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The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of…
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The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, the… (2015)

by Andrea Wulf

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1,1405511,082 (4.13)106
  1. 10
    Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (thorold)
    thorold: Kehlmann's ironic fictional view casts a rather different light on Humboldt from Wulf's, and possibly a slightly unfair one, but both are interesting.
  2. 00
    A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts (nessreader)
    nessreader: Early 19th century field scientists travelling the globe with great courage and endurance. Both superbly written biographies
  3. 00
    Georg Forster oder Die Liebe zur Welt by Klaus Harpprecht (ecureuil)
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» See also 106 mentions

English (49)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
New York Times, Ten best books of the year...2016 ( )
  Brightman | May 1, 2019 |
“The effects of the human species’ intervention were already ‘incalculable’, Humboldt insisted, and could become catastrophic if they continued to disturb the world so ‘brutally’. Humboldt would see again and again how humankind unsettled the balance of nature.”

“Nature itself was a republic of freedom.”

“Without a diversity of opinion, the discovery of truth is impossible,”

Until I read this terrific bio on Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), I knew virtually nothing about this incredible explorer and scientist, other than the fact that we have a famous park in Chicago named after him. It seems I am not alone, in my ignorance of the man. He is much better known in Latin America and in Europe than in the U.S. I hope this book, brings him into the light.
He is like the Forrest Gump, of his times, rubbing shoulders with a bewildering amount of historical figures, in his long, productive life. Like, Simon Bolivar, Thomas Jefferson, Thoreau, Darwin, John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, to name just a handful.

I hope I can inspire, another reader or two, to give this bio a chance and spread the word from there. ( )
  msf59 | Mar 28, 2019 |
Andrea Wulf paints an appealing picture of the brilliant Alexander von Humboldt, an Enlightenment titan who climbed the highest mountains he could find with heavy instruments to make precise measurements, not just air pressure, but he had some kind of cyanograph to measure just how blue the sky was at different altitudes. He discussed science with Thomas Jefferson, whom he admired on one level, but AvH was firmly opposed to any form of slavery. He admired the indigenous peoples he met while exploring South America, and reported on the magnificent ruins of ancient American civilizations and the complex languages of the peoples he encountered in the colorful jungles, which he much perfered to his native Berlin. He deplored the degradation of the New World ecology by the mining and cash crops of the Spanish. Wulf did extensive research on his influence on Darwin and the theory of evolution which he anticipated with studies of fossils, on Goethe who put a bit of him into Faust, on Simon Bolivar who discussed concepts of political freedom with him, on Henry David Thoreau who's love of nature was nurtured by reading AvH's books on the interconnected-ness of nature, and on John Muir who read and annotated his books. Wulf found direct connections to show how his love of nature even inspired the Art Deco movement. His fame was universal, his name attached to currents, mountains, counties, cities all across the US and Latin America. It was the anti-German sentiments of World War I, intensified in World War II that cause his fame to be mostly extinguished along with admiration for German science and culture in general. Time to appreciate the man who pushed through legislation in Prussia that any slave, including any American slave, who lands on Prussian soil becomes a free perso
  ElenaDanielson | Feb 2, 2019 |
This could have benefited from staying on subject (too much about Bolivar and Darwin, for instance) and some editing for repetition, especially in the early chapters. I'll look for another book about Humboldt; I'm not sure that one written by a gardening author cuts it. ( )
  nog | Oct 5, 2018 |
Tedious in places.....a little preachy...OK though ( )
  ibkennedy | Jul 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Wulf’s The Invention of Nature shines its spotlight on that arc of environmental knowledge linking Humboldt’s late eighteenth century to our twenty-first. If he was ever forgotten in the English-speaking world, then this biography places him once again where he belongs, with Charles Darwin and James Cook, Ernest Shackleton and David Attenborough, Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, the great natural historians and scientific adventurers. ... It doesn’t matter that Wulf’s The Invention of Nature is a bit breathless in keeping up with its dazzling hero, and a bit coy about his relationships, because above all the book is intelligent, an optimistic history, well researched, well written, and an ecological cri de coeur.
 
Andrea Wulf’s Humboldt is the ecological visionary and humanist. Despite some reiteration, her book is readable, thoughtful and widely researched, and informed by German sources richer than the English canon. It is the first formal biography in English for many years and may go some way toward returning this strange genius to the public.
 
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Close your eye, prick your ears, and from the softest sound to the wildest noise, from the simplest tone to the highest harmony, from the most violent, passionate scream to the gentlest words od sweet reason, it is by Nature who speaks, revealing her being, her power, her life, and her relatedness so that a blind person, to whom the infinitely visible world is denied, can grasp an infinite vitality in what can be heard.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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They were crawling on hands and knees along a high narrow ridge that was in places only two inches wide. (Prologue)
Alexander von Humboldt was born, on 14 September 1769, into a wealthy aristocratic Prussian family who spent their winters in Berlin and their summers at the family estate of Tegel, a small castle about ten miles north-west of the city.
Alexander von Humbholdt has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world. (Epilogue)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038535066X, Hardcover)

The acclaimed author of Founding Gardeners reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. In North America, his name still graces four counties, thirteen towns, a river, parks, bays, lakes, and mountains. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether he was climbing the highest volcanoes in the world or racing through anthrax-infected Siberia or translating his research into bestselling publications that changed science and thinking. Among Humboldt’s most revolutionary ideas was a radical vision of nature, that it is a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone.

Now Andrea Wulf brings the man and his achievements back into focus: his daring expeditions and investigation of wild environments around the world and his discoveries of similarities between climate and vegetation zones on different continents. She also discusses his prediction of human-induced climate change, his remarkable ability to fashion poetic narrative out of scientific observation, and his relationships with iconic figures such as Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Wulf examines how Humboldt’s writings inspired other naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, and Goethe, and she makes the compelling case that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of natural preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s Walden.

With this brilliantly researched and compellingly written book, Andrea Wulf shows the myriad fundamental ways in which Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world, and she champions a renewed interest in this vital and lost player in environmental history and science.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:00:14 -0400)

A portrait of the German naturalist reveals his ongoing influence on humanity's relationship with the natural world today, discussing such topics as his views on climate change, conservation, and nature as a resource for all life. Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. In North America, his name still graces counties, towns, a river, parks, bays, lakes, and mountains. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether he was climbing volcanoes, racing through Siberia, or translating his research into bestselling publications that changed science. Among Humboldt's most revolutionary ideas was a radical vision of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone. Now Andrea Wulf brings the man and his achievements back into focus: his daring expeditions and investigation of wild environments around the world and his discoveries of similarities between climate and vegetation zones on different continents. She also discusses his prediction of human-induced climate change, his remarkable ability to fashion poetic narrative out of scientific observation, and his relationships with iconic figures such as Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Wulf examines how Humboldt's writings inspired other naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, and Goethe, and she makes the case that it was Humboldt's influence that led John Muir to his ideas of natural preservation and that shaped Thoreau's Walden. Wulf shows how Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world, and champions a renewed interest in this vital player in environmental history and science.--Adapted from book jacket.… (more)

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