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Humboldt as a role model

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Humboldt as a role model

  1. 1. “A. v. Humboldt as a role model for a scientist of the future” A dialogue between Wolfredo Wildpret andGünter Koch HCM Conference on November 15th , 2013 at ULL, Lecture Hall of the Faculty of Pharmacy, La Laguna, Tenerife
  2. 2. “Cosmos” – Humboldt’s life œuvre The first two volumes of the Kosmos (transl. Cosmos) were published between the years 1845 and 1847. Humboldt had long intended to write a comprehensive work about geography and the natural sciences. The writing took shape in lectures he delivered before the University of Berlin in the winter of 1827-28. These lectures would form "the cartoon for the great fresco of the [K/C]osmos". The work attempted to unify the sciences then known in a Kantian framework. With inspiration from German Romanticism, Humboldt sought to create a compendium of the world's environment. He spent the last decade of his long life continuing this work. The third and fourth volumes were published in 1850-58; a fragment of a fifth appeared posthumously in 1862. The writing period lasted from ~ his 57th to his 89th anniversary, i.e. ~ 30 years. Cosmos became very popular in Britain and America.
  3. 3. What is “Humboldtian science“ ? Alexander von Humboldt thought an approach to science was needed that could account for the harmony of nature among the diversity of the physical world. For Humboldt, "the unity of nature" meant that it was the interrelation of all physical sciences—such as the conjoining between biology, meteorology and geology—that determined where specific plants grew. Humboldt viewed nature holistically, and tried to explain natural phenomena without the appeal to religious dogma. He believed in the central importance of observation, and as a consequence had amassed a vast array of the most sophisticated scientific instruments then available. … Nothing quantifiable escaped his measurement. According to Humboldt, everything should be measured with the finest and most modern instruments and sophisticated techniques available, for it was that collected data was the basis of all scientific understanding. This quantitative methodology would become known as "Humboldtian science".
  4. 4. A. v. Humboldt‘s life œuvre: „KOSMOS“ Kosmos is the German word for Cosmos. A.v.Humboldt’s œuvre had the complete title “Kosmos – Entwurf einer physischen Weltbeschreibung” (“Cosmos – the attempt of a physical description of the world”). Alexander v. Humboldt as a symbolic figure • He and his brother Wilhelm took major Influence on the European university education system • He was a real universal and international scientist mastering a multitude of disciplines and offering a „grand view“ of the world • He combined on-spot empirical research with systematic scientific classifications and anaylysing relations cross disiplines • He fostered to move South and Middle America in emancipated self recognition and to become interested in modern science • He used Tenerife as his base and training camp on his first four years‘ research excursion • He started at the age of 57 to compile his life œuvre during > 30 years, i.e. was performing main science work in elder age
  5. 5. Wilhelm von Humboldt (22 June 1767 – 8 April 1835) was a minister, diplomat, philosopher, founder  of  Humboldt University in Berlin, a friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, and  elder brother of Alexander von Humboldt. He is especially remembered as a linguist who made  important contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and practice of education. His political view is best given by one of his famous quotations: “That government is best which makes itself unnecessary”. (In: “On the Limits of State Action“ 1792) On university reform: Alexander‘s brother Wilhelm
  6. 6. Humboldt's work as a philologist especially in Basque has had more extensive impact than his other work.  His visit to the Basque country resulted in Researches into the Early Inhabitants of Spain by the help of t he Basque language (1821). In this work, Humboldt endeavored to show by examining geographical placenames,  that at one time a race or races speaking dialects allied to modern Basque extended throughout Spain, s Southern France and the Balearic Islands; he identified these people with the Iberians of classical writers, and  further surmised that they had been allied with the Berbers of northern Africa.  As a Minister for Education, W.v. Humboldt's plans for reforming the Prussian university and school system were  not published until long after his death, together with his fragment of a treatise on the 'Theory of Human Education',  which he had written in about 1793. Here Humboldt states that ”the ultimate task of our existence is to give the  fullest possible content to the concept of humanity in our own person [...] through the impact of actions in our  own lives”. This task “can only be implemented through the links established between ourselves as individuals  and the world around us”. W.v. Humboldt's educational ideal was colored by social considerations. He never believed that the “human race  could culminate in the attainment of a general perfection conceived in abstract terms”. In 1789, he wrote in his diary  that “the education of the individual requires his incorporation into society and involves his links with society at large”. The university reform in Germany after his ideas lead to the requirement, that higher education and experience to be made in the real living environment (“Theory and Practice”) shall go hand in hand.
  7. 7. Learnings from both the Humboldts •  Be courageous, even adventurous •  Be open minded •  Be intensively embedded in the social and natural environment •  Be curious and explore what is still undiscovered or is new • Never stop your mind, never stop thinking and conceptualizing •  Communicate, educate, elucitate  •  Base your arguments on facts and figures •  Aim to understand the whole from the parts,  don’t miss the grand view over      the tiny perspectives •  Adopt that theory and practice go together, i.e. they are two sides of one coin •  Build abstractions / theories from observations •  Participate actively in the construction of the “picture of the world” •  Aim at social balance
  8. 8. From Wilhelm to Alexander • Experiment, try out • Learn in (global) diversity • Touch and feel • Go out and explore • Enter risk • Engage • … = from University 1.0 -> to University 2.0
  9. 9. What is a „Multiversity“ ? • A group organised by the New Club of Paris (NCP) initiated by G. Koch met in autumn 2008 (!) at Commerzbank Headquarters in F rankfurt (G. Szogs) to first time discuss a new university concept under the headline „Multiversity“ • The NCP idea was on reformation / substitution of university. (NCP Discussion has been taken up by the European Academy of Science on university reformation) • Aalto (University) Campus of Society Innovation (ACSI) started in 2010 a new „education for innovation“ project under the participation of NCP. Major impulse for the „Multiversity“. • Multiversity - as a term – was first time introduced by President of the (entire) Universities of California (UC) Clark Kerr in 1963 (!): „The ‚Idea of a University‘ was a village with its priests. The ‚Idea of a Modern University‘ was a town with intellectual oligarchy. The ‚Idea of a Multiversity is a city of infinite variety… This city is more like the totality of civilization as it has evolved… and movement to and from the surrounding society…“

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