• Julie Urbanik

Humbolt, Geography and Art


Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian geographer, naturalist, and explorer.

His work came during a time when sciences were becoming more specialized and dominated by a rationalist view. For Humboldt, the world was fundamentally connected and one could not understand phenomena only in discrete categories - for him the goal was to constantly bring the specific and the general, the small-scale and the large-scale together. In doing so he not only had an incredible influence on geographic thought itself, but also on the thinking of Charles Darwin.

Furthermore, Humboldt was a huge proponent of public access to scholarly work and felt that scholars had a duty to write as openly as possible and to share their work so that all of society could learn about the world. One of the key ways that he did this himself was to develop stunning visual diagrams - in essence he is considered the father of modern-day data visualization techniques. In the image below, entitled Naturgemälde (better known as the Chimborazo map) he is conveying the relationship between plant life and altitude on the sides of the Chimborazo volcano in what is today Ecuador.

Those of us at The Coordinates Society are inspired by his work and see his belief in the link between geography and art, science and emotion, and public engagement as a model for the work that we do.

For an excellent storymap on Humboldt's life and contributions, please click here.

#Humbolt #Esri

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