Considering that we are living at a time firmly based on human reason, Natural Sciences and technological progress, the physical world around us can still be awfully mysterious and confusing at times. How much more puzzling, even terrifying must it have been for our forefathers who didn’t have the means or the courage to look into the secrets of God’s creation! Only in the Age of Enlightenment natural sciences began to take over from religion (and superstition) the task to explain the world… and to fathom its various aspects. Two eminent and very different paragons of natural sciences in Germany around 1800 were explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauß (1777-1855) who are the protagonists of Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, the bestselling novel from 2005 that I picked as another bookish déjà vu this week. One travelled the world. The other never left his country.
Read my review»