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Humbled by Humboldt 


In his review of "The Invention of Nature" (Feb. 18), Bill Cassel writes that my hero, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, "was probably gay." I believe there's no question about it; our lad was as gay as a spring lamb, although, as Cassel puts it, we don't know if "he was practicing or just inclined."

Humboldt's sexuality ran from infatuations in his 20s with theology student Wilhelm Wegener (to whom he wrote of his "fervent love") and Lt. Reinhardt von Haeften ("the love I have for you is more than friendship or brotherly love"); presumed intimacy with his five-year South American traveling companion Aimé Bonpland; and long-term relationships with physicist Joseph Gay-Lussac and astronomer François Arago. (Another traveling companion accused him of "shameful passions of the heart" for patronizing a gay brothel in Ecuador.)

Practicing or not, his gayness only increases my admiration for the man, who lived at a time when homosexuality was generally viewed as a weak aberration of character. Whatever other qualities he possessed, weakness was not one of them!

Barry Evans, Eureka

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