The aim of this paper is to analyse Alexander von Humboldt's views on the theory of evolution and tackle the following question: Can Humboldt be considered an evolutionist? I seek to show that Humboldt acknowledges three essential Darwinian elements of the theory of evolution: fossil records, the geographical distribution of species and the struggle for survival. Further, Humboldt recognises a special relation between the natural environment and organic life, and understands it in light of his naturalistic holism. This holism (...) reveals the unity of organic and inorganic nature and highlights the agency of organic life whilst allowing it to create and preserve the adaptive conditions in the natural environment. Accordingly, I argue that Humboldt believes some kind of evolutionary process happens in nature. However, due to the immense influence of Kant’s transcendental study and the rigid utilisation of the empirical method, Humboldt concludes that we cannot acquire knowledge of the exact course of the evolutionary process. This, however, does not imply Humboldt discredits the theory of evolution. (shrink)
Alexander von Humboldt: Counternarrative of a dissenter? Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9514-0 Authors Andreas W. Daum, History Department, 570 Park Hall, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Landscape took on a new meaning through the new science of plant geography of Alexander von Humboldt. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,?landscape? was foremost a painterly genre. Slowly, painted landscapes came to bear on natural surroundings, but by 1800 it was still not common to designate sites as?landscapes.? Humboldt looked at plant vegetation with a painterly gaze. Artists, according to him, could suggest in their work that an abstract unity lay hidden underneath observable phenomena. Humboldt projected painted landscapes (...) on nature and found its ecological unity. By doing so, he ultimately stripped the concept of landscape from its primary visual meaning. (shrink)
On February 5, 1850, the Austrian emperor Franz Josef appointed C.G. Jacob Jacobi to the position of full professor at the University of Vienna. Thanks to the efforts of Alexander von Humboldt, however, the world-famous Prussian mathematician remained in Berlin and continued in his position as a salaried member of the Academy of Sciences.This paper describes the history of Jacobiâs appointment in Vienna and his ultimate rejection of it.
Summary From summer 1792 until spring 1797, Alexander von Humboldt was a mining official in the Franconian parts of Prussia. He visited mines, inspected smelting works, calculated budgets, wrote official reports, founded a mining school, performed technological experiments, and invented a miners? lamp and respirator. At the same time he also participated in the Republic of Letters, corresponded with savants in all Europe, and was a member of the Leopoldine Carolinian Academy and the Berlin Gesellschaft Naturforschender Freunde. He collected (...) minerals, made geognostic observations, performed chemical and physiological experiments, read the newest scientific journals, and prepared and published texts on mineralogy, geognosy, chemistry, botany and physiology. Humboldt did his scientific investigations alongside his administrative and technical work. This raises the question of whether there were fruitful interactions between Humboldt's technical-administrative work and (parts of) his natural inquiry. I argue that the mining official Humboldt was a late eighteenth-century figure of hybrid savant-technician. Mines and smelting works provided numerous opportunities for studies of nature. Humboldt systematically used inspection tours for mineralogical and geognostic observations. He transformed mines into chemical laboratories, and he transferred knowledge and material items from his natural inquiries in mines to academic institutions. The main objective of this paper is to illuminate the persona of savant-technician (or scientific-technological expert) along with Humboldt's mixed technological and scientific work during his term as mining official. (shrink)