274 pages, 1 colour plate, 9 halftones, 7 tables, 1 poster
The legacy of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) looms large over the natural sciences. His 1799-1804 research expedition to Central and South America with botanist Aime Bonpland set the course for the great scientific surveys of the nineteenth century and inspired such essayists and artists as Emerson, Goethe, Thoreau, Poe, and Frederic Edwin Church. The chronicles of the expedition were published in Paris after Humboldt's return, and first among them was the "1807 Essay on the Geography of Plants".
Among the most cited writings in natural history, after the works of Darwin and Wallace, this work appears here for the first time in a complete English-language translation. Covering far more than its title implies, it represents the first articulation of an integrative 'science of the earth', encompassing most of today's environmental sciences. Ecologist Stephen T. Jackson introduces the treatise and explains its enduring significance two centuries after its publication. The edition also includes a poster-sized color reproduction of the Mt. Chimborazo tableau, an icon in the history of science and scientific graphics.
In this book, our first planetary thinker, Alexander von Humboldt, announces his life's work and catalyzes not just a new way of doing science--opening the way to biogeography, evolution, ecology, environmental science, the study of climate change and a host of other disciplines--but a new way of seeing the world that includes the role of humans in changing the face of the planet and the role of nature in human thought, perception, and imagination. Thanks to this fine and scholarly translation, richly supported by introductory essays, readers of English at last have access to Humboldt's provocative questions and visionary tools. Here scientific precision and artistic beauty fuse into an argument for transdisciplinary thought in free and democratic societies. In Darwin's day, every educated person read Humboldt; today, every educated person interested in forging a path to the future should start with this book, Humboldt's manifesto for the twenty-first century.--Laura Dassow Walls, au
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