Born on September 14, 1769 in Berlin, he studied first at the Universities of Göttingen and Frankfurt an der Oder. In 1790 he travelled together with GEORG FORSTER to the Netherlands and to Great Britain, then he studied for a year at the mining academy in Freiberg and became 'Assessor' (civil servant) in 1792 in the mining office and later head mining officer in Beireuth (portrait: The young Humboldt). In 1795 he gave up this position and travelled to Italy and Switzerland. In 1797 he went to Vienna and Paris and in 1799 to Madrid in order to get the permission to travel to the Spanish colonies. In the same year he embarked for South America, accompanied by AIMÉ BONPLAND, and in 1799 he arrived at Cumana, one of the most earthquake-prone regions of the new world. From there he started a boat trip on the Orinoco. The second part of his journey led him to Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, and the third part was dedicated to the study of Mexico. On the trip back home he was a guest of the American President JEFFERSON. In 1804 he returned to Europe and in 1805 he climbed together with his friends GAY-LUSSAC and LEOPOLD VON BUCH up the erupting Vesuvius. After a brief stay in Berlin he settled in Paris in order to write down the research results. With brief interruptions he stayed in Paris until 1827. Back in Berlin he gave his famous lectures about the physical world that later became his 'Kosmos'. At the age of 60 he started, upon request of the Czar of Russia, to travel through Asia, where he reached the Caspian Sea. From 1830 until his death he lived in Berlin, where he died on May 6, 1859. Since his journey to South America, where he not only witnessed several earthquakes but also collected a number of earthquake reports, he worked on a theory of the causes of earthquakes and the way they propagate. As the main representative of volcanism he modified his theory, after having read the treatises by MALLET and HOPKINS, by distinguishing the causes of earthquakes or the first impulse from the wave propagation of earthquakes, while he sticked to the basic idea of general volcanism.

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