18.06.2019 A Bogotian Exhibition Celebrates Humboldtian Curiosity

Hermann Biow (1804-1850). Daguerreian portrait of Alexander von Humboldt, 1847, Museum für Kunst and Gewerbe, Hamburg (Wilhelm Weimar’s collection). François Arago contacted two scientists in 1838 to evaluate together the accuracy of a new invention, photography: Alexander von Humboldt and Jean-Baptiste Biot.

Twentieth century scholars characterized Humboldtian science as “synthetic, empirical, quantitative and impossible to fit into any one of our twentieth century disciplinary boundaries.”

Urban Rainbow, Bogota, Sunday 16 June 2019, 15h43’32”

If you have the opportunity to visit Bogota before 6 July, you may visit the exhibition host in the Museo de Arte – Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Curated by Halim Badawi with the support of the Goethe-Institut, the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute and local collectors, La naturaleza de las cosas: Humboldt, idas y venidas presents 100 works in a successful succession of nine cultural dialogues.

Baron Gros, San Angel, 1834, inkwash

Looking at Camillo Achavarria’s 2011 sunset color inkjet photography

Albert Berg, Tropical Forest by Quindio, 1849

The exhibition question the future of paper books in very direct way:

Will paper books become the sediment which will divert cultural flow ? In Colombia the city of Mompos knew prosperity until the accumulation of sediment on its arm of the Rio Magdalena diverted traffic to the arm of Loba passing through Magangué, and the arm of Mompós became stagnant water.


A mysterious seed without caption attires juvenile attention. A perfect illustration of Humboldtian curiosity.

“Susan Cannon characterized Humboldtian science as synthetic, empirical, quantitative and impossible to fit into any one of our twentieth century disciplinary boundaries.”A central element of Humboldtian science was its use of the latest advances in scientific instrumentation to observe and measure physical variables, while attending to all possible sources of error. Humboldtian science revolved around understanding the relationship between accurate measurement, sources of error and mathematical laws. Cannon identifies four distinctive features that marked Humboldtian science out from previous versions of science:

  • insistence on accuracy for all scientific instruments and observations;
  • a mental sophistication in which theoretical mechanisms and entities of past science were taken lightly;
  • a new set of conceptual tools, including isomaps, graphs, and a theory of errors;
  • the application of accuracy, mental sophistication, and tools not to isolated science in laboratories, but to greatly variable real phenomena.” (wikipedia)

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