Humboldt` Mexico : In the Footsteps of the Illustrious German Scientific Traveller

Myron Echenberg

The incalculable influence of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) on biology, botany, geology, and meteorology deservedly earned him the reputation as the worlds most illustrious scientist before Charles Darwin. Humboldts breath-taking explorations of Mexico and South America from 1799 to 1804 are akin to Europes second discovery of the New World - this time, a scientific one. His Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain is a foundational document about Mexico and its cultures and is still widely consulted by anthropologists, geographers, and historians. In Humboldts Mexico, Myron Echenberg presents a straightforward guide with historical and cultural context to Humboldts travels in Mexico. Humboldt packed a lifetime of scientific studies into one daunting year, and soon after published a four-volume account of his findings. His adventures range widely from inspections of colonial silver mines and hikes to the summits of volcanoes to meticulous examination of secret Spanish colonial archives in Mexico City and scientific discussions of archaeological sites of pre-Hispanic Indigenous cultures. Echenberg traces Humboldts journey, as described in his publications, his diary, and other writings, across the heartland of Mexico, while also pursuing Humboldts life, his science, his experiences, his influence on scholars of his time and after, and the various efforts by others to honour and at times to denigrate his legacy. Part history, part travelogue, and always highly readable and informative, Humboldts Mexico is an engaging account of a gifted scientist and visionary that ranges across topics as diverse and broad as natural history was in his era.