Rediscovering Alexander Von Humboldt, The Largely Forgotten Father Of Environmentalism

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Before John Muir — even before Charles Darwin — there was Alexander von Humboldt, the German scientist who shaped our modern understanding of nature. Today, he’s largely forgotten, but Humboldt was once the most famous scientist in the world. His epic five-year journey across Latin America was full of death-defying adventures, and his books had a profound influence on Darwin, Thoreau and other 19th century writers. Historian Andrea Wulf has just written a biography of Humboldt called “The Invention of Nature,” which The New York Times has picked as one of this year’s ten best books. Steve Paulson recently sat down with Wulf to talk about this remarkable man.


During this interview with Andrea Wulf, our guest at one point misspoke and stated that Mt. Chimborazo is located in Venezuela. Mt. Chimborazo is actually located in The Andes mountain range near Quito, Ecuador. We regret the error.