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Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We Se

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  125 ratings  ·  14 reviews
The thrilling story of the charismatic explorer who Simon Bolivar called “the true discoverer of South America” and the daring expedition that altered the course of science.

From 1799 to 1804 German naturalist and adventurer Alexander von Humboldt conducted the first extensive scientific exploration of Latin America. At the completion of his arduous 6,000-mile journey, he

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Hardcover, 358 pages
Published April 12th 2004 by Gotham
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Riley
This book is uneven and often superficial. I will try to read a real biography of Humboldt. This is more like a sensationalist educational TV special on him. We learn too much detail at times, such as names of many places he stopped in Venezuela, which are not on the book's maps and are of no inportance. As another reviewer has noted, Helferich seems geographically confused. It was very interesting to learn or be reminded of Humbolt's many accomplishments and "firsts" and of his importance to s ...more
Patricia
Humboldt to me was a someone I had never heard of. Now, I am amazed at the things this man accomplished in his life. How much richer the whole world would be if we had more men like this. A great education in a very enjoyable format.

The thrilling story of the charismatic explorer who Simon Bolivar called "the true discoverer of South America" and the daring expedition that altered the course of science. From 1799 to 1804 German naturalist and adventurer Alexander von Humboldt conducted the first
...more
Keith Younger
Nice summation of Humboldt's scientific journies at the beginning of the 19th century, but the author has no physical sense of direction, which results in quite a few errors in the text.
Bruce
Alexander von Humboldt, Prussian Baron, was the first European to explore the wilderness of South America, taking scientific measurements and making observations over a five year journey. In his observations he noted the similarities of plants in areas of similar temperatures, created isotherms
and started the field of plant geography. Humboldt's obsessive cataloguing was used by Darwin an early admirer of Humboldt's travels. A generalist, he revolutionized several disciplines - biology, geology,
...more
Kevin
I actually didn’t have very high expectations for this book--thought it would be superficial travelogue. It certainly wasn’t great, but much better than that. The descriptions of the incredible discomfort and apprehension H. and his traveling companions had to go through. I can feel the clouds of mosquitoes hovering around. The amazing thing about these exploring guys is that they really had practically no idea what they were walking into, and that was fine with them. It’s hard to imagine that k ...more
Valerie
Darwin stated that von Humboldt's narratives inspired even a confirmed homebody like Darwin himself to want to travel.

Von Humboldt was one of the first to realize that the mesoamerican societies of Central and South American had been civilized by anybody's standards, and that the depredations of the conquistadores and their successors had led to considerable degradation--which he believed could and should be reversed.

He wasn't immune to prejudice, of course--but he was more inclined to look for
...more
Charles
This is a great book about Alexander Humboldt's voyage in 1799 -1804 to northern South America, Mexico and Cuba. He did a great deal of scientific work -- geography, ecology, geology, anthropology, all in an integrated way. The voyage ended with him visiting Jefferson in Washington just after Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark off on their voyage, which in many ways was similar to Humboldt's. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Humboldt was world famous as a result of his explorations, and ...more
keatssycamore
Not sure if it's the writing, but Humboldt comes off a little like the stereotypical German tourist. This strikes me as both good and bad (as German tourists tend to be). Example: the mastiff he decides to take into the jungle with him. His "pet" is ultimately (and maybe inevitably?) eaten. Shows a kind of willfulness while at the same time showing the cheerful way he would face privations on his journeyings ("Just need my dog and I'll be fine").
Kate
Nice, readable overview with lots of quotes from original sources. I don't think I could read the actual writings from Humboldt which he published to wide acclaim in his lifetime; his style is too laborious. But the story of his adventures and discoveries is incredible. This author points out many firsts that Humboldt discovered which have now been assimilated into scientific thought that is used today.
Elgin
I had never heard about von Humboldt but read this book after hearing it discussed on NPR.
This guy led an amazing life. The story of his explorations into the Amazon interior are
amazing. Von Humboldt was also a true scholar and renaissance man.
Linda
This book has it all. Part travelogue, part biography, part political history, part science history it'll stimulate your brain in a lot of ways.
Anthony Bello
It let me see more of Humboldt's character than his own writings would have, given just how private an individual he was.
Rebecca
A fascinating account of Alexander von Humboldt's exploration of the Amazon.
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“For throughout history, the synthesizing impulse has proved a powerful even world-changing, tool for understanding the universe, capable of penetrating the intricate,contradictory web of surface phenomena to reveal the universal,unified cosmos beneath--that fundamental,unchanging phenomenon we call truth.” 1 likes
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