Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was a German explorer and naturalist. He is best known for his works on botanical geography, laying the foundations of the new science of biogeography. Along with the botanist Aimé Bonpland (1773–1858), he travelled widely in South America between 1799 and 1804. Over the course of his travels, he compiled a list of Southern Hemisphere stars, observed a transit of Mercury across the Sun and collected samples of some 60,000 plants that grew at different altitudes and habitats.
Humboldt made a study of the various physical features, including Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador and the Orinoco River in Venezuela, he came across. He discovered a cold current of water flowing past the coast of Peru, known today as the Humboldt Current. Humboldt learned how the South American Indians prepared a poison—called curare—from plants, which they used to tip their arrows, and which paralyzed their victims.
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