsewhere are internationally famous. There is also an excellent collection of fossil fishes, recovered in 1946 from rocks exposed by the excavation for Firestone Library. Museum specimens of special interest include skeletons of the sabre-toothed tiger, mastodon, three-toed horse, and giant pig, and the fossil of an Eocene perch preserved in the act of trying to swallow a herring.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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