Celebratory Colloquium for Alexander von Humboldt’s 250th birthday

Alexander von HumboldtJoin us for the Celebratory Colloquium for Alexander von Humboldt’s 250th birthday! The colloquium will be held 1-2 November 2019, Noon to Noon, at the Forest History Society, 2925 Academy Rd., Durham, NC. Check back here for links to watch all events online live.

Born in Prussia, Humboldt’s restless life was packed with adventure and discovery on three continents, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, paddling down the Orinoco River, or racing through anthrax-infested Siberia. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force ("the web of life"), Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, writing books that were best-sellers in several languages that influenced politics, evolution, ecology, conservation, art, and literature. He inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, and Goethe but also politicians such as Thomas Jefferson and Simón Bolívar. Famous, beloved, and respected in his lifetime, nations on three continents named universities, cities, and geographic features in his honor. He still remains well-known if not revered in Europe and Central and South America, but has largely been forgotten in the United States, despite nine cities and numerous mountains bearing his name.

The colloquium will explore the many facets of Humboldt's work, influences, and legacy. Presenters include:

  • Laura Walls, English Department at Notre Dame (Passage to Cosmos)
  • Eleanor Harvey, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Senior Curator (American Cosmos, forthcoming)
  • Nicolaas Rupke, Institut fűr Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Universität Göttingen (Alexander von Humboldt: A Metabiography)
  • Stephen Bell, Department of Geography, UCLA (A Life in Shadow: Aimé Bonpland in Southern South America)
  • Elizabeth Millán, Department of Philosophy, DePaul University (The Romantic Roots of Alexander von Humboldt’s Presentation of Nature)
  • Stephen Jackson, Department of Botany, University of Wyoming (editor, Humboldt’s Essay on the Geography of Plants, and co-editor with Laura Walls of Humboldt’s Ansichten der Nature)

Sponsors: Bass Connections at Duke University, Forest History Society, Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke’s Department of History, Franklin Humanities Institute, National Humanities Center.

Contacts and organizers: Daniel Richter and Zackary Johnson, NSOE; Steven Anderson and James Lewis, Forest History Society.