Humboldt Alexander von
(14.09.1769 - 06.05.1859)
German naturalist, geographer and traveler, one of the founders of geography as an independent science. Member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.
Born in Berlin in the family of the court Saxon Elector. Brother W. Humboldt.
In 1787–1792 studied natural sciences, economics, law and mining at the universities in Frankfurt an der Oder and Göttingen, at the Hamburg Trade and Freiberg Mining Academies. In 1790, together with G. Forster, who had a deep influence on him, he traveled through France, the Netherlands and England.
The first scientific work written by Humboldt in 1790, was devoted to basalts.
In 1792–1795 Humboldt served on the Prussian mining department. In 1793, his botanical and physiological research, The Freiberg Underground Flora, was published, in which he summarized his observations about the mystery plants.
In 1799–1804 together with the French botanist E. Bonplan, Humboldt traveled through Central and South America. Returning to Europe with rich collections, he processed them for more than 20 years in Paris, along with other prominent scientists.
In 1807–1834 The 30-volume “Journey to the Equinoctial Areas of the New World in 1799–1804” was published, which contains descriptions of plants, astronomical-geodesic and cartographic materials, studies on zoology and comparative anatomy, a description of the journey, etc. According to the materials of the expedition, Humboldt later published a number of other works, including the fundamental monograph “Pictures of Nature”.
In 1827, the scientist moved from Paris to Berlin, where he served as chamberlain and adviser to the Prussian king. In 1829, at the invitation of the Minister of Finance of Russia, Humboldt traveled to the Urals, Altai and the Caspian Sea. The nature of Asia was covered by him in the works “Fragments on the geology and climatology of Asia” and “Central Asia”.
Later, Humboldt tried to summarize all scientific knowledge about the nature of the Earth and the Universe in the monumental work "Cosmos". This work of his is an outstanding work of the advanced materialist natural philosophy of the first half of the nineteenth century. The works of Humboldt had a great influence on the development of natural science (C. Darwin, C. Lyell, N.A. Severtsov, K.F. Rule, V.V. Dokuchaev, V.I. Vernadsky, and others). The methodological principles he developed on the materiality and unity of nature, the interrelations of phenomena and processes, their interdependence and development were highly appreciated by F. Engels. He called the name of Humboldt among a number of scientists whose creative activity served the development of the materialistic trend in natural science, breached the metaphysical way of thinking.
Based on general principles and applying the comparative method, Humboldt created physical geography, designed to find out the patterns on the earth's surface, in its solid, liquid and air shells. The views of Humboldt served as the basis for a general physical geography and landscape science, as well as plant geography and climatology.
Humboldt substantiated the idea of a regular zonal distribution of vegetation on the surface of the Earth (latitudinal and vertical zonality), developed an ecological trend in the geography of plants. In connection with the latter, he paid great attention to the study of climate and, for the first time, widely applied average indicators to characterize it, developed the isotherm method and compiled a schematic map of their distribution for the Northern Hemisphere. He gave a detailed description of the continental and seaside climates, pointed out the reasons for their differences and the processes of formation.
The circle of Humboldt's scientific interests was so wide that contemporaries called him "Aristotle of the 19th century". He was bound by friendship and scientific interests with I.V. Goethe, F. Schiller, P. Dallas, D.F. Arago, K. Gauss, L. Buch, in Russia - with A.Ya. Kupfer, F.P. Litke, N.I. Lobachevsky, D.M. Perevoshchikov, I.M. Simonov, V.Ya. Struve.
Humboldt was a champion of humanism and reason, opposed the inequality of races and peoples, against wars of conquest.
Humboldt's merits are marked by numerous awards.
He died in Berlin, was buried in the family castle in the Tegel district as part of the District of Reinickendorf in Berlin.
Glacier in northwest Greenland.
The passage between King William Island and the Tennent Islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
Return to the main page