09 October 2008

Humboldt's Cosmos review by Denis Minev

Humboldt's Cosmos
by Gerard Helferich
Edition: Paperback
Availability: Out of Print--Limited Availability

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars THE LAST RENAISSANCE MANJuly 23, 2006
Humboldt was a truly extraordinary character. He was a mixture of adventurer and scientist that has rarely been seen, especially with such developed expertise in both areas. This biography covers Humboldt's entire life, with special focus on his trip to Latin America between 1799 and 1804. 

This book is written as an interesting narrative, explaining with only passing remarks the actual science behind his achievements. Advances that Humboldt made cover such different fields as botany, geology, geography, anthropology, climatology, magnetism, among others. The book is very good at outlining the spirit of those discoveries; if you would like an actual explanation, look in the Personal Narratives that Humboldt wrote himself. 

As an adventurer, he criss crossed South America at a time when much of it was yet undiscovered and uncharted. He mapped the Casiquiare canal, which at the time was a legendary connection between the Amazon and Orinoco basins. He made it from Venezuela to Peru, climbing in the process some of the highest mountains in Latin America (including the Chimborazo, which at the time was believed to be the highest mountain in the world and yet unclimbed). He was for many years the high altitude record holder of the world. 

It is amazing such a towering figure is not remembered among the ranks of Einstein, Da Vinci or Darwin. I highly recommend this book and finding out more about Humboldt, especially if you enjoy science, travel or adventure writing.

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