Views of NatureBy Alexander von Humboldt
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. Views of Nature was von Humboldt's best-known and most influential work - and his personal favorite. While the essays that comprise it are themselves remarkable as innovative, early pieces of nature writing - they were cited by Thoreau as a model for his own work - the book's extensive footnotes incorporate some of von Humboldt's most beautiful prose and mature thinking on vegetation structure, its origins in climate patterns, and its implications for the arts. Written for both a literary and scientific audience, Views of Nature was translated into English (twice), Spanish, and French in the nineteenth century, and it was read widely in Europe and the Americas. But in contrast to many of von Humboldt's more technical works, Views of Nature has been unavailable in English for more than one hundred years. Largely neglected in the United States during the twentieth century, von Humboldt's contributions to the humanities and the sciences are now undergoing a revival to which this new translation will be a critical contribution.