Books interview with Andrea Wulf: “Alexander von Humboldt is the forgotten father of environmentalism”
Andrea Wulf talks to Matt Elton about her new biography of a polymath who fundamentally shaped the way that we see nature – and predicted climate change as early as the 19th century
Alexander von Humboldt was born to a prominent family in Berlin in September 1769. His mother planned for him to work in finance, but following her death Humboldt pursued his interest in the natural world and embarked on an expedition to Latin America. His scientific observations of the area’s plant life led him to develop theories of biogeography that were to influence generations of later experts, including Charles Darwin. Further travels to North and South America saw him interact with leading political figures including Thomas Jefferson and Simon Bolivar. He died in 1859 at the age of 89.