Alexander Von Humboldt was born in Berlin, Germany in 1769. Charles Darwin described him as "the greatest scientific traveler who ever lived." He is widely respected as one of the founders of modern geography. Alexander von Humboldt's travels, experiments, and knowledge transformed western science in the nineteenth century. Most of explorations was in the Orinoco basin of Venezuela where he traveled in the company of the French botanist Aime Bonpland. Humboldt was the last true master but one of the first to bring geography to the world.
The first "modern" scientific exploration of the Amazon region was by the great Prussian naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, the last "universal man", whose ambitious aim was to discover "the laws which wind a uniting bond round a multitude of isolated fact". Most of Von Humboldt’s exploration was in the Orinoco basin of Venezuela, where he traveled in the company of the French botanist Aimé Bonpland.
Their most well known accomplishment (other than prodigious collections of specimens and extensive notes on landscapes and natural history) in Amazonia was to prove the existence of a water connection, the famous Canal or Rio Cassiquiare, between the two river systems. Unfortunately, after passing though the Cassiquiare and reaching the Rio Negro in Portuguese Brazil, Von Humboldt was forced to return immediately to Venezuela on suspicion of being a Spanish spy!
described him as "the greatest scientific
traveler who ever lived." He is widely respected as one of the
founders of modern geography. Alexander von Humboldt's
travels, experiments, and knowledge transformed western science in the
was born in Berlin, Germany
in 1769. His father, who was an army officer, died when he was nine years old so
he and his older brother Wilhelm were raised by
their cold and distant mother. Tutors provided their early education, which was
grounded in languages and mathematics.
he was old enough, Alexander began to study at
the Freiberg Academy of Mines under the famous geologist A.G.
Werner. Von Humboldt met George
James Cook's scientific illustrator from his second voyage, and they hiked
around Europe. In 1792, at the age of 22, Von Humboldt
began a job as a government mines inspector in Franconia,
he was 27, Alexander's mother died, leaving him
as substantial income from the estate. The following year, he left government
service and began to plan travels with Aime Bonpland,
a botanist. The pair went to Madrid and obtained
special permission and passports from King Charles II
to explore South
they arrived in South America,
Humboldt and Bonpland studied the flora,
fauna, and topography of the continent. In 1800 Von
Humboldt mapped over 1700 miles of the Orinoco
River. This was followed by a trip to the Andes
and a climb of Mt. Chimborazo (in Ecuador)
then believed to be the tallest mountain in the world. They didn't make it to
the top due to a wall-like cliff but they did climb to over 18,000 feet in
elevation. While on the West Coast of South America, Von
Humboldt measured and discovered the Peruvian
Current, which, over the objections of Alexander
himself, is also known as the Humboldt Current.
In 1803 they explored Mexico. Von
Humboldt was offered a position in the Mexican cabinet but he refused.
pair was persuaded to visit Washington,
D.C. by an American counselor and they did so. They stayed in Washington for
three weeks and Von Humboldt had many meetings
with Thomas Jefferson and the two became good friends.
sailed to Paris in 1804 and wrote thirty volumes about are field studies. During
his expeditions in the Americas and Europe, he recorded and reported on magnetic
declination. He stayed in France
for 23 years and met with many other intellectuals on a regular basis.
Von Humboldt's fortunes were ultimately exhausted because of his travels and self-publishing of his reports. In 1827, he returned to Berlin where he obtained a steady income by becoming the King of Prussia's advisor. Alexander was later invited to Russia by the Tsar and after exploring the nation and describing discoveries such as permafrost, he recommended that Russia establish weather observatories across the country. The stations were established in 1835 and Von Humboldt was able to use the data to develop the principle of continentality, that the interiors of continents have more extreme climates due to a lack of moderating influence from the ocean.
also developed the first isotherm map, containing lines of equal average
1827 to 1828, Alexander gave public lectures in
Berlin. The lectures were so popular that new assembly halls had to be found due
to the demand. As Von Humboldt got older, he
decided to write everything known about the earth. He called his work Kosmos
and the first volume was published in
1845, when he was 76 years old. Kosmos
was well written and well received. The first volume, a general overview of the
universe, sold out in two months and was promptly translated into many
languages. Other volumes focused on such topics as human's effort to describe
the earth, astronomy, and earth and human interaction. Humboldt
died in 1859 and the fifth and final volume was published in 1862, based on his
notes for the work.
Once Humboldt died, "no individual scholar could hope any longer to master the world's knowledge about the earth." (Martin, 131).
Humboldt was the last true master but one of the first to bring geography to the world.
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