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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.
©2015 Andrea Wulf. Recorded by arrangement with Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Jeremy Fairbanks on 03-03-16

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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34 of 34 people found this review helpful


By Kimberly on 01-13-16

Meet an extraordinary man!

I knew Humbolt was a great scientist, but I did not know a tenth of his accomplishments. This is a stunning look at a man who loved biology, geology, and anthropology, as well as human rights and lyrical writing. He invented the concept of ecology, discovered climate zones, and raised awareness of long term human impact on the environment. He inspired revolutionaries such as Bolivar, scientists such as Darwin, and writers such as Thoreau. Today, Humbolt is largely forgotten, but if you read this book you will never forget this extraordinary man.

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16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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