The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

Sterling Memorial
Kline Sciences
Medical Historical
Exhibit Map

Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos, 1858

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) did not envision nature, as some claim, as a static taxonomy, but rather, as a physiology. In Cosmos, his last great, synthetic work, he describes the evolution of the Universe, Solar System, and the Earth as the “universal fluctuation of phenomena.” He believed that “the discovery of every separate law of nature leads to the establishment of more general laws” and considered Nature as “that which is ever growing and ever unfolding itself into new forms.” Reflecting on the immense variety of organic forms, he saw in the periodic transformation of animal and vegetable productions, the primordial mystery of all organic development--that same great problem of Metamorphosis.”


Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, 1793
Charles Darwin, On the Formation of Vegetable Matter by Worms, 1881
Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos, 1858
Dumas and Boussingault, Balance of Organic Matter, 1844
Ferdinand Cohn, Bacteria, The Smallest Living Beings, 1872
Louis Pasteur, Etudes sur la Biere, 1862
Selman Waksman, Sergei Winogradsky, 1953
Selman Waksman, Humus, 1939
Vladimir Vernadsky, Principles of Biogeochemistry, 1960
James Lovelock, An Homage to Gaia, 1985
Lloyd Ackert
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
53 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208298
New Haven, CT 06520-8298
Office: (203).432.3112

The Sterling Memorial Exhibit is located in the Overflow Case to the left of the circulation desk. The Sterling Memorial Library is located at

120 High Street
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520
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