José de la Luz y Caballero

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José Cipriano de la Luz y Caballero
José de la Luz y Caballero.jpg
BornJuly 11, 1800
DiedJune 22, 1862
Occupationphilosopher, scholar

José Cipriano de la Luz y Caballero (July 11, 1800 – June 22, 1862) was a Cuban scholar, acclaimed by José Martí as "the father ... the silent layer of foundations" in Cuban intellectual life of the 19th Century (see "Un magno artículo de Martí", in Aforismos de Luz y Caballero Havana, 1960, p. 139). Interest in Luz's work was revived around the time of the Cuban Revolution, and new editions of his work published, as he was regarded as a source of intellectual autonomy for the country.

Luz took his degree in philosophy in 1817 at the Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Gerónimo in Havana, and took a degree in law at the Seminario de San Carlos. From 1837 to 1841, he travelled extensively in North America and Europe, coming into contact with a number of important intellectuals of the time, including Sir Walter Scott, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georges Cuvier, the German philosopher Karl Krause, and the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Krause paid a public tribute to Luz's scientific and philosophical views. With Humboldt, Luz arranged to establish a magnetic observatory in Cuba in correspondence with like institutions in Germany.

A bust of José de la Luz y Caballero on the grounds of the University of Havana campus.
A bust of José de la Luz y Caballero on the grounds of the University of Havana campus.

Caballero is perhaps best known for his often quoted characterization of Humboldt, who travelled in Cuba in the early 19th century, as the "second discoverer" of the island, after Columbus: “Colón dio a Europa un Nuevo Mundo; Humboldt se lo hizo conocer en lo físico, en lo material, en lo intellectual y lo moral” ("Columbus gave Europe a New World; Humboldt made it known in its physical, material, intellectual, and moral aspects").

On his return to Cuba in 1831, Luz devoted all his time and energies to the cause of education, assuming the direction of a college from 1834 until 1839. In 1848 he founded the "El Salvador" school.

Among his works are a translation of Volney's Travels in Egypt and Syria, with notes and additions (Paris, 1829); Siegling's Public Prisons and their Reforms, from the German (1837); and numerous memoirs and pamphlets on educational, scientific, and philosophical subjects. There are several biographies of La Luz, one being that in Spanish by José Ignacio Rodriguez (New York, 1874).



  • Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Luz-Caballero, José de la" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.

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