Andrea/Cara here, As a unabashed history geek, I’m always excited when I discover the in-depth story of a fascinating figure from the past about whom I don’t know much—and I’m even more excited when in the process I also gain a broader perspective on the world in which the individual lived and how his or her achievements helped shape it. So I’m here to gush about my newest historical hero heartthrob—Alexander von Humboldt.
Today, most of us know dare only vaguely familiar with his name as an ocean current located somewhere off the Pacific coast of South America. But in his day, he was arguably one of the most famous men in the world. As the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV said, he was “the greatest man since the Deluge.” On his death, newspapers around the world proclaimed how fortunate they all were to have lived in the “Age of Humboldt.”
Scientist, Poet, Educator, Artist, Philosopher. The details of Humboldt’s extraordinary personality and accomplishments are brought to life in The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. His insatiable curiosity, his meticulous recording of data and details of the natural world—from the tiniest insects to the faraway stars—his lyrical prose that expressed the wondrous joy at seeing Life as a great web of interconnected threads, literally changed the way the 19th century world looked at science. From Charles Darwin to Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, both scientists and artists were inspired by Humboldt, who today is being re-recognized as the Father of Ecology.