Alexander Agassiz, renowned scientist, engineer, geologist and humanitarian, took a failing enterprise and turned it into what was then the greatest copper mine in the world.
In 1867 the Calumet and Hecla copper companies of Lake Superior were in total chaos. Experts claimed that the area could not be mined and the companies were headed for failure. Agassiz took charge, applying his knowledge of geology and engineering to the problem of making a great mining property profitable. He personally supervised every branch and detail of the work and served as architect and builder of the industry and community. When the two companies merged in 1871, he continued as President of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company. He paid good wages and looked after the safety and welfare of the miners and their families. Under his direction the company built hundreds of homes for employees, a high school, library, and hospital. Under his guidance the mine was well-organized and highly profitable, so he took the time to also serve as Curator of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, a creation of his father, Louis Agassiz.
His love of science took him on many expeditions; he studied the copper mines of Peru and Chile and surveyed Lake Titicaca. His studies of deep-sea flora and fauna took him to the West Indies, Fiji, Panama, the Galapagos Islands, Australia and the Indian Ocean. He studied every major coral formation in the world and published numerous books on natural science.
Alexander Agassiz was truly a great scientist and mining executive who brought order out of chaos and achieved success out of failure, by bringing the Michigan copper industry to greatness.