Measuring the World
From Literary Wiki.org
Pagination This wiki uses the pagination of the first American edition, Pantheon Books 2006.
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Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777 - 1855) was a German mathematician and scientist of profound genius who contributed significantly to many fields, including number theory, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, magnetism, astronomy and optics. Sometimes known as "the prince of mathematicians" and "greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had a remarkable influence in many fields of mathematics and science and is ranked as one of history's most influential mathematicians. In September 1828, he would have been 51 years old. Wikipedia entry
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt. Between 1799 and 1804, von Humboldt travelled to South and Central America, exploring and describing it from a scientific point of view for the first time. His description of much of this journey was written up in an enormous set of volumes over a 21-year span. Humboldt's quantitative work on botanical geography was foundational to the field of biogeography. Wikipedia entry
Minna Gauss married twice, first to Johanna Osthoff in 1809. He plunged into a depression after Johanna's death, and later married a friend of his first wife named Friederica Wilhelmine Waldeck (Minna).
Eugen (1811 - 1896), one of Gauss' three children with Minna. He studied law and later immigrated to the United States and worked as a businessman. 
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Friedrich Ludwig Jahn commonly known as Turnvater Jahn (roughly, "father of gymnastics"), (1778 - 1852) was a German Prussian gymnastics educator and nationalist. Wikipedia entry
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the Orinoco one of the longest rivers in South America. The Orinoco and its tributaries are the major transportation system for parts of Venezuela and Colombia. Wikipedia entry
pommel horse, vaulting horse did Jahn coin these terms? Check OED.
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Napoleon had decided not to bombard Göttingen Supposedly, the French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace urged Napoleon to spare Göttingen because of Gauss' presence there. Source needed.
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differential geometry Differential geometry is the study of geometry using differential calculus. Wikipedia entry
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a little old gentleman In 1828, von Humboldt would be pushing 60.
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Aguirre the Mad Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) is one of the most famous German movies of all time. It portrays the journey of Lope de Aguirre (c. 1510 – 1561), a Spanish Basque conquistador, down a river in South America.
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Man a Machine Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709 - 1751) was a French physician and philosopher, the earliest of the materialist writers of the Enlightenment. He has been claimed as a founder of cognitive science. Wikipedia L'Homme Machine dealt with materialism, spiritualism and the soul. Full text of Man a Machine
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Lichtenberg (1742 – 1799) was an 18th-century German scientist, satirist and anglophile. He never published a novel, but his collected journals were published posthumously and are among the most notable satires of 18th-century Germany. Wikipedia entry
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cupping glasses Glass vessels from which the air has been exhausted by heat or suction, applied to the skin to draw blood to the surface for therapeutic purposes.
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Tenerife a Spanish island, is the largest of the seven Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. Wikipedia entry
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dragon tree http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracaena_(plant)