With all the celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, the scientist he "always admired and now worshiped" has been eclipsed.
His name is virtually unknown in Britain. This year is also his anniversary, his 240th.
Few will have heard of Alexander Von Humboldt, yet he was the most admired naturalist and geographer of his age.
His name lives on in the many species, geographical areas and institutions named after him - 12 species of animals and plants, six prominent geographical features, as well as schools, colleges and even towns. But he was much more than a scientist.
Despite his aristocratic background, he was a radical political thinker.
The great liberator of south America Simon Bolivar said: "Alexander Von Humboldt was the true discoverer of America because his work has produced more benefit to our people than all the conquistadors."
One can't underestimate the impact of Humboldt's observations and ideas on the direction of the young Darwin's research.
It's probably no exaggeration to say that if Humboldt hadn't nudged him in the right direction, Darwin might not have conceived his great theory of evolution.
Darwin referred to Humboldt often in his own travelogue Voyage Of The Beagle and lauded him as "the greatest travelling scientist who ever lived."
Humboldt was born at the Palace of Tegel in Berlin to an aristocratic Prussian family on September 14 1769 and died on May 6 1859. A comfortable life among Prussian aristocracy was not for him. Meeting George FÃ¶rster - the scientist who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage - encouraged him to travel.
His mother died when he was 27, leaving him a substantial inheritance which he used to explore the world - his life's ambition. The following year, he began to plan his travels with French botanist AimÃ© Bonpland.
The pair decamped to Madrid, where they obtained special permission and passports from King Charles II to explore south America.
In 1800 Humboldt mapped over 1,700 miles of the Orinoco river. A trip to the Andes followed and an ascent to the summit of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, which was then believed to be the highest mountain in the world.
They didn't quite make the summit but climbed to over 18,000 feet. On the west coast of south America, Humboldt measured and discovered the Peruvian current, which, despite his own objections, was given his name.
Humboldt's travels, experiments and knowledge transformed Western science in the 19th century. He also pioneered what is perhaps taken for granted today, namely transdisciplinary study.
However, he was not only a great scientist in terms of the modernity of his methods and approach to problems but was a forerunner of today's ecological movements.
The birth of modern ecology came about largely as a result of the early midwifery work undertaken by Humboldt.
His aim was to achieve a holistic overview of nature where "each part contributes its own peculiar activity to the overall activity and the latter is subject to its special impact, so that life in each organised living thing appears as a unity, which comes about as the result of reciprocal actions and reactions of all its parts."
He wrote that his "real and singular aim is to investigate the weft and weave of all nature's forces, to investigate the influence of dead nature on the lives of all animal and plant creations."
Humboldt was also one of the founders of modern geography. He viewed nature as a unity transformed by its own inner forces, considering landscape to be a space of dialectical interaction, both within nature and between nature and humans.
He realised the value and significance of biodiversity and as early as 1822 he explained the role of forests in maintaining the health of the planet.
He wrote about their role in retaining water and preventing erosion, castigating the unregulated felling of trees as catastrophic.
"If the forests continue to be destroyed in the way the European colonisers have already done with incautious haste in some areas of America, springs will dry up or become severely depleted. Already river beds are devoid of water for periods of the year and at others become raging torrents when the rains are heavy in the mountains." Â
What singled Humboldt out as a scientist of a special bent was that he combined scientific investigation with a high moral sense.
He was truly a man of the enlightenment, inspired by the French revolution and its demands for freedom, equality and fraternity.
His views on religion, race and colonialism were far ahead of his time.
One of his fundamental beliefs was that "everyone is equally destined to enjoy freedom."
For him, science and politics were indivisible. Even in his primarily scientific writings he defended human rights, excoriated racism and slavery and called for all human beings to have equal rights.
Such attitudes were still rare in the late 18th century.
He was a fierce advocate of rights for indigenous populations and of all races.
In his praise of the Aztecs for their astronomical and other attainments of civilisation, he attacks previous authors who described them as "barbaric."
"These authors view all human conditions as barbaric that don't fit the image of the culture they have imagined from their systematic ideas," he wrote.
"We can't allow the validity of such crass differentiations between barbaric and civilised nations."
He despised colonialism, particularly after witnessing the ravages it caused to the indigenous population in Spanish-ruled south America.
Christianity, as he witnessed in his travels, caused him to despise its practice in the colonies.
In an 1802 letter from Peru he graphically describes the appalling cruelties carried out by Catholic missionaries in Latin America.
"The present missionaries are a class of people who under the guise of helping the Indios, forcefully take their possessions and make them believe it a sin to complain about it.
"What is certain is that, of all existing religions, the Christian is the one under whose mask people are made the most unhappy.
"The Indios are treated like the Africans - if they are not exactly beaten to death, it's said they are living well."
Humboldt was also well aware that his radical views had made him extremely unpopular among the ruling elite in Europe despite his high standing as a scientist and intellectual.
He might not have propounded such world-shattering theories as evolution like Darwin or that of relativity like Einstein, but Humboldt's achievements paved the way for the work of both of them as well as many others.
His legacy also deserves to be remembered.
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