8th to 12th January, 2015 - Bayreuth, Germany

Pre-Conference Trip 1  (January 8):

Humboldt as a Young Scientist (1792 – 1796)

Humboldt in FrankoniaAlexander von Humboldt is an outstanding founder of biogeography. However, he started working in geology and mining. After he had finished his studies, he was sent to the former Margrafentum Bayreuth, where the last Margraf (Duke) resigned without heirs. At this time the whole region became part of Prussia. The efficient Prussian administration carried out an assessment about the natural resources in the area and Humboldt was in charge for this. Obviously, he did an excellent job, because after submitting his expertise, he was hired as a director of mining and he stayed in this position until his mother died. From then on, he felt free for traveling and discovery. However, the foundation for his later works was laid in the mountains of Northern Bavaria where Humboldt conducted extensive field work and tried to understand natural processes at very young age. He was 23 years old when he started to work here. Later on he said about this time in the mountains: “I made my major plans there”. However, this very influential time is mostly neglected in international studies about Humboldt, because the scientific products were not transformed into foreign language books but remained mostly historical documents in German language. 

This excursion will visit places where Alexander von Humboldt was active and include forest ecosystems and mining areas in the Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald mountain ranges. Some years later, the writer Wolfgang von Goethe visited the same region, too, becoming fascinated by natural history and trying to understand weathering processes and landforms. These mountains are extremely diverse in bedrock, which is reflected in a high beta-diversity, but this can hardly be seen during winter.  

  • Leader:  Carl Beierkuhnlein
  • Participants: 50
  • Requirements: Hiking boots and warm, weatherproof clothing are recommended, snow-rich conditions should be expected.
  • Start: 8:30 a.m. at the University - Busstop "Uni-Verwaltung" (map) with a stop-over at the main train station of Bayreuth (map) at 8:40 a.m.
  • Return: About 6 p.m.
  • Costs: 55 Euro


Picture credits: Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt (Holl, F. & Schulz-Lüpertz, E. 2012: Alexander von Humboldt in Franken, Reihe Fränkische Geschichte, Schrenk Verlag) and a sectional view of an old mine (Greorg Agricola: De Re Metallica XII Libri, Basel: Froben 1554).

-> recent impressions from


  • December 30 (first row: valley Gsteinigt near Arzberg) and
  • January 3 (second row: granite bolders at the Nusshardt and a high elevation beech forest)
Gsteinigt-Valley-near-Arzberg-1 Gsteinigt-Valley-near-Arzberg-2
Nusshard-granite-bolders High-elevation-beech-forest