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About the Author

Andrea Wulf is an English historian and writer, born in New Delhi, India in 1972. She studied design at the Royal College of Art. She is a public speaker and has lectured in the UK and USA. Her books include This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History; Founding Gardeners: mostrar mais The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation; and Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens. Her award winning book, The Brother Gardeners, received a CBHL Annual Literature Award in 2010. The Invention of Nature: How Alexander Von Humboldt Revolutionized Our World, received the 2015 Costa Book Award in the biography category, and the 2016 Royal Society Science Book Prize for 'outstanding popular science books' written for a non-specialist audience. (Bowker Author Biography) mostrar menos

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A great read about the man who 'discovered' the world. Wulf is a superb writer.
ben_r47 | 81 outras críticas | Feb 22, 2024 |
In 1829, Alexander von Humboldt, while exploring the Amazon River, its flora, geology, its wildlife and human population, recognized the impact of deforestation on the landscape and the climate.


And that was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Today the government of Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro reverses efforts to save the Amazon River, it’s tributaries, and its indigenous cultures. Fires burn unceasingly in the Amazon rain forest while the world and climatologists beg the Brazilian Government to change course and allow the Amazon to remain one of the world’s critical sinks for carbon emissions.

Von Humboldt lit the fire under science that became the science of ecology and a recognition that humankind does not stand apart from nature, and that all living things work together or they don’t work at all.

Von Humboldt inspired his older friend poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and helped light the fire that was to become German Romanticism at the beginning of the 19th century and he inspired Charles Darwin to travel to South America where he first gathered data for his earth shattering theory of evolution.

Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau and thousands more soaked up von Humboldt’s writing. And there were a lot of them. Many, many volumes of his travels, his scientific observations, and the thousands of letters a year he was writing even up until his death at 89 in 1859.

Von Humboldt measured everything he could find including the Earth’s magnetism at different altitudes while he crawled up enormous volcanoes in the Andres in snow and rain.

And he inspired revolutionary Simon Bolivar to democratize the Spanish possessions of South America and hypothesized a century before it could be proven that the continents drifted apart.

Even as a chamberlain to King Wilhelm of Prussia von Humboldt agitated in favour of ending slavery in Europe and America and he united scientists across Europe with his ideas, his enthusiasm, and often with money from his own pocket. The man was a giant in his influence on the west.

As much as I enjoyed this book I found it excruciating as time goes by and we miss the obvious signposts that human intervention is slowly destroying the ecosphere. First von Humboldt, and after him German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, Americans James Madison, George Perkins Marsh, and Scots immigrant to the US John Muir could see what was coming.

Biographer Andrea Wolf picked up on many of influences of the age and von Humboldt’s influence on later ages. Yet he lived contemporary with so many more geniuses including Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky as well as Napoleon Bonaparte. Von Humboldt wasn’t a music lover but he may have been as great a genius as these others.
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MylesKesten | 81 outras críticas | Jan 23, 2024 |
A fascinating but frequently unfocused history of one of the most important yet forgotten persons of the 19th century.
Treebeard_404 | 81 outras críticas | Jan 23, 2024 |
There are a lot of reasons to like this book. It tells a part of the history of science which is not often explored. Wulf does this with an enthousiasm that is infectious. Her writing is clear, not overly poetic and you can really notice her fascination with Humboldt. Also, it can't be that easy to write an easily accessible, historical biography about a scientist, however interesting he might be.

I would have liked to read more about Humboldt's travels in South America and Russia. Instinctively, I expected the bulk of the book to be about these adventures. However these chapters flew by while Humboldt travelled from Cuba to Peru in a matter of paragraphs.

If there was one annoyance in reading this book, it was the repetition that started to occur halfway through. I did not need to be told every page that Humboldt loved nature, that he talked very fast, that he understood things in a profoundly unique way, that he loved nature, that nobody had ever done what he had done and that he loved nature very much. As I started to notice this pattern I also started to glaze over some parts, especially the last few chapters.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book and I share Wulf's confusion as to why Humboldt is not more prominent in our history books.
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bramboomen | 81 outras críticas | Oct 18, 2023 |



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Associated Authors

Henry Adams Contributor
Alexander von Humboldt Associated Name
Lillian Melcher Illustrator
Göran Grip Translator
Gabriele Werbeck Translator


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