The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism

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Viking, 2006 - Science - 496 pages
7 Reviews
A masterly intellectual history of the impact of 19th-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt on American culture and science

The naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769¬Ė1859) achieved unparalleled fame in his own time. Today, his enormous legacy to American thought is virtually unknown. In The Humboldt Current, Aaron Sachs seeks to reverse this obscurity by tracing Humboldt¬'s pervasive influence on American history, specifically looking at the lives and careers of four explorers: J. N. Reynolds, the founder of the 1838¬Ė1842 U.S. Exploring Expedition; Clarence King, the first director of the U.S. Geological Survey; George Wallace Melville, chief engineer on the disastrous 1879 Jeannette expedition to the North Pole; and John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club. In Sachs¬'s view, all four of these men were alienated Romantics who used Humboldt¬'s notion of ¬ďunity in diversity¬Ē as a way of critiquing their increasingly industrialized society. Moreover, as Sachs argues, their examples laid the groundwork for an ecological tradition even more radical than the one that has come down to us today. Sachs¬'s treatment of Humboldt¬'s legacy also includes discussions of the writers and artists most in his debt: Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Melville, Poe, and Frederic Church. Reminiscent of Louis Menand¬'s bestselling The Metaphysical Club, The Humboldt Current is a colorful, superbly written and carefully researched work that offers a fundamental reinterpretation of nineteenth century American history.

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Review: The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism

User Review  - Joanna - Goodreads

Learning so much from this beautifully written book... Read full review

Review: The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism

User Review  - Sean Canton - Goodreads

Made it most of the way through this book. Very riveting read about an actual explorer. Read full review

Contents

Personal Narrative of a Journey Radical Romanticism
41
Cosmos Unification Ecology
73
Port
110
Copyright

5 other sections not shown

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About the author (2006)

Aaron Sachs is a professor of history and American studies at Cornell University and an award- winning environmental journalist. This is his first book.

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