Live Virtual Lecture: “From the Spanish Royal Court to the White House: Alexander von Humboldt’s Quest for Knowledge in a World of Politics”

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Virtual Event
@ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required

​email Antje Petty  ( to receive a link to the event

The year 2019 marked the 250th anniversary the birth of Alexander von Humboldt, the Prussian explorer, naturalist, historian and humanist, whose wide-ranging work continues to influence scientific theories and movements to this day. This 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 circulated information, scientific ideas, and resources.

Dr. Sandra Rebok is an internationally renowned independent historian of knowledge, author, speaker and scientific consultant. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, worked for many years at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, and was a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Commission Research Executive Agency at the Huntington Library (2013-2016). Her research focuses on Alexander von Humboldt, transnational scientific collaboration in the 19th century, cultural transfers and intellectual networks, and the exploration of the American West. She is the author of numerous publications, including eight monographs. Her latest book focuses on Humboldt and Jefferson(2014). Her forthcoming book is titled Humboldt’s Empire of Knowledge: From the Royal Spanish Court.

The event is sponsored by the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies and co-sponsored by the Friends of the Max Kade Institute; the Center for German and European Studies; the Center for Culture, History, and Environment; and the Department of German, Nordic and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; with funding provided by the University Lectures Anonymous Fund.