The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
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 little more interesting 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. :)
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