addabook home timeline gallery
signup or login
The Invention of Nature
Alexander von Humboldt's New World
Andrea Wulf
read on October 28, 2017

I only listened to about half of this (about the first quarter, and then the last quarter), so I don't really have a full picture... BUT it was pretty incredible. I literally didn't know anything about Alexander Humboldt, hadn't even heard of him, but the book and story about his life was fascinating. It's interesting to think about a time before "environmentalism", or "ecosystem", or "cosmos" were things, or even words. Humbolt was  a pretty incredible pioneer.

The final chapters, talking about people that Humboldt strongly influenced, was the best of what I heard. Long chapters on John Muir, Charles Darwin, Earnst Heckle, and others, were great. I particularly liked the description of Earnst Heckle, his radiolarian artwork,  and later came to find that he coined the phrase "ontology recapitulates phylogeny" - something that's stuck in my head since high school.

Overall, this is something I'd love to re-read properly, and hope to do so at some point in the next few years. If nothing else, for the nostalgic feeling of listening to this book during drives to Beaune, France, and throughout Crete.

Lastly, this book won the 2016 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize, which made me realize that there was such a thing, and led me to this list of incredible books to read going forward. So, good times.

Author Bio:

ndrea Wulf (born 1972 in New Delhi, India) is a historian and writer, lives in Britain, and has written books, newspaper articles and book reviews. She studied design history at The Royal College of Art, London and is a public speaker, delivering lectures in the UK and USA. Wulf was the guest speaker at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Her book The Brother Gardeners, published in April 2008, was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and received a CBHL Annual Literature Award in 2010. In 2016, she won the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize and the Royal Geographical Society's Ness Award for her book The Invention of Nature.