north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Arnold Guyot is probably best remembered in this state for the fact that a peak on the border with Tennessee bears his name. His contributions toward extending knowledge of the Appalachians and opening the region to exploration, development, and tourism are underappreciated. Born in Switzerland, Guyot forsook ministry training to complete doctoral work on glaciology at the University of Berlin. In 1848 he followed his friend Louis Agassiz to Harvard University and in 1854 moved to Princeton University where he remained. Guyot pioneered physical geography as a field of study, conceived the use of weather stations, and authored secondary school textbooks.

     Guyot’s “zeal for obtaining altitudes was untiring,” according to the Dictionary of American Biography sketch. Using the best equipment of the day, Guyot began work in the upper reaches of the Appalachian range in New England. Beginning in July 1856, he systematically took elevation measurements at over 180 sites across western North Carolina including all of the highest peaks. He employed the help of locals, several in Haywood County, to serve as guides, cut paths, and assist. The work required that he spend at least one night on each peak. He achieved remarkably accurate readings, ones accepted for generations. For example, for Black Dome (the peak later renamed Mount Mitchell), he measured an altitude of 6,707 feet whereas the modern-day elevation is accepted as 6,684. In 1860 he published his findings in an Asheville newspaper and subsequently in scientific treatises. His readings were the basis for maps drawn during the Civil War and for an 1883 map by state geologist W. C. Kerr.


References:
Myron H. Avery and Kenneth S. Boardman, “Arnold Guyot’s Notes on the Geography of the Mountain District of Western North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1938): 251-318
James D. Dana, “Biographical Memoir of Prof. Arnold Guyot,” Smithsonian Report (1889)
Dictionary of American Biography, VII, 63-64--sketch by Robert M. Brown
S. Kent Schwarzkopf, A History of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains (1985)
Asheville News, 18 July 1860
Asheville Citizen-Times, 24 July 1932
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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