Museum to mark Alexander von Humboldt's 250th birthday

HUMBOLDT — While many cities are named after a person, the City of Humboldt is named after a telegraph station named after a person.

The telegraph station, built eight kilometers southwest of the present City of Humboldt was named after Baron Alexander von Humboldt between 1875 and 1877.

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Humboldt, was born in Berlin, in what was then Prussia, in 1769. This year would have marked his 250th birthday on Sept. 14 if he were alive.

The Humboldt Museum is celebrating his 250th birthday with cake and on Sept. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m.

“It’s not a large birthday party but we simply want to recognize that it is the 250th anniversary and just recognizing how important Alexander von Humboldt was, specifically on a global scale and how that history connects to our contemporary city,” said Jennifer Fizpatrick, director of cultural services at the museum.

Humboldt left Europe for the first time in 1799 to travel to the Americas, bringing with him 50 of the most advanced scientific instruments of the time including sextants, quadrants, telescopes, a marine chronometer, a barometer and a thermometer. He documented native vegetation, fish, birds and wildlife which were new to him. On his voyages he kept detailed accounts of the things he would observe.

The Humboldt Foundation in Germany, named after the man, describes Alexander von Humboldt as, “an obsessive networker, a daredevil and a marketing genius. His reports about his travels and adventures made him a star.”

“He had such a broad range of interests whether it was geology, botany, anthropology or meteorology,” Fitzpatrick said.

“So I think just the vastness of the work he did and how influential he became in many fields makes it proud to have the name of Humboldt for our city.”

His work became an inspiration for other writers such as Charles Darwin, who credited his own life path to reading and then re-reading Humboldt’s stories.

In Humboldt’s lifetime, the traveler published a series of five books he called “Cosmos” with the goal to depict in a single work the entire material universe. He died while working on his sixth volume in 1859.

The Humboldt Foundation recounts that the man loved succinct sentences and punchlines. He took a stand against slavery, colonialism and environmental destruction.

With his birthday celebration, the Humboldt Museum will be placing a new storyboard outside of the museum to explain regular questions visitors give about the man.

“He continues to be somebody people look up to in the scientific field,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We just welcome everybody to get to know who Alexander was.”

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