early exploration

A Diary of the World

A diary of adventure. Source: DPA
A diary of adventure.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Alexander von Humboldt is Germany’s most important naturalist, explorer and educational reformer.

  • Facts


    • Humboldt traveled from 1799 to 1804 in the New World.
    • The diaries were taken to Moscow after the Second World War, only to return to East Berlin in 1958.
    • In 2013 they were purchased by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for €12 million in order to keep them from being sold abroad.
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Rarely have travel diaries experienced such an epic journey: They’ve been across the Atlantic, down the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, carried up volcanoes and over the Andes.

The writings of the Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt documenting his five-year trip to Latin America were recently on display for three days in Berlin. They detail Humboldt’s incredible voyage from 1799 to 1804 in the New World. Crammed with detail, it will take scientists years to glean all the information they hold.

Born in Berlin in 1769, Humboldt died nearly 90 years later in the same city. Over his lifetime, he studied geology, botany, zoology, linguistics and several other diverse fields. In 2019, the German capital is planning to open the Humboldt Forum in the heart of the city in homage to his enlightened and cosmopolitan legacy.

But fortunately Humboldt fans missing the short window the diaries were on display in Berlin won’t have to wait that long to see them, as they’ve been completely digitalized for online perusal.

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