German-Swiss geologist who studied Swiss glaciers. The son of a mining engineer who followed his father's profession, Charpentier did excellent work in copper mines in the Pyrénées and salt mines in western Switzerland.
His focus changed when in 1818 a lake dammed by a glacier broke through and drowned many people. He made extensive field studies in the Alps. Using evidence of erratic boulders and moraines, he hypothesized that Swiss glaciers had once been much more extensive. These boulders, characteristic of glaciers, were strewn as if brought there by glaciers that no longer existed. Even so, he wasn't sure how glaciers first formed, moved, or how they disappeared. His ideas were taken up and developed by Louis Agassiz.
Short biography, extract from History of Geology and Palæontology to the End of the Nineteenth Century (1910).
Today in Science History, webpage for Johann von Charpentier's birthdate, 8 Dec 1786.