The ripples of history, like small waves on a pond, extend over the distance of time—added to by another and then another—until their origins are often forgotten. Many Americans have visited locations named after one particular historical figure, Alexander von Humboldt, without knowing anything about the man who inspired the place names. But Humboldt's influence on many areas of science—including meteorology—was so profound that towns, townships, and counties; public buildings; parks, nature reserves, rivers, lakes, bays, marshes, mountain ranges, an ocean current, and a sea; animals and plants; and asteroids and a lunar crater all bear his name. In the 1860s, the territory of Nevada even considered the name “Humboldt” for statehood.
STEPHEN VERMETTE, Ph.D., is a climatologist and Professor of Geography at SUNY Buffalo State. His research interests include applied climatology and climate reconstruction.