Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
WINNER OF THE 2015 COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD
WINNER OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY SCIENCE BOOK PRIZE 2016
'A thrilling adventure story' Bill Bryson
'Dazzling' Literary Review
'Brilliant' Sunday Express
'Extraordinary and gripping' New Scientist
'A superb biography' The Economist
'An exhilarating armchair voyage' GILES MILTON, Mail on Sunday
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) is the great lost scientist - more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast, there's a penguin, a giant squid - even the Mare Humboldtianum on the moon.
His colourful adventures read like something out of a Boy's Own story: Humboldt explored deep into the rainforest, climbed the world's highest volcanoes and inspired princes and presidents, scientists and poets alike. Napoleon was jealous of him; Simon Bolívar's revolution was fuelled by his ideas; Darwin set sail on the Beagle because of Humboldt; and Jules Verne's Captain Nemo owned all his many books. He simply was, as one contemporary put it, 'the greatest man since the Deluge'.
Taking us on a fantastic voyage in his footsteps - racing across anthrax-infected Russia or mapping tropical rivers alive with crocodiles - Andrea Wulf shows why his life and ideas remain so important today. Humboldt predicted human-induced climate change as early as 1800, and The Invention of Nature traces his ideas as they go on to revolutionize and shape science, conservation, nature writing, politics, art and the theory of evolution. He wanted to know and understand everything and his way of thinking was so far ahead of his time that it's only coming into its own now. Alexander von Humboldt really did invent the way we see nature.
"Winner of the 2015 Costa biography Award"--Cover.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) is the great lost scientist: more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast, there's a penguin, a giant squid - even the Mare Humboldtianum on the moon. His colourful adventures read like something out of a Boy's Own story: Humboldt explored deep into the rainforest, climbed the world's highest volcanoes and inspired princes and presidents, scientists and poets alike. Napoleon was jealous of him; Simon Bolivar's revolution was fuelled by his ideas; Darwin set sail on the Beagle because of Humboldt; and Jules Verne's Captain Nemo owned all his many books. He simply was, as one contemporary put it, 'the greatest man since the Deluge'.
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Although he was, according to Wulf (The Founding Gardeners), one of the most famous men of the early 19th century, Alexander von Humboldt is something of a footnote today, better known for his eponymous squid, current, and glacier than for his prodigious literary output. A tireless polymath and explorer, Humboldt undertook expeditions to four continents, collecting botanical and animal specimens and making countless measurements of phenomena from atmospheric pressure to the degree of blueness of the sky. Wulf argues that Humboldt's early romantic envisioning of the natural world as an interconnected, living web had a profound influence on the work of contemporary luminaries ranging from Goethe to Darwin to Thoreau. David Drummond does an outstanding job communicating both the author's enthusiasm for her subject and Humboldt's own rapturous feelings about the world. Despite feeling occasionally padded with an excess of biographic detail on some of Humboldt's acolytes, this work does great justice to a neglected forebear of modern environmentalism. Verdict Highly recommended for students of the history of science and environmentalism. ["Stimulating reading for those interested in general history, natural history, exploration, science, and philosophy": LJ 11/15/15 starred review of the Knopf hc.]-Forrest Link, Coll. of New Jersey Lib., Ewing © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) has been a major influence and inspiration in the world of science for centuries, though many are unfamiliar with his work today. Wulf composed this rich account to rekindle interest in the Prussian scientist and explorer. Throughout, she shows that Humboldt is responsible for how we think of the natural world today. In the audio edition, voice actor Drummond's deep and slightly raspy voice make Humboldt's adventures and interactions all the more exciting, and he masterfully captures flow of the prose. Drummond reads the scientific language with confidence and fluidity, which makes it easier for the listener to follow. A Scribner hardcover. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
This beautifully written and magnificently illustrated volume focuses on the contributions of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), an adventurer, a scientist, and an explorer, and his influence on 19th-century scientific exploration and the naturalists who followed him, including Charles Darwin. A product of the German enlightenment, Humboldt investigated every natural component of the New World. His five-year journey exploring the Western Hemisphere and his scientific accomplishments, such as his measurement of the ocean current off the western coast of South America (Humboldt Current), are graphically depicted in this book. Wulf, a journalist and book author, e.g., Chasing Venus (CH, Oct'12, 50-0860), also discusses Humboldt's climb of Chimborazo in Ecuador, then known as the highest volcanic peak in the world. Wulf duplicated this feat, not always a recommended stratagem for modern authors attempting to capture the work of early explorers, but her ambitious efforts add considerable spice to her study. Humboldt had a radical view of nature, viewing it as an interconnected force, a "web of life," an idea that shaped Darwin's thinking. This is summarized in Humboldt's last and possibly greatest work, Cosmos (1845-1862), in which nature is depicted "as a natural whole" or organism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. --Joel S. Schwartz, CUNY College of Staten Island
*Starred Review* Born to a wealthy Prussian family in 1769, young Alexander von Humboldt dreamed of expeditions to far-away lands. But he was kept on a short leash by his widowed mother while he studied science, worked as a mining inspector, and met prominent thinkers, becoming especially close to Goethe. Finally, in 1799, Humboldt was able to sail to South America, where he and his crew traveled arduous distances at great risk, charting rivers, climbing mountains, and collecting thousands of specimens, groundbreaking endeavors Humboldt chronicled in brimming journals. A polymath with frenetic energy and epic curiosity, Humboldt practiced disciplined empiricism while also thinking imaginatively and holistically, ultimately forging a radical new understanding of nature as one vast web, a reality we still haven't fully grasped. Humboldt shared his findings in lyrical and galvanizing works that became best-sellers that influenced Charles Darwin and Henry David Thoreau, among countless others. Wulf (Founding Gardeners, 2011), a historian with an invaluable environmental perspective, presents with zest and eloquence the full story of Humboldt's adventurous life and extraordinary achievements, from making science accessible and popular to his early warnings about how deforestation, monoculture agriculture, and industrialization would engender disastrous climate change. Humboldt, Wulf convincingly argues in this enthralling, elucidating biography, was a genuine visionary, whose insights we need now more than ever.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Engrossing biography of "a visionary, a thinker far ahead of his time," who "revolutionized the way we see the natural world." For most of his life, explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a household name. Never just a simple collector or adventurer, he poured out his ideas in lectures, conversations, and books that made him the public face of science during his era. In this fine account of an unbelievably energetic life, British commentator and historian Wulf (Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens, 2012, etc.) emphasizes that his insights marked the end of the universal view (at least among scientists) of animals as soulless automatons and the belief that humans were lords of the Earth. He ushered in the modern era of natural science, includingalthough he usually gets little creditenvironmentalism. Humboldt, writes the author "saw the earth as a great living organism where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still affects how we understand the world." The son of a wealthy Prussian aristocrat, he used his money to finance his iconic, grueling 1799-1804 expedition through the jungles and mountains of Latin America, ending with a long visit to President Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong correspondent. He eventually returned to Europe, wrote of his experiences in 34 bestselling volumes, and continued to travel, lecture, write, and excite artists, poets, scholars, and scientists for the remainder of a very long life. Wulf pauses regularly for chapters on other great men who acknowledged Humboldt's immense influence, including Goethe, Simn Bolvar, Charles Darwin, Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Humboldt was the Einstein of the 19th century but far more widely read, and Wulf successfully combines a biography with an intoxicating history of his times. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.