Alexander von Humboldt – Best Guide in 2023

Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander, Freiherr (baron) von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer who made significant contributions to physical geography and biogeography during the classical era of science. These disciplines are now incorporated into the Earth sciences and ecology. He was born on September 14, 1769, in Berlin, Prussia (currently in Germany), and he died there on May 6, 1859. His book Kosmos significantly increased the general public’s understanding of science. He was the driving force behind the naming of the Humboldt Current off the west coast of South America.

Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt

Young Age

Humboldt’s father served as an officer in Frederick the Great’s army. After Louis XIV’s repeal of Protestants’ religious freedom in 1685, his mother’s Huguenot (French Protestant) family left France. Following the death of their father in 1779, he and his brother Wilhelm were raised by their emotionless mother, a devoted Calvinist. During their private education, political history and economics instruction were added to the regular courses in classics, languages, and mathematics because their mother wanted them to be ready for high public positions. Alexander, who was sickly, struggled academically at first. He had wandering thoughts, considered enlisting, and only after facing pressure from his parents did he stick to his academic plans. He spent a year in Berlin getting some engineering training after failing to graduate from the University of Frankfurt am Oder’s economics program before developing an abrupt, intense interest in botany. He started to collect plant samples in the Berlin region as he learned how to categorize them. For a passionate botanist, however, the meager flora of the province of Brandenburg did not provide much inspiration, and Humboldt soon started to daydream of journeys to more exotic locations.

Exploration Mission in South America

In 1797, Humboldt resigned from his position to focus solely on learning everything there was to know about the geodetic, meteorological, and geomagnetic systems because he had grown more convinced that scientific exploration was his true calling. The political unrest caused by the Napoleonic Wars prevented Humboldt from participating in a number of scientific expeditions. After a series of setbacks, he finally received approval from the Spanish government to visit the Spanish colonies in Central and South America. Despite being discouraged by his setbacks, he was still determined to achieve his goal. The only people who had access to these colonies at that time were members of the Spanish government and the Roman Catholic mission. Despite being totally cut off from the outside world, they offered a scientific explorer a tremendous amount of opportunities. Humboldt had access to powerful people because of his social standing, and he found a wise man who supported his request for a royal permit from the king in Spanish Prime Minister Mariano de Urquijo. In the summer of 1799, he traveled to Paris, where he had met the French botanist Aimé Bonpland. Paris was the epicenter of European science at the time. Thanks to the inheritance he received from his mother’s estate when she passed away, Humboldt was able to fully finance the expedition out of his own pocket. During their five-year stay in Central and South America, from 1799 to 1804, Humboldt and Bonpland covered more than 6,000 miles (9,650 km) on foot, horseback, and in canoes. It was a physically taxing and terribly deprived life.

Career in Paris

Humboldt spent his time between 1804 and 1827 publishing the knowledge acquired during the South American expedition. Except for a few short trips to Berlin, he spent this significant period of his life living in Paris. He not only found collaborators among the leading French scientists of the day, but also printers for the 30 volumes that contained the expedition’s scientific findings.

The meteorological data, with a focus on average daily and nightly temperatures, as well as Humboldt’s representation of isotherms (lines connecting points with the same mean temperature) and isobars (lines connecting points with the same barometric pressure for a given time or period) on weather maps all helped to establish the science of comparative climatology.

More importantly, he deduced from his study of the Andean volcanoes that eruptive forces and metamorphosis played a role in the formation of the Earth’s crust. His groundbreaking research into the relationships between a region’s geography and its flora and fauna was also extremely important. With the help of these findings, the so-called Neptunist theory, which held that the Earth’s surface was entirely created through sedimentation from a liquid state, was categorically debunked. f a wealth of population statistics, along with its political, social, and economic circumstances. Despite the fact that Humboldt’s fervent protest against the horrors of slavery in this work went unheeded, his descriptions of the Mexican silver mines inspired a significant investment of English capital and mining expertise in the mines.

In 1829, Humboldt was given the opportunity to visit Siberia and Russia. Count Yegor Kankrin, the Russian minister of finance, invited him to the gold and platinum mines in the Urals to serve as an advisor to the government on mining methods and organizational structure. Although he hated the despotism of the country, Humboldt was compelled to promise that he would refrain from expressing an opinion on its political climate. This expedition, which lasted only one summer and was very different from the journey through South America, involved Humboldt and two young scientists as guests of the tsar, and they were always accompanied by an official guard.

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