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THE GALAXY, January 1871




An item has been going the rounds of the press to the effect that our Agassiz is suffering from softening of the brain. Even the idle rumor of such a disaster to the nation was sufficient to cause genuine and wide-spread pain and anxiety. A day or two ago I found the following item in the "Journal of Science," and somehow it seemed to me to point distinctly toward the innocent origin of that rumor:

Agassiz, during the last year, has discovered ten thousand different varieties of the fly.

Fancy some straggling ignoramus happening along and finding the stately old philosopher catching flies! dead to everything else; unconscious even of staring and speechless intruders; but fiercely grabbing and snatching at flies on his sleeve, on his forehead, on his cheek, on his knees, on the table, on the chairs; chasing them up the glass and penning them eagerly in the corner of the pane; making desperate reaches for them high up on the wall; capering hither and thither, and making incessant passes at them on the wing, and presently, with a war-whoop brim full of scientific exultation, pouncing on a sublime horse-fly with his inverted hat, and instantly sitting down on it to make the capture a dead moral certainty!

What more natural than that the astonished spectator of such a performance should go away and state that that old person was afflicted with softening of the brain? The rumor has probably no worthier foundation.

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