Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/353

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
349
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT

history, its institutions of culture and religion, its resources, agricultural and pastoral, its mines, its timber and its capacity under more favorable conditions to contribute to the sum of human happiness. They had made use of the discoveries of previous visitors, like Condamine and Bourguer of the Academy of Sciences in Paris, who were in the country from 1742 to 1747, and by their observations had made it easier for future explorers, like Boussingault, who followed them twenty-three years later, to profit by their stay in the country. Incidentally Humboldt learned the value of quinine as a medicine, and is to be credited, in part at least, with having made it known in Europe. He and his companions ascertained the location of places by astronomical methods, noted accurately the movements of the barometer so important in determining the character of the climate, and did not overlook at all the botany, the mineralogy, the geology, or even the archeology of the country. Having completed their observations in South America and made a vast collection of specimens of various sorts, which they sent to Paris, they sailed in 1803 for Acapulco, Mexico, where in studies of that country and of Central America they spent nearly a year. Only a few weeks were given to the United States, whence they sailed directly to Bordeaux, France.

Having reported to the King of Prussia and passed nearly two years in and around Berlin, Humboldt obtained leave to visit Paris and arrange for the publication of the results of his explorations. The work which he had thought would occupy him possibly three or four years extended to twenty and even then was unfinished. In Paris, of which he was extremely fond, he associated himself with some of the ablest living scientists of France and with their assistance gave to the world, during the years 1807-1827, thirty volumes of description and discovery. If the scientific world was astonished at the contents of these volumes and the regularity with which they appeared, it soon found that the knowledge for which Humboldt made himself responsible was as accurate as it was extensive. Many of these volumes, in which more than two thousand very costly illustrations appeared, were written by Humboldt's associates, but no one of them left the press without his oversight and approval. It is little wonder that his name was in high repute in every part of the civilized world, that he was chosen a member of nearly every learned society in Europe, or that by general consent he was accounted the first scientific man of the age. This reputation, so early acquired, he retained till his death. Nor were his honors derived from the scientific world alone. While living in Paris he was often employed by his king as a diplomat, and with great profit, for he was a favorite at the court and in the best social circles of the city. A little above medium height, with regular features, beaming eyes, a rare charm of manner, and with a capacity for friendship rarely equalled (it is said