Alexandra purgy

30-Nov-2018 13:50

“It is almost as though his ideas have become so manifest that the man behind them has disappeared.” Wulf’s book is as much a history of those ideas as it is of the man.The man may be lost but his ideas have never been more alive.He was eclipsed by devoted disciples—among them Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel, and John Muir—who developed his insights in new ways. In our Anthropocene age Humboldt’s theories read like prophecy.More important, they offer wisdom about the way forward.

The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is all around us. “Alexander von Humboldt has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world,” writes Andrea Wulf in her thrilling new biography.The jurist James Kent, seeking a legal basis for seizing land from Native Americans, argued that the continent was “fitted and intended by Providence to be subdued and cultivated, and to become the residence of civilized nations.” Explorers like James Cook and Louis Antoine de Bougainville circumnavigated the globe and published their journals, which Humboldt read avidly as a boy.Humboldt’s father was a chamberlain in the Prussian court and a confidant to the future king, who was godfather to Humboldt; his mother, the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer and member of the Prussian civil service, was of Huguenot descent.Humboldt’s legacy appeared certain at the time of his death, when he was the most famous scientist in the world.His funeral in Berlin was the grandest ever accorded to a private German individual; a procession of tens of thousands of mourners followed for a mile behind his hearse, pulled by the king’s horses.

The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is all around us. “Alexander von Humboldt has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world,” writes Andrea Wulf in her thrilling new biography.The jurist James Kent, seeking a legal basis for seizing land from Native Americans, argued that the continent was “fitted and intended by Providence to be subdued and cultivated, and to become the residence of civilized nations.” Explorers like James Cook and Louis Antoine de Bougainville circumnavigated the globe and published their journals, which Humboldt read avidly as a boy.Humboldt’s father was a chamberlain in the Prussian court and a confidant to the future king, who was godfather to Humboldt; his mother, the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer and member of the Prussian civil service, was of Huguenot descent.Humboldt’s legacy appeared certain at the time of his death, when he was the most famous scientist in the world.His funeral in Berlin was the grandest ever accorded to a private German individual; a procession of tens of thousands of mourners followed for a mile behind his hearse, pulled by the king’s horses.He was the first European to explore and map the Casiquiare River, the only natural canal on earth to link two major river systems, the Orinoco and the Amazon.