Brave Companions Short Essay - Answer Key

David McCullough
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1. What is the purpose of Brave Companions?

Brave Companions is a volume of seventeen previously published articles and addresses about diverse people and events selected by historian David McCullough to inspire Americans to shake off their ambivalence towards and fight their ignorance of history, which has much to teach.

2. Who is the subject of the essay entitled "Journey to the Top of the World?"

McCullough's first essay, "Journey to the Top of the World" portrays the life and career of the German-born naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt. In May 1804, at 34 and still unknown, Humboldt visits President Thomas Jefferson, a "friend of science" and astounds Jefferson with stories of South and Central America. Within a year, Humboldt reigns as the high priest of 19th-century science but today is largely forgotten, upstaged by Lewis and Clark.

3. Who is Humboldt's partner and what is the nature of their explorations?

Born in Berlin in 1769 into wealth, Humboldt partners with Aime Bonpland, gains an audience with King Charles IV and, as a result, also gains unprecedented freedom to explore Spain's New World colonies. They reach New Granada (Venezuela) in 1800, with a full array of scientific equipment and enthusiasm, hoping in three months to collect 1,600 coastal specimens, including 500 new species. Then - ignorant of jungle survival - they plan to plunge into the interior, rowing 6,443 miles in 75 humid and exhausting days, examining, sketching, collecting, and classifying 12,000 samples.

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