Lecture by Sandra Rebok and Reception: “From the Spanish Royal Court to the White House: Alexander von Humboldt’s Quest for Knowledge in a World of Politics”
Monday, April 20 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
2019 marks the year of the 250th anniversary of Alexander von Humboldt, the Prussian explorer, naturalist, historian and humanist, whose comprehensive work has sparked universal scientific theories and movements to this day. This presentation will be a timely reflection on the intellectual, scientific, and environmental networks that Humboldt set in motion in the 19th century, and his legacy and perception in America today.
The lecture discusses Humboldt’s role between the declining Spanish empire and the rising American nation at the time of his visit to the United States in the spring of 1804. It analyzes the delicate balance Humboldt struck between science and politics, focusing on how he made use of the political connections offered by monarchical Spain on the one hand and Jefferson’s cabinet on the other, while the two nations, in turn, used his scientific work for their own strategic purposes. Rather than being caught between the interests of these two nations (and those of others), Humboldt created what can be called an Empire of Knowledge, an elaborate worldwide network through which he freely circulated and controlled information, his scientific ideas, and resources he had acquired.
Sandra Rebok, Ph.D., is a scholar of anthropology and history of science based in Madrid, Spain, and a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Commission Research Executive Agency (2016).
Funding for this lecture was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Lectures Anonymous Fund. The event is cosponsored by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Friends of the Max Kade Institute, and the following units at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: the Center for German and European Studies; the Center for Culture, History, and Environment; and the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic.