Alexander von Humboldt was a Prussian philosopher, explorer philanthropist and scientist. Born in Berlin, he lived from 1769 to 1859.
So creative a mind, he improved almost everything with which he came in contact, inventing and reinventing numerous tools and scientific instruments.
He traveled extensively and his journals and particularly his book, Cosmos, inspired many, including a young Charles Darwin, to get out and see the world.
He discovered and named many plants and animals and developed a very interesting view of our connection to them and the rest of the world. Humboldt believed that everything on earth had its place, including ourselves. We as humans might not understand the need for all of the world’s plants and animals, nor might we ever, but they are important nonetheless. Nature is chaotic, and yet seemed to follow some larger order, an order within which humans were not necessarily on top or in charge.
His method of study was to observe a given subject in its habitat, not to remove it and subject it to tests outside of its natural environment. This, he believed was the only true way to begin to understand the role a given species has within its ecosystem.
Humboldt was adept at everything he encountered. Even setting an altitude record in Ecuador on Mount Chimborazo, which at the time was thought to be the world’s highest mountain.