Source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
HARTT, CHARLES FREDERICK, geologist and paleontologist; b. 23 Aug. 1840 at Fredericton, N.B., eldest son of Jarvis William Hartt and Prudence Brown; m. in 1869 Lucy Lynde of Buffalo, N.Y., by whom he had two children; d. in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 18 March 1878.
Charles Frederick Hartt’s father was principal of the Baptist seminary in Fredericton, New Brunswick, when his son was born; he soon joined the staff of Horton Academy, Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Charles Frederick was educated at the academy and at Acadia College, receiving his ba in 1860. In that year his father moved to Saint John, N.B., and established a young ladies’ high school, where his son taught for a year.
From an early age C. Fred Hartt (as he was usually known) manifested a great interest in the natural sciences, especially geology and paleontology, and he made extensive collections in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Several species new to science which he had collected were described by Sir William Dawson* in Acadian geology (Edinburgh, 1855). From 1861 to 1864 Hartt studied under Professor Louis Agassiz at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge, Mass. Hartt was a founding member, along with Moses H. Perley*, George Frederic Matthew*, and others, of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick in 1862; the society bought his fossil collections to assist in financing his studies under Professor Agassiz. In 1864 he and G. F. Matthew assisted Professor Loring Woart Bailey* of the University of New Brunswick in a government-instituted survey of southern New Brunswick.
In 1865 when Professor Agassiz was organizing the Thayer Expedition to Brazil, Hartt was appointed one of the two geologists. The expedition returned to the United States in 1866 but Hartt went back in 1867 for further study of the geology of the Bahia region and the coral reefs. In 1868 he became professor of natural history at Vassar College but soon resigned to become head of the department of geology at Cornell University.
Brazil was, however, his great interest. In 1870 he organized the largest of his expeditions, taking with him another professor and 11 Cornell students. On this and a subsequent expedition he worked in the Amazonas. In 1874 he submitted a proposition to the Brazilian government for a geological survey of Brazil, and in 1875 the Geological Commission of the Empire of Brazil was organized with Professor Hartt as its chief. For the next three years he directed expeditions working in many parts of the country and set up a museum to house all the scientific specimens collected. Then in the spring of 1878, when he returned to Rio de Janeiro after an exhausting inland expedition, he died of yellow fever at the age of 38, cutting short a brilliant career.
Hartt’s contribution to scientific research in Brazil did not end with his own outstanding geological work. Inspired by his example the students whom he had taken to Brazil continued the research long after his death. Dr John Casper Branner, who had been personally associated with Hartt, wrote: “It is not difficult to sum up Hartt’s influence upon geological work in Brazil, for with very few exceptions all the work of this character which has been done in that country since 1874 is traceable, either directly or indirectly, to the impetus given it by Hartt . . . as he was not a narrow specialist but a broad-minded naturalist, his students have also done other than purely geological work.”
J. C. Branner, “Prof. Hartt in Brazil,” Cornell Magazine (Ithaca, N.Y.), February 1890. G. U. Hay, “Memorial sketch of the life and work of Prof. Ch. Fred. Hartt,” New Brunswick Natural History Society, Report, 1881 (Saint John, N.B.), 3–14; “The scientific work of Prof. Chas. Fred. Hartt,” RSCT, 2nd ser., V (1899),