28. Hugi, Franz Joseph (1796-1855)

Naturhistorische Alpenreise.  Solothurn: Amiet-Lutiger; Leipzig: Friedrich Fleischer, 1830.


Climbing the Finsteraarhorn, from Franz Hugi, Naturhistorische Alpenreise, 1830.


Hugi’s hut on the Unteraar glacier, titlepage vignette, from Franz Hugi, Naturhistorische Alpenreise, 1830.

Hugi was both a mountaineer and a professor of natural history in Switzerland.  He made the first scientific studies of Alpine glaciers in our period (1818-1860). 

He was also a member of the first party to climb the Finsteraarhorn, the highest mountain in the Bernese Alps, in 1829.  This mountain feeds a long glacier, the Aar, and on the lower part (the Unteraar) Hugi did a series of studies to measure the speed of glacial movement, and to determine the process by which the snow at the top (called névé) becomes transformed into glacial ice.

The frontispiece of his little book is a rather dramatic depiction of mountaineering techniques of the period.  But the title-page vignette is more relevant to our story. It shows a little hut that Hugi erected on the Unteraar glacier, where he could live while he studied glacial movement. 

A detail of the map in the book shows the location of “Hugi’s hut,” as the British would later call it.  Although it was not his intention, it would turn out that the motion of this hut down the glacier over the next decade would provide a better indicator of glacier movement than any method previously devised (see item 30).







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