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GEO 511: Alexander von Humboldt

Set 1: Humboldt's World

Skill building: Exploring historical context
Choose one or a few selections from the Humboldt's World items, and spend a short time skimming or reading them.

  • Did you spot any details that can help us understand Humboldt's scientific world?
  • What observations do you have about this time period and culture?


  • Linnean Society of London. Transactions of the Linnean Society. 1818, 1820, 1823. QH1 .L5 HistSci
  • Ulloa, Antonio de. A Voyage to South America : Describing, at Large, the Spanish Cities, Towns, Provinces, &c. on That Extensive Continent.  London: Printed for Lockyer Davis, in Holborn, printer to the Royal Society, 1772. F2221. J8 McDonald
  • Barton, John. A Lecture on the Geography of Plants. London: Printed for Harvey and Darton, 1827. QK101 .B351 HistSci
  • Swainson, William. A Treatise on the Geography and Classification of Animals. London: Printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman, 1835. QL63 .S91 HistSci
  • Müller, Johann Heinrich Jacob. Principles of Physics and Meteorology. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1848. QC21 .M8 1848

Set 2: Humboldt's Works

Skill building:  Exploring the relationship between container and content
Examine volumes from the different editions of Kosmos.

  • What did you immediately notice about the books? What details about the physical books strike you as interesting?
  • What does it mean that there are no illustrations in the text?
  • What do you think it would have been like to read these?


  • Humboldt, Alexander von. Kosmos : Entwurf Einer Physischen Weltbeschreibung. Stuttgart ; Tübingen: Cotta, 1845. Q158 .H919 1845 HistSci 
  • Humboldt, Alexander von, and Bromme, Traugott. Atlas Zu Alex. V. Humboldt's Kosmos in Zweiundvierzig Tafeln Mit Erläuterndem Texte. Stuttgart: Krais & Hoffmann, 1851. Q158 .H919 1845 Atlas HistSci 
  • Humboldt, Alexander von. Cosmos: a Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe. London: H.G. Bohn, 1849. Q158 .H919 1849 HistSci
  • Humboldt, Alexander von, trans. Sabine, Mrs. Elizabeth Juliana Leeves. Aspects of Nature, in Different Lands and Different Climates; with Scientific Elucidations. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849. Q171 .H87 1849a HistSci
  • Humboldt, Alexander von. Cosmos: a Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe. New York: Harper & Bros, 1852. Q158 .H919 1852 HistSci 
  • Humboldt, Alexander von, Otté, E. C., and Bohn, Henry G. Views of Nature: Or, Contemplations on the Sublime Phenomena of Creation. London: Bell & Daldy, 1869. Q171 .H77 1870 HistSci

Set 3: Humboldt's Legacy

Skill building: Exploring tone, bias, and authority:
Examine items from Humboldt's Legacy sections and read some of the marked excerpts

  • Who wrote the excerpts?
  • Why are these authors referencing Humboldt?
  • What language and kinds of words do they use?
  • Is he considered an authority? How can you tell?
  • What do you learn about Humboldt's legacy from the obituaries?


  • The American Journal of Science and Arts. New-Haven: S. Converse, 1820.... 
  • American Philosophical Society. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1771.
  • The Illustrated London News. London: William Little..
  • Scientific American. New York: Munn & Co, 1845.
  • Denton, William. The Past and Future of Our Planet : or, Lectures on Geology. Boston: William Denton, 1868. QE31 .D4 1868 HistSci
  • Lovelock, James. Gaia, a New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. QH313 .L68 Pauling