200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 48: “That's Some Nerve! ”

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photo showing Angelo Heilprin on Mont Pelee, Martinique
Commercially produced stereoview of Angelo Heilprin (center) and two "French gentlemen of Martinique" on the lower slope of Mont Pelée: Ewell Sale Stewart Library & Archives Coll. 147, Expedition no. 53.

That's Some Nerve!

When he first learned of the devastating 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée in Martinique, Academy geologist Angelo Heilprin (1853–1907) realized the importance of studying the seismic forces involved. He also wondered how having this knowledge could help geologists learn about future eruptions. He took the first steamer to the island and made his famous ascent of the active volcano. Despite falling rocks and the hazard of deadly gases, he remained in the vicinity for four hours. He returned to the summit a second time to record more data and to take photographs. His calm demeanor during this hazardous work won him praise and spread his fame as a fearless scientist throughout the world. American journalist George Kennan, who accompanied Heilprin on his first ascent, described him as “the nerviest and pluckiest man I ever knew.”

The Academy is still home to brilliant, brave scientists and animal handlers! Would you stick your hand inside a bird, pet a skunk, or let a snake wrap itself around your body? Visit Science Live at the Academy to meet staff members who do these things every day!

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