A naturalist from Germany who was an outstanding geologist, mineralogist, astronomer, explorer, seismologist and demographer. He is a recognized figure in the world scientific community because of the books he wrote about natural history as a result of his travels to various parts of the world. He developed many of the ideas that are used today, especially in geography. Humboldt and his compatriot Carl Ritter are considered the “fathers of modern geography” (Humboldt in physical geography and Ritter in human geography). Both were known for their observations and a holistic approach to science and the use of geography as a method of analysis and research.
Fredrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was born on September 14, 1769 in Berlin. His family was part of Prussian nobility and Humboldt had the opportunity to study with the best teachers of the era, who began building his knowledge of geography, the natural sciences, mathematics, geophysics, theology, literature, history and languages. This enabled him to study at several European universities. In 1797 he began his famous expedition to the Americas along with French botanist and surgeon Aimé Bonpland. Humboldt’s adventure in the Americas, which lasted for five years, began in Venezuela and he later visited the island of Cuba in 1800. Three months later he returned to Colombia and Peru in South America and then went to Mexico. In 1804, he returned to Cuban for another month before visiting the young country of the United States on his return trip to Europe. During his travels he maintained a friendship with Simon Bolivar, who called him the “scientific discoverer of the New World whose studies have given more to the Americas than all of the conquistadors combined.”
In his two visits to Cuba, Humboldt dedicated much of his time to correcting data about the geographic position of the capital city and port. He also analyzed data about the population, the climate, the soil, the coastal geomorphology, elevations, and agriculture, especially sugar, coffee and tobacco. From this data, Humboldt developed studies whose value transcended his era. In his brief but productive time in Cuba, Humboldt collected data that he used to write his “Political Essay about the Island of Cuba,” a text that did not please the colonial authorities because of its anti-slavery position, which strongly denounced the cruel institution. Humboldt is considered the second discoverer of Cuba because of the contributions he made to the natural sciences of the Caribbean island. To honor Alexander von Humboldt’s memory, a national park in the mountainous region of Moa-Sagua-Baracoa, in the eastern part of the country, was named after him. This lush and beautiful site is 69,000 acres in size and contains one of the largest and best preserved rivers on the island.
Humboldt worked arduously in the sciences for 70 years and spent his fortune on his travels, publications, and in helping young scientists from poor backgrounds. He died in Berlin in 1859 at age 89.
Author: Harrison Flores Ortiz
Published: June 06, 2012.
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