Humboldt, a late 18th-century Prussian scientist, was revered by his contemporaries as "the man who knew everything." Botanist, mineralogist, volcanologist, explorer, and writer, he helped found modern geography and climatology and added immeasurably to knowledge of plants, animals, landforms, and the rivers of South America. His last 30 years were spent writing Cosmos, which he described as a compilation of all scientific knowledge known at the time. Younger readers of this volume in the "World Explorer" series may be thwarted by language filled with references to "bifurcated" rivers, "Faustian figures," or "recalcitrant missionaries." Humboldt's story is more vividly told in his own words: e.g., in a description of an ascent to the record height of 19,286 feet on an Ecuadoran volcano. An adequate introduction to an outstanding explorer. Includes eight striking color plates from Humboldt's own folios; the many other historical engravings and photos have credits but no sources. Further reading; chronology; index.