Aarhus University Seal

CSS colloquium - Imre Demhardt, University of Texas on " Alexander von Humboldt and the Scientific Mapping of the Americas"

Info about event


Monday 19 November 2012,  at 10:15 - 12:00



Humboldt was a polymath genius hailed already during his lifetime as "the greatest travelling scientist who ever lived" (Charles Darwin). The presentation aims at an introduction to Humboldt's extraordinary life, wide ranging achievements, but has its emphasis on his contributions to the cartography of the Americas. The observations during the perception changing voyage crisscrossing Latin America in 1799-1804 and subsequent meticulous analysis by the Prussian nobleman was laid down in the most extensive ever privately individually written and financed travel journal in 30 huge and lavishly illustrated volumes, including two atlases: "Atlas Geographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne [...]" (Paris: Schoell, 1811) and "Atlas Geographique et Physique des Regiones Equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent [...]" (Paris: Gide, 1814-1834). But his cartographic stimulation of a new scientific image of the Americas and the whole globe go far beyond his own publications. As important was Humboldt's influence on innovative cartographers such as Heinrich Berghaus. Their "Physikalischer Atlas" (2 vols.; Gotha: Justus Perthes, 1837-51) is the result of a congenial collaboration to cartographically visualize Humboldt's "Kosmos", the last ever made attempt to explain nothing short than everything in the physical world.


Imre Josef Demhardt was appointed in 2008 to the Virginia and Jenkins Garrett Chair in the History of Cartography and Greater Southwestern Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. He was born and raised in Wiesbaden (Germany) where a Christmas present, the 1896 edition of Andree's Handatlas, sparked his lasting interest in the history of cartography. He studied Medieval & Modern History (M.A. 1987) and Geography (M.A. 1991, Ph.D. 1995) at Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University in nearby Frankfurt am Main. The field research of exploration, colonialism, and mapping brought him into many corners of the globe, but most notably he has spent a total of more than three years in sub-Saharan Africa. He has co-curatored exhibitions and is the author of numerous scholarly papers on post-Enlightenment exploration and cartography of Europe, Africa, and recently the Americas. The latest of his seven books, Aufbruch ins Unbekannte (Stuttgart, Theiss Verlag, 2011), is a collection of seventeen essays on major European explorers from Alexander von Humboldt to Sven Hedin as seen through their maps.

Read more about the speaker at: http://www.uta.edu/ra/real/editprofile.php?onlyview=1&pid=2512