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“Mason without apron” – Alexander von Humboldt and the world of freemasonry

While the lack of religion in Alexander von Humboldt’s work and the criticism he received is well known, his relationship with Freemasonry is relatively unexplored. Humboldt appears on some lists of “illustrious Masons,” and several lodges carry his name, but was he really a member? If so, when and where did he join a lodge? Are there any comments by him about Freemasonry? Who were the renowned Masons he was surrounded by? This paper examines these questions, but more importantly it analyzes what a membership might have meant for Humboldt’s scholarly work. It looks particularly at the unprecedented success he enjoyed in the United States in the early 19th century and the factors behind it. What could he have gained from these connections and how was he viewed by Masonic leaders and lodges in the trans-Atlantic world?

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