Saussure Horace Benedict of … – Mont-Blanc


Saussure Horace Benedict de – … Mont-Blanc: This newspaper is a “live” testimony of the summer of 1787 and the ascent, for the second time in history, of Mont Blanc. Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (1740-1799) arrived on July 7 in Chamonix with his family and important luggage. He was an accomplished scientist, fascinated by distant peaks and curious to be able to practice his experiments. Barometer, thermometer, diaphanometer, stove, ether capsules are part of his luggage. Alongside the flannel vests, frock coats, woolen stockings, crepes, nightgowns, slippers and other items he had listed for his ascent. He keeps a diary in which he records daily activities, visits, meals; sometimes writing in Greek for more discretion! The weather in July is rainy and it will have to wait for long weeks before finally being able, on August 3rd, to put the foot on the top. Taking care to note his impressions and feelings throughout the climb, including altitude sickness that will prevent him from doing all the experiments he wanted to do at 4’809 meters. Unhappy, he wrote: I was like a gourmet invited to a superb feast and an extreme disgust prevents him from enjoying it.

But de Saussure’s travels are not limited to this unique ascent: “At the age of eighteen,” he said, “I had already traveled several times to the nearest mountains in Geneva … I was burning with the desire to to see near the high Alps … finally, in 1760, I went alone, on foot, to visit the glaciers of Chamonix, little frequented then, and whose access even passed for dangerous. I returned there the following year, and from then on I did not miss a single year without making great races. I crossed the Alps chain fourteen times, through eight different passages; I made sixteen other excursions. This is the account of some of his observations that you will find in The Ascension to Mont Blanc (excerpts): “The hero has reported on his travels and experiences in four huge quarto. We could not think of reproducing the scientific part of this relation: it is too extensive … But the picturesque details, the striking descriptions of truth, remain with all their interest and all their educational significance.

Horace-Benedict de Saussure, born February 17, 1740 in Conches, near Geneva, and died January 22, 1799 at the same place, is a naturalist and geologist from Geneva considered the founder of mountaineering. His life and his scientific work were set in the Alps, especially the Mont-Blanc massif, where he conducted various scientific researches and experiments. (Wikipedia)

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