The Invention of Nature

  • by Andrea Wulf
  • Narrated by David Drummond
  • 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world or racing through anthrax-infested Siberia. He came up with a radical vision of nature, that it was a complex and interconnected global force and did not exist for man's use alone. Ironically, his ideas have become so accepted and widespread that he has been nearly forgotten.
Now Andrea Wulf brings the man and his achievements back into focus: his investigation of wild environments around the world; his discoveries of similarities between climate zones on different continents; 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 Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. Wulf examines how his writings inspired other naturalists and poets such as Wordsworth, Darwin, and Goethe, and she makes the compelling case that it was Humboldt's influence on John Muir that led him to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau's Walden.
Humboldt was the most interdisciplinary of scientists and is the forgotten father of environmentalism. With this brilliantly researched and compellingly written audiobook, she makes clear the myriad, fundamental ways that Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Poignant origin story

A good history of a the rise of the modern way of thinking about nature and its relationship to man. Wulf has clearly researched this exhaustively, and seems to have read every piece of correspondence between Humbolt and his fellow scientists. However, despite effectively depicting the subject's character, enthusiasm, and spirit, this text lacks some of what it describes. I found the final several chapters dragging, although it ends on a very high note with Humbolt's posthumous influence on the great John Muir.

In a sentence, it is far more a description of his effects than of the man himself, Initially presented as an adventurer naturalist, it turns out he spends 90% of his life bouncing around Europe and writing books, which are in turn read by people who we are more familiar with (Darwin, Lyell, Thoreau, Muir). Realistic, but not especially interesting.

At the same time, it serves as an important reminder of how man remains ignorant of his place on the planet. An important message.

Drummond is a good narrator, but at times seems to lack the excitement of the text. In fact, on some words he seems to be imitating Stephen Hawking's [computer's] syllabic pauses, most notable in the pronunciation of the word "nature". As a result...it comes up a lot. So you're reminded of it constantly.
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- Jeremy Fairbanks

highly inspiring and beautifully written

The book introduces Alexander Von Humboldt's life and impact on fellow naturalists of his time as well as the modern understanding of nature. In times of global climate change this book could not be more relevant as it raises awareness through the fascinating and compelling story of AvH. Just like the genius himself the book does not limit itself to one character but brings to live the web of impacts Humboldt's ideas had on German and Anglo- Saxon literature and philosophy, politics in the young US as well as the Latin American colonies, and many more. My favorite book this year.
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- Martin Bringmann

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-20-2015
  • Publisher: HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books