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

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9781592400522: Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We See the World

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 was feted by Thomas Jefferson and presented to Napoleon, and, with the subsequent publication of his findings, he would be hailed as the greatest scientific genius of his age.

Humboldt’s Cosmos tells the story of this extraordinary man who was equal parts Einstein and Livingstone, and of the adventure that defined his life. Gerard Helferich vividly recounts Humboldt’s expedition through the Amazon and over the Andes, highlighting his paradigm-changing discoveries along the way. During the course of the expedition, Humboldt cataloged more than 60,000 plants, set an altitude record climbing the volcano Chimborazo, and became the first to study the great cultures of the Aztecs and Incas. In the process, he revolutionized geology and laid the groundwork for modern sciences such as climatology, oceanography, and geography—and his contributions would influence future greats such as Charles Darwin and shape the course of science for centuries to come.

Published in time for the bicentennial of the expedition’s completion in May 1804, Humboldt’s Cosmos is a dramatic tribute to one of history’s most audacious adventurers, whom Stephen Jay Gould noted "may well have been the world’s most famous and influential intellectual."

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About the Author:

Gerard Helferich worked in book publishing for twenty-five years as an editor and publisher.

From Publishers Weekly:

His name may be vaguely familiar, although you may not know why. But in his time, Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an explorer and scientist of unparalleled fame, whose work largely inspired Charles Darwin and influenced the course of a number of scientific disciplines ranging from geology to meteorology. Helferich's lush and engaging biographical adventure tale, which covers mainly the years Humboldt spent exploring Latin America (1799–1804), successfully recreates the New World when it was still very novel to European eyes. A Prussian sailing under a Spanish flag, Humboldt and his trusty (but poorly fleshed out) sidekick, Aimé Bonpland, carve a path from the Old World through the Canary Islands, to the parts of South America now known as Venezuela, Colombia and Peru; later, he travels to Cuba and Mexico. Through the Amazon and the Andes, the flies and mosquitoes, the crocodiles, piranha and jaguars, Humboldt and a small but changing group of assistants lug all manner of scientific instrumentation, boxes of botanical samples and provisions over thousands of miles, through uncharted territories and back again, discovering in the process the faded glory of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, the unsustainable nature of the slave trade and innumerable new species of plants. Helferich's eye for telling detail does justice to Humboldt's own obsessive culling of observed particulars about the world around him, laying bare in the process many of the foundations of modern scientific method.
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