A new hardcover selection of the best writings of the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world. Selected and introduced by Andrea Wulf.
Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether he was climbing volcanoes in the Andes, racing through anthrax-infected Siberia, or publishing groundbreaking bestsellers. Ahead of his time, he recognized nature as an interdependent whole and he saw before anyone else that humankind was on a path to destroy it. His visits to the Americas led him to argue that the indigenous peoples possessed ancient cultures with sophisticated languages, architecture, and art, and his expedition to Cuba prompted him to denounce slavery as “the greatest evil ever to have afflicted humanity.”
To Humboldt, the melody of his prose was as important as its empirical content, and this selection from his most famous works—including Cosmos, Views of Nature, and Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, among others—allows us the pleasure of reading his own accounts of his daring explorations. Humboldt’s writings profoundly influenced naturalists and poets including Darwin, Thoreau, Muir, Goethe, Wordsworth, and Whitman. The Selected Writings is not only a tribute to Humboldt’s important role in environmental history and science, but also to his ability to fashion powerfully poetic narratives out of scientific observations.
About the Author
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT (1769-1859) was a German polymath and explorer whose expeditions, ranging from the highest peaks in the Andes to the steppes of Siberia, laid the groundwork for the field of biogeography.
ANDREA WULF was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She lives in London, where she trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art. She is the author of The Invention of Nature, Chasing Venus, Founding Gardeners, and The Brother Gardeners, which was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and awarded the American Horticultural Society Book Award. She has written for The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. She appears regularly on radio and TV, and in 2014 copresented British Gardens in Time, a four-part series on BBC television.