The Britain based science author Andrea Wulf recently published an Op-Ed article in the LA Times about Humboldt’s influence on two protagonists in the history of early ecological thinking: the Scottish-born American naturalist and author John Muir (1838-1914) as well as the US-American politician George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882), author of Man and Nature (1864). Wulf explains:
Muir left behind heavily annotated copies of Humboldt’s books. Pencil in hand, he scribbled in the margins of his copies, which are now in the special collections of the University of the Pacific in Stockton. On the endpapers Muir devised his own extensive indexes. He highlighted passages about the impact of trees on climate, soil and evaporation as well as the destructive force of agriculture and deforestation.[…]
Humboldt also shaped the beliefs of another American proto-ecologist, George Perkins Marsh […]. As the American ambassador in Turkey and then Italy, Marsh traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East where he observed, through the lens of Humboldt’s writings, landscapes that were damaged by thousands of years of agricultural activity. He called Humboldt “the great apostle” and extended his warnings about a devastated planet: If nothing changed, Marsh foretold, Earth would be reduced to a “shattered surface [and] climatic excess.” Read the entire article
In fall 2015, Wulf will publish The Invention of Nature. Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, a new biography, which is already receiving considerable media attention.