Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Humboldt was an inspiration for Thoreau
Posted by Richard Primack
Last week I traveled to Berlin for the annual meeting of the Humboldt Foundation of the government of Germany where I was recognized for receiving a Humboldt Research Award. This award is “granted in recognition of a researcher's entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.” I received this Humboldt award for research on using the records of Thoreau to detect the impacts of climate change. This seems particularly appropriate because Alexander von Humboldt’s ability to carefully observe and detect rational explanations and patterns in nature was an inspiration for Thoreau.
I also visited the Berlin Botanical Garden to meet with Birgit Nordt and Albert-Dieter Stevens who are part of our international network of botanical gardens monitoring leafing out, leaf senescence and fruiting times. I was amazed by enormous variety of plants being grown in the outdoor alpine gardens and in the extensive greenhouses.
I presented a seminar at the University of Potsdam. The Ecology program is located on the grounds of Sanssucci garden, which includes many palaces built by the Prussian kings. One of the palaces had extensive south-facing terraces on which grape vines and fig trees were grown in vertical cold frames.
And finally, I met researchers at the Berlin Museum, and toured both the research collections and public displays. Their dinosaur display is claimed to have the greatest vertical height of any dinosaur display in the world.