Angelo Heilprin

Angelo Heilprin (March 31, 1853 – July 17, 1907) was an American geologist, paleontologist, naturalist, and explorer.

He is mostly known for the part he took into the Peary expedition to Greenland of 1891–1892 and for his observations and photographs of the 1902 eruption of Montagne Pelée in Martinique.

He also was a mountaineer and a painter.


Angelo Heilprin was born at Sátoraljaújhely, in the Zemplén County of the Kingdom of Hungary. His family was Jewish.[1] He arrived in the United States from the Austrian Empire with his father Michael and his brother Louis in 1856.[2]

He went back to Europe in 1876 for two years to complete his education. He studied at the Royal School of Mines, London,[3] at the Imperial Geological Institution of Vienna, and at Florence (where he had his only formal training in painting) and Geneva; he also went to Hungary, where he mountaineered in the Carpathians, and to Poland where he visited family for six months.[4]

He then became professor of invertebrate paleontology and of geology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (1880–1900), curator of the museum of that institution (1883–1892), professor of geology at the Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia (1885–1890); and he was the first president of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, serving for seven years.[5]

Also a painter, Heilprin exhibited Autumn's First Whisper at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1880, and Forest Exiles at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1883.

In 1902 he founded the American Alpine Club.[6]

In 1904, he was given a chair at Yale.


In Heilprin's life research travels alternate with periods of teaching and writing. He visited Florida, the Bermudas, Mexico, Greenland and Martinique while also devoting work to his more immediate surroundings. His mountaineering skills were put to use many times in his scientific work.

In 1886, Heilprin undertook an expedition to the then little-known west coast of Florida.[7]
In 1887 he went to the Bermudas with members of his classes to study coral reefs, confirming Charles Darwin's 1842 views expressed in The structure and distribution of coral reefs.[8]
In 1888, Heilprin was in Mexico, where he ascended volcanos: Ixtaccihuatl, Nevado de Toluca, Pico de Orizaba and Popocatepetl, establishing their altitudes with barometric measures. He also shed light on questions about the geology of the Yucatan and the coral reefs of the western Gulf of Mexico.[9]

En 1891 Heilprin embarked with Robert Peary on an expedition to Greenland organized by the Academy of Natural Sciences. Peary was the leader of the north-bound expedition, which was to prove that Greenland is an island. Heilprin headed the "Western Expedition" comprising half a dozen scientists.[10] The scientists collected data then returned to the U.S., while Peary remained in Greenland.[11] But the next year Heilprin was back to Greenland, leading the "Peary relief expedition".[12][13]

In 1902, when Montagne Pelée in Martinique erupted,[14] reducing the city of Saint-Pierre to ashes, Heilprin was one of the first scientists to arrive to the site. His works, photographs and eyewitness account of the phenomena and their consequences are unique. He was the first geologist to ascend a side of the crater.[15] He revisited it in 1903 and in February 1906 descended into the crater itself.



Selected works and documents

Selected works

Articles for the general public

With Louis Heilprin

  • Lippincott's new gazetteer: a complete pronouncing gazetteer or geographical dictionary of the world, containing the most recent and authentic information respecting the countries, cities, towns, resorts, islands, rivers, mountains, seas, lakes, etc., in every portion of the globe, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 2 vol., 1916, ©1911 New edition: 1922




  1. Lee Levinger, A History of the Jews in the United States, Wildside Press LLC (2007), p. 302
  2. Angelo was three and Louis five. The unsuccessful Hungarian Revolution and Independence War of 1848 played a role in the move. Phineas Mendel, Angelo's grandfather, a Poland-born Talmudist, had had sympathy for the revolutionaries and his father, also born in Poland, had been a government employee under Lajos Kossuth. Michael Heilprin was to be a contributor to the American Cyclopædia and Phineas Mendel joined the family in 1859. Appletons.
    Pollak is a source for Michael's and Louis' biographies.
  3. "[T]he best man in my class" wrote Thomas Henry Huxley to Henry Newell Martin of Johns Hopkins University. Heilprin might have accepted a fellowship there but the letter informing him of the possibility never reached him. Pollak, p. 239
  4. Pollak, page 238
  5. "Addresses Delivered at the Meeting Held in Honor of the Memory of Professor Angelo Heilprin". Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia. VI. Jan 1908.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2012-09-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. He coined the now-obsolete term of "Floridian" designating a period of the middle Pliocene. "Floridian", in Moureau, Magdeleine and Brace, Gerald, Comprehensive dictionary of earth sciences, p. PA185, at Google Books. Ophrys, 2000 ISBN 9782710807490
  8. Pollak, p. 259
  9. The results of that research trip to Mexico (and that of 1906) were never published. They can however be found in the proceedings of the Academy and in Heilprin's papers. Excerpts can be found in Pollak, pp. 260–263.
  10. There also was a reporter of the New York Herald.
  11. Pollak, p. 265
  12. Description of the Heilprin documents of the expedition
  13. "Peary Relief Expedition []". The New York Times. June 28, 1892. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  14. 08-05-1902
  15. 31-05-1902 and 01-06-1902. Lacroix, Alfred (1975). La Montagne Pelée et ses éruptions (in French). 2. Monaco: Cercle européen d'édition. p. 112. OCLC 61549644.
  16. Noble, G. K. (1923). "Six new batrachians from the Dominican Republic". American Museum Novitates. 61: 1–6.
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