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Alexander von Humboldt

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Alexander von Humboldt, painting by Joseph Stieler, 1843

Alexander von Humboldt [1] (Berlin, 14 September 1769 – Berlin, 6 May 1859) was a Prussian naturalist and explorer. Humboldt's work on botanical geography was very important in the field of biogeography.


Humboldt was born in Berlin. His father, Alexander Georg von Humboldt, was a major in the Prussian Army. He married Maria Elizabeth von Colomb in 1766. The couple had two sons, the younger was Alexander. Alexander's elder brother was the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt.

In his childhood Humboldt already liked to collect plants, shells, and insects. Humboldt's father died very early (in 1779). From that time on his mother took care of his education.

Between 1799 and 1804, Humboldt travelled to Latin America and was the first scientist who wrote about it. He was one of the first who said that South America and Africa was once one continent. Many places and species are named for him, as is the Humboldt Current.

Late in his life he attempted to bring together different fields of science in his work Kosmos.

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PD-icon.svg This article includes text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Please add to the article as needed.