The poetry and art of Alexander von Humboldt

Bill Dennison ·
13 March 2014
Science Communication | 

'Scientists who made a difference' series

This blog accompanies the biographical sketch of Alexander von Humboldt that Bill Nuttle recently posted provides a selection of his writings as poetry and one of his scientific sketches as art. The 'Poetry' uses von Humboldt's exact words (translated from German) in prose form to focus on cadence and word choice. It captures von Humboldt's philosophy of natural science connections that was in his multi-volume treatise entitled 'Cosmos: A sketch of the physical description of the universe: Vol. 1' published in 1845. The 'Art' uses a sketch of geological strata, also from his seminal treatise, 'Cosmos'.

The Chain of Connection
Alexander von Humboldt

In considering the study
of physical phenomena,
not merely in its bearings
on the material wants of life,
but in its general influence
on the intellectual advancement of mankind,
we find its noblest and most important result
to be a knowledge
of the chain of connection,
by which all natural forces are linked together,
and made mutually dependent upon each other;
and it is the perception of these relations
that exalts our views and ennobles our enjoyments.

Such a result can, however,
only be reaped as the fruit of observation and intellect,
combined with the spirit of the age,
in which are reflected
all the varied phases of thought.

Geological Strata
Alexander von Humboldt

Humboldt geological strata diagram
Geological Strata by Alexander von Humboldt

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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