PerspectiveESSAY

Humboldt for the Anthropocene

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Science  13 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6458, pp. 1074-1076
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax7212

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Summary

The ecology and environment of mountains are closely associated with Alexander von Humboldt, born in Prussia 250 years ago this month. His 1807 environmental profile of Chimborazo (1), the highest peak in the equatorial Andes, is iconic (2, 3). He later aligned it with similar mountain profiles to show the environmental and ecological parallels between elevation and latitude (4). Although mountains, climate, and vegetation were central themes in Humboldt's thinking for six decades (1, 57), his scientific contributions and intellectual vision extended far beyond those relationships, spanning nearly all the natural sciences and extending deeply into the social sciences and humanities. Indeed, virtually every part of the Earth, environmental, and geographic sciences stands on foundations established or inspired by Humboldt.

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