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Alexander von Humboldt, renowned naturalist and explorer

This animated introduction of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), narrated by Jeopardy! champion and author Ken Jennings, chronicles how naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt mixed his passion for nature with his cultural connections, becoming one of the most influential people in science, art, and political circles throughout the 19th century. From SAAM, the Smithsonian American Art Museum:

He lived for 90 years, published more than 36 books, traveled across four continents, and wrote well over 25,000 letters to an international network of colleagues and admirers. In 1804, after traveling four years in South America and Mexico, Humboldt spent exactly six weeks in the United States.

alexander von humboldt

In these six weeks, Humboldt—through a series of lively exchanges of ideas about the arts, science, politics, and exploration with influential figures such as President Thomas Jefferson and artist Charles Willson Peale—shaped American perceptions of nature and the way American cultural identity became grounded in our relationship with the environment.

alexander von humboldt
alexander von humboldt
Related watching: Smithsonian American Art Museum curator Eleanor Jones Harvey takes us on a truly informative 35-minute tour of SAAM’s exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture. It’s chock-full of history.

File under history and biographies. Then watch these videos:
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Hidden Stories: Dorothy Vaughan
Carl Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae and Herbarium Cabinet

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