Articles | Volume 1, issue 2
18 Nov 2010
 | 18 Nov 2010

Alexander von Humboldt's charts of the Earth's magnetic field: an assessment based on modern models

M. Mandea, M. Korte, A. Soloviev, and A. Gvishiani

Abstract. The 19th century witnessed a resurgence of interest in Earth's magnetic field. Both observational and theoretical aspects were involved, and one of the emblematic figures of this period was Alexander von Humboldt. Throughout a long life he maintained a strong interest in a broad area of subjects, however, here we are interested in his role in geomagnetism, and particularly in his pioneering contributions to charting the geomagnetic field. Alexander von Humboldt efforts in measuring and charting the Earth's magnetic field are recounted and the maps of declination, inclination and total intensity he had prepared are compared, favorably, with maps for the same epoch based on a modern model of the geomagnetic field, gufm1. This modern assessment of the accuracy of von Humboldt's geomagnetic charts illustrates the importance of his work, being also our homage to the 150th anniversary of the death of Alexander von Humboldt.