A Man For All Seasons

Hum 1Andrea/Cara here, As a unabashed history geek, I’m always excited when I discover the in-depth story of a fascinating figure from the past about whom I don’t know much—and I’m even more excited when in the process I also gain a broader perspective on the world in which the individual lived and how his or her achievements helped shape it. So I’m here to gush about my newest historical hero heartthrob—Alexander von Humboldt.

Today, most of us know dare only vaguely familiar with his name as an ocean current located somewhere off the Pacific coast of South America. But in his day, he was arguably one of the most famous men in the world. As the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV said, he was “the greatest man since the Deluge.” On his death, newspapers around the world proclaimed how fortunate they all were to have lived in the “Age of Humboldt.”

Hum 9Scientist, Poet, Educator, Artist, Philosopher. The details of Humboldt’s extraordinary personality and accomplishments are brought to life in The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. His insatiable curiosity, his meticulous recording of data and details of the natural world—from the tiniest insects to the faraway stars—his lyrical prose that expressed the wondrous joy at seeing Life as a great web of interconnected threads, literally changed the way the 19th century world looked at science. From Charles Darwin to Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, both scientists and artists were inspired by Humboldt, who today is being re-recognized as the Father of Ecology.

Hum 2Humboldt, who was born in Prussia in 1769 and died in 1859, was a man constantly in motion, both intellectually and physically. As a child, he hated sitting still for his tutor, and would sneak out at every possible moment to roam the lands of his family’s estate, filling his pockets with leaves, snails, plants—whatever captured his eye that day—and his little notebooks with observations of the sky, the water, the air temperature.

Hum 6Forced by his autocratic mother to enter the Prussian civil service in order to be “useful” to society, he found a position as a mining inspector, which at least allowed him to indulge his love for rooting around in the earth. He learned much about geology and came up with innovations for better production and worker safety. But he longed to expand his horizons. Everything interested him—geology, botany, zoology, and astronomy, just to name a few disciplines. He longed to shake off the shackles of an ordinary job and devote himself to understanding all the wonders of the cosmos.

It was at this time that he struck up a close friendship with Johan von Goethe, the legendary writer, poet and philosopher, who also had a keen interest in science. Goethe was impressed by Humboldt’s agile mind and curiosity, and together they experimented with electricity, discussed color theory, and debated philosophy, especially the radical new ideas of Kant, which stressed that Reason and Self and Imagination were inextricably intertwined.

This concept was at the heart of German Romanticism, which spread quickly throughout Europe. Humboldt was greatly influenced by the movement. As he wrote to Goethe, “Nature must be experienced through feeling.” It was a belief that dominated his thinking for the rest of his life.

Hum 7And oh, what a life it was. On the death of his mother, he resigned his administrative position and lit out for Paris, the hotbed of intellectual thought and science. From there, he raced around, exploring the Alps, visiting museums and botanical gardens, learning how to use various scientific instruments for making precise measurements. But war made travel throughout the Continent difficult, and Humboldt longed to explore even more exotic places.

Hum 8Having inherited a fortune, he was able to fund an expedition. The trouble was finding a place to go! He finally obtained permission from Spain to visit their colonial empire in South America. So off he sailed with a friend and fellow scientist Aime Bonpland in 1799. For the next five years, he and his expedition braved heat, cold, hunger, dangerous wildlife, bloodthirsty insects, perilous rivers and the daunting altitude of the Andes to collect countless specimens and record data on weather, temperature, plant life and geology. And he loved every minute of it.

Hum 10Humboldt was in his element. His fascination with every aspect of Nature allowed him to see how they all tied together. For example, in 1802, he observed the effects of deforestation on a farming plateau, and noted how the loss of shade affected the soil temperature and evaporation of water, which in turn affected the birds and insects which lived in the ecosystem, which in turn . . . In other worlds, he saw how Nature had a symbiotic relationship and that man was harming the balance of it—a revolutionary idea at the time. In the past, it was taken for granted that Nature was there to simply to benefit man. Humboldt argued that man had a responsibility to protect the whole and not destroy it.

Hum 5
Humboldt also changed—as I said, quite literally—the way people understood their world with one amazing piece of artwork. He made a large drawing, known as the Naturgemalde, of the volcano, Chimborazo, at the time thought to be the highest mountain in the world, and then made a meticulous diagram on the sides, showing what plants grew where according to altitude. More importantly, from his exploration of the mountains of Europe, he noted how similar plants and trees grew at the same levels all around the world. It was an idea that sparked people to think twice about previous “truths.” All around the world, scientists began looking more carefully about the interrelationships between climate, geology, plant and animal life, and how they affected each other.

Hum 4On his return to Europe, Humboldt wrote feverishly, not only about the results of his scientific observations, but also personal accounts of his reactions to the wonders of seeing Nature in all its infinite glory. His poetry was as inspiring as his science. Along with many other readers, the young Charles Darwin was captivated by Humboldt’s Personal Narrative, which he said inspired him to explore the world.

Hum 3It’s impossible for me to recount all of Humboldt’s accomplishments here. He continued to write and travel until he was into his 80s; he held court at his home in Berlin to countless visitors; he mentored the careers of many up and coming young scientists and carried on correspondence with scientists all over the world. His books, which appealed to the general public, made him a household name and stirred an interest in understanding more of how the world worked. His magnum opus, The Cosmos, a multi-volume, lavishly illustrated compendium, sought to give an overview of the world from the inner percolating lava beneath the Earth’s surface to the distance galaxies that glittered in the night heavens. Kings, presidents (he and Thomas Jefferson had a close friendship) and heads of state courted his opinions. When he died, the whole world mourned the loss of a charismatic thought leader.

I found Humboldt an absolutely remarkable, inspiring individual, whose observations—and warnings—feel even more important in this day and age. So what about you? Did you know the details of Humboldt’s life? Do you have an unsung hero or heroine in history who excited you when you first learned about them? Please share!

125 thoughts on “A Man For All Seasons”

  1. Thank you for this very interesting article. I had heard the name but had no idea about the amazing variety of his accomplishments and influence in scientific thought.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for this very interesting article. I had heard the name but had no idea about the amazing variety of his accomplishments and influence in scientific thought.

    Reply
  3. Thank you for this very interesting article. I had heard the name but had no idea about the amazing variety of his accomplishments and influence in scientific thought.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for this very interesting article. I had heard the name but had no idea about the amazing variety of his accomplishments and influence in scientific thought.

    Reply
  5. Thank you for this very interesting article. I had heard the name but had no idea about the amazing variety of his accomplishments and influence in scientific thought.

    Reply
  6. This is what I love about this blog – you meet so many new and interesting people. I had never heard of this fellow. Fortunately, my library has Ms. Wulf’s book. I’ll have to wait until two people have it before me, but I’m on the list. Thanks again!

    Reply
  7. This is what I love about this blog – you meet so many new and interesting people. I had never heard of this fellow. Fortunately, my library has Ms. Wulf’s book. I’ll have to wait until two people have it before me, but I’m on the list. Thanks again!

    Reply
  8. This is what I love about this blog – you meet so many new and interesting people. I had never heard of this fellow. Fortunately, my library has Ms. Wulf’s book. I’ll have to wait until two people have it before me, but I’m on the list. Thanks again!

    Reply
  9. This is what I love about this blog – you meet so many new and interesting people. I had never heard of this fellow. Fortunately, my library has Ms. Wulf’s book. I’ll have to wait until two people have it before me, but I’m on the list. Thanks again!

    Reply
  10. This is what I love about this blog – you meet so many new and interesting people. I had never heard of this fellow. Fortunately, my library has Ms. Wulf’s book. I’ll have to wait until two people have it before me, but I’m on the list. Thanks again!

    Reply
  11. ndrea, what a wonderful summary of Humboldt’s life! THE INVENTION OF NATURE turned my Mayhem Consultant into a Humboldt fan, and he promptly started lending the book to friends. I’m waiting for it to come back here. *G* Humboldt was one of the great men of science in history, and I love that his accomplishments are being properly appreciated.

    Reply
  12. ndrea, what a wonderful summary of Humboldt’s life! THE INVENTION OF NATURE turned my Mayhem Consultant into a Humboldt fan, and he promptly started lending the book to friends. I’m waiting for it to come back here. *G* Humboldt was one of the great men of science in history, and I love that his accomplishments are being properly appreciated.

    Reply
  13. ndrea, what a wonderful summary of Humboldt’s life! THE INVENTION OF NATURE turned my Mayhem Consultant into a Humboldt fan, and he promptly started lending the book to friends. I’m waiting for it to come back here. *G* Humboldt was one of the great men of science in history, and I love that his accomplishments are being properly appreciated.

    Reply
  14. ndrea, what a wonderful summary of Humboldt’s life! THE INVENTION OF NATURE turned my Mayhem Consultant into a Humboldt fan, and he promptly started lending the book to friends. I’m waiting for it to come back here. *G* Humboldt was one of the great men of science in history, and I love that his accomplishments are being properly appreciated.

    Reply
  15. ndrea, what a wonderful summary of Humboldt’s life! THE INVENTION OF NATURE turned my Mayhem Consultant into a Humboldt fan, and he promptly started lending the book to friends. I’m waiting for it to come back here. *G* Humboldt was one of the great men of science in history, and I love that his accomplishments are being properly appreciated.

    Reply
  16. I’d run across Humboldt a few times in various contexts, but when you put it all together, he’s an incredible man.
    That’s what’s so compelling about history. You keep meeting all these fascinating people—and sometimes they are so extraordinary that it would be hard to make them believable in fiction!

    Reply
  17. I’d run across Humboldt a few times in various contexts, but when you put it all together, he’s an incredible man.
    That’s what’s so compelling about history. You keep meeting all these fascinating people—and sometimes they are so extraordinary that it would be hard to make them believable in fiction!

    Reply
  18. I’d run across Humboldt a few times in various contexts, but when you put it all together, he’s an incredible man.
    That’s what’s so compelling about history. You keep meeting all these fascinating people—and sometimes they are so extraordinary that it would be hard to make them believable in fiction!

    Reply
  19. I’d run across Humboldt a few times in various contexts, but when you put it all together, he’s an incredible man.
    That’s what’s so compelling about history. You keep meeting all these fascinating people—and sometimes they are so extraordinary that it would be hard to make them believable in fiction!

    Reply
  20. I’d run across Humboldt a few times in various contexts, but when you put it all together, he’s an incredible man.
    That’s what’s so compelling about history. You keep meeting all these fascinating people—and sometimes they are so extraordinary that it would be hard to make them believable in fiction!

    Reply
  21. Ha, I’m not surprised to hear the Mayhem Consultant enjoyed the book. Now, elbow your way to the front of the line to read it next! I really think it’s a wonderful example of the best type of historical non-fiction, capturing both a fascinating individual AND the world/contextin which he lived.

    Reply
  22. Ha, I’m not surprised to hear the Mayhem Consultant enjoyed the book. Now, elbow your way to the front of the line to read it next! I really think it’s a wonderful example of the best type of historical non-fiction, capturing both a fascinating individual AND the world/contextin which he lived.

    Reply
  23. Ha, I’m not surprised to hear the Mayhem Consultant enjoyed the book. Now, elbow your way to the front of the line to read it next! I really think it’s a wonderful example of the best type of historical non-fiction, capturing both a fascinating individual AND the world/contextin which he lived.

    Reply
  24. Ha, I’m not surprised to hear the Mayhem Consultant enjoyed the book. Now, elbow your way to the front of the line to read it next! I really think it’s a wonderful example of the best type of historical non-fiction, capturing both a fascinating individual AND the world/contextin which he lived.

    Reply
  25. Ha, I’m not surprised to hear the Mayhem Consultant enjoyed the book. Now, elbow your way to the front of the line to read it next! I really think it’s a wonderful example of the best type of historical non-fiction, capturing both a fascinating individual AND the world/contextin which he lived.

    Reply
  26. I teach a unit about Perutomy third graders every year. We talk about how the Humbolt current affects the climate of coastal Peru. I’m a it embarrassedtoadmit that I never once gave any thought as to where the current got its name. Humbolt penguins too! Now I know! Very interesting man.

    Reply
  27. I teach a unit about Perutomy third graders every year. We talk about how the Humbolt current affects the climate of coastal Peru. I’m a it embarrassedtoadmit that I never once gave any thought as to where the current got its name. Humbolt penguins too! Now I know! Very interesting man.

    Reply
  28. I teach a unit about Perutomy third graders every year. We talk about how the Humbolt current affects the climate of coastal Peru. I’m a it embarrassedtoadmit that I never once gave any thought as to where the current got its name. Humbolt penguins too! Now I know! Very interesting man.

    Reply
  29. I teach a unit about Perutomy third graders every year. We talk about how the Humbolt current affects the climate of coastal Peru. I’m a it embarrassedtoadmit that I never once gave any thought as to where the current got its name. Humbolt penguins too! Now I know! Very interesting man.

    Reply
  30. I teach a unit about Perutomy third graders every year. We talk about how the Humbolt current affects the climate of coastal Peru. I’m a it embarrassedtoadmit that I never once gave any thought as to where the current got its name. Humbolt penguins too! Now I know! Very interesting man.

    Reply
  31. Thank you for your description of the work of this amazing man – I have to confess to not having heard of him – certainly a man before his time. What an amazing mind and you made him come alive. Now to track down the book.

    Reply
  32. Thank you for your description of the work of this amazing man – I have to confess to not having heard of him – certainly a man before his time. What an amazing mind and you made him come alive. Now to track down the book.

    Reply
  33. Thank you for your description of the work of this amazing man – I have to confess to not having heard of him – certainly a man before his time. What an amazing mind and you made him come alive. Now to track down the book.

    Reply
  34. Thank you for your description of the work of this amazing man – I have to confess to not having heard of him – certainly a man before his time. What an amazing mind and you made him come alive. Now to track down the book.

    Reply
  35. Thank you for your description of the work of this amazing man – I have to confess to not having heard of him – certainly a man before his time. What an amazing mind and you made him come alive. Now to track down the book.

    Reply
  36. I am another person who has benefitted by your post. I had a vague idea that there was a Humboldt existed. I had NO idea of the spread of his life and his studies. Thank you for introducing this fascinating man to our family.

    Reply
  37. I am another person who has benefitted by your post. I had a vague idea that there was a Humboldt existed. I had NO idea of the spread of his life and his studies. Thank you for introducing this fascinating man to our family.

    Reply
  38. I am another person who has benefitted by your post. I had a vague idea that there was a Humboldt existed. I had NO idea of the spread of his life and his studies. Thank you for introducing this fascinating man to our family.

    Reply
  39. I am another person who has benefitted by your post. I had a vague idea that there was a Humboldt existed. I had NO idea of the spread of his life and his studies. Thank you for introducing this fascinating man to our family.

    Reply
  40. I am another person who has benefitted by your post. I had a vague idea that there was a Humboldt existed. I had NO idea of the spread of his life and his studies. Thank you for introducing this fascinating man to our family.

    Reply
  41. I’m so glad you enjoyed “meeting” Humboldt, Sue. I was vaguely aware of his scientific expertise from other reading, but had no idea of the depth and breadth of it, or of his artistic side, and his vision of an interconnected world that was so ahead of his time. So I really was excited to share this amazing individual.(And I highly recommend the book.)

    Reply
  42. I’m so glad you enjoyed “meeting” Humboldt, Sue. I was vaguely aware of his scientific expertise from other reading, but had no idea of the depth and breadth of it, or of his artistic side, and his vision of an interconnected world that was so ahead of his time. So I really was excited to share this amazing individual.(And I highly recommend the book.)

    Reply
  43. I’m so glad you enjoyed “meeting” Humboldt, Sue. I was vaguely aware of his scientific expertise from other reading, but had no idea of the depth and breadth of it, or of his artistic side, and his vision of an interconnected world that was so ahead of his time. So I really was excited to share this amazing individual.(And I highly recommend the book.)

    Reply
  44. I’m so glad you enjoyed “meeting” Humboldt, Sue. I was vaguely aware of his scientific expertise from other reading, but had no idea of the depth and breadth of it, or of his artistic side, and his vision of an interconnected world that was so ahead of his time. So I really was excited to share this amazing individual.(And I highly recommend the book.)

    Reply
  45. I’m so glad you enjoyed “meeting” Humboldt, Sue. I was vaguely aware of his scientific expertise from other reading, but had no idea of the depth and breadth of it, or of his artistic side, and his vision of an interconnected world that was so ahead of his time. So I really was excited to share this amazing individual.(And I highly recommend the book.)

    Reply
  46. My favorite early scientist is Linnaeus…because I was named after the flower, Linnea borealis, that was named for him. He was a physician and botanist, and was the person who invented the system of classification we use for plants and animals. There is a Linnean Society in Great Britain.

    Reply
  47. My favorite early scientist is Linnaeus…because I was named after the flower, Linnea borealis, that was named for him. He was a physician and botanist, and was the person who invented the system of classification we use for plants and animals. There is a Linnean Society in Great Britain.

    Reply
  48. My favorite early scientist is Linnaeus…because I was named after the flower, Linnea borealis, that was named for him. He was a physician and botanist, and was the person who invented the system of classification we use for plants and animals. There is a Linnean Society in Great Britain.

    Reply
  49. My favorite early scientist is Linnaeus…because I was named after the flower, Linnea borealis, that was named for him. He was a physician and botanist, and was the person who invented the system of classification we use for plants and animals. There is a Linnean Society in Great Britain.

    Reply
  50. My favorite early scientist is Linnaeus…because I was named after the flower, Linnea borealis, that was named for him. He was a physician and botanist, and was the person who invented the system of classification we use for plants and animals. There is a Linnean Society in Great Britain.

    Reply
  51. Andrea, thank you so much. I knew a teeny bit about Humboldt but you have given me an entire new direction. If there were a person from history whose gifts were still giving to this world, it would be Alexander von Humboldt.
    I cannot imagine the mind he had. You know that question, if you could go to dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose….guess who’s coming to my dinner.

    Reply
  52. Andrea, thank you so much. I knew a teeny bit about Humboldt but you have given me an entire new direction. If there were a person from history whose gifts were still giving to this world, it would be Alexander von Humboldt.
    I cannot imagine the mind he had. You know that question, if you could go to dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose….guess who’s coming to my dinner.

    Reply
  53. Andrea, thank you so much. I knew a teeny bit about Humboldt but you have given me an entire new direction. If there were a person from history whose gifts were still giving to this world, it would be Alexander von Humboldt.
    I cannot imagine the mind he had. You know that question, if you could go to dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose….guess who’s coming to my dinner.

    Reply
  54. Andrea, thank you so much. I knew a teeny bit about Humboldt but you have given me an entire new direction. If there were a person from history whose gifts were still giving to this world, it would be Alexander von Humboldt.
    I cannot imagine the mind he had. You know that question, if you could go to dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose….guess who’s coming to my dinner.

    Reply
  55. Andrea, thank you so much. I knew a teeny bit about Humboldt but you have given me an entire new direction. If there were a person from history whose gifts were still giving to this world, it would be Alexander von Humboldt.
    I cannot imagine the mind he had. You know that question, if you could go to dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose….guess who’s coming to my dinner.

    Reply
  56. Please save a seat at the table for me, Annette! Yes, he’d be fascinating to listen to. A warning though—even his good friends occasionally complained that he never shut up! There’s a funny anecdote in the book about a young Darwin, who was so excited that he was going to meet his hero at a scientific gathering. He had a long list of questions he wanted to discuss . . . only to slink away, deflated, after three hours of non-stop Humboldt pontificating. Apparently Humboldt rarely even paused for breath and poor Darwin was never allowed to get a word in edgewise.
    I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy to to sit and listen!

    Reply
  57. Please save a seat at the table for me, Annette! Yes, he’d be fascinating to listen to. A warning though—even his good friends occasionally complained that he never shut up! There’s a funny anecdote in the book about a young Darwin, who was so excited that he was going to meet his hero at a scientific gathering. He had a long list of questions he wanted to discuss . . . only to slink away, deflated, after three hours of non-stop Humboldt pontificating. Apparently Humboldt rarely even paused for breath and poor Darwin was never allowed to get a word in edgewise.
    I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy to to sit and listen!

    Reply
  58. Please save a seat at the table for me, Annette! Yes, he’d be fascinating to listen to. A warning though—even his good friends occasionally complained that he never shut up! There’s a funny anecdote in the book about a young Darwin, who was so excited that he was going to meet his hero at a scientific gathering. He had a long list of questions he wanted to discuss . . . only to slink away, deflated, after three hours of non-stop Humboldt pontificating. Apparently Humboldt rarely even paused for breath and poor Darwin was never allowed to get a word in edgewise.
    I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy to to sit and listen!

    Reply
  59. Please save a seat at the table for me, Annette! Yes, he’d be fascinating to listen to. A warning though—even his good friends occasionally complained that he never shut up! There’s a funny anecdote in the book about a young Darwin, who was so excited that he was going to meet his hero at a scientific gathering. He had a long list of questions he wanted to discuss . . . only to slink away, deflated, after three hours of non-stop Humboldt pontificating. Apparently Humboldt rarely even paused for breath and poor Darwin was never allowed to get a word in edgewise.
    I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy to to sit and listen!

    Reply
  60. Please save a seat at the table for me, Annette! Yes, he’d be fascinating to listen to. A warning though—even his good friends occasionally complained that he never shut up! There’s a funny anecdote in the book about a young Darwin, who was so excited that he was going to meet his hero at a scientific gathering. He had a long list of questions he wanted to discuss . . . only to slink away, deflated, after three hours of non-stop Humboldt pontificating. Apparently Humboldt rarely even paused for breath and poor Darwin was never allowed to get a word in edgewise.
    I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy to to sit and listen!

    Reply
  61. A wonderful post Andrea. I’d never heard of the man but what a wonder he was. Imagine when you die to leave a legacy like that behind you and what a fantastic life he must have had. I always admire people who traveled and made discoveries at a time when it was dangerous to sail from Ireland to England!

    Reply
  62. A wonderful post Andrea. I’d never heard of the man but what a wonder he was. Imagine when you die to leave a legacy like that behind you and what a fantastic life he must have had. I always admire people who traveled and made discoveries at a time when it was dangerous to sail from Ireland to England!

    Reply
  63. A wonderful post Andrea. I’d never heard of the man but what a wonder he was. Imagine when you die to leave a legacy like that behind you and what a fantastic life he must have had. I always admire people who traveled and made discoveries at a time when it was dangerous to sail from Ireland to England!

    Reply
  64. A wonderful post Andrea. I’d never heard of the man but what a wonder he was. Imagine when you die to leave a legacy like that behind you and what a fantastic life he must have had. I always admire people who traveled and made discoveries at a time when it was dangerous to sail from Ireland to England!

    Reply
  65. A wonderful post Andrea. I’d never heard of the man but what a wonder he was. Imagine when you die to leave a legacy like that behind you and what a fantastic life he must have had. I always admire people who traveled and made discoveries at a time when it was dangerous to sail from Ireland to England!

    Reply
  66. So glad you enjoyed it, Teresa! Humboldt is even more amazing than I was able to convey (not enough space to highlight more than a small part of his genius.) You’re so right about the incredible courage, as well as curiosity, it took to leave Europe and head to exotic destinations. he truly embodied a life fully lived.(His one great regret was that he never got to mountain climb in the Himalayas. The East India Company would never give him a visa to enter India because he was an outspoken critic of slavery, and the mistreatment of native peoples.)

    Reply
  67. So glad you enjoyed it, Teresa! Humboldt is even more amazing than I was able to convey (not enough space to highlight more than a small part of his genius.) You’re so right about the incredible courage, as well as curiosity, it took to leave Europe and head to exotic destinations. he truly embodied a life fully lived.(His one great regret was that he never got to mountain climb in the Himalayas. The East India Company would never give him a visa to enter India because he was an outspoken critic of slavery, and the mistreatment of native peoples.)

    Reply
  68. So glad you enjoyed it, Teresa! Humboldt is even more amazing than I was able to convey (not enough space to highlight more than a small part of his genius.) You’re so right about the incredible courage, as well as curiosity, it took to leave Europe and head to exotic destinations. he truly embodied a life fully lived.(His one great regret was that he never got to mountain climb in the Himalayas. The East India Company would never give him a visa to enter India because he was an outspoken critic of slavery, and the mistreatment of native peoples.)

    Reply
  69. So glad you enjoyed it, Teresa! Humboldt is even more amazing than I was able to convey (not enough space to highlight more than a small part of his genius.) You’re so right about the incredible courage, as well as curiosity, it took to leave Europe and head to exotic destinations. he truly embodied a life fully lived.(His one great regret was that he never got to mountain climb in the Himalayas. The East India Company would never give him a visa to enter India because he was an outspoken critic of slavery, and the mistreatment of native peoples.)

    Reply
  70. So glad you enjoyed it, Teresa! Humboldt is even more amazing than I was able to convey (not enough space to highlight more than a small part of his genius.) You’re so right about the incredible courage, as well as curiosity, it took to leave Europe and head to exotic destinations. he truly embodied a life fully lived.(His one great regret was that he never got to mountain climb in the Himalayas. The East India Company would never give him a visa to enter India because he was an outspoken critic of slavery, and the mistreatment of native peoples.)

    Reply
  71. Strangely enough, I did know all about Humboldt, because I had read this great profile of him in The New Yorker a couple years ago. Written by Elizabeth Kolbert, who does a lot of their reporting about the environment and climate change. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/26/humboldts-gift
    Here’s a great little tidbit about him from the article, which illustrates his personality:
    “Alexander von Humboldt was born to a wealthy family in the Prussia of Frederick the Great, and from an early age he chafed at the restrictions of upper-class life. Instead of applying himself to his lessons, like his dutiful older brother, Wilhelm, he roamed the woods, collecting herbs and insects; his parents nicknamed him, not altogether kindly, “the little apothecary.” When Humboldt wrote letters from the family estate, Schloss Tegel, he sometimes used the tagline Schloss Langweil—“Castle of Boredom.””

    Reply
  72. Strangely enough, I did know all about Humboldt, because I had read this great profile of him in The New Yorker a couple years ago. Written by Elizabeth Kolbert, who does a lot of their reporting about the environment and climate change. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/26/humboldts-gift
    Here’s a great little tidbit about him from the article, which illustrates his personality:
    “Alexander von Humboldt was born to a wealthy family in the Prussia of Frederick the Great, and from an early age he chafed at the restrictions of upper-class life. Instead of applying himself to his lessons, like his dutiful older brother, Wilhelm, he roamed the woods, collecting herbs and insects; his parents nicknamed him, not altogether kindly, “the little apothecary.” When Humboldt wrote letters from the family estate, Schloss Tegel, he sometimes used the tagline Schloss Langweil—“Castle of Boredom.””

    Reply
  73. Strangely enough, I did know all about Humboldt, because I had read this great profile of him in The New Yorker a couple years ago. Written by Elizabeth Kolbert, who does a lot of their reporting about the environment and climate change. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/26/humboldts-gift
    Here’s a great little tidbit about him from the article, which illustrates his personality:
    “Alexander von Humboldt was born to a wealthy family in the Prussia of Frederick the Great, and from an early age he chafed at the restrictions of upper-class life. Instead of applying himself to his lessons, like his dutiful older brother, Wilhelm, he roamed the woods, collecting herbs and insects; his parents nicknamed him, not altogether kindly, “the little apothecary.” When Humboldt wrote letters from the family estate, Schloss Tegel, he sometimes used the tagline Schloss Langweil—“Castle of Boredom.””

    Reply
  74. Strangely enough, I did know all about Humboldt, because I had read this great profile of him in The New Yorker a couple years ago. Written by Elizabeth Kolbert, who does a lot of their reporting about the environment and climate change. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/26/humboldts-gift
    Here’s a great little tidbit about him from the article, which illustrates his personality:
    “Alexander von Humboldt was born to a wealthy family in the Prussia of Frederick the Great, and from an early age he chafed at the restrictions of upper-class life. Instead of applying himself to his lessons, like his dutiful older brother, Wilhelm, he roamed the woods, collecting herbs and insects; his parents nicknamed him, not altogether kindly, “the little apothecary.” When Humboldt wrote letters from the family estate, Schloss Tegel, he sometimes used the tagline Schloss Langweil—“Castle of Boredom.””

    Reply
  75. Strangely enough, I did know all about Humboldt, because I had read this great profile of him in The New Yorker a couple years ago. Written by Elizabeth Kolbert, who does a lot of their reporting about the environment and climate change. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/26/humboldts-gift
    Here’s a great little tidbit about him from the article, which illustrates his personality:
    “Alexander von Humboldt was born to a wealthy family in the Prussia of Frederick the Great, and from an early age he chafed at the restrictions of upper-class life. Instead of applying himself to his lessons, like his dutiful older brother, Wilhelm, he roamed the woods, collecting herbs and insects; his parents nicknamed him, not altogether kindly, “the little apothecary.” When Humboldt wrote letters from the family estate, Schloss Tegel, he sometimes used the tagline Schloss Langweil—“Castle of Boredom.””

    Reply
  76. Andrea, thank you so much for writing this fascinating article. What an interesting man. I’d heard about him some time in the dim and dusty past but had no idea of the depth or breadth of his schievrments and talents.

    Reply
  77. Andrea, thank you so much for writing this fascinating article. What an interesting man. I’d heard about him some time in the dim and dusty past but had no idea of the depth or breadth of his schievrments and talents.

    Reply
  78. Andrea, thank you so much for writing this fascinating article. What an interesting man. I’d heard about him some time in the dim and dusty past but had no idea of the depth or breadth of his schievrments and talents.

    Reply
  79. Andrea, thank you so much for writing this fascinating article. What an interesting man. I’d heard about him some time in the dim and dusty past but had no idea of the depth or breadth of his schievrments and talents.

    Reply
  80. Andrea, thank you so much for writing this fascinating article. What an interesting man. I’d heard about him some time in the dim and dusty past but had no idea of the depth or breadth of his schievrments and talents.

    Reply

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