Location: 77th Street and Central Park West
Artist/Designer: Gustaf Blaeser
Materials: Bronze, Westerly granite
Funding: Humboldt Memorial Association
Charles Darwin considered Humboldt (1769 – 1859) to be the “greatest scientific traveler that ever lived.” Humboldt, a German, extensively explored Latin America, covering over 6,000 miles by foot, canoe, and horse, often in physically grueling conditions, and mapping over 1,700 miles of the Orinoco River. He climbed a 20,000-foot mountain in the Andes without modern-day technical equipment and was the first to ascribe altitude sickness to the loss of oxygen. Humboldt mapped the north-flowing current in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America that is now named for him. The earth’s magnetic field and the effects of volcanoes on the formation of land were ongoing interests. In Russia, Humboldt discovered permafrost and established weather stations.
While his main interests were in the area of earth science, his studies were broad. In the Amazon River Basin, Humboldt documented the lives of several local native tribes and even some language of an extinct tribe. He discovered and captured electric eels and described the fertilizing properties of bat guano. In all, Humboldt wrote over 60 volumes describing his field studies, which included establishing a link between an area’s climate and its economy. One of his theories was that all the continents bordering the Atlantic were once one huge land mass.
German-Americans formed an association to honor their countryman and presented the statue as a gift to the City. Humboldt’s likeness was first placed at the Park entrance at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue but was fittingly moved to Explorers Gate, near the American Museum of Natural History, in 1981.
Alexander von Humboldt
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