Alexander von Humboldt in the Americas

October 13 & 14, 2021

Join us for two virtual events about the 19th-century Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt with Humboldt-specialist Sandra Rebok.


October 13, 5:30 pm

Humboldt: European Encounters with the Other


A Q&A film discussion with Sandra Rebok based on the The Ascent of Chimborazo, moderated by Mariana Ivanova (UMass Amherst)


At the turn of the 19th century, the young naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and botanist Aimé Bonpland travel from Europe to the Americas intent on scientific exploration. In 1802, they stay at the hacienda of the Montúfar family outside of Quito. With the help of a group of indigenous people familiar with the mountain, they and Carlos Montúfar climb Chimborazo, at the time thought to be the highest peak in the world. They carefully measure and document the flora, fauna, soil, rocks, water and air on the mountain, while learning about the customs and beliefs of the local people.



Thursday, October 14, 1:15 pm

Humboldt and the Age of Scientific Exploration


This lecture by Sandra Rebok explores how the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt navigated between science and politics in the context of his historical period. What were his scientific goals? How did he connect the arts and sciences in his work? How did his pursuits differ from those of other explorers? How were they tied to the political uses of science in the age of exploration? Humboldt’s work has been much discussed in relation to imperial science, and he has been seen as alternately a colonial explorer or an ideological leader of the Spanish American independence movement. But neither interpretation is accurate.



This event is sponsored by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic in Boston and, at UMass Amherst: the German & Scandinavian Studies Program, the DEFA Film Library, iSTEP (international Science, Technology, and Engineering Programs) and the Max Kade German Language Suite.

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