Essay on the Geography of Plants

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Overview

The legacy of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) looms large over the natural sciences. His 1799–1804 research expedition to Central and South America with botanist Aimé Bonpland set the course for the great scientific surveys of the nineteenth century, and inspired such essayists and artists as Emerson, Goethe, Thoreau, Poe, and Church.
The chronicles of the expedition were published in Paris after Humboldt’s return, and first among them was the 1807 “Essay on the Geography of Plants.” Among the most cited writings in natural history, after the works of Darwin and Wallace, this work appears here for the first time in a complete English-language translation. Covering far more than its title implies, it represents the first articulation of an integrative “science of the earth, ” encompassing most of today’s environmental sciences.  Ecologist Stephen T. Jackson introduces the treatise and explains its enduring significance two centuries after its publication. This edition also includes a poster-sized color reproduction of the Mt. Chimborazo tableau, an icon in the history of science and scientific graphics.  

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

“Alexander von Humboldt was a seminal explorer and natural philosopher of the nineteenth century whose work was fundamental to the development of botany, ecology, geography, geology, meteorology, and other disciplines. . . . His groundbreaking work on plant geography is translated here for the first time in highly readable English, with a perceptive, thought-provoking introduction that lends context and added interest to the general text.”
Thomas E. Lovejoy

“Virtually a Rosetta Stone, this book provides entry to the work of the great polymath naturalist who inspired Darwin, and reveals Humboldt as the grand figure that he was. Not just a translation, but greatly enriched by essays and supporting material, this is a must read for anyone interested in natural science—and, indeed, science in general.”
Mark V. Lomolino

“Stephen T. Jackson provides an invaluable service to modern science—complementing Sylvie Romanowski’s meticulous translation of Humboldt’s essay and the careful reproductions of Humboldt’s seminal illustrations of geographic variation in climate and vegetation along the slopes of Mount Chimborazo—with an eloquent account of the historical development and intellectual impact of Humboldt’s masterpiece. The result is a precious opportunity to rediscover a lost classic in the history of science; one that can once again serve as an exemplary case study for advancing the frontiers of natural science through enlightened integration across diverse but interdependent disciplines.”
Laura Dassow Walls

“In this book, our first planetary thinker, Alexander von Humboldt, announces his life’s work and catalyzes not just a new way of doing science—opening the way to biogeography, evolution, ecology, environmental science, the study of climate change and a host of other disciplines—but a new way of seeing the world that includes the role of humans in changing the face of the planet and the role of nature in human thought, perception, and imagination. Thanks to this fine and scholarly translation, richly supported by introductory essays, readers of English at last have access to Humboldt’s provocative questions and visionary tools. Here scientific precision and artistic beauty fuse into an argument for transdisciplinary thought in free and democratic societies. In Darwin’s day, every educated person read Humboldt; today, every educated person interested in forging a path to the future should start with this book, Humboldt’s manifesto for the twenty-first century.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226360669
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 1,052,408
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Stephen T. Jackson is professor of botany and ecology at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. Sylvie Romanowski is professor of French literature at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.
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Table of Contents

Preface           

Note to the Reader

Note on Nomenclature

Note on Units 

Acknowledgments  
Introduction: Humboldt, Ecology, and the Cosmos

Stephen T. Jackson

Translator’s Note  

Sylvie Romanowski 
Essay on the Geography of Plants 

            Alexander von Humboldt, translated by Sylvie Romanowski

Text of Humboldt’s Tableau physique  

            Translated by Sylvie Romanowski

Humboldt’s Pictorial Science: An Analysis of the Tableau physique
des Andes et Pays voisins

Sylvie Romanowski

Plant Species Cited in Humboldt’s Essay and Tableau physique

            Stephen T. Jackson

Instruments Utilized in Developing the Tableau physique

            Stephen T. Jackson

Biographical Sketches

            Stephen T. Jackson

Bibliographical Essay and Bibliography

            Stephen T. Jackson

Color plate, Tableau physique

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