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Alexander von Humboldt: „A letter from Baron Humboldt to a member of the National Institute at Paris“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 19.07.2024].

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Titel A letter from Baron Humboldt to a member of the National Institute at Paris
Jahr 1804
Ort Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
in: The Literary Magazine, and American Register 9:2 (Juni 1804), S. 207–212.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Tabellensatz.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: II.17
Dateiname: 1803-Copie_d_une-16-neu
Seitenanzahl: 6
Spaltenanzahl: 13
Zeichenanzahl: 18512

Weitere Fassungen
Copie d’une lettre de M. Humboldt, adressée au C. Delambre, l’un des secrétaires perpétuels de l’Institut national (datée de Lima le 25 novembre 1802) (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Auszug aus einem Briefe des Hrn. Alexander von Humboldt an Hrn. Delambre (Weimar, 1803, Deutsch)
Letter from M. Humboldt to C. Delambres, one of the perpetual Secretaries of the National Institute (London, 1803, Englisch)
Copie d’une lettre lue à la classe des sciences physiques et mathématiques de l’Institut national. Alexandre Humboldt au citoyen Delambre, secrétaire perpétuel de l’Institut national (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Copie d’une lettre lue à la Classe des Sciences physiques et mathématiques de l’Institut national. Alexandre Humboldt, au cit. Delambre, Secrétaire perpétuel de l’Institut national (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Alexandre Humboldt au Citoyen Delambre, Secrétaire perpétuel de l’Institut National (London, 1803, Französisch)
Kurzer Auszug aus Hrn. Alexand. v. Humboldt’s Brief (aus Lima vom 25 Nov. 1802) an B. Delambre zu Paris (Weimar, 1803, Deutsch)
Schreiben Alexanders v. Humbold, an den B. Delambre, immerwährenden Sekretär des National-Instituts, Lima, vom 25 Nov. 1802 (Ulm, 1803, Deutsch)
Copy of a letter read in the class of physical and mathematical sciences. Alexander Humboldt to Citizen Delambre, Perpetual Secretary of the National Institute. From Lima, the 25th November, 1802 (London, 1803, Englisch)
Extrait d’une lettre d’Alexandre Humboldt au C. Delambre, secrétaire-perpétuel de l’institut national (Brüssel, 1803, Französisch)
Letter from M. Humboldt to M. Delambre, relative to his Travels in South America (London, 1803, Englisch)
Copie d’une lettre de M. Humboldt, adressée au citoyen Delambre, l’un des secrétaires perpétuels de l’Institut national (datée de Lima le 25 novembre 1802) (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Brief van Alexander v. Humbold aan den B. Delambre, Aanhoudenden Geheimschryver van het Nat. Institut te Parys (Haarlem, 1803, Niederländisch)
Briefe des Herrn Oberbergraths von Humboldt (Berlin; Stettin, 1803, Deutsch)
Brief des Herrn von Humboldt an Delambre, beständigen Secretär des Instituts (Leipzig, 1803, Deutsch)
A letter from Baron Humboldt to a member of the National Institute at Paris (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1804, Englisch)
[Copie d’une lettre de M. Humboldt, adressée au citoyen Delambre, l’un des secrétaires perpétuels de l’Institut national (datée de Lima le 25 novembre 1802)] (London, 1805, Englisch)
|207| |Spaltenumbruch| |Spaltenumbruch|



I JUST arrive from the interiorof the country, where I have madeexperiments, on a wide plain, on thehourly variations of the magneticneedle, and learn, with regret, thatthe frigate Astigaragga, which wasonly to have departed in a fortnight,is now going to set sail for Cadizthis very night. For these fivemonths it is the first opportunity wehave had for Europe in the solitaryregions on the Pacific Ocean; andwant of time renders it impossiblefor me to write as I ought to theNational Institute, from which Ihave just received the most affectingproofs of the kindness with which ithonours me. A few days before mydeparture from Quito for Jaen and the Amazone, I received the letterwhich that society addressed to meby your hands. It is dated the 2dPluvoise, 9th year, and has takentwo years to reach me in the Cor-dillieras of the Andes. It came tohand the day after my second expe-dition to the crater of the volcano ofPichincha, whither I had gone withan electrometer of Volta, and tomeasure the diameter, which I findto be 4,500 English feet, while thatof Vesuvius is only 1,872 feet. Thisreminds me that on the summit ofGuaguapichincha, where I havebeen often, and which I regard asclassical ground, La Condamine and Bouguer received their first letter |208| |Spaltenumbruch| from the ci-devant academy; and Iimagine that Pichincha, si magnalicet componere parvis, is a luckyspot for natural philosophers. Howshall I express to you, citizen, thesatisfaction with which I perusedthis letter of the National Institute,and the repeated assurance of yourkind remembrance! How delight-ful is it to know that we live in thememory of those whose labours dailyadvance the progress of the humanmind! In the deserts of the plainsof Apure, in the thick forests of Ca-siguian and of the Orenoque, everywhere your names have been pre-sent to me; and running over inthought the different epochs of mywandering life, I have dwelt withtransport on those of the 6th and7th year, when I lived in the midstof you, and where Laplace, Four-croy, Vauquelin, Guyton, Chaptal, Jussieu, Desfontaines, Hallé, La-lande, Prony, and especially you, mygenerous and affectionate friend,loaded me with kindness in theplains of Lieursaint. Accept all ofyou together the homage of my ten-der attachment and my constantgratitude. Long before I received your letterin your capacity of secretary to theinstitution, I addressed successivelyto the physical and mathematicalclass three letters; two from Santa-Fé de Bogota, accompanied with atreatise on the genus chincona, thatis to say, specimens of bark of sevenspecies; coloured drawings repre-senting these vegetables, with theanatomy of the flowers so differentas to the length of the stamina, andskeletons dried with care. Doctor Mutis, who behaved most kindly tome, and for whose sake I went upthe river La Madelaine forty daysjourney, has made me a present ofmore than one hundred magnificentdraughts, large folio, giving figuresof new genera, and new species ofhis manuscript Flora of Bogota. Ithought that this collection, as inte-resting for botany as remarkable forthe beauty of the colouring, couldnot be in better hands than in thoseof Jussieu, Lamarck, and Desfon- |Spaltenumbruch| taines; and I have offered it to theNational Institute, as a feeble markof my attachment. This collectionand the chinconas were sent for Car-thagena, in South America, aboutthe month of June this year: M. Mutis himself took in hand to for-ward them to Paris. A third letterfor the National Institute was sentfrom Quito, with a geological col-lection of the productions of Pichin-cha, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo.....How afflicting is it to remain in asad uncertainty concerning the ar-rival of these articles, and of thecollections of rare grains, which,three years ago, we directed to the Jardin des Plantes at Paris! My time is too short to-day togive you an account of my travelsand occupations since my returnfrom Rio-Negro. You know that itwas at the Havannah we receiveda false report of the departure ofcaptain Baudin for Buenos-Ayres.Faithful to my promise of joininghim wherever I could, and persuad-ed I should be more useful to scienceby uniting my labour to that of thenaturalists who followed captain Baudin, I did not hesitate a momentto sacrifice the little glory of finish-ing my own expedition; and Ifreighted immediately a small ves-sel at Batabano, in order to proceedto Carthagena. Storms retardedthis short passage upwards of amonth, as the gales had ceased inthe Southern Ocean, where I ex-pected to fall in with captain Bau-din. I entered on the difficult routeof Honda, of Ibague, of the passageof the mountain of Quindiu, of Po-payan, from Pasta to Quito. Myhealth continued to resist wonder-fully well the change of temperatureto which one is continually exposedin this route, descending every dayfrom snows of 15,000 feet high, toscorching vallies, where Reaumur’s thermometer is never below twenty-four or twenty-six degrees. Mycompanion, whose knowledge, cou-rage, and immense activity havebeen of the greatest use to me inresearches on botany and compara-tive anatomy, citizen Bonpland, has |209| |Spaltenumbruch| been ill of the tertian-ague for thespace of two months. The rainyseason overtook us in the most cri-tical passage, on the flats of the Pas-tas, and, after a journey of eightmonths, we arrived at Quito, wherewe learned that citizen Baudin hadtaken his route from west to east bythe Cape of Good Hope. Accus-tomed to disappointments, we com-forted ourselves with the thoughts ofhaving made so great sacrifices witha good design. On looking at our herbarium, our measurements, ba-rometrical and geodesical, our draw-ings, our experiments on the air ofthe Cordillieras, we did not regrethaving visited countries, the greaterpart unknown to naturalists. Wefelt that man can depend on nothingbut what is produced by his ownenergy. The province of Quito, the mostelevated flat in the world, rent bythe great catastrophe of the 4thFebruary, 1797, has opened to us avast field for natural observations.Such enormous volcanoes, whoseflames rise often to the height of onethousand metres, have never pro-duced any lava. They emit water,hydrogen, sulphurated gas, mud,and carbonated argile. Since theyear 1797, the whole of this part ofthe globe is agitated. We feel everymoment dreadful shocks; and, inthe plains of Riobomba, the subter-raneous noise resembles that of amountain falling to pieces beneathour feet. The atmospheric air andthe humid lands (all these volcanoesare in a decomposed porphyry) ap-pear the great agents of these com-bustions, of these subterraneous fer-mentations. Hitherto it was believ-ed, at Quito, that 14,820 feet wasthe greatest height where men couldresist the rarefaction of the air. Inthe month of March, 1802, we spentsome days in the vast plains whichsurround the volcano of Antisana, at12,642 feet, where the cattle, whenpursued, often vomit blood. The16th of March, we discerned a pathon the snow, a gentle slope, onwhich we mounted to the height of16,638 feet. The air contained 0,008 |Spaltenumbruch| of carbonic acid, 0,218 of oxygen,and 0,774 of azote. The thermo-meter of Reaumur was at 15°; itwas not in the least cold, yet we bled at lips and eyes. The scite did notpermit us to make an experimentwith the compass of Borda, but in agrotto at 14,802 feet. The intensityof magnetic power was greater atthat height than at Quito, in theratio of 230 to 218. But it is not tobe forgot, that often the number ofoscillations increases when the in-clination diminishes, and that thisintensity is increased by the mass ofthe mountain whose porphyries af-fect the magnetic needle. In the expedition I made on the23d of June, 1802, to the Chimbora-zo, we have experienced that withpatience one may support a stillgreater rarefaction of air. Wereached to a greater height than La Condamine, on the Corazon, by3000 feet. We carried instrumentson the Chimborazo to 18,180 feet,seeing the mercury descend in thebarometer to 13 inches 11, 2 lines,the thermometer being 1° 3′ belowzero. We bled still at our lips.Our Indians forsook us as usual.Citizen Bonpland and M. Montuson,son of the marquis of Selvalegre atQuito, were the only people whopersisted: we all felt an uneasiness,a debility, an inclination to vomit,which certainly proceeds from thedefect of oxygen in these regionsmore than from the rarified air. Ifound only 0,20 of oxygen at this im-mense height. A horrid fissure pre-vented us from reaching the verysummit of Chimborazo, from whichwe were only 1,236 feet. Youknow that the height of this colossalmass is still uncertain. La Conda-mine measured it from a great dis-tance. He allows it nearly 19,320feet. Don George Juan gives it20,280. This difference does notproceed from the various altitudeswhich these astronomers adopt forthe signal of Carabouron. I mea-sured in the plain of Tassia abase of 1702 metres. Two geodesi-cal operations give me Chimborazo19,602 feet above the sea: but the |210| |Spaltenumbruch| calculation must be rectified by thedistance of the sectant from the ar-tificial horizon, and other circum-stances. The volcano Tongouragoa has di-minished much since the time of La Condamine ; instead of 15,820 feet,I found it only 15,186; and I hopethis difference does not proceed froman error in my operations, since inthe measures of Cayambo, Antisana,Cotopaxi, and Islinga, I do not differmore than 60 or 70 feet from theresult of La Condamine and Bou-guer. All the inhabitants of thesemiserable countries say that Ton-gouragoa is perceptibly lower, whileCotopaxi, which has had so violentexplosions, is as high as in 1744, andeven somewhat higher, unless thatarise from an error on my side. Butthe rocky summit of Cotopaxi showsthat it is a chimney which resistsand preserves its figure. The ope-rations we have made in the Andes of Quito, from January to July,brought the inhabitants the sad newsthat the crater of Pichincha, which La Condamine saw full of snow,burns anew; and that Chimborazo,which they thought so peaceableand harmless, has been a volcano,and perhaps one day will be soagain. We have burnt rock andpumice-stone at the height of 18,186feet. Woe to mankind if the vol-canic fire, for we may say that theflat of Quito has been one volcano withseveral tops, breaks forth throughthe Chimborazo. It has often beensaid in print that this mountain is ofgranite; but there is not one atomof that. It is here and there por-phyry in columns, encrustating vi-trous field-spath, horn-stone, andolivin. The bed of porphyry is11,400 feet thick. I might mentionto you on this occasion a polar por-phyry, which, analogous to the ser-pentine I have seen described in the Journal de Physique, has poleswithout attraction: I might quote toyou other facts relating to the greatlaw of the stratas, and their enor-mous thickness near the equator:but it would be too much in a letterwhich may be lost; and I will treat |Spaltenumbruch| of that some other time. I only add,that besides the elephants’ teethwhich we have sent to citizen Cu-vier from the flats of Santa Fé, of8100 feet in height, we keep for himothers still finer; some of a carni-vorous elephant, others of a specieslittle different from that of Africa,from the valley of Timana, the townof Ibarra, and from Chili. Thus, then,is the existence of that carnivorousmonster certain, from Ohio, in the50th degree north latitude, to the75th degree south latitude. I have spent very agreeable hoursat Quito. The president of the au-dience, baron de Corondeles, hasloaded us with kindness; and forthree years I have had no reason tocomplain for once of the agents ofthe Spanish government. Everywhere I have been treated with dis-tinction, and with a delicacy whichobliges me to an everlasting grati-tude. I have been very attentiveto the pyramids and to their foun-dation, which I do not believe in theleast deranged as to the pierres mo-laires. A generous individual, afriend of sciences and of learnedmen, such as La Condamine, Godin,and Bouguer, namely, the marquisof Selvalegre, at Quito, thinks ofrebuilding them; but this leads metoo far. After having passed the Assonay and Cuença, where they gave a bull-baiting, we took the route of Loxa,to complete our operations on theChincona. Afterwards we spent amonth in the province of Taen, ofBracamoros, and in the Pongos ofthe Amazone, whose banks areadorned with the Andira and Bou-gainvillea of Jussieu . Methinks it isimportant to fix the longitude of To-mependa and of Chuchunga, wherebegins the chart of La Condamine,and to connect these points with thecoast. La Condamine could only fixthe longitude of the mouth of the ri-ver Napo: there were then no time-pieces; so that the longitude of theseplaces stand in need of several cor-rections. My chronometer of LouisBerthoud does wonders, as I am con-vinced by observing from time to |211| |Spaltenumbruch| time the first satellite of Jupiter;and by comparing point for point thedifference of my meridians from thosefound at the expedition of M. Fidal-ga, who, by the king’s order, madetrigonometrical observations fromCumana to Carthagena. From the river Amazone we pass-ed the Andes by the mines of Haal-gayac, which produce a million ofpiasters yearly, and where the mineof grey argentiferous copper is foundat 12,390 feet. We came down toTruxilla by Cascamarca, where, inthe palace of Atatualpa, I havedrawn the arches of the Peruvianvaults. Continuing by the deserts ofthe South Sea coast to Lima, whereone half of the year is covered withthick vapours, I made haste to ar-rive at Lima, in order to observethe transit of Mercury on the 9thNovember, 1802. Our collections of plants, and thedrawings I have made of the anato-my of the genera, agreeably to theideas citizen Jussieu had impartedto me in the Society for Natural His-tory, have generally increased theriches we have found in the provinceof Quito, at Loxa, at the Amazone,and in the Cordillieres of Peru. Wehave found many plants seen by Jo-seph Jussieu, such as the Llogue af-finis quillajac, and others. We havea new species of julienne, which ischarming; collatix, passiflora, andloranthus, a tree sixty feet high. Weare very rich in palms and gramina,on which citizen Bonpland has la-boured very extensively. We nowhave 3784 very complete descrip-tions in Latin, and nearly one-thirdof the plants in the herbarium, which, for want of time, we havenot been able to describe. Thereis not a vegetable of which we can-not point out the rock it inha-bits, and to what height in feet itmounts; so that the geography ofplants will find in our manuscriptsvery correct materials. In order todo still better, citizen Bonpland andI have often described the sameplant separately. But two-thirds ofthe descriptions, and more, belongto the sole assiduity of citizen Bonp- |Spaltenumbruch| land, whose zeal for the progress ofscience cannot be sufficiently admir-ed. Jussieu, Desfontaines, and La-marck, have reared in him a disci-ple who will go great lengths. We have compared our herbari-um with these of M. Mutis; we haveconsulted many books in the im-mense library of that great man:we are persuaded that we havefound several new genera and newspecies: but much time will be re-quired to determine what is reallynew. We mention also a silicioussubstance, analogous to the tabas-chin of the East-Indies, which M. Mutis has analysed. It is found inthe knots of a gigantic gramenwhich is confounded with the bam-bou: but its flower differs from thatof the bambusa of Schreber. I knownot whether citizen Fourcroy hasreceived the milk of the vegetablecow, as the Indians call the tree. Itis a milk which, prepared with ni-trous acid, produced a caoutchouc with a balsamic odour, but which,far from being caustic or hurtful, asall vegetable milks are, is nourish-ing and agreeable: we discovered iton the road of Orenoque, in a plan-tation where the Negroes drink of-ten of it. I sent also to citizen Four-croy by Guadaloupe, and to sir Jo-seph Banks, by the Trinidad, our dapiche; or the white oxygen caout-chouc, which exudes from the rootsof a tree in the forests of Pimichin,in the most remote corner of theworld, towards the sources of RioNegro. At length, after waiting threeyears, La Mechanique Celeste of La-place, is arrived (November, 1802;)I have fallen upon it with unbound-ed eagerness. This book has en-couraged me to continue my re-searches on the tides of the atmos-phere, on which I made several ob-servations at Cumana in the year1799. I have mentioned them in aletter to citizen Lalande. Godin knew something about them, with-out pointing out a cause. Mosely,in a work on the maladies of thetropics, says, that the barometer isat the maximum when the sun is in |212| |Spaltenumbruch| the meridian; but that is very false.The maximum takes place at 21 h.and at 11 h.; the minimum at 4 h.and at 15\( \frac{1}{2} \) h. The moon does notseem to alter the epochs so much asthe quantity of elevations. I amnow observing principally the daysof opposition and conjunction; andas my barometer indicates the 20thpart of a line, I doubt not but citi-zen Laplace, whose genius has con-quered the tides of the sea, will alsodiscover the laws of the tides of theair, when I shall have given himsome thousands of observations. See how striking the phenome-non is:
f. l.
24 November, 10 h. morn. 27 5 75
——— 12 49 m. 5 45
——— 2 0 5 25
——— 3 30 5 10
——— 4 45 5 0
——— 5 30 5 10
——— 7 0 5 40
——— 8 0 5 60
——— 9 0 5 65
——— 10 30 5 65
I observe the hygrometer and ba-rometer at the same time. My ba-rometer is English. I have gone too far. I wished towrite my friend Pommard. I haveno more time; he loves me, he willexcuse me. I don’t go to the Philippines. Ipass by Acapulco, Mexico, Havan-nah, to Europe. I hope to embraceyou in September or October, 1803,at Paris. I shall be at Mexico inFebruary; in June at Havannah. Ithink of nothing but of preservingand publishing my manuscripts.......How much do I long to be at Paris! Health and respect,