Lack of general public awareness in Britain of the towering scientific achievements of Alexander von Humboldt (1769 – 1859) may be a function of the language barrier between the British and German spheres of influence and/or the parochialism of British education in the twentieth century!
Alexander von Humboldt was a Prussian geographer, naturalist, explorer, and prolific author of papers and books whose life spanned the later 18th and first half of the 19th century. He is credited with being the first scientist to identify human-induced climate change, and to have founded the discipline of biogeography. He journeyed throughout Latin America and was the first to study and describe it from a scientific point of view. His promotion of systematic quantitative measurement was the forerunner of modern monitoring in geophysics and meteorology. His major work, Kosmos, presented a fresh vision of the natural world as a unified system. He has been described as the inventor of the very concept of “the environment”.
Charles Darwin described Humboldt as the “greatest scientific traveller who ever lived”. During his lifetime Humboldt became a highly revered and respected public figure in Prussia and throughout Germany. He was given a state funeral in Berlin; his coffin was met at the door of the cathedral by the Prince-Regent. Today it is said that more places and species are named after Humboldt than after any other human being!
“The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those have not viewed the world.”
Alexander von Humboldt