Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/359

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ory, and creates a desire to see for oneself the places of which he writes. Humboldt thinks that landscape painting was not without an influence on early attempts to write out descriptions of nature. Landscape gardening made its contributions also, through the rare plants and trees, flowers and fruits, it presented to the eye. But the work of others is only an incentive to Humboldt to see with his own eyes and to set forth in picturesque language the features and striking characteristics of the countries in which he has lived. In doing this he is careful to show the effect of climate and the physical features of a country upon the well-being of men, for even he can not forget that it is for man that this world exists, and that it is to be studied for his sake and not for itself alone.

Astronomy, as known prior to the second half of the nineteenth century, receives extensive treatment in the "Cosmos." With its history and with the character and acquirements of the men who from the days of Aristarchus of Samos had been scanning the heavens and penetrating into the secrets of the starry worlds, Humboldt had made himself thoroughly familiar. What would he have said had he been as familiar with the principles of astrophysics? More ready than ever, assuredly he would have been, to assert his belief that we are standing on the threshold of a new era in scientific knowledge, and of discoveries which can not fail greatly to extend the horizon of our vision.

If he is careful to give credit to the early scientists with their limited acquirements, he is none the less so in his reference to the men of his day. Of Ehrenburg, his companion on his Asiatic journey, and a friend from whom he often received aid, he speaks as "the greatest microscopist of the age," "the highest authority in the study of microscopic organisms." Ehrenburg was one of the young men in whom Humboldt took deep interest. He was born at Delitsch in 1795 and died in Berlin, 1876. From 1820 to 1825 he was engaged in explorations in Egypt, Abyssinia and Palestine, and from 1838 to 1854 gave his attention almost exclusively to the study of microscopic organisms. For a translation from a Japanese Encyclopedia of an article on volcanoes Humboldt gives grateful recognition to Stanislaus Julien and prints it in full in Vol. V. of the "Cosmos." He refers to his brother William, whose death he mourned as long as he lived, as half his life, as an authority, as his treatise on the Kawi language shows, in the science of the comparative study of languages. Professor Waagen, of whose information he often makes use, the director of the gallery of painting in Berlin, is declared to be "a profound and cautious connoiseur of art." Generous praise is given Ottfried Müller, author of the "Archeologie der Kunst." Of Goethe and Schiller he speaks in terms which not only indicate his high esteem for their abilities, but the intimacy of his relations with them. Ludwig Tieck is an honored correspondent who has answered his questions concerning Calderon's and Shakespeare's de-