Cosmos, Volume 1
A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe
The first volume of Cosmos, his five-volume survey of the universe, appeared in 1845, though Humboldt had labored on the entire work for nearly half a century. He scrupulously sent sections of the work to other experts for suggestions and corrections. The last volume, put together from his notes after his death, appeared in 1861. The volumes were translated almost as rapidly as they appeared. This paperback edition reprints the Harper & Brothers edition, published in New York in 1858-59.
About the Authors
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) embodied the enlightenment ideal as well as anyone in his age. Explorer, courtier, laboratory scientist, he built a lasting reputation on the effectiveness of his methods, the quality of his writings, and the strength of his friendships. Goethe, John C. Fremont, Samuel Morse, and Charles Lyell were among his colleagues. He practically founded the fields of meteorology, oceanography, and seismology. His influence in the United States was immense. As a scientist, he prompted academic leaders to strengthen curricula. As a geographer, he assisted in America's westward expansion. As an advisor of eminent men, he urged for the abolition of slavery and protection of American Indians. As an author, he inspired and informed a love of nature that persists to this day.
A century and a half after its initial publication, the book remains a work of enduring value. Magnificently written, with an enduring message to convey Cosmos merits a place in the library of every person who wishes to be truly well educated in the history of the natural sciences.
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