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Humanities Center Lecture Series Public Lecture: Andrea Wulf, "The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World’"

October 04, 2016
05:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library

The Invention of Nature tells the story of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the great thinker and intrepid explorer who has more things named after him than anyone else – from the Humboldt current to towns, rivers, mountain ranges and a penguin. Though almost forgotten today, Humboldt was the most famous scientist of his age.His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether exploring deep into the rainforest or climbing the world’s highest volcanoes. He saw nature as a web of life and amazingly predicted harmful human–induced climate change already in 1800. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. It was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. Wulf traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature.  ‘The Invention of Nature’ brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.


Andrea Wulf is the author of five acclaimed books. ‘The Brother Gardeners’ won the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award and her books ‘Founding Gardeners’ and ‘The Invention of Nature’ were on the New York Times Best Seller List. Andrea has written for many newspapers including the Guardian, LA Times, WSJ and New York Times. She writes a monthly column on the history of science for The Atlantic. In 2014 she co-presented a four-part BBC TV garden series and she appears regularly on radio. ‘The Invention of Nature’ won the prestigious Costa Biography Award 2015 and the Royal Geographic Society Ness Award in the UK as well as the LA Times Book Prize 2016 and the Inaugural James Wright Award of Nature Writing (Kenyon Review & Nature Conservancy) in the US. It was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize 2015 and shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non–Fiction 2016. It was chosen as 10 Best Books of 2015 in the New York Times. 

Category: Lectures and Seminars