Wilhelm von Humboldt
(1767–1835). Humboldt's quantitative work on botanical
laid the foundation for the field of biogeography
Between 1799 and 1804, Humboldt travelled extensively in Latin America, exploring and describing it for the first time in a manner generally considered to be a modern scientific point of view.
Devoted from my earliest youth to the study of nature, feeling with enthusiasm the wild beauties of a country guarded by mountains and shaded by ancient forests, I experienced in my travels, enjoyments which have amply compensated for the privations inseparable from a laborious and often agitated life.
One of the noblest characteristics which distinguish modern civilization from that of remoter times is, that it has enlarged the mass of our conceptions, rendered us more capable of perceiving the connection between the physical and intellectual world, and thrown a more general interest over objects which heretofore occupied only a few scientific men, because those objects were contemplated separately, and from a narrower point of view.
The expression of vanity and self-love becomes less offensive, when it retains something of simplicity and frankness.
Our imagination is struck only by what is great; but the lover of natural philosophy should reflect equally on little things.
In order to ameliorate without commotion new institutions must be made, as it were, to rise out of those which the barbarism of centuries has consecrated. It will one day seem incredible that until the year 1826 there existed no law in the Great Antilles to prevent the sale of young infants and their separation from their parents, or to prohibit the degrading custom of marking the negroes with a hot iron, merely to enable these human cattle to be more easily recognized.
The most powerful influence exercised by the Arabs on general natural physics was that directed to the advances of chemistry; a science for which this race created a new era.(...) Besides making laudatory mention of that which we owe to the natural science of the Arabs in both the terrestrial and celestial spheres, we must likewise allude to their contributions in separate paths of intellectual development to the general mass of mathematical science.
Wilhelm von Humboldt
(1767–1835). Humboldt's quantitative work on botanical
laid the foundation for the field of biogeography
Between 1799 and 1804, Humboldt travelled extensively in Latin America, exploring and describing it for the first time in a manner generally considered to be a modern scientific point of view. His description of the journey was written up and published in an enormous set of volumes over 21 years. He was one of the first to propose that the lands bordering the Atlantic Ocean were once joined (South America and Africa in particular). Later, his five-volume work, Kosmos (1845), attempted to unify the various branches of scientific knowledge. Humboldt supported and worked with other scientists, including Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac, Justus von Liebig
, Louis Agassiz
, Matthew Fontaine Maury
and, most notably, Aimé Bonpland
, with whom he conducted much of his scientific exploration.
Early life and educationHumboldt was born in Berlin in the Margraviate of Brandenburg
. His father, Alexander Georg von Humboldt, belonged to a prominent Pomerania
n family; a major in the Prussian Army
, he was rewarded for his services in the Seven Years' War
with the post of Royal Chamberlain
. He married the daughter of the Prussian general adjutant, von Schweder. In 1766, he married Maria Elizabeth Colomb, the widow of Baron von Hollwede, and they had two sons. The money of Baron von Holwede, left to his former wife, was instrumental in funding Alexander's explorations, contributing more than 70% of Alexander's income.
Due to his juvenile penchant for collecting and labelling plants, shells and insects, Alexander received the playful title of "the little apothecary". His father died in 1779, after which his mother saw to his education. Marked for a political career, he studied finance
for six months at the University of Frankfurt (Oder); a year later, on April 25, 1789, he matriculated at Göttingen, then known for the lectures of C. G. Heyne and J. F. Blumenbach
. His vast and varied interests were by this time fully developed, and during a vacation in 1789, he made a scientific excursion up the Rhine and produced the treatise Mineralogische Beobachtungen über einige Basalte am Rhein (Brunswick, 1790) (Mineralogic Observations on Several Basalts on the River Rhine).
Humboldt's passion for travel was confirmed by a friendship formed at Göttingen with Georg Forster
, Heyne's son-in-law and the companion of Captain James Cook
on Cook's second voyage. Thereafter, his talents were devoted to the purpose of preparing himself as a scientific explorer. With this emphasis, he studied commerce and foreign languages at Hamburg, geology at Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg
under A. G. Werner
, anatomy at Jena
under J. C. Loder
and astronomy and the use of scientific instruments under F. X. von Zach and J. G. Köhler
. His researches into the vegetation of the mines of Freiberg
led to the publication, in 1793, of his Florae Fribergensis Specimen. Long experimentation on muscular irritability, then recently discovered by Luigi Galvani
, were contained in his Versuche über die gereizte Muskel- und Nervenfaser (Berlin, 1797) (Experiments on the Frayed Muscle and Nerve Fibres), enriched in the French translation with notes by Blumenbach.
Travels and work in EuropeIn 1794 Humboldt was admitted to the famous Weimar
coterie and contributed (June 7, 1795) to Schiller
's new periodical, Die Horen, a philosophical allegory
entitled Die Lebenskraft, oder der rhodische Genius. In the summer of 1790 he paid a short visit to England in the company of Forster. In 1792 and 1797 he was in Vienna
; in 1795 he made a geological and botanical tour through Switzerland and Italy. He had obtained in the meantime official employment by appointment as assessor of mines at Berlin, February 29, 1792. Although this service to the state was regarded by him as only an apprenticeship to the service of science, he fulfilled its duties with such conspicuous ability that not only did he rise rapidly to the highest post in his department, but he was also entrusted with several important diplomatic missions. The death of his mother, on November 19, 1796, set him free to follow the bent of his genius, and severing his official connections, he waited for an opportunity to fulfil his long-cherished dream of travel.
Latin American expeditionOn the postponement of Captain Nicolas Baudin
's proposed voyage of circumnavigation
, which he had been officially invited to accompany, Humboldt left Paris for Marseille
with Aimé Bonpland
, the designated botanist of the frustrated expedition, hoping to join Napoleon Bonaparte
in Egypt. Means of transport, however, were not forthcoming, and the two travellers eventually found their way to Madrid
, where the unexpected patronage of the minister Don Mariano Luis de Urquijo
convinced them to make Spanish America the scene of their explorations.
, on June 5, 1799, stopped six days on the island of Tenerife
to climb Mount Teide
, and landed at Cumaná
, Venezuela, on July 16. Humboldt visited the mission at Caripe
, where he found the oil-bird
, which he was to make known to science as Steatornis caripensis. Returning to Cumaná, Humboldt observed, on the night of November 11–12, a remarkable meteor shower
). He proceeded with Bonpland to Caracas
; and in February 1800 they left the coast with the purpose of exploring the course of the Orinoco River. This trip, which lasted four months and covered 1725 miles (2,776.1 km) of wild and largely uninhabited country, had the important result of establishing the existence of the Casiquiare canal
(a communication between the water-systems of the rivers Orinoco and Amazon
), and of determining the exact position of the bifurcation
, as well as documenting the life of several native tribes such as the Maipures and their extinct rivals the Atures. Around March 19, 1800, von Humboldt and Bonpland discovered and captured some electric eel
s. They both received potentially dangerous electric shocks during their investigations. Two months later they explored the territory of the Maypures and that of the then recently extinct Aturès Indians.
On November 24, the two friends set sail for Cuba
, and after a stay of some months they regained the mainland at Cartagena, Colombia
. Ascending the swollen stream of the Magdalena
River and crossing the frozen ridges of the Cordillera Real
, they reached Quito
on January 6, 1802, after a tedious and difficult journey. Their stay there was marked by the ascent of Pichincha
and an attempt on Chimborazo
. Humboldt and his party reached an altitude of 19286 feet (5,878.4 m), a world record at the time. The journey concluded with an expedition to the sources of the Amazon en route for Lima, Peru. At Callao
, Humboldt observed the transit of Mercury
on November 9, and studied the fertilizing properties of guano
, the subsequent introduction of which into Europe was due mainly to his writings. A tempestuous sea-voyage brought them to Mexico, where they resided for a year, travelling to different cities.
Next, Humboldt made a short visit to the United States, staying in the White House
as a guest of President Thomas Jefferson
. Jefferson, a scientist himself, was delighted to have Humboldt as a guest and the two held numerous intense discussions on scientific matters. After six weeks, Humboldt set sail for Europe from the mouth of the Delaware
and landed at Bordeaux
on August 3, 1804.
Achievements of the Latin American expedition
. By his delineation (in 1817) of "isothermal lines", he at once suggested the idea and devised the means of comparing the climatic conditions of various countries. He first investigated the rate of decrease in mean temperature with the increase in elevation above sea level, and afforded, by his inquiries regarding the origin of tropical storms, the earliest clue to the detection of the more complicated law governing atmospheric disturbances in higher latitudes; while his essay on the geography of plants was based on the then novel idea of studying the distribution of organic life as affected by varying physical conditions. His discovery of the decrease in intensity of Earth's magnetic field
from the poles to the equator was communicated to the Paris Institute in a memoir read by him on December 7, 1804, and its importance was attested by the speedy emergence of rival claims. His services to geology were based mainly on his attentive study of the volcano
es of the New World
. He showed that they fell naturally into linear groups, presumably corresponding with vast subterranean fissures; and by his demonstration of the igneous
origin of rocks previously held to be of aqueous formation, he contributed largely to the elimination of erroneous views, such as Neptunism
, his first tasks were to properly survey that city and the nearby towns of Guanabacoa, Regla and Bejucal
He befriended Cuban landowner and thinker Francisco Arango y Parreño; together they visited the area in south Havana, the valleys of Matanzas
Province and the Valley of the Sugar Mills in Trinidad
. Those three areas were, at the time, the first frontier of sugar production in the island. During those trips, Humboldt collected statistical information on Cuba's population, production, technology and trade, and with Arango, made suggestions for enhancing them. He predicted that the agricultural and commercial potential of Cuba was huge and could be vastly improved with proper leadership in the future. After traveling to the United States, Humboldt returned to Cuba for a second, shorter stay in April 1804. During this time he socialized with his scientific and landowner friends, conducted mineralogical surveys and finished his vast collection of the island's flora and fauna.
Finally, Humboldt conducted a rudimentary census of the indigenous and European inhabitants in New Spain
, and on May 5, 1804, he estimated the population to be six million individuals.
The editing and publication of the encyclopedic mass of scientific, political and archaeological material that had been collected by him during his absence from Europe was now Humboldt's most urgent desire. After a short trip to Italy with Gay-Lussac
for the purpose of investigating the law of magnetic declination
and a sojourn of two and a half years in his native city, he finally, in the spring of 1808, settled in Paris with the purpose of securing the scientific cooperation required for bringing his great work through the press. This colossal task, which he at first hoped would occupy but two years, eventually cost him twenty-one, and even then it remained incomplete. In these early years in Paris, he shared accommodation and a laboratory with his former rival, and now friend, Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac, both working together on the analysis of gases and the composition of the atmosphere.
Humboldtian ScienceAlexander von Humboldt thought an approach to science was needed that could account for the harmony of nature among the diversity of the physical world. For Humboldt, "the unity of nature" meant that interrelation of all physical sciences- such as the conjoining between biology
that determined where specific plants grew. The scientist traced these relationships by unravelling myriad, painstakingly collected data, which turned into an enduring foundation for others to follow. Humboldt viewed nature holistically
. He tried to explain natural phenomena without the appeal to religious dogma. Humboldt used extensive observation to get the truth from the natural world. He had a vast array of the most sophisticated scientific instruments ever before assembled. Each had its own velvet lined box and was the most accurate and portable of its time. Essentially everything would be measured with the finest and most modern instruments and sophisticated techniques available, for all the collected data was the basis of all scientific understanding. This quantitative methodology would become known as "Humboldtian science." Humboldt wrote "Nature herself is sublimely eloquent. The stars as they sparkle in firmament fill us with delight and ecstasy, and yet they all move in orbit marked out with mathematical precision."
CriticismHis critics say his writings contain fantastical descriptions of America, while leaving out its inhabitants. They claim Humboldt, coming from the Romantic
school of thought, believed '...nature is perfect till man deforms it with care.' In this line of thinking, they think he largely neglected the human societies amidst this nature. The writing style that describes the 'new world' without people is a trend among explorers both of the past and present. Views of indigenous peoples as 'savage' or 'unimportant' leaves them out of the historical picture. In reality Humboldt dedicated large parts of his work to describing the conditions of slaves, Indians and society in general. He often showed his disgust for the slavery and inhumane conditions in which Indians and others were treated and he often criticized the colonial policies. Some of Humboldt's descriptions or assumptions were not accurate.
Humboldt acclaimedHumboldt was now one of the most famous men in Europe. The acclaimed American painter Rembrandt Peale
painted him during his European stay, between 1808 and 1810, as one of the most prominent figures in Europe at the time. A chorus of applause greeted him from every side. Academies, both native and foreign, were eager to enrol him among their members. He was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
in 1810. King Frederick William III of Prussia
conferred upon him the honour, without exacting the duties, attached to the post of royal chamberlain, together with a pension of 2,500 thaler
s, afterwards doubled. He refused the appointment of Prussian minister of public instruction in 1810. In 1814 he accompanied the allied sovereigns to London. Three years later he was summoned by the king of Prussia to attend him at the congress of Aachen
. Humboldt was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
in 1822. Again in the autumn of 1822 he accompanied the same monarch to the Congress of Verona
, proceeded thence with the royal party to Rome and Naples and returned to Paris in the spring of 1823.
s and as the savant of the Institut de France
and the observatory. During that time he met in 1818, the young and brilliant Peruvian student of the Royal Mining School of Paris, Mariano Eduardo de Rivero y Ustariz
. They became good friends. Subsequently von Humboldt acted as a mentor of the career of this promising Peruvian scientist. Thus, when at last he received from his sovereign a summons to join his court at Berlin, he obeyed indeed, but with deep and lasting regret. The provincialism of his native city was odious to him. He never ceased to rail against the bigotry without religion, aestheticism without culture, and philosophy without common sense, which he found dominant on the banks of the Spree
. The unremitting benefits and sincere attachment of two well-meaning princes secured his gratitude but could not appease his discontent. At first he sought relief from the "nebulous atmosphere" of his new abode by frequent visits to Paris; but as years advanced, his excursions were reduced to accompanying the monotonous "oscillations" of the court between Potsdam
and Berlin. On May 12, 1827, he settled permanently in the Prussian capital, where his first efforts were directed towards the furtherance of the science of terrestrial magnetism. For many years, it had been one of his favourite schemes to secure, by means of simultaneous observations at distant points, a thorough investigation of the nature and law of "magnetic storm
s" (a term invented by him to designate abnormal disturbances of Earth's magnetism
). The meeting at Berlin, on September 18, 1828, of a newly formed scientific association, of which he was elected president, gave him the opportunity of setting on foot an extensive system of research in combination with his diligent personal observations. His appeal to the Russian government, in 1829, led to the establishment of a line of magnetic and meteorological stations across northern Asia. Meanwhile his letter to the Duke of Sussex
, then (April 1836) president of the Royal Society
, secured for the undertaking, the wide basis of the British dominions
The Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, observes, "Thus that scientific conspiracy of nations which is one of the noblest fruits of modern civilization was by his exertions first successfully organized." However, earlier examples of international scientific cooperation exist, notably the 18th-century observations of the transits of Venus.
Then President of Mexico, Benito Juárez
, gave him honorary Mexican citizenship.
Explorations in RussiaIn 1811, and again in 1818, projects of Asiatic exploration were proposed to Humboldt, first by the Russian government, and afterwards by the Prussian government; but on each occasion, untoward circumstances interposed, and it was not until he had begun his sixtieth year that he resumed his early role of traveller in the interests of science. Between May and November 1829, he, together with his chosen associates, Gustav Rose and C. G. Ehrenberg, traversed the wide expanse of the Russian empire from the Neva to the Yenesei, accomplishing in twenty-five weeks a distance of 9614 miles (15,472.2 km). The journey, however, though carried out with all the advantages afforded by the immediate patronage of the Russian government, was too rapid to be profitable. The correction of the prevalent exaggerated estimate of the height of the Central Asian plateau, and the discovery of diamonds in the gold-washings of the Ural, a result which Humboldt's Brazilian experiences enabled him to predict, and by predicting to secure.
Humboldt as diplomatBetween 1830 and 1848 von Humboldt was frequently employed in diplomatic missions to the court of Louis Philippe
, with whom he always maintained the most cordial personal relations.
His brother, Wilhelm von Humboldt
, died in Alexander's arms on April 8, 1836. The death saddened the later years of his life; Alexander lamented that he had lost half of himself with the death of his brother.
Upon the accession of the crown prince Frederick William IV
in June 1840, Humboldt's favour at court increased. Indeed, the new king's craving for Humboldt's company became at times so importunate as to leave him only a few waking hours to work on his writing.
s he delivered before the University of Berlin
in the winter of 1827-28. In the words of one biography, these lectures would form "the cartoon
for the great fresco of the [K]osmos". The scope of this work may be described as the representation of the unity amidst the complexity of nature. Humboldt's work was by and large a synthesis of Kantian views of unity of natural phenomena. Drawing together the methods and instrumentation of the discrete sciences and with inspiration from German Romanticism
, Humboldt sought to create a compendium of the world's environment. The book was written for an educated audience and contains much contemporaneous scientific data.
The last decade of his long life — his "improbable" years, as he was accustomed to calling them — was devoted to the continuation of this work, of which the third and fourth volumes were published in 1850-58, while a fragment of a fifth was to appear posthumously in 1862. In these volumes he sought to elaborate upon the individual branches of science broadly surveyed in the first volume. Notwithstanding their high separate value, it must be admitted that, from an artistic point of view, these additions were deformities.
The characteristic idea of the work, so far as such a gigantic idea admitted of literary incorporation, was completely developed in its opening portions, and the attempt to convert it into a scientific encyclopædia was in truth to nullify its generating motive. Humboldt's remarkable industry and accuracy were never more conspicuous than in this latest trophy to his genius. Nor did he rely entirely on his own labours.
He owed much of what he accomplished to his rare power of assimilating thoughts that were not as his own and availing himself of others' cooperation. The notes to Kosmos overflow with laudatory citations, the current coin in which he discharged his intellectual debts.
Kosmos was very popular, especially in Britain and USA. In 1849 a German newspaper mused about the fact that in England two of the three different translations(!) of this work were made by women, "while in Germany most of the men do not understand it." The first had been made by Augustin Pritchard and published anonymous by Mr. Baillière, volume I in 1845 and volume II in 1848. But it suffered very much from the hurry it was made in. Humboldt wrote in a letter on this translation. "It will damage my reputation. All the charm of my description is destroyed by an English sounding like Sanskrit." The other two translations were made by Mrs. Sabine under the superintendence of her Husband Col. Edward Sabine
(4 volumes 1846–1858), and by Miss E.C. Otté (5 volumes 1849–1858, the only complete translation of the 4 German volumes). These three translations were also published in USA. The numbering of the volumes differ between the German and the English editions. Volume 3 of the German edition corresponds to the volumes 3 and 4 of the English translation, as the German volume appeared in 2 parts in 1850 and 1851. Volume 5 of the German edition was not translated until 1981, again by a woman. A great advantage of the English translation of Miss Otté was its detailed table of contents, and index for every volume; of the German edition only volumes 4 and 5 had an extremely short table of contents. German readers had to wait until the appearance of volume 5 in 1862 for an index.
Not so well known in Germany is the atlas belonging to the German edition of the Cosmos "Berghaus’ Physikalischer Atlas", better known as the pirated version by Traugott Bromme under the title "Atlas zu Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos" (Stuttgart 1861). In Britain Heinrich Berghaus
planned to publish together with Alexander Keith Johnston
a "Physical Atlas". But later Johnston published it alone under the title "The Physical Atlas of Natural Phenomena". In Britain its connection to the Cosmos seems not have been recognized.
Illness and deathOn February 24, 1857, Humboldt suffered a minor stroke
, which passed without perceptible symptoms. It was not until the winter of 1858-1859 that his strength began to decline, and that spring, on May 6, he died quietly in Berlin at the age of 89. The honours which had been showered on him during life continued after his death. His remains, prior to being interred in the family resting-place at Tegel
, were conveyed in state through the streets of Berlin, and received by the prince-regent at the door of the cathedral. The first centenary of his birth was celebrated on September 14, 1869, with great enthusiasm in both the New and Old Worlds. Numerous monuments were constructed in his honour, and newly explored regions named after Humboldt, bear witness to his wide fame and popularity.
Personal lifeMuch of Humboldt's private life remains a mystery because he destroyed his private letters.
In 1908 the sexual researcher Paul Näcke, who worked with outspoken gay
activist Magnus Hirschfeld
, gathered reminiscences of him from people who recalled his participation in the homosexual subculture of Berlin. A travelling companion, the pious Francisco José de Caldas
, accused him of frequenting houses where 'impure love reigned', of making friends with 'obscene dissolute youths', and giving vent to 'shameful passions of his heart'. On the question of homosexuality, author Robert F. Aldrich concludes, "As for so many men of his age, a definite answer is impossible."
Throughout his life Humboldt formed strong emotional attachments to men. In a letter to Reinhard von Haeften, a soldier, he wrote: "I know that I live only through you, my good precious Reinhard, and that I can only be happy in your presence." He never married, yet there were at least two notable occasions where he seemed to have been drawn to the opposite sex. The first was an adolescent infatuation with Henriette Herz
, the beautiful wife of Marcus Herz, his mentor, and the second was a short lived but intimate relationship with a woman named Pauline Wiesel in 1808 Paris. He was strongly attached to his brother's family. Four years before his death, he executed a deed of gift transferring the absolute possession of his entire property to an old family servant named Seifert.
Humboldt made many friends and had a reputation for widespread benevolence. He showed zeal for the improvement of the condition of the miners in Galicia and Franconia
, detestation of slavery, and patronage of rising men of science.
Species named after Humboldt
- See also the list of things named for Alexander von Humboldt.
As a consequence of his explorations, von Humboldt described many geographical features and species of life that were hitherto unknown to Europeans. Species named after him include:
- Spheniscus humboldti — Humboldt penguin
- Dosidicus gigas — Humboldt squid
- Lilium humboldtiiLilium humboldtiiLilium humboldtii is a species of lily endemic to California named after naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt...
— Humboldt's lily
- Phragmipedium humboldtii — an orchid
- Quercus humboldtiiQuercus humboldtiiQuercus humboldtii, commonly known as the Andean Oak, Colombian Oak or Roble, is a species of oak in the Fagaceae family. It is endemic to the highlands of northern South America, with an altitudinal range from 1,000 to 3,200 m...
— South American (Andean) oak
- Conepatus humboldtii — Humboldt's Hog-nosed skunk
- Annona humboldtii — Neotropical tree or shrub
- Annona humboldtiana — Neotropical tree or shrub
- Utricularia humboldtiiUtricularia humboldtiiUtricularia humboldtii is a large perennial carnivorous plant that belongs to the genus Utricularia. Peter Taylor lists it as either an "aquatic-epiphyte", a subaquatic or a terrestrial species. U. humboldtii is endemic to South America, where it is found in Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela. It...
— a bladderwort
- Geranium humboldtii — a cranesbill
- Salix humboldtiana — a South-American willow. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SAHU
- Inia geoffrensis humboldtianaBotoThe Amazon river dolphin, alternatively Bufeo, Bufeo Colorado, Boto Cor de Rosa, Boutu, Nay, Tonina, or Pink Dolphin , is a freshwater river dolphin endemic to the Orinoco, Amazon and Araguaia/Tocantins River systems of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela...
— Amazon River Dolphin subspecies living at Orinoco River basin
Geographical features named after HumboldtFeatures named after him include the following:
- Humboldt Bay — Bay in Northern California
- Humboldt CurrentHumboldt CurrentThe Humboldt Current , also known as the Peru Current, is a cold, low-salinity ocean current that flows north-westward along the west coast of South America from the southern tip of Chile to northern Peru. It is an eastern boundary current flowing in the direction of the equator, and can extend...
— off the west coast of South America
- Humboldt GlacierHumboldt GlacierHumboldt Glacier is the widest tidewater glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. It borders the Kane Basin in North West Greenland. Its front is wide. It has been retreating in the period of observation spanning 1975-2010. The glacier is named after German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt.-Footnotes:...
— in North West Greenland
- Humboldt RiverHumboldt RiverThe Humboldt River runs through northern Nevada in the western United States. At approximately long it is the second longest river in the Great Basin, after the Bear River. It has no outlet to the ocean, but instead empties into the Humboldt Sink...
—River in Nevada
- Humboldt Peak (Colorado)Humboldt Peak (Colorado)Humboldt Peak is a high peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range in southern Colorado. It is the least challenging climb of the Crestone group of fourteeners, which include Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, and Kit Carson Peak...
—4,287 meter mountain in Custer County, Colorado, United States
- Pico HumboldtPico HumboldtPico Humboldt is Venezuela's second highest peak, at 4,940 metres above sea level. It is located in the Sierra Nevada de Merida, in the Venezuelan Andes of...
—4,940 meter mountain in Mérida, Venezuela
- Humboldt SinkHumboldt SinkHumboldt Sink is an intermittent dry lake bed, approximately 11 mi long, and 4 mi across, in northwestern Nevada in the United States...
—Dry lake bed in Nevada
- EastEast Humboldt RangeThe East Humboldt Range is a line of mountains in northeastern Nevada in the Great Basin region of the western United States. It located in central Elko County in the upper watershed of the Humboldt River, which flows to the southwest from its source just north of the range.The East Humboldts run...
and West Humboldt RangeWest Humboldt RangeThe West Humboldt Range is a short mountain range in the western Great Basin in northwestern Nevada in the United States. It runs for approximately 40 mi southwest to northeast in northern Churchill County and southern Pershing County...
- Sima HumboldtSima HumboldtSima Humboldt is an enormous sinkhole located on the summit of the plateau of Sarisariñama tepui in Bolívar State, Venezuela. It is unusual for several reasons, including its enormous size and depth, its location on the top of the only forested tepui, having a patch of forest on its base and also...
- sinkhole in Venezuela
- Venezuela's first-designated national monument (the "Monumento Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt") at CaripeCaripeCaripe is a town in Caripe Municipality in the mountainous north of the state of Monagas in eastern Venezuela.The soil of the Caripe Valley is very fertile, and the climate of the area is exceptionally pleasant, a result of its altitude , latitude , and proximity to the Caribbean Sea...
Places named after HumboldtThe following places are named for Humboldt:
- Hacienda HumboldtHacienda HumboldtHacienda Humboldt is an ejido in the municipality of Julimes , Chihuahua which was once a private cattle ranch. It belonged for a period of time to Luis Terrazas and was sold by him for the formation of a colony of South African refugees from the Anglo Boer War. The refugees were assisted in their...
, Chihuahua, Mexico
- Humboldt, South DakotaHumboldt, South DakotaHumboldt is a town in Minnehaha County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 589 at the 2010 census.-History:The town was named after German scientist, explorer and diplomat Alexander von Humboldt.-Geography:...
, United States
- Humboldt, NebraskaHumboldt, NebraskaHumboldt is a city in Richardson County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 941 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Humboldt is located at ....
, United States
- Humboldt, IllinoisHumboldt, IllinoisHumboldt is an incorporated town in Coles County, Illinois, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 437. It is part of the Charleston–Mattoon Micropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:...
, United States
- Humboldt, IowaHumboldt, IowaHumboldt is a city in Humboldt County, Iowa, United States. The population was 4,690 at the 2010 census, gaining 238 people since the 2000 census.- History :...
, United States
- Humboldt, TennesseeHumboldt, TennesseeHumboldt is a city in Gibson and Madison counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. The population was 8,452 at the 2010 census, a decline of 1,015 in 2000. It is the principal city of and is included in the Humboldt, Tennessee Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Jackson,...
, United States
- Humboldt, KansasHumboldt, KansasHumboldt is a city situated along the Neosho River in the southwest part of Allen County, located in southeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 1,953.-History:...
, United States
- Humboldt, MinnesotaHumboldt, MinnesotaAs of the census of 2000, there were 61 people, 25 households, and 17 families residing in the city. The population density was 579.7 people per square mile . There were 38 housing units at an average density of 361.1 per square mile...
, United States
- Humboldt, Arizona, United States
- Humboldt County, CaliforniaHumboldt County, CaliforniaHumboldt County is a county in the U.S. state of California, located on the far North Coast 200 miles north of San Francisco. According to 2010 Census Data, the county’s population was 134,623...
, United States
- Humboldt County, NevadaHumboldt County, NevadaHumboldt County is a county located in the U.S. state of Nevada. As of 2007, the population was estimated to be 18,052. Its county seat is Winnemucca.The county was the site of an arrest in 2000 that led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Hiibel v...
, United States
- Humboldt County, IowaHumboldt County, Iowa-2010 census:The 2010 census recorded a population of 9,815 in the county, with a population density of . There were 4,684 housing units, of which 4,209 were occupied.-2000 census:...
, United States
- Humboldt, SaskatchewanHumboldt, SaskatchewanHumboldt is a Canadian city located in the province of Saskatchewan, 113 km east of Saskatoon at the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 20. The city is surrounded by the Rural Municipality of Humboldt No...
- Humboldt ParkHumboldt Park, ChicagoHumboldt Park is one of 77 officially designated community areas located on the northwest side of Chicago, Illinois. The Humboldt Park neighborhood is widely known for its large Puerto Rican presence...
: an official Community Area and park in Chicago, Illinois, United States
- Alejandro de Humboldt National ParkAlejandro de Humboldt National ParkParque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt is a national park in the Cuban provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo. It is named after the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt who visited the island in 1800 and 1801...
, CubaCubaThe Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...
- Alexander von Humboldt National ForestAlexander von Humboldt National ForestThe Alexander von Humboldt National Forest is a national forest of Peru.This zone Alexander Von Humboldt published by means of R.M is shaped by the National Forest. Nº 0574-99-AG, corresponding to the department of Ucayali and Areas Authorized for the Use of Incidental Teams to the motosierra named...
in PeruPeruPeru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....
- Humboldt Hotel in Cerro El ÁvilaCerro El ÁvilaThe El Ávila National Park covers part of the mountainous region of the coastal area of north-central Venezuela. The area's highest elevation is Pico Naiguatá, at 2.765 meters above sea level...
- Humboldt Street in BrooklynBrooklynBrooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...
, New York
- Humboldt Avenue in CaracasCaracasCaracas , officially Santiago de León de Caracas, is the capital and largest city of Venezuela; natives or residents are known as Caraquenians in English . It is located in the northern part of the country, following the contours of the narrow Caracas Valley on the Venezuelan coastal mountain range...
- Alexander von Humboldt Street (Ulica Alexandra von Humboldta) in ZagrebZagrebZagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb lies at an elevation of approximately above sea level. According to the last official census, Zagreb's city...
, CroatiaCroatiaCroatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...
- Humboldt-Toiyobe National Forest, California, United States
The Mare Humboldtianum
is named after him, as is the asteroid
- Humboldt University of BerlinHumboldt University of BerlinThe Humboldt University of Berlin is Berlin's oldest university, founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose university model has strongly influenced other European and Western universities...
is named after Alexander and his brother WilhelmWilhelm von HumboldtFriedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand Freiherr von Humboldt was a German philosopher, government functionary, diplomat, and founder of Humboldt Universität. He is especially remembered as a linguist who made important contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and practice...
who founded it.
- Humboldt Tropical Medicine Institute at Cayetano Heredia University, LimaLimaLima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central part of the country, on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima...
, PeruPeruPeru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....
- Humboldt State UniversityHumboldt State UniversityHumboldt State University is the northernmost campus of the California State University system, located in Arcata within Humboldt County, California, USA. The main campus, nestled at the edge of a coast redwood forest, is situated on Preston hill overlooking Arcata and with commanding views of...
in Arcata, CaliforniaArcata, California-Demographics:-2010 Census data:The 2010 United States Census reported that Arcata had a population of 17,231. The population density was 1,567.4 people per square mile...
- Universidad Alejandro de Humboldt, in Caracas, Venezuela.
- Colegio Alemán Humboldt, Guayaquil, Ecuador.
- Colegio Alemán Alexander von HumboldtColegio Alemán Alexander von HumboldtColegio Alemán Alexander von Humbolt, A. C. is a German school with bi-cultural fundamentals based in Mexico. Its history begins in the 19th century, with the already large German community living in Mexico, believing in establishing a school with standards similar to those of Germany. The first...
, Mexico City Mexico.
Primary and Secondary Schools
- Alexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium, KonstanzAlexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium, KonstanzThe ' is a Gymnasium in Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.The eponym is Alexander von Humboldt . The school has approximately 82 teachers and 985 students.- External links :*...
- Humboldt Elementary School, Humboldt, Arizona
- Humboldt Elementary School in Portland, Oregon
- Humboldt Junior High School, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
- Humboldt Senior High School, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
- German International SchoolAlexander von Humboldt Schule MontréalThe Alexander von Humboldt Schule Montréal - German International School was founded in 1981. It is located in Baie-d'Urfé in the suburbs of Montreal. In 2008 the school hit 300 students. It offers a German/Québécois Curriculum....
- Humboldt Schule, San Jose, Costa Rica
- Colegio de Alexander von Humboldt, Tacna, Perú
- Colegio de Alexander von Humboldt, Lima, Perú
Lecture SeriesAlexander Von Humboldt also lends his name to a prominent lecture series in Human geography
in the Netherlands (hosted by the Radboud University Nijmegen
). It is the Dutch equivalent of the widely known annual Hettner
lectures at the University of Heidelberg.
The Alexander von Humboldt FoundationAfter his death, his friends and colleagues created the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
(Stiftung in German) to continue von Humboldt's generous support of young scientists. Although the original endowment was lost in the German hyperinflation of the 1920s, and again as a result of World War II, the Foundation has been re-endowed by the German government to award young scientists and distinguished senior scientists from abroad. It plays an important role in attracting foreign researchers to work in Germany and enabling German researchers to work abroad for a period
DedicationsEdgar Allan Poe
dedicated his last major work, Eureka: A Prose Poem, to von Humboldt. Humboldt's attempt to unify the sciences in his Kosmos was a big inspiration for Poe's project.
made frequent reference to Humboldt's work in his Voyage of the Beagle
, where Darwin described his own scientific exploration of the Americas. In one note, he placed Humboldt first on the "list of American travellers". When this Journal was published, Darwin sent a copy to Humboldt, who responded "You told me in your kind letter that, when you were young, the manner in which I studied and depicted nature in the torrid zones contributed toward exciting in you the ardour and desire to travel in distant lands. Considering the importance of your work, Sir, this may be the greatest success that my humble work could bring." In his autobiography, Darwin recalled reading "with care and profound interest Humboldt's Personal Narrative" and finding it one of the two most influential books on his work, which had "stirred up in me a burning zeal to add even the most humble contribution to the noble structure of Natural Science."
ShipAlexander von Humboldt
is also a German ship
named after the scientist originally built in 1906 by the German shipyard AG Weser at Bremen as Reserve Sonderburg. She was operated throughout the North and Baltic Seas until being retired in 1986. Subsequently she was converted into a three masted barque
by the German shipyard Motorwerke Bremerhaven and was re-launched in 1988 as Alexander von Humboldt.
Recognitions by contemporariesWilhelm von Humboldt
: "Alexander is destined to combine ideas and follow chains of thoughts which would otherwise have remained unknown for ages. His depth, his sharp mind and his incredible speed are a rare combination."
: expressed his debt to Humboldt, and admiration for his work, and wrote to Joseph Dalton Hooker
that Humboldt was the "greatest scientific traveller who ever lived".
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
: "Humboldt showers us with true treasures."
Friedrich von Schiller: "Alexander impresses many, particularly when compared to his brother - because he shows off more!"
: "Alexander von Humboldt has done more for America than all its conquerors, he is the true discoverer of America."
José de la Luz y Caballero
: "Columbus gave Europe a New World; Humboldt made it known in its physical, material, intellectual, and moral aspects."
Napoléon Bonaparte: "You have been studying Botanics? Just like my wife!"
Claude Louis Berthollet
: "This man is as knowledgeable as a whole academy."
: "I consider him the most important scientist whom I have met."
Emil Du Bois-Reymond
: "Every scientist is a descendant of Humboldt. We are all his family."
Robert G. Ingersoll
: "He was to science what Shakespeare was to the drama."
Hermann von Helmholtz
: "During the first half of the present century we had an Alexander von Humboldt, who was able to scan the scientific knowledge of his time in its details, and to bring it within one vast generalization. At the present juncture, it is obviously very doubtful whether this task could be accomplished in a similar way, even by a mind with gifts so peculiarly suited for the purpose as Humboldt's was, and if all his time and work were devoted to the purpose."
Scientific worksLe voyage aux régions equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, fait en 1799-1804, par Alexandre de Humboldt et Aimé Bonpland (Paris, 1807, etc.), consisted of thirty folio and quarto volumes, and comprised a considerable number of subordinate but important works. Among these may be enumerated
- Vue des Cordillères et monuments des peuples indigènes de l'Amérique (2 vols. folio, 1810);
- Examen critique de l'histoire de la géographie du Nouveau Continent (1814–1834);
- Atlas géographique et physique du royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne (1811);
- Essai politique sur le royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne (1811);
- Essai sur la géographie des plantes (1805, now very rare);
- Relation historique du Voyage aux Régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, etc. (1814–1825), an unfinished narrative of his travels, including the Essai politique sur l'île de Cuba.
- Monographie des melastomacées (1833)
The genera et species plantarum (7 vols. folio, 1815–1825), containing descriptions of above 4500 species of plants collected by Humboldt and Bonpland, was mainly compiled by Carl Sigismund Kunth
; J. Oltmanns assisted in preparing the Recueil d'observations astronomiques (1808); Cuvier, Latreille, Valenciennes and Gay-Lussac cooperated in the Recueil d'observations de zoologie et d'anatomie comparée (1805–1833).
Humboldt's Ansichten der Natur (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1808) went through three editions in his lifetime, and was translated into nearly every European language.
The results of his Asiatic journey were published in Fragments de géologie et de climatologie asiatiques (2 vols. 8vo, 1831), and in Asie centrale (3 vols. 8vo, 1843) an enlargement of the earlier work. The memoirs and papers read by him before scientific societies, or contributed by him to scientific periodicals, are too numerous for specification.
Biographies and studies of his work
- Nicolaas A. Rupke. Alexander von Humboldt: A Metabiography (University of Chicago Press, 2008) 316 pp. online review
- Laura Dassow Walls. The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America (2009)
A 1992 essay entitled "Journey to the Top of the World" details Humboldt's South American exploration and America's interest in him. The essay is chapter one of David McCullough's book, Brave Companions: Portraits in History
(Prentice Hall Press, 1992).
Gerard Helferich's 2004 biography Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the World (Gotham Books, 2004) provides a descriptive account of Humboldt's journey through Latin America, it utilizes Humboldt's journals.
's 2005 novel Die Vermessung der Welt, translated into English by Carol Brown Janeway as Measuring the World
in 2006, explores Humboldt's life through a lens of historical fiction, contrasting his character and contributions to science to those of Carl Friedrich Gauss
Humboldt's effect on American scientists and environmentalists (Clarence King
, Jeremiah N. Reynolds
, George Wallace Melville, and John Muir
) is examined in The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, by Aaron Sachs (Viking, 2006).
- Humboldtian scienceHumboldtian scienceHumboldtian science is a term given to the movement in science in the 19th century. The ideals and central themes of Humboldtian science are the result of the work of German scientist Alexander von Humboldt...
- List of explorers
- EcologyEcologyEcology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...
- History of biologyHistory of biologyThe history of biology traces the study of the living world from ancient to modern times. Although the concept of biology as a single coherent field arose in the 19th century, the biological sciences emerged from traditions of medicine and natural history reaching back to ayurveda, ancient Egyptian...
- Aimé BonplandAimé BonplandAimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland was a French explorer and botanist.Bonpland's real name was Goujaud, and he was born in La Rochelle, a coastal city in France. After serving as a surgeon in the French army, and studying under J. N...
- The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
- The Alexander von Humboldt Digital Library A virtual research environment on the works of Alexander von Humboldt. A project by the University of Applied Sciences Offenburg and University of Kansas
- avhumboldt.de - Humboldt Informationen online avhumboldt.de contains a large collection of data, texts and visuals concerning Alexander von Humboldt in German, English, Spanish and French. A project by the Chair of Romance Literatures, University of Potsdam (Germany).
- Website of the Von Humboldt Lecture series in Nijmegen, the Netherlands
- Humboldt Digital Library
- HiN-International Review for Humboldtian Studies Biannual open access journal on transdisciplinary studies concerning Alexander von Humboldt (ISSN: 1617-5239). With articles in English, German and Spanish, both as HTML and PDF. A project by the Chair of Romance Literatures, University of Potsdam, and the Berlin-Brandenburgian Academy of Science.
- Humboldt Digital - Bibliography of Humboldt digital facsimile, available online. List with over 150 direct references to full-text facsimiles of works by Alexander von Humboldt.
- http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=mediatype%3A(texts)%20-contributor%3Agutenberg%20-creator%3Asexton%20AND%20(subject%3A%22Humboldt%2C%20Alexander%20von%2C%201769-1859%22%20OR%20creator%3A%22Humboldt%2C%20Alexander%20von%2C%201769-1859%22%20OR%20creator%3A%22Alexander%20von%20Humboldt%22%20OR%20title%3A%22Alexander%20von%20Humboldt%22%20OR%20description%3A%22Humboldt%2C%20Alexander%20von%22%20OR%20subject%3A%22Humboldt%2C%20Alexander%2C%201769-1859%22%20OR%20creator%3A%22Humboldt%2C%20Alexander%2C%201769-1859%22%20OR%20creator%3A%22Alexander%20Humboldt%22%20OR%20title%3A%22Alexander%20Humboldt%22%20OR%20description%3A%22Humboldt%2C%20Alexander%22)Works by or about Alexander von Humboldt] at Internet ArchiveInternet ArchiveThe Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...
(scanned books original editions color illustrated) (plain text and HTML)
- "Alexander von Humboldt", from In Our TimeIn Our Time (BBC Radio 4)In Our Time is a live BBC radio discussion series exploring the history of ideas, presented by Melvyn Bragg since 15 October 1998.. It is one of BBC radio's most successful discussion programmes, acknowledged to have "transformed the landscape for serious ideas at peak listening time"...
, a 45 minutes BBC Radio 4BBC Radio 4BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...
- Alexander von Humboldt featured on the 5 East German Mark banknote from 1964
- A.J.P. Raat, Alexander von Humboldt and Coenraad Jacob TemminckCoenraad Jacob TemminckCoenraad Jacob Temminck was a Dutch aristocrat and zoologist.Temminck was the first director of the National Natural History Museum at Leiden from 1820 until his death. His Manuel d'ornithologie, ou Tableau systematique des oiseaux qui se trouvent en Europe was the standard work on European birds...
, Zoologische Bijdragen, Vol. 21, 1976, p. 19-38 http://www.repository.naturalis.nl/record/317208