von Humboldt moved to Paris and spent the next 21 years of his life compiling all the information he observed in the New World and detailing it in a 4,000 page journal. Besides chronicling many new species of plants and animals, Von Humboldt mentioned the ancient civilizations and described localized climate change as a result of deforesting large sections of rainforest to establish cocoa plantations. He made maps of the area, studied the geology of volcanoes, offered views of climatology where temperatures are a function of elevation and latitude, charted the way air and water move to create bands of climate, made observations that plant distribution was a function of climate and geography, spoke about land masses being on large plates that could move, created isotherms to chart mean temperature throughout the globe, and located magnetic equator, among other accomplishments. As part of all his observations, Von Humboldt offered the idea of “Unity of Nature,” which spoke of the interrelatedness of all the physical sciences. Von Humboldt described nature as being sublimely eloquent.
Following his stay in Paris, von Humboldt moved back to Berlin where he accepted an invitation to conduct a tour of Russia to assess mining opportunities for the government. Unlike his trip to the Americas, the trip to Russia was hurried and restricted by the government. Despite the setbacks, Von Humboldt was able to glean three books from his travels across this vast country.
In the later part of his life, von Humboldt returned to Germany to expand on his idea of unity of nature, and drafted a lecture series that he delivered at the University of Berlin. From these lectures, Von Humboldt thought to expand on his Unity of Nature idea, and began drafting what became a five-part series of books known as “Kosmos.” Von Humboldt chose “Kosmos” because the Greek translation means “beautifully ordered and harmonious system.” Von Humboldt wrote four volumes of Kosmos, beginning when he was 71; he was halfway through the fifth and final volume when he died at age 89. The fifth volume was finished using the notes that he made. “Kosmos” was an extremely popular and influential series, laying the groundwork for many of our modern earth sciences. Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, and countless others were inspired after reading this work. It was said that Von Humboldt was the first explorer to utilize the scientific method to analyze the New World and many of his observations and deductions are still valid today.
Article by FCFCDB