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.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion and news reports around the topic of science and nature. It just so happened that during recent news stories, marches, rallies and weather events, I was in the middle of discovering the The invention of nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s new world by Wulf, Andrea. Humboldt is considered one of our first environmentalists and was a man who once had thousands showing up at parades in his memory, not only in his homeland of Germany, but around the world. He’s now almost forgotten, and we tend to recognize the names of some of his students and admirers, such as Charles Darwin and John Muir, more than we would this naturalist and adventurer of the 19th century. Humboldt’s contribution to our current understanding, appreciation and concern for nature and natural habitats is overlooked these days, but after reading this excellently written biography you may be joining me in re-instituting a Humboldt parade!