Alexander von Humboldt (1769 – 1859) explored much of Central and South America. He and his friend Andre Goujoud Bonpland explored the coast of Venezuela, the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers and much of Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and Mexico. Charles Darwin described Humboldt as "the greatest scientific traveler who ever lived." The young Charles Darwin was inspired by Humboldt’s writings. Humboldt is widely respected as one of the founders of modern Geography.
Humboldt’s accomplishments include:
· Collection and documentation of plant, animal and mineral specimens
· Study of electricity – including discovery of the first animal that produced electricity – Electrophorus Electricus – the electric eel. He received several serious electrical shocks while studying this animal
· Extensive mapping of Northern south America
· Set altitude records in Mountain climbing – including Mount Chimborazo
· First European to witness native South Americans preparing poison arrows from a vine
· First person to recognize the need to preserve cinchona plant – its bark contains quinine used to treat malaria
· Made accurate drawings or Inca Ruins
· Discovered the only natural canal in the world that connects two major rivers – The Orinoco River and the Negro River, a tributary of the Amazon
· First person to discover the importance of Guano as a fertilizer
· Later in life he traveled the Ural Mountains in Siberia and Dentral to study the weather – he was one of the first to describe the properties of permafrost
· First to propose that the lands bordering the Atlantic Ocean, in particular Africa and South America wee once joined together
More specifically in relation to Ecuador Humboldt coined the phrase “Avenue of the Volcanoes” in describing Ecuador’s Central Valley. There are 72 volcanoes in Ecuador including the Galapagos Islands; 59 of them in the Andes can be seen in a 5 or 6 hour automobile trip. At any given time one or two of them may be active.
Humboldt also discovered the cold Peru Current off the western coast of South America. Over Humboldt’s protestations it became known as the Humboldt Current. This current causes much of the interior of Peru to be dry – and it has major impact on the world climate.
At the end of their South America expeditions. Humboldt and Bonpland visited the United States where they were the guests of President Thomas Jefferson for three months. They were there just after Jefferson has sent Lewis and Clark to explore the western US.
Humboldt’s final work was a multi volume book, Kosmos, which tried to unify all of known science – he was still working on Kosmsos when he died, age 90.
After Alexander von Humboldt died it has been said that” no individual scholar could hope any longer to master the world’s knowledge about the earth.
Alexander von Humboldt's American Expedition 1799 - 1804
Alexander von Humboldt
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo, Ecuador - von Humboldt Slept Here
Hacienda La Cienega, Ecuador - von Humboldt Slept Here too
Cienega - A Very Old Hacienda
von Humboldt's Quarters Hacienda La Cienega -
Apparently Not Always Roughing It
Bust of von Humboldt Outside His Room at La Cienega
Educational Trip to Ecuador -
Humboldt University, Arcata California