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Humboldt, FriedrichHeinrichAlexander, Freiherr von

Humboldt, FriedrichHeinrichAlexander, Freiherr von (1769–1859)A German naturalist, physical geographer, biogeographer, geologist, vulcanologist, and mining engineer, who began travelling extensively in 1796, after the death of his mother. Accompanied by the French surgeon and botanist Aimé Bonpland, he set out to join Napoleon in Egypt, but their plans changed and they went instead to Madrid. Their experiences in Spain made them decide to explore Spanish America. They embarked in 1799 and spent five years in the South American tropics, exploring the drainage basins of the Amazon and Orinoco, investigating the properties of guano, measuring the temperature of the ocean current that bears Humboldt's name, and studying the flora and fauna of the forests and savannah, returning with more than 30 cases of botanical specimens. He wrote on many subjects, his most important botanical work being the seven-volume Nova genera et species plantarum (1815–25), written in collaboration with A. J. A. Bonpland and C. S. Kunth as part six of the 30-volume Voyage de Humboldt et Bonpland (1805–34). In Ideen zu einer Physiognomik der Gewächse (‘Ideas on a Physiognomy of Plants’, 1806) he proposed the concept of biogeography.

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