3/10/2019 : Cartographic Lines Travel Pathways Climate Knowledge

Cartographic Lines as Travel Pathways of Climate Knowledge (Public Lecture)

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Cartographic Lines Travel Pathways Climate Knowledge

Public Lecture Cartographic Lines as Travel Pathways of Climate Knowledge Alexander von Humboldt's Climate Map and the Origin of Proto-Ecology The climate is invisible. Humboldt's climate zone map of 1817 dates back to the early history of graphic-analytical methods, which we now call data visualisation. It offers a first picture of climate zones based on measurements. While today we are surrounded by infographics on almost all topics, around 1800 there was hardly any knowledge presented in this form. Humboldt’s climate map remains surprisingly abstract, resembling an idealized diagrammatic scheme rather than an executed map. The lecture focuses on Humboldt's drawing practice and his pictorial thinking. It is here the specific "thought style" (Ludwik Fleck) of a "Humboldtian Science", as described by historians for the 19th century, that can be connected with the history of data visualization.  Based on an analysis and a reconstruction of the map, it will be asked which precursors Humboldt referred to, but also which of his own experiences with this thematic map he could draw on.

Thus it is demonstrated how indissolubly insight and visualization were intertwined in Humboldt's work. With the synoptic schema, the diversity of observations and findings could be combined into an overall view, on the horizon of which a proto-ecology appeared. But just as important is another aspect: Humboldt's interest in knowledge was directed towards the laws "according to which beings are distributed across the globe". There is no life and no form outside these conditions. A separate idea of nature and culture is far from such thinking, a thought that becomes existential again in times of the climate crisis. Prof. Birgit Schneider Professor for Knowledge Cultures and Media Environments University of Potsdam + University of Applied Sciences of Potsdam Image credit: W.C.
Woodbridge, “Isothermal Chart, or View of Climates & Production, Drawn from the Accounts of Humboldt & Others,” HIST 1952, accessed August 29, 2019, https://hist1952.omeka.fas.harvard.edu/items/show/219. 

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