Essays on Science and SocietyPORTRAITS OF SCIENCE

Climb Chimborazo and See the World

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Science  04 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5591, pp. 63-64
DOI: 10.1126/science.1071988

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At the beginning of the 19th century, Alexander von Humboldt explored South America. In his essay, Bowler recounts how this versatile scientist pioneered a holistic approach to the environmental sciences and influenced many future developments. Humboldt's emphasis on how human values shape our perception of nature was, however, at odds with the increasingly materialistic trend of 19th-century science.