The Invention of Nature – Book Review

Charles F. Rattigan – VINS Executive Director

Recently, I was asked to share some recommendations of books that are particularly important to my understanding of nature and the role that humans play in shaping the environment through actions that either harm or sustain the natural world.  I thought for this first effort, I’d recommend what I’ve most recently read, The Invention of Nature – Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf, published in 2016 by Knopf and named One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year. 

The book appealed to me because it gives insight into how we’ve come to understand that the natural world is a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humans alone. Humboldt led a remarkable life traveling extensively in South America, met and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and traveled throughout Russia. His insight that the earth is a single connected organism that can be damaged catastrophically by human action has shaped the thinking of some of our most important scientists and environmental thinkers from Darwin to Vermont’s George Perkins Marsh, Thoreau, and John Muir.

The book is beautifully written and thoroughly researched.  It is an important read for anyone concerned about the state of the natural world.

To learn more about The Invention of Nature, visit

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