The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New
    IGNOU books 2019 In Hindi Online PDF Free 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 Invention of Nature: Kindle Ò 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 Sim n Bol var 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."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 473 pages
  • The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
  • Andrea Wulf
  • English
  • 14 September 2019
  • 038535066X

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World❮Reading❯ ➹ The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World Author Andrea Wulf – Essayreview.co.uk 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 The of Nature: Alexander von Kindle - acclaimed author of of Nature: Epub Ü 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 was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age In North The Invention eBook Ð 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 Invention of Nature: Kindle Ò 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 Sim n Bol var 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.


About the Author: Andrea Wulf

Andrea of Nature: Alexander von Kindle - Wulf is a of Nature: Epub Ü biographer She is the author of The Brother Gardeners, published in April It was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and received a CBHL Annual Literature Award in She was born in India, moved to Germany as a child, and now resides in Britain.


10 thoughts on “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World

  1. says:

    3.5 stars For me, this book was like Why Nations Fail, Guns, Germs, and Steel and Orlando Figes s

  2. says:

    This is a wonderful biography of a man about whom I knew very little Today, in the United States, his name is practically unknown, despite being a world wide celebrity in his day Humboldt was a great explorer and scientist He saw nature as a unified whole, anorganism in which parts only worked in relation to each otherHis approach was holistic, and was entirely against the reductionist approach to science Perhaps because of the influence of Goethe, Humboldt strongly advocated merging of This is a wonderful biography of a man about whom I knew very little Today, in the United States, his name is practically unknown, despite being a world wide celebrity in his day Humboldt was a great explorer and scientist He saw nature as a unified whole, anorganism in which parts only worked in relation to each otherHis approach was holistic, and was entirely against the reductionist approach to science Perhaps because of the influence of Goethe, Humboldt strongly advocated merging of art and science In 1806, his writings were about evolutionary ideas, long before Darwin In fact, Darwin took Humboldt s seven volume book Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent along with him during his voyage aboard the Beagle In his book Views of Nature, Humboldt wrote about how weather and geography influence the moods of people and this was a revelation He inspired generations of scientists, writers and poets, including Thoreau, Emerson, Darwin, and Jules Verne Humboldt was also a strident abolitionist He equated colonialism with slavery and European barbarism He befriended and greatly influenced Sim n Bol var s efforts to free South America from the tyranny of its colonial status He was the world s foremost expert on Latin America.When Humboldt was young, he yearned to participate in adventures and exploration At the age of 27, he went off on an exploration of South America, an adventure that lasted five years He survived terrible conditions, jungle heat, mountain cold, high altitude sickness, and the torment of mosquitos He did not take a large retinue, but only traveled with one scientist friend and a couple of guides Along the way he took copious notes, a multitude of measurements with his scientific instruments, and lots of specimens of flora and fauna He sent them back to Europe at regular intervals, in case he never made it back home alive.Humboldt invented the concept of isotherms, that enabled a global understanding of climate Back in Europe, he gave many free lectures in Berlin, encouraging people of all classes to attend Half of the attendees were women His lectures were unique, connecting seemingly disparate disciplines and facts He talked about the complex web of nature with extraordinary clarity He organized a remarkable conference of 500 scientists from all across Europe When Humboldt was 59 years old, he went on an expedition to Siberia After analyzing the geology of certain areas in the Ural mountains, he predicted that he would find diamonds, and everyone thought he was crazy But, he did find them He was at heart an environmentalist He wrote a lot about the destruction of forests and long term changes to the environment He described three ways in which humans change the climate deforestation, ruthless irrigation, and through steam and gas in industrial centers He proposed a global network of stations to measure the Earth s magnetic field, and when it came about, he collected two million measurements over a three year period.Humboldt was a great explorer He strongly encouraged explorers and artists to travel He decried people who tried to do arm chair science He aided less fortunate scientists and explorers, giving them funds even though his own financial position was precarious One American travel writer wrote that hecame to Berlin not to see museums and galleries, but for the sake of seeing and speaking with the world s greatest living man In this book, Andrea Wulf does muchthat merely narrate the life of Humboldt She also goes to great lengths to give the biographies of some other amazing people who were strongly influenced by Humboldt In this way, we get a picture of how important Humboldt was, and still is Humboldt was one of the first environmentalists and wrote so much about ecology The book is well written, well organized, and fun to read The descriptions of Humboldt s travels are gripping, as she writes about the dangerous climbs, diseases, and predators all around I highly recommend it to everyone interested in nature, science, and exploration

  3. says:

    This was an absolutely phenomenal read It s a non fiction but rarely do I read fiction books written so well and so well translated And Alexander a most unusual man since the deluge I m delighted Andrea Wulf decided to write this book, which, in fact, is a homage to the scientist who undertook most extraordinary expeditions, who was interested in how nature works, and whose detailed observations regarding wildlife laid foundations for modern science and environmental studies I m not go This was an absolutely phenomenal read It s a non fiction but rarely do I read fiction books written so well and so well translated And Alexander a most unusual man since the deluge I m delighted Andrea Wulf decided to write this book, which, in fact, is a homage to the scientist who undertook most extraordinary expeditions, who was interested in how nature works, and whose detailed observations regarding wildlife laid foundations for modern science and environmental studies I m not going to repeat what s in the book, but let me just say that von Humboldt s life was not monotonous in the least In a nutshell, great respect and admiration for Herr Alexander Many thanks to my GR Friend Olaf who recommended this book to me

  4. says:

    Overall a nice book If I was giving star ratings then at times this book for me soared into five stars, at others it dredged through three star territory but because of the charm and vivacity and surprisingly upbeat approach to the book s subject I would not begrudge the book four stars and would generally encourage others to read it.However I feel that Wulf s mind was pregnant with two books and in this one, both are conjoined and stillborn There is the oddly optimistic and breezy book about Overall a nice book If I was giving star ratings then at times this book for me soared into five stars, at others it dredged through three star territory but because of the charm and vivacity and surprisingly upbeat approach to the book s subject I would not begrudge the book four stars and would generally encourage others to read it.However I feel that Wulf s mind was pregnant with two books and in this one, both are conjoined and stillborn There is the oddly optimistic and breezy book about Humboldt, then the serious if not dismal book about the development of ecology and ecological thinking branching off into conservation and environmental destruction The conjuncture of the two pulled the book into three star territory as structurally it meant that the Humboldt story fizzled out damply while the mini chapter length studies of how Thoreau radically rewrote Walden under the influence of his writing followed by chapters each on the influence of Humboldt upon George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel and John Muir don t rise to the same level.So Andrea Wulf positions Alexander von Humboldt as a pivotal figure who has been largely forgotten despite or because of having been hugely influential, she argues his insights are so main stream that they no longer stand out as exceptional and that the anti German trend starting from WWI has tended to cause a conscious effort to forget him.Her story I found oddly upbeat because his life was a story of frustration his huge experience was his time in South America in the early years of the nineteenth century, however after this he struggled to get permission from the British east India company to travel in India view spoiler possibly the Honourable company feared the release of commercial sensitive information view spoiler or the collecting of commercially sensitive seeds and their distribution toor less mad scientists round the world hide spoiler or indeed an expose of their rule in India hide spoiler and apart from a trip through Russia as far as the Altai was not again to have the intense excitements of an explorer but was limited to writing about his experiences while his personal friends died Loneliness and disappointments are however not the dominant flavours in this lively assertion of Humboldt s importance linking the subjective response to nature to the Romantics, inspiring Lyell and Darwin with his vision of Nature, devising Isotherms Humboldt had a powerful visual sense view spoiler devises isotherms to be able to see the pattern of world temperature variation that he had been studying p.177 hide spoiler , an early popular science writer through his publications Humboldt came to influence the other figures mentioned above and so shaped early ecological thinking Wulf stresses Humboldt s vision of the devastation caused on the environment by Capitalism changes to the climate caused by the clearing of forests and the introduction of cash crop monocultures view spoiler he was particularly critically of Indigo and sugar hide spoiler and the human damage they caused slavery, colonialism, later dictatorship, transplantation of human populations even after the end of the slave trade, his vision Wulf shows in a sense did not go far enough because Jefferson s sturdy republic of yeoman farmers view spoiler Humboldt had met Jefferson and had been impressed by his Republic hide spoiler itself depended upon cash crop countries not only for colonial goods but also to provide a market place for their own export crops the ecology of human interdependences was as densely interwoven as that of the plant kingdom Implicitly Wulf s presentations goes against her argument, Humboldt was a bestseller, suffering from pirated editions while publishers claimed there were fights to obtain early copies of his latest publications, however his critique did not challenge and has not led to a change to an exploitative if not suicidal extractive and agricultural world economic system with concomitant human damage The curious absence from this book is Potosi which was the exemplar of his vision Reading was particularly resonant with news from Venezuela view spoiler petrodemocracy suffering as collateral damage in Saudi Arabia s price war against Iran, US frackers and insufficiently submissive Gulf states hide spoiler and mudslides in Sierra Leone in the background extractive economies and destroyed environments remain ever green I suppose science like bitAt the same time Humboldt was a prophet of Nature as sublime and how it is only through emotional responses to the flight of a condor that we can ,even in science, fully hope to understand it In this he was encouraged by his friendship with Goethe, who in turn Wulf says wrote him into his portrayal of the eponymous hero of Faust.Looking at Humboldt s influence upon Lyell, Darwin and so on, I felt first how even evolutionary thinking was not a sudden intellectual breakthrough half the thinking world appeared to be pregnant with the concept well before Darwin, it just took time to articulate it explicitly, then it struck me that science does not progress one funereal at a time but rather is like desert flowers The seeds fall but have to wait dormant until rains fall again before they can shoot forth into new life The influence here Wulf traces back to Goethe s search for an urform from whichcomplex forms and manifestation of life develop, Darwin we can see was double Humboldted, reading him directly and indirectly via Lyell Possibly the evolutionary potential of Humboldt s vision had a great and theory making impact upon Darwin because of the influence of the Second Great Awakening upon Anglo Saxon intellectual life, if as that movement insisted , it was God what had done it all and exactly as it said in the Bible and the King James version at that , evolution and interdependence between life form and environment become revolutionary ideas All through all one sensed how deeply the author engaged and enjoyed her subject, a passion that she effectively transfers to and shares with the reader.At the same time I would not describe this as a scientific biography we don t read a discussion of his scientific influences beyond Goethe nor an evaluation of his collection technique or of the instruments he used Above all we see how he strived, almost intuitively, to understand each phenomenon and to look and to understand the connections that link all life together in a web of interdependencies This had implications for his understanding of human societies, economics and politics but also geology so he predicted based on finds of gold and platinum in Russia that diamonds were present in those strata, and shortly after some were discovered.The relationship between life and environment led Humboldt to become deeply aware of similarities, so he noticed that plants on Latin American mountains were like those he had seen on the Alps, so he could describe the earth in terms of zones of vegetation or indeed temperature zones, drawing attention to the impact on regional climates caused by mountains or the sea His graphical representations of this are to us familiar but radical in his day PoliticsYears ago reading the The General in his Labyrinth which was an attempt to present Bolivar as a ancestral figure for the political left in Latin America, that struck me as an interesting but Quixotic view spoiler which is a way maybe of saying, the best hide spoiler exercise An interesting effect of Wulf s book is that effort becomes in retrospect both natural, necessary and overdue.Bolivar was heavily influenced by Humboldt his championing of the majesty and glories of the natural world came as a counterpoint to those scientists who like Buffon who in the eighteenth century had argued that nature was degenerate and inferior in the new world, a position which implicitly justified its subordinate colonial position Humboldt also directly addressed himself to colonialism praising the capabilities and cultures of indigenous peoples pointing out the destruction caused and in progress due to the unsympathetic imposition of European agricultural practices The political implication of Humboldt s nature writing was that Latin America was inherently great, but to realise that greatness it needed to liberate itself from European controls and come to terms with its self, both parts of this programme one might observe have proved elusive The flip side of this was that Humboldt became a chamberlain of Prussian kings and was dependent on them for his income as he had burned his way through his inheritance on his South American expedition in part on porterage for his barometers view spoiler only one survived the journey hide spoiler and other equipment, and so he was a hanger on of kings, encouraging them to construct observatories even as he approved of Republics and hoped for the breaking up of colonial empires.I came to read this book in the following wayI had noticed this book when it came out in hardback as something I felt I would like to read, but I decided to trust in the tides of fate which in time bring curious books to me And it came to pass that I was walking up hill away from a hospital appointment and I came across a bookshop that I had never seen before Naturally overcome by the rational spirit of scientific enquiry I stepped inside It was a handsome bookshop and after a while flittering about its shelves I settled on buying this book I praised the bookshop to the cashier and asked how long the bookshop had been here imagining quickly the romantic story of some city types who had lost their jobs in 2008 and decided to do penance for their financial sins by opening a bookshop and so working for the moral betterment of humanity the cashier replied dryly seventy years Deeply wounded in my ability to sense a bookshop at 200 paces since at one time I had worked just round the corner I stumbled into the next bookshop and bought something else

  5. says:

    This biography of Alexander von Humboldt was a revelation and a fun ride for me This German scientist is credited with developing core concepts of ecology and documenting impacts of human development on the environment in early part of the 19th century Wulf, who studied history of design and has written previously on the history of horticulture, aims with this accessible and well illustrated account to rectify the near absence of recognition of Humboldt s accomplishments in U.S science educat This biography of Alexander von Humboldt was a revelation and a fun ride for me This German scientist is credited with developing core concepts of ecology and documenting impacts of human development on the environment in early part of the 19th century Wulf, who studied history of design and has written previously on the history of horticulture, aims with this accessible and well illustrated account to rectify the near absence of recognition of Humboldt s accomplishments in U.S science education Indeed, he didn t come up in my studies of biology, and I only became aware of him through a recent read of Holme s popular history of 18th and early 19th century science, The Age of Wonder Through Wulf s book I came to learn how he justifiably become the most well known and respected scientist of his age and inspired so many other scientific developments and cultural movementsreadily recognized today The book delves into Humboldt s childhood in Prussia at the end of the 18th century Though bookish and eager to study the natural sciences, he was pushed by his father towardpractical education and career in as a mining engineer while his older brother, Wilhelm, was supported in taking aacademic track At least the work he subsequently engaged in for a mining company allowed him to dig into the fields of geology, chemistry, and metallurgy and fulfilled some of his interests in travel and exploration Great minds attracted him like a magnet, and through a visit to his brother in Jena he soon immersed himself in the great ferment of culture and science there that led to the birth of German Romanticism He formed a seminal friendship with Goethe, who lived nearby, and together they worked on experiments in animal electricity , theories of botany and geology, and digested the powerful ideas of Kant The latter s Critique of Pure Reason pointed a way for them for the subjective self to create knowledge and not just to passively mirror and reflect on external reality through the senses The creative force of the mind and emotions became for them a key to knowledge and making a valid model of reality knowledge This form of systems thinking was a foundation for his revelations on nature as an interconnected whole and man s integral part within it.After his father died, he inherited enough money to fund his keen desire to explore great unknowns in the world The teeming life of equatorial jungles especially hungered him However, a proper expedition requiredmoney than he had and the colonial empires were proprietary about their new possessions After getting shut out of a chance at French territories he eventually wangled permissions and financial support for an expedition to Venezuela In his five years away, he supplemented his studies of botany and zoology in the rainforest with systematic approaches to climate and biogeography through study of progression from the lowlands to high altitudes of volcanic peaks He consolidated his theories with further explorations in the Andes, Central America, and Cuba Through ethnographic observations he came to appreciate the integrity and wisdom of indigenous peoples and become disturbed with the common vision of them as savages suitable for slavery and exploitation in colonial enterprise He saw clearly the connection of colonialism, with its deforestation, focus on cash crops, and destructive mining practices, to degradation of the environment and prospects for extinction of species and native cultures On his way back to Europe, he found a good ear for his discoveries in a stop in America with President Jefferson, who also favored progressive agrarian approaches and responsible stewardship for vast new territories acquired from France and just explored by Lewis and Clark.Humboldt s great skills in public speaking and marshalling his ideas into accessible writing made him an instant worldwide star in both intellectual circles and the populace at large His non stop talking and flitting from soiree to soiree in Paris inspired many significant thinkers and scientists who came into his path others found him to be a egocentric bore His work over decades in writing many volumes based on his field work was subsidized by King Friedrich Wilhelm III, who allowed him to set up shop in Paris, despite France being a frequent enemy in conflicts over these years His successor forced him to work in Berlin, where he was led to found a university to make up for a gap in centers of learning Eventually he was able to talk Wilhelm IV into subsidizing a scientific expedition to Russia, ostensibly to review mining practices but which Humboldt used as a platform for a jaunt of his own interest into remote regions of Siberia.His magnum opus, Cosmos, written over a long swath of his later years, harnessed the work of many other scientists in a synthesis of many fields of science with their political, economic, and philosophical implications Wulf works to bring his personality and personal life alive, but his choice to never marry or forge serious romantic relationships leaves the question of his sexuality or general deficiencies in sustaining intimate relationships a mystery Wulf spends the last third of the book making a story of how his inspiration and seminal influences contributed to Darwin s theory of evolution and Lyell s formulation of geological principles Direct links to Thoreau s concepts of man s integral part of nature and contribution to Transcendentalism are documented The work of George Marsh in his book Man and Nature follows Humboldt s footsteps in its revelations of environmental degradations from exploitive agricultural practices and overfishing in Egypt and the Mideast The German biologist Hoeckel was inspired by Humboldt s thinking about ecology and comparative anatomy to advance marine and developmental biology and use the esthetics of his experience of natural form to add ferment to the Art Nouveau movement Finally Humboldt s personal enthusiasm with exploring wilderness and advocacy of conservation of such regions was a foundation for John Muir s life and accomplishments with respect to establishments of preserves and national parks Though the absence of a single clear theory on the order of Darwin s contributed to Humboldt not sustaining a lasting place in the scientific edifice we all are privy to in school, he does deserve the respect Wulf accords him in the history of ideas

  6. says:

    Alexander von Humboldt was a remarkable man Simultaneously a savant and an explorer, he knew everyone, studied everything, and did his best to travel everywhere Andrea Wulf brings together the many seemingly divergent worlds that he bridged the worlds of Thomas Jefferson, Sim n Bol var, Napoleon, Goethe, Charles Darwin, and even Isambard Kingdom Brunel He left his fingerprints on the worlds of science, literature, art, and even politics Yet today he is or was, before Wulf a fairly obscure Alexander von Humboldt was a remarkable man Simultaneously a savant and an explorer, he knew everyone, studied everything, and did his best to travel everywhere Andrea Wulf brings together the many seemingly divergent worlds that he bridged the worlds of Thomas Jefferson, Sim n Bol var, Napoleon, Goethe, Charles Darwin, and even Isambard Kingdom Brunel He left his fingerprints on the worlds of science, literature, art, and even politics Yet today he is or was, before Wulf a fairly obscure figure in the English speaking world.Thus this book is not simply a biography, but an attempt at rehabilitation Wulf wishes to restore Humboldt to his place of honor and she does this by arguing that his influence has been fundamental and pervasive But before she can deal with Humboldt s reputation, she must first narrate the scientist s own coming of age Humboldt was one of these figures with seemingly boundless energy, who threw himself into his work with complete abandon We watch the young Humboldt as he struggles with, and finally throws off, the expectations of his upbringing, and then dashes away to South America Once he embarks on his voyage, it does not take a strong writer which Wulf is to make his story exciting Humboldt s own travelogues were bestsellers Humboldt emerges from his travels with a concept of nature which, Wulf argues, was revolutionary and which became extremely influential Wulf identifies three new elements of Humboldt s approach to nature First, that nature cannot be understood without both the scientific and the poetic eye analysis and sentiment are necessary to do justice to the natural world Second, that the living world must be understood as a gestalt, with organisms depending on one another in an intimate set of relationships that boggles the intellect And third, that scientists must think on a global scale if they wish to understand the complex interactions between plants, animals, and climates This is the meat of the book Yet it is here that I began to shift from enchantment to disappointment For Wulf does not do nearly enough work to convince the skeptical reader that Humboldt s view of nature was so entirely new I would have appreciated farbackground on previous conceptualizations of the natural world Without this, it is hard to tell where Humboldt was innovative Further, Wulf is always rather vague with Humboldt s actual scientific contributions She elects to keep the narrative pace driving forward, which doubtless helped her sales yet I would have appreciated an explanation of Humboldt s thought indetail, with a good dealquoting of the man.Conversely, Wulf could have greatly reduced the space devoted to the men Humboldt influenced She has individual chapters for John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, George Perkins Marsh, and Ernst Haeckel space that she uses as opportunities to prove her thesis that Humboldt s writings were fundamental to their success But I found the level of biographical detail excessive, and her point overstated She makes it seem as if these men owed their accomplishments if not wholly, at least in large part to Humboldt s influence But you cannot measure influence, and you cannot prove a counterfactual what would they have done without Humboldt In any case, the point is entirely abstract without acareful discussion of Humboldt s ideas lacking that, it is not possible to say where his influence begins or ends.By now I am convinced that Humboldt was an important and compelling figure in the history of science But I am far from convinced that his late obscurity was a mere result of anti German sentiment caused by the two World Wars, as Wulf claims in the Epilogue Too many other German scientists and philosophers remained famous Rather, I think Humboldt may have fallen into obscurity because it is difficult to do justice to the nature of his contribution Unlike Darwin, he did not originate any major scientific theory that could unify a great many phenomena under a simple explanation Humboldt s major contributions seems to be perspectival seeing nature as complex yet whole, as godless yet beautiful, as vast and inhuman yet spiritually refreshing And it is difficult to work that into a textbook

  7. says:

    He saw the earth as one great living organism where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still influences the way that we understand the natural world I immensely appreciated reading this narrative The Invention of Nature portrays polymath Alexander von Humboldt in the wider scheme of things, linking his expeditions and research to the times of swift and radical economical transformations, of lasting and growing social unrest, of wars and revolutions he liveHe saw the earth as one great living organism where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still influences the way that we understand the natural world I immensely appreciated reading this narrative The Invention of Nature portrays polymath Alexander von Humboldt in the wider scheme of things, linking his expeditions and research to the times of swift and radical economical transformations, of lasting and growing social unrest, of wars and revolutions he lived in The set of maps, drawings, landscape paintings, portraits, and all manner of print spread throughout the book provide a rich and revelant illustration of what the eventful, fast paced text is about.To me, Andrea Wulf manages aptly to put the very spirit of universal interconnectedness advocated by her hero in this compelling presentation of Humboldt s life and legacyDetail from Alexander von Humboldt s portrait by painter Karl Joseph Stieler, 1843. Other portrayals feature in this book, outlining Charles Darwin, George Perkins Marsh representing the Conservation Movement , Ernst Haeckel who coined the word ecology , John Muir founder of the Sierra Club, part of the Preservation Movements.Recommended Soundtrack Le Carnaval des Animaux Claude Debussy

  8. says:

    I had heard of Alexander von Humboldt prior to starting this just about though like most people I knew almost nothing about him With this book, author Andrea Wulf has gone a long way towards rescuing her subject from undeserved obscurity.The central event of Humboldt s life was an almost unbelievably demanding 4 year journey through South America at the beginning of the 19th century, and it was this experience that most shaped his world view The story of that journey is vividly told, as is I had heard of Alexander von Humboldt prior to starting this just about though like most people I knew almost nothing about him With this book, author Andrea Wulf has gone a long way towards rescuing her subject from undeserved obscurity.The central event of Humboldt s life was an almost unbelievably demanding 4 year journey through South America at the beginning of the 19th century, and it was this experience that most shaped his world view The story of that journey is vividly told, as is that of a later journey through Russia to Central Asia I found some other parts of the book to be a slower read.It s the author s contention that Humboldt was the first person to explain the interconnectedness of the natural world the concept of the web of life as well as to recognise the risks of over exploitation of the environment by humans She argues therefore, that he can be considered the originator of the modern day environmental movement She goes on to show that he directly influenced prominent 19th century figures such as Sim n Bolivar, Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, Ernst Haeckel, and John Muir Wulf makes a persuasive case, but I always have reservations about accepting an argument from reading a single book It didn t help that I ve not read any of the numerous original sources the author cites, whether from Humboldt or the others featured To be honest, I d never heard of either George Perkins Marsh or Ernst Haeckel, though I quite enjoyed the chapters featuring these and other later figures I take my hat off to John Muir for what he achieved, but based on the description in this book I wouldn t like to have met him The same can be said of Humboldt himself.As a biographer, Andrea Wulf is mostly generous to her subject She praises Humboldt not just for his work as a naturalist, but also for being anti slavery, for defending the rights of indigenous peoples, and for being generally liberal in outlook All well and good, but at the same time he apparently had the ridiculous notion that the world economy should be based on subsistence farming, and the author doesn t challenge that She does concede that he compromised his liberal principles by accepting court appointments from the autocratic kings of Prussia, for financial reasons and it seems that on a personal level he was often unpleasant I felt the author downplayed the less attractive aspects of Humboldt s character She also rather danced around the issue of his sexuality Throughout his life Humboldt avoided women and formed intensely emotional friendships with young men, with whom he would share a room, a tent or even a bed Wulf suggests in her book that Humboldt never explicitly explained the nature of these male friendships, but it s likely they remained platonic , a remark that caused me to raise a sceptical eyebrow I appreciate though, that the author could argue her book was about assessing Humboldt as a scientist, and his sexuality was irrelevant to that.In fairness, she conclusively demonstrates that Humboldt was immensely famous and well respected in his own lifetime It s remarkable how his fame has diminished Wulf argues that Humboldt s vision of nature has passed into our consciousness as if by osmosis It is almost as if his ideas have become so manifest that the man behind them has disappeared I found this a slightly uneven book, but I did enjoy it, and I ve certainly learned plenty from it A thank you to my GR Friend Beata, whose review first alerted me to it

  9. says:

    I was never taught a thing about this man in any of my courses, whether HS or college Odd, right Especially since he was a man so unambiguously RIGHT about so many things, had universal acclaim in his lifetime and for a long time afterward, but has, since WWI and WWII, been relegated to the dustbin of history because he HAPPENS to have grown up Prussian That s Germany for you young whippersnappers not hip to what they called themselves back in Mozart s time.So, WTF Here are some really cool I was never taught a thing about this man in any of my courses, whether HS or college Odd, right Especially since he was a man so unambiguously RIGHT about so many things, had universal acclaim in his lifetime and for a long time afterward, but has, since WWI and WWII, been relegated to the dustbin of history because he HAPPENS to have grown up Prussian That s Germany for you young whippersnappers not hip to what they called themselves back in Mozart s time.So, WTF Here are some really cool bits, yo He almost single handedly spawned the travelogue industry I mean, the Naturalist movement, those wandering scientist athletes who cataloged and drew and took umpteen samples all around the world and did the job of classification, theorizing, and understanding the world we live in This polymath of a man was also of a mind that all sciences should interact, that inclusiveness and interconnectedness in all branches of thought, processes, and nature ought to be the top goal Details are important, but the big picture is even MORE important He was good friends with Goethe and many poets and influential writers Thoreau He heavily influenced Darwin Humboldt was known around the world as one of the most well loved scientists of all time He was a walking encyclopedia When he died, he was mourned around the world.A littleinteresting to us, in this modern day, he was also warning everyone, in a serious manner, about the dangers of an oncoming ecological disaster He saw how, by our greed and demands, we destroy nature and the systems within it How we cause the extinction of species He was one of the first environmentalists That s enough to love but for me, I personally love the fact he was one of the most hardcore proponents of interconnectedness and systems theory Yes, science and poetry get along VERY well

  10. says:

    Alexander von Humboldt was the first to demonstrate the global unity and co dependence of plants, animals, land, sea and atmosphere In this way, he first posed the idea of what we come to view as nature.His beginnings may have been usual for the German upper classes of the time His wealthy but absent parents saw to an education that prepared him for a gentleman s career His eventual inheritance financed his expedition to South America Wulf shows the difficulty of planning the trip, getting Alexander von Humboldt was the first to demonstrate the global unity and co dependence of plants, animals, land, sea and atmosphere In this way, he first posed the idea of what we come to view as nature.His beginnings may have been usual for the German upper classes of the time His wealthy but absent parents saw to an education that prepared him for a gentleman s career His eventual inheritance financed his expedition to South America Wulf shows the difficulty of planning the trip, getting clearances as well as actually traveling, documenting, measuring, recording and observing an untamed environment His charmed life could have ended by crocodiles, volcanoes he explored two while active or knife edge hikes in thin air and punishing weather.The books that resulted were used by scientists, businessmen and governments and they opened the imagination of the general public Humboldt was meticulous about these books, sparing no expense for the artisans who made the eventual volumes They inspired generations of scientists and those who have become known as environmentalists He developed lifelong associations with colleagues and staff His brother was his best friend and supporter He met and knew on varying levels the notables of his time, such as Simon Bolivar before either were famous Thomas Jefferson Humboldt s respect was mitigated by Jefferson s slave ownership , Johann Wolfgang Goethe a friend of his brother s , Freiderich Willhelm II King of Prussia who supported Humboldt, despite his republican ideals and many .Because Humboldt was frank about the conditions of colonialism, despite years of efforts, the British crown would not issue him a passport to India to document the Himalayas It took 30 years for another expedition, this one to Russia, a great adventure at age 60 showing not only his physical fortitude, but also his determination He ignored the edits of the ruler of all Russia by going where his studies took him including a trip into anthrax infested areas.Part V, the last part of the book, describes Humboldt s lasting influence He is a hero to Charles Darwin, George Perkin Marsh an early advocate for preservation , Ernst Haeckel who carried on his work and aggressively supported Darwin and John Muir All cite him in their work A copy of Muir s notes to his copy of a Humboldt work is reproduced on p 325.Like Humboldt, Wulf integrates many disciplines in her writing Unlike some biographers, whom I suspect have read sufficient paragraphs and chapters from items listed in their notes, you get the idea that Wulf has read and absorbed all original historical and literary material as well as Humboldt s work she cites This is a very comprehensive work While not a page turner, it is highly readable and keeps your attention

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