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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/298

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

penetrate. His Cosmos, that marvelous monument of meditation and research, is a new book of Genesis in which the universe mirrors itself in all its vastness and minuteness 'from the nebulæ of the stars'—to use his own words—'to the geographical distribution of mosses on granite rocks.'

By his wonderful talent of research, by his almost superhuman power to divine eternal laws, this great interpreter of science taught mankind how to read in the book of nature, how to understand its great mysteries. The series of sciences, originated by this mighty genius is, as well as the other manifold branches of science developed by him, sufficiently known to all of you.

, In all his investigations his ultimate aim was to bring theory into practical relation with life. Thus he not only elevated the standard of culture of the whole world by many steps, but he also became from a practical point of view the benefactor of mankind in many branches of common life, as trade, commerce, navigation.

He taught us how to conceive the beauty and sublimity of nature in its every form and motion. His studies are not a matter merely of memory and of dry meditation, to him nature was rather the inexhaustible source of pure and deep enjoyment, by which the heart is purified and ennobled and men are brought nearer to perfection.

It is not necessary to give you a more detailed picture of his life. All this is so well known and so dear to the whole learned world of America; for never has a foreign scholar been more honored in this country than Alexander von Humboldt.

We need only recall the celebrations which took place in his memory, both at the time of his death and on occasion of the centennial anniversary of his birth, when throughout all America solemn offerings of gratitude and devotion went out to the shadow of the great dead.

Humboldt devoted five years of his life to scientific investigations in South and Central America, in Mexico and in Cuba. He ascertained the course of the greatest rivers, he climbed the summits of mountains, where never man's foot had trod before, he studied vegetation, astronomical and meteorological phenomena, gathered specimens of all natural products and a great deal of historical information about the early population of these parts of the New World. It was he that drew the first accurate maps of these regions. With almost prophetic forecast of the needs of generations to come, he examined the Isthmus of Panama and considered carefully the possibilities of establishing an interoceanic waterway.

It is well known how great an interest Alexander von Humboldt has taken in the United States. Indeed, so strongly was he attracted by the problems of the new-born republic that, putting aside even his habitual scientific occupations, he devoted himself entirely for some