SCIENCES

Alexander von Humboldt: How the Most Famous Scientist of the Romantic Age Found the Soul of Nature

BlueBridge: United Tribes. Sept. 2019. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781629190198. $24.95. BIOG
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Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is considered among the most famous scientists and explorers of the 19th century, and his legacy includes a sprawling body of knowledge of the natural world. Thomas Jefferson viewed him as one of the greatest ornaments of the age, and formally met him in 1804. Charles Darwin read his work and was inspired to travel to distant lands. Humboldt is immortalized in the names of geographical locations, plants, and animals worldwide. His early career as an inspector of mines and founder of a school for mine workers would provide a foundation for his curiosity of the natural world. In this second work on the naturalist, Meinhardt (A Longing for Wide and Unknown Things) details Humboldt’s rise during the Romantic Age and frequently draws on his personal letters and published works. Humboldt’s trip through various landscapes in Central and South America in 1799–1804 would provide the basis for a majority of his scientific contributions. He developed newfound knowledge that provided a vision of science rooted in Romanticism; melding nature with a personal understanding of the human experience.
VERDICT A thorough biography recommended particularly for scholars of the natural sciences.

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