Dr. Zeller is an associate professor of history at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5, Canada.
HUMBOLDT AND THE HABITABILITY OF CANADA'S GREAT NORTHWEST*
Version of Record online: 21 APR 2010
2006 American Geographical Society
Volume 96, Issue 3, pages 382–398, July 2006
How to Cite
ZELLER, S. (2006), HUMBOLDT AND THE HABITABILITY OF CANADA'S GREAT NORTHWEST. Geographical Review, 96: 382–398. doi: 10.1111/j.1931-0846.2006.tb00257.x
The author thanks Andreas Daum, the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., Pam Schaus, Graeme Wynn, the anonymous reviewers, Kent Mathewson and Andrew Sluyter, and Viola Haarmann and Douglas Johnson.
- Issue online: 21 APR 2010
- Version of Record online: 21 APR 2010
- Alexander von Humboldt;
- John Henry Lefroy;
- John Richardson;
- Rupert's Land
ABSTRACT. Alexander von Humboldt's influence in British North America during the nineteenth century was filtered mainly through British imperial applications of “Humboldtian” sciences, including geomagnetism and biogeography. The best-known examples include Edward Sabine and John Henry Lefroy, Royal Artillery officers who, during the 1830s and 1840s, transformed British North American outposts and territories, including Rupert's Land, into Humboldtian sites and regions in Great Britain's imperial “magnetic crusade.” Important groundwork had already been laid by John Richardson, who applied data accrued during John Franklin's overland Arctic expeditions during the 1820s to systematize Humboldtian inquiries into the habitability of Canada's Great Northwest. Despite both the relative decline of Humboldtian sciences by midcentury and Humboldt's own reservations about the political ramifications of his science, his “cosmic” outlook circulated in Canada to refine territorial expansionists' scientistic arguments justifying annexation of Rupert's Land after the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company expired in 1869.