So who was Alexander von Humboldt?
Why is he barely recognized today though he was widely celebrated 150 years ago throughout Europe as well as North and South America on the 100th anniversary of his birth?
And more significantly, how much does our modern concept of nature and the science of ecology owe to his influence?
Andrea Wulf's The Invention of Nature tells Humboldt's story, which is set during the pivotal period in scientific thought spanning from the close of the 18th century Enlightenment era and into the increasingly globalized and mechanized 19th century. His travels were epic, writings prolific, and his influence wide-ranging (Darwin, Thoreau, Bolivar each drew inspiration from him.) Wulf argues that he should be remembered by all not just for his impressive scientific achievements and the lengths he went in pursuit of discovery, but for how he conceived of the idea of our living planet as interconnected, wondrous, and vulnerable.
For those of us who like a healthy dose of science in our history reads, this book looks like the ticket! So carve out some pre-holiday time to read up and then let's get together to discuss it along with some fine beers and snacks (I've already picked out the perfect cheese!)
Questions? Comments? Exhortations? Make them known to the world!