Dr Sandra Rebok spoke on "Transatlantic communication of knowledge and ideas: The personal relationship and ideological link between Alexander von Humboldt and Thomas Jefferson" on Thursday, April 18th, at 4 pm in Piper Hall.
The Prussian explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the Virginia statesman Thomas Jefferson were two among many intermediaries participating in the transfer of ideas, impressions and knowledge between the Old and the New World in the early 19th century. As leading minds of the ideas of Enlightenment they saw clearly the deficiencies of European society and for them the United States served as a hopeful experiment for the application of their ideals to create a new form of society. In order to undertake these social improvements and promote scientific progress, both Humboldt and Jefferson recognized the importance of an international scientific network. In the spring of 1804, during Humboldt’s visit to the United States at the end of his scientific expedition through the Spanish colonial territories in America, they had various personal meetings in Washington. From these encounters onwards they maintained a close friendship over the following twenty years, marked by a lively correspondence, in which they kept each other informed about their respective work as well as their personal opinions regarding the pivotal events of their time, such as the independence movement in Latin America as well as general scientific progress and several technological projects. This conference will analyze both the personal and ideological link between Humboldt and Jefferson, contextualizing them in the realm of history of science and Atlantic history. By studying their relationship and their individual observations and impressions of world events, an important period in history can be reconstructed.
Dr Rebok is at the Vicepresidencia Adjunta de Organización y Cultura Científica (Deputy Vicepresidency of Scientific Culture), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council) in Madrid. She has published and lectured widely on Humboldt and Jefferson.
The talk was co-sponsored by the CAS Dean's Office and the History Department.