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Lecture / Discussion  |  The “Nature Paintings” of Alexander von Humboldt: His Revolutionary use of Art to Reveal Scientific Concepts

Saturday, September 28, 2019, 2 pm

Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium  

Stephen Vermette
Professor of Geography
Department of Geography & Planning
SUNY Buffalo State

Buffalo is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of German-born Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), a towering figure in the natural sciences of the 19th century. As testament to his greatness, across the globe more places and species are named after this individual than anyone else. Humboldt’s genius was in connecting previously unseen patterns and linkages of seemingly disparate information − referred to by Humboldt as “chains of connection” – to form the hidden foundation of many of our natural sciences. His genius extended to the use of visual arts in his published works. Humboldt’s revolutionary “nature paintings” were designed to convey giant ideas to the public in what has been described as “literal portraits of the underlying unity of nature” with “such visual force that their fundamental interrelations were inescapable.” This is an early example of the intersection of science and art. While less relevant in today’s science, Humboldt’s infographics and thematic maps retain their beauty as works of art.

This event is free with gallery admission.