Jaccard, Auguste

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Jaccard, Auguste

(b.Culliairy, Neuch.âtel, Switzerland, 6 July 1833;d. Le Locle, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 5 January 1895)

geology, paleontology.

Auguste Jaccard came from a strongly Protestant family; his parents belonged to the Maāhrische Brü community. His father made music boxes and was a small farmer. Hoping to better themselves financially the family resettled in 1840 in Ste. Croix, where Auguste attended the village school. In 1845 the family moved to Le Locle. The father was by now pursuing the watchmaker’s trade, and Auguste helped him in this whillh continuing with his schoolling.

The revolutionary ideas and political events of 1845-1848, in which the students of Le Locle actively participated, induced the intensely religious, conservative father to take Auguste and his three brothers out od school. Until1875 the father and his sons ran a family watchmaking business. Auguste then became independent, operating his own watchmaking business until 1885.

In 1849 there appeared the first symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis, of which he was to die. He married Marie Joly in 1857; they had four children.

Even as a boy Jaccard collected fossils. At first he did not recognize their importance, since he had no books and no guidance in identifying the specimens. But in the winter of 1848-1849 a Ste. Croix physician named Campiche took an interest in him and therewith began his passion for geology and paleontology. In 1853he came under the influence of Desor, professor of geology at the Academy of Neuchâtel. Through Desor, Jaccard came to know the important geologists of the Swiss Jura, including Gressly, Tribolet, Pictet de la Rive, Loriol, and Renevier.

In 1868 Desor named Jaccard as his assistant, and in 1873 Jaccard succeeded him as professor of geology; he hled this chair until his death. In 1883 the University of Zurich conferred a doctorate honoris causa on him. Over the years Jaccard held various administrative and public posts. His colleagues and friends saw in him a tireless worker, a passionate collector, and an upstanding, ever-helpful human being.

Jaccard’s geological and paleontological works are concerned almost exclusively with the Swiss Jura and abjacent parts of France. His first publication, in 1856, dealt with 140 subtropical types of Tertiary flora from the freshwater limestone of Le Locle. He was aided and encouraged by Oswald Heer in Zurich. His later publications treated the tortoises of this locality, as well as reptiles, fish, and invertebrates of the Jurassic and Cretaceous systems in the Jura.

Geological mapping constituted a great segment of Jaccard’s lifework. In 1861 he became a collaborator on the geological map of Switzerland, and he published the following year three sheets in the scale 1 : 100, 000, with commentary, dealing with parts of the Jura mountains. In 1877 he published a geological map of the canton of Neuchâtel, and in 1892 there appeared a geological mapping and description of the French Chablais Alps south of the Lake of Geneva—the result of six year’s work.

Along with his mapping and the consequent paleontological, stratigraphic, and tectonic projects, Jaccard busied himself over many years with questions and problems of practical geology. There were numerous publications on hydrogeology, hydrology, and the springs and groundwaters of the Jura. He provided expert advice on water supplies, often as the member of a commission, to various cities of his home region. In 1882 he reported on a hydrological map of Neuchâtel canton. His other publications treated the possibility of establishing factories utilizing Jura limestone for cement production.

As a geologist and member of the board of directors for asphalt mining in Val de Travers (southwest of Neuchâtel), he became involved in investigating the occurrence and origin of bitumen, petroleum, and asphalt in Switzerland. He was among the first to declare petroleum to be of organic origin—as opposed to the then widely held view proposing an inorganic, hydrothermal origin from the depths of the earth. Surface oil traces in the Tertiary Molasses sediments of the Neuchâtel environs, as well as the investigation of geological circumstances there, prompted Jaccard to propose deep drilling in the hope of finding petroleum. Drilling and exploration in the Swiss Tertiary Molasses sediments continued up to the middle of the twentieth century.


I. Original Works. “Notes sur la fossile du terrain d’eau douce supérieur du Locle”, in Bulletin de la Société des sciences naturelles de Neuchâtel, 2 (1856); “Description de quelques débris de retiles et de poissons fossiles trouvés dans l’étage jurassique supériur (virgulien) du Jura neuchâtelois”, in Martériaux pour la paleontologie suisse, 3rd ser., no. 1 (1860), 20 pls., written with F. J. Pictet de la Rive; “Description géologique du Jura vaudois et de quelques districts adjacents du Jura français et de la plaine suisse”, in Beiträge zur geologishen Karte der Schweiz, 6 (1869), 8 pls., 2 maps; “Supplément à la description du jura vaudois et neuchâtelois (sixième livraison)”, ibid., 7 , pt. 1 (1870), 4 pls., map; “Observations sur les roches untilisées par la fabrique de cimetn de Saint- Sulpice et sur les terres à briques du Jura”, in Bulletin de la Société des sciences naturelles de Neuchchâtel, 9 (1879);“Étude sur les massifs du Chablais comprise enter l’Arve et la Drance (feuilles de Thonon et d’Annecy)”, in Bulletin du Service de la carte géologique de al France et Topographic souterraine, 3 , no. 26 (1892); “Le pétrole, l’asphalte et le bitume au point de vue géologique”, in Bibliothàque scientifique international, 81 (1895).

II. Secondary Literature. M. de Tribolet, “Notice sur la vie et les travaux d’Auguste Jaccard”, in Bulletin de la Société des sciences naturelles de Neuchâtel, 23 (1895). 210-242 (with bibl. and portrait); and Auguste Jaccard 1833-1895”, in Actes de la Société helvétique des sciences naturelles (Zermatt, 1895), pp. 205-211; H. Rivier, “La Société neuchâteloise des Sciences naturalles 1832-1932. Notice histroique publicée à l’occasion de son centenaire”, in Bulletin de la Société des sciences naturelles de Neuchâtel, 56 (1932), 5-83, 7 pls.

Heinz Tobien