Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was one of the most influential scientists and thinkers of his day, considered second only to Napoleon in influence on Europeans. This Prussian-born geographer, naturalist, explorer and illustrator was a prolific writer, the author of a 23-volume work on his travels and of the seminal Cosmos, which laid the foundations for modern physical geography and meteorology. He also left a lasting impression on American visual arts, sciences, literature and politics by inspiring a network of like-minded individuals who would go on to embrace the spirit of exploration, decry slavery, advocate for the welfare of Native Americans and extol America's wilderness as a signature component of our nation's sense of self.
Humboldt died from a stroke at age 89, but he was still publishing scientific works right up to the time of his death. When biographers started poking around, they discovered letters written to friends and travel companions that revealed that Humboldt had been amorously corresponding with men. Even skeptics admit that it seems hard not to confirm that Humboldt was gay. But further "proof" went up in flames, literally, when Humboldt's sister burned all his love letters. And why might that have been? Hmmm.....
Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (Wayne Dynes)
Vincent Gabrielle (California-based gay scientist and blogger)
The Humboldt Society lecture, Philadelphia, 1996
The Life of Alexander von Humboldt (Maren Meinhardt)
Alexander von Humboldt: A Metabiography (Nicolaas Rupke)
NOGLSTP (National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals)