Sunday, 7 June 2015

Guanajuato 7: Humboldt - extra news!

I wrote earlier about the laneway with arches named after Baron Alexander von Humboldt and about discovering Humboldt's importance in the development of natural history, not least as mentor to Darwin.

I wondered when he had been in Guanajuato.

I had seen his likenesses at Wikipedia, in European grandeur and out in the wilds drawing.

I had seen a map at Wikipedia showing where he had gone in Latin America.

I am in awe of the way people used to skate about the planet through harsh places leaving Europe in vessels that would be laughed out of the marina in Sausalito, or mocked, abused and bribed and turned around to Indonesia by some Australian agent, entering a continent from which into my mid-20th century childhood came adventure books full of vampire bats and seriously drained explorers.

Did he look, on safari, in more honest truth, like Burke and Wills, or Stanley and Livingstone? What a tough guy Humboldt must have been, I thought, to do all that. What rigours he must have endured here 200 years ago.

And then this morning I stumbled upon his humble abode, next to the legislative chambers of the State of Guanajuato.

Casa Rul and Valencia
The Baron
Alejandro de Humboldt
resided in this house in August and September 1803
posted by the government 1938-39

the big place in the middle, the legislative building the next downhill.
Extra note 8 June. An experienced local guide with wider experience today offered the advice, which is at least reportable as opinion from here, that Humboldt went from here to Washington and told them that there was gold and silver here they ought to grab. The chronology sounds right and doubtless discussion with Jefferson would have covered more than the effects of the Amazon butterflies on the weather. Wikipedia:

...A tempestuous sea-voyage brought them to Mexico, where they resided for a year, travelling to different cities.
Next, Humboldt made a short visit to the United States, staying in the White House as a guest of President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, a scientist himself, was delighted to have Humboldt as a guest and the two held numerous intense discussions on scientific matters. After six weeks, Humboldt set sail for Europe from the mouth of the Delaware and landed at Bordeaux on August 3, 1804

More thinking 9 June: Humboldt came here at a time when the ideas of the Enlightenment were seeping into Mexico though the government and church sought to prevent that. He carried with him ideas as dangerous as those of Galileo 200 years before. Connect to the story of Hidalgo and independence in this blog entry. And note the painting of Galileo later in the 1800s, displayed in the Museo Nacional in Mexico City.

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