, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 581-584
Date: 27 Oct 2010

Humboldtian science

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The awesome story of von Humboldt’s (1769–1859) life and work is well known through his Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, 1814 (English translation 7 vols, 1814–1829; abridged Penguin Classic edition, 1995), his Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, 1811 (English translation, 1966), his Cosmos (English translation, 5 vols, 1850), etc., and good biographies such as Douglas Botting’s Humboldt and the Cosmos (1973). Various scholars such as Nicolaas Rupke and Michael Detttelbach have made von Humboldt their field of research. The term ‘Humboldtian science’, coined by Walter (Susan) F. Cannon, has readily entered the discourse of historians of science. And there are innumerable articles and books on particular aspects of his mind-boggling accomplishments. Perhaps the nearest thing we have to Humboldt’s work in modern times is Joseph Needham’s monumental study of the history of science and technology in China.

Von Humboldt was interested ...

This edition includes a full-size colour reproduction of the book’s plate, Tableau physique des Andes et pays voisins.