The Humboldt Symposium wants to connect projects and researchers focussing on Alexander von Humboldt. In this context, members of the joint research project ART (“Alexander von Humboldt’s American Travel Diaries”), based at the University of Potsdam and the Berlin State Library, as well as members of the long-term project “Travelling Humboldt – Science on the Move”, situated at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, will present and discuss their respective work. The debate will include issues concerning edition, as well as literary, cultural and historical research. The importance of Alexander von Humboldt and his writings for the 21st century and the scientific examination of his estate are further topics of the meeting.
Concept and Organization: Ottmar Ette and Julian Drews.
Program (in German)
Presentations in German and French.
2nd AvH-Symposion: Research and Edition
09:00-09:15Uhr Begrüßung und Einführung Ottmar Ette und Julian Drews.
09:15-09:45 Uhr Matthias Thiele (Dortmund): “‘Im Angesicht der Dinge’: Ambulatorische Aufzeichnungspraktiken und Schreibtechniken des Notierens bei Alexander von Humboldt und Adelbert von Chamisso”.
09:45-10:15 Uhr Julian Drews (Potsdam): “Colomb: (auto)biographisches Schreiben zu Alexander von Humboldt”.
10:15-10:45 Uhr Julia Voss (Frankfurt am Main): “Alexander von Humboldt als Zeichner”.
“Travelling Humboldt – Science on the Move” (AvH–R), based at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities; “Humboldt’s American Travel Diaries” (ART), based at the University of Potsdam and at the German State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation [Deutsche Version]
Studies on Alexander von Humboldt face new challenges and chances: Two projects are dedicated to the digitization, edition and research of those documents and texts that Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) wrote during his travels with the object of further investigation and documentation of his scientific understanding that is still unknown in many aspects.
Julius Schrader (1859): Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), Oil on canvas, 158.8 x 138.1 cm, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Both projects pursue a transdisciplinary approach to one of the most prominent scientists, writers and philosophers of the nineteenth century. Their goal is to further unravel Humboldt’s understanding of nature and humankind as deeply intertwined with his experiences as a lifelong traveller.
While there still is much to learn about Alexander von Humboldt, there are also some aspects to disband: the separation of “Humboldt the scholar” versus “Humboldt the scientist” isn’t able to meet an approach that shows the inseparable linkage between nature and culture in Humboldt’s works; the historical fixation of Humboldt as last reminiscence of pre-modern science and his monumentalization as the “last polymath” can’t comply with his ways of practicing and linking the ever-expanding branches of modern sciences.
Based on the travel diaries, which in case of the Academy project include the diaries of Humboldt’s trip to the Americas (1799-1804) as well as those of his Russian Expedition (1829), both projects aim to show how movement and travel are clearly interdependent within Humboldt’s theory of knowledge and how his writing could show the possible path to a still up-to-date understanding and conceptualization of a dynamic idea of science.