Press Release: Walls, Passage to Cosmos

October 2, 2009
By

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This month marks the 240th anniversary of the birth of Alexander von Humboldt. Although today he is less well known than some of the luminaries he inspired, Humboldt was the most famous intellectual of the age that began with Napoleon and ended with Darwin.
With The Passage to Cosmos, Humboldt remerges for a new age. Here, Laura Dassow Wall traces Humboldt’s ideas for Cosmos, the book that crowned his career, to his 1799 journey to the Americas, where he first experienced the diversity of nature and of the world’s peoples—and envisioned a new cosmopolitanism that would link ideas, disciplines, and nations into a global web of knowledge and cultures. In reclaiming Humboldt’s transcultural and transdisciplinary project, Walls situates America in a lively and contested field of ideas, actions, and interests, and reaches beyond to a new worldview that integrates the natural and social sciences, the arts, and the humanities.
To the end of his life, Humboldt called himself “half an American,” but ironically his legacy has largely faded in the United States. The Passage to Cosmos will reintroduce this seminal thinker to a new audience and return America to its rightful place in the story of his life, work, and enduring legacy.
Read the press release. Also read an excerpt.

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