The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World

Paul Theerman's picture
September 30, 2015
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Intellectual History, Modern European History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies

In The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, Andrea Wulf reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) and explores how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt 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. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Wulf argues that 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. Copies of The Invention of Nature will be available for sale and signing.


Andrea Wulf was born in India, moved to Germany as a child, and now lives in Britain. She is the author of several acclaimed books. The Brother Gardeners won the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award and was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008. Her book Founding Gardeners was on the New York Times Best Seller List. Andrea has written for many newspapers including the GuardianLA Times and New York Times. She was the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence 2013 and a three-time fellow of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. In 2014 she co-presented a four-part BBC TV garden series and she appears regularly on radio.


Presented in collaboration with The Columbia Center for Science and Society.


Date:                     Wednesday, September 30

Time:                     6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Location:              The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029


Free and open to the public; advance registration is requested. To register for this event, click here: Alexander von Humboldt's New World.


For more information about this and other upcoming history of medicine events in the New York area, see the calendar page of our blog, “Books, Health, and History”:, as well as our Cultural Programming brochure.

Contact Info: 

Paul Theerman, PhD

Associate Director

Library and Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

New York Academy of Medicine

1216 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY, 10029


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