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Alexander von Humboldt map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This heroic-sized bronze bust by Gustaf Blaeser (1813–1874) depicts German scientist, explorer, and naturalist Frederick Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). Humboldt made an expedition into Central and South America in 1799, exploring the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers and portions of the Andes to learn more about meteorology and plant life. His later expedition to Siberia in 1829 furthered his study of ocean currents and magnetism.

Humboldt not only explored the Americas, but also researched extensively in his home country. He and French chemist Joseph Gay-Lussac studied the behavior of gases, laying the groundwork for many 19th century theories of the structure of matter. These studies, coupled with the knowledge gained on his research voyages, allowed Humboldt to pen the influential, five-volume work, The Cosmos (1845). Presenting an integrative view of the universe, this work combined the top theories of the time with Humboldt’s broad range of research.

The monument, donated by the Humboldt Memorial Association, was dedicated at its original location at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue on September 14, 1869. Gustav Blaeser knew Humboldt and used his death mask as a reference as he sculpted the bust. In 1981 it was moved to its current location at Explorer’s Gate on Central Park West and 77th Street, across from the Museum of Natural History. In 1993 the Central Park Conservancy conserved the Humboldt Monument.

Alexander von Humboldt Details

  • Location: Central Park West and 77th Street
  • Sculptor: Gustaf Blaeser
  • Description: Bust (over life-size) on pedestal
  • Materials: Bronze, Westerly granite
  • Dimensions: Bust H: 4'3"; overall H: 13' W: 6'10" D: 6'
  • Cast: 1869
  • Dedicated: September 14, 1869
  • Foundry: Georg Howaldt & Sohn, Braunschweig
  • Donor: Humboldt Memorial Association

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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