Alexander von Humboldt

The Botanical Collections of José Celestino Mutis

The Botanical Collections of José Celestino Mutis

On April 6, 1732, Spanish priest, botanist and mathematician José Celestino Mutis was born. Between 1783 and 1808, Mutis tirelessly led an extraordinary endeavor to collect and illustrate the plants of Colombia, assembling one of the richest botanical collections in the world of his time. José Celestino Mutis – Becoming a Botanist José Celestino Mutis began studying medicine at the College of Surgery in Cádiz. There, Mutis also studied physics, chemistry, and…
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The underused Talents of Mary Somerville, Mathematician and Astronomer

The underused Talents of Mary Somerville, Mathematician and Astronomer

On December 26, 1780, Scottish science writer and polymath Mary Somerville was born. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel.[1] The word scientist was coined for her. Mary Somerville acquired her knowledge autodidactically and became well known as a science writer. “Astronomy affords the most extensive example of the connection of physical…
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John Lloyd Stephens and the Archeology of Middle America

John Lloyd Stephens and the Archeology of Middle America

On November 28,  1805, American explorer, writer, and diplomat John Lloyd Stephens was born. Stephens was a pivotal figure in the rediscovery of Maya civilization throughout Middle America and in the planning of the Panama railroad. His exploration of Maya ruins in Central America and Mexico generated the archaeology of Middle America. John Lloyd Stephens Background John Lloyd Stephens was born in the township of Shrewsbury, New Jersey, as the second son of…
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Johann Lavater – Physiognomic Fragments for the Promotion of Human Knowledge and Human Love

Johann Lavater – Physiognomic Fragments for the Promotion of Human Knowledge and Human Love

On November 15, 1741, Swiss poet, writer, philosopher, physiognomist and theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater was born. He was a main representative of physiognomics in the time of Enlightenment. “Who in the same given time can produce more than others has vigor; who can produce more and better, has talents; who can produce what none else can, has genius.” – Johann Lavater, Aphorisms on Man (1788) Johann Kaspar Lavater – Family Background and Education…
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Christian Leopold von Buch and the Jurassic System

Christian Leopold von Buch and the Jurassic System

On April 26, 1774, German geologist and paleontologist Christian Leopold von Buch was born. He is best known as one of the most important contributors to geology in the first half of the 19th century. His scientific interest was devoted to a broad spectrum of geological topics: volcanism, fossils, stratigraphy and more. His most remembered accomplishment is the scientific definition of the jurassic system. Christian Leopold von Buch and Neptunism Leopold von Buch…
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Lejeune Dirichlet and the Mathematical Function

Lejeune Dirichlet and the Mathematical Function

On February 13, 1805, German mathematician Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet was born. Dirichlet is best known for his papers on conditions for the convergence of trigonometric series and the use of the series to represent arbitrary functions. He also proposed in 1837 the modern definition of a mathematical function. “In mathematics as in other fields, to find one self lost in wonder at some manifestation is frequently the half of a new discovery.”…
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Georg Forster – Naturalist and Revolutionary

Georg Forster – Naturalist and Revolutionary

On November 27, 1754, German naturalist, ethnologist, travel writer, journalist, and revolutionary Georg Forster was born. At an early age, he accompanied his father on several scientific expeditions, including James Cook‘s second voyage to the Pacific.[3] His most famous work ‘A Voyage Round the World‘ is considered as the beginning of modern scientific travel literature, which also made him a member of the famous Royal Society. “Poor human race! What abysses have you…
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Wilhelm von Humboldt and the Reform of Prussia’s Education System

Wilhelm von Humboldt and the Reform of Prussia’s Education System

On June 22, 1767, Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt was born. He was a Prussian philosopher, government functionary, diplomat, and founder of the University of Berlin. He is especially remembered as a linguist who made important contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and practice of education. In particular, he is widely recognized as having been the architect of the Prussian education system which was used as a…
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Felix Mendelssohn – Child Prodigy of the Romantic Era

Felix Mendelssohn – Child Prodigy of the Romantic Era

On November 4, 1847, the German composer, pianist, and organist of the Romantic era Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy passed away. He is regarded as one of the most important Romantic musicians and, as a conductor, set new standards that continue to shape conducting to this day. “People usually complain that music is so ambiguous, and what they are supposed to think when they hear it is so unclear, while words are understood by…
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On the Road with Alexander von Humboldt

On the Road with Alexander von Humboldt

On August 3, 1804 geographer, naturalist, and explorer Alexander von Humboldt returned home from his great South America scientific discovery journey. “I am more and more convinced that our happiness or unhappiness depends more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves”. – Alexander von Humboldt Aimé Bonpland and Daniel Kehlmann Actually, Humboldt did not make this journey all alone. He had a…
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