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For Me, Humboldt Today Means ...

Anja Karliczek, Hans Christian Pape, Ranga Yogeshwar, Heiko Maas and Carolina Doran talk about their personal Humboldt.

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From left to right: Anja Karliczek, Hans-Christian Pape, Ranga Yogeshwar, Carolina Doran, Heiko Maas
From left to right: Anja Karliczek, Hans-Christian Pape, Ranga Yogeshwar, Carolina Doran, Heiko Maas

Anja Karliczek, German Federal Minister of Education and Research

“… that scientific curiosity can be truly boundless. This is true in terms of subject matter but also with respect to the seriousness with which he documented his results for others — take a look at his magnum opus, “Cosmos” — as well as his missionary fervour — just think of Alexander von Humboldt’s countless letters and contacts. I would also like to call to mind a political quotation ascribed to Humboldt which, I believe, is very relevant to the present day. It states: ‘the most dangerous worldviews are the worldviews of those who have never viewed the world’.”

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Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

“… identifying science’s top talents, promoting their scientific excellence in every country on Earth and, if necessary, helping to secure their academic freedom. But for me, Alexander von Humboldt also means connecting individuals with one another, across disciplinary borders and across national borders, because science, by definition, is international.”

Ranga Yogeshwar, Science journalist, Physicist and Anchor

“… what a huge impact he had on the way we look at nature today. When we talk about ecology nowadays – he was the founder. And the number of different disciplines that roused Alexander von Humboldt’s curiosity is quite phenomenal – not just physics, botany and biology but also demography and politics. He had one of the biggest networks of any scientist at the time. Just imagine, he knew nearly everyone who was anyone. And what really sets him apart is that he didn’t keep his knowledge within the ivory tower of academia, but sought to share it and start a wider dialogue.”

Carolina Doran, Portuguese-Brazilian biologist and Humboldt Research Fellow

“… progress. He described nature as a web of life, connecting animals, plants, climate and geography instead of studying each of the subjects independently. In fact, this is what inspires me too. He was committed to showing this knowledge beyond the scientific community which is ever more important. We should all follow our passions and be creative and artistic, create knowledge and most of all: always find ways of sharing it with everyone.”

Heiko Maas, German Federal Foreign Minister

“… standing up for liberal values and convictions especially in science. Alexander von Humboldt consciously campaigned for academic exchange and dialogue, and against political oppression. Inspired by this, the German Federal Foreign Office supports collaborations between academics worldwide. In honour of the 250th anniversary of Humboldt’s birth, a theme season has been planned for 2019 in Latin America. We do, after all, partly have Humboldt’s pioneering research journeys to thank for our close association with that continent.”

published in Humboldt Kosmos 109/2018

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