Spiritual Mentor of the Group Anjos de Luz
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Von Humboldt (Dr. Hemulth), Baron Humboldt, was born in Berlin in the Kingdom of Prussia on 14 September 1769. Known as the Alexander Von Humboldt, he was described with a rarely seen versatility and ability to describe precisely what he found and discovered, contributing immensely to many different areas like ethnography, anthropology, physics, geography, geology, mineralogy, botany, vulcanology, and humanism. He managed to lay the foundations of sciences like geography, geology, climatology and oceanography.
Considered a very important scientist for his time, a very interested observer, he travelled through the whole Europe, Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela.
His advocacy of long-term systematic geophysical measurement laid the foundation for modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring; made the use of the barometer to determine the altitude and other geographical features like the relief. In botanical geography, he laid the foundation of biogeography, the relation of the plants with the soil and climate; he formulated and applied what would later be called The Causality Principle by Emmanuel de Martone, and the Principle of Compared Geography.
During the last 25 years of his life, Humboldt was chiefly occupied with writing Kosmos, one of the most ambitious scientific works ever published where he sought to unify diverse branches of scientific knowledge and culture, proposing an integrated and more holistic vision of the universe. In Kosmos, he managed to put together both the quantitative aspect, harnessed during his travels, and the qualitative aspect arisen from his theorization. The quantitative aspect was extremely rich as Humboldt was very meticulous and rigorous in his observations and registrations; he would include information related to atmospheric temperature, ground temperature, pressure, wind, tidal range, magnetic variations, rocks, fauna, flora etc.
Four volumes appeared during his lifetime. Written in a pleasant, literary style, Kosmos gives a generally comprehensible account of the structure of the universe as then known, at the same time communicating the scientist’s excitement and aesthetic enjoyment at his discoveries. He was rewarded for his effort by the success of his book, which, within a few years, had been translated into nearly all European languages. While still working on the fifth volume of Kosmos with hardly diminished vitality but with enthusiasm and an unimpaired memory, He died in May 6 1859 (aged 89).
Interesting facts about Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Von Humboltd
"Within the intelligent, rational and objective researcher, laid an adventurous soul and a sensible heart."
He was orphaned at the age of nine. He did his first scientific excursion in the early 20’s, which originated the Reno’s Basaltic Observations.
In 1792, he left Freiberg after two years of intensive study but without taking a degree. A month later, he obtained an appointment in the Mining Department of the Prussian government and departed for the remote Fichtel Mountains in the Margraviate of Ansbach-Bayreuth, which had only recently come into the possession of the Prussian kings. Here Humboldt came into his own; he travelled untiringly from one mine to the next, reorganizing the partly deserted and totally neglected pits, which produced mainly gold and copper. He supervised all mining activities, invented a safety lamp, and established, with his own funds, a technical school for young miners. Yet he did not intend to make mining his career.
During the South American expeditions, Humboldt and his friend, the French explorer Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland travelled across the Andes for twelve months. At some point of the journey with bleeding feet, they refused to be carried on chairs, which were tied up on the local Indians’ backs.
They climbed a number of peaks, including all the volcanoes in the surroundings of Quito, Ecuador; Humboldt’s ascent of Chimborazo (6,310 metres) to a height of (5,878 metres), a bit short of the summit, remained a world mountain-climbing record for nearly 30 years. All these achievements were carried out without the help of modern mountaineering equipment, without ropes, crampons, or oxygen supplies; hence, Humboldt and Bonpland suffered badly from mountain sickness. However, Humboldt turned his discomfort to advantage: he became the first person to ascribe mountain sickness to lack of oxygen in the rarefied air of great heights.
In South America, he observed and heavily criticised the colonies’ structure, which was based on slave work and trade. During his travels, he always sought to integrate social, socio-economic, political, geographical and economic factors on his analysis.
In the Amazon region, he was arrested and accused of espionage by the Portuguese, prohibiting him to continue the expedition. Decades later, he was invited to return to Brazil to mediate a dispute between Brazil and Venezuela on their borders, which he gladly did. Two centuries later, a group of Brazilian scientists, decided to complete this expedition as a form to repay for his immense contributions.
From 1830 to 1848, he was a counselor to the Austrian king and used this position to influence the emancipation of Jewish citizens in the Kingdom of Prussia.
His works influenced many renowned researchers and scientists such as Charles Darwin.
He suffered heavily with the loss of his brother who died in his arms; stating later that he had lost his other ‘’half’’.
A simple but great way to describe Alexander Von Humboldt is that He was a man of incomparable simplicity, charisma and intelligence. Apart from representing the Universe, He also managed to show how important it is to develop a holistic and comprehensive intelligence.
Regarding his travels in South America he stated: ‘’ The Loneliness, the majesty of the austral sky, the calmness of the forests and the great variety of objects and life forms ingrained so deeply within my work that I ended up spending more time than I planned in that continent.
After he died, friends and colleagues created the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which supports young academics from all over the world. It plays an important role in attracting foreign researchers to work in Germany and enabling German researchers to work abroad for a period.
HUMBOLDT, von Alexander e BONPLAND, Aimé. Reise in die aequinoctial-Gegenden des neues Continents. Wien: Printed and edited by Carl Gerold, 1844, 4 volumes.
Magazine: Discutindo geografia, número 13
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