Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature is about the life of the Prussian explorer and naturalist Humboldt. Yesterday, the book was named winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment science book prize.
Humboldt (1769 – 1859) inspired scientists and writers such as Jules Verne and Charles Darwin. He has more things named after him than anyone who has ever lived, including an ocean current, the Berlin university a six-foot squid and a breed of penguin.
Bravely, he travelled in the Americas, exploring, climbing and describing natural history. Later, he repeated these holistic feats with horses and carriages from Berlin to east of the Urals.
Wulf’s biography makes clear just how close together science and art were, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It also credits Humboldt for anticipating the destructive influence of humans on the environment.