As a number of you may have recognised by both the start of this special weekly post on my blog and the large amounts of content I post on social media, I attend a number of talks and debates throughout the year. I feel this is a great tool as an academic, building your network and conversing with a number of different people from different disciplines about your research and problems you’re having. More recently I’ve started to attend talks given by authors of the books I’ve been reading (or intending to read). This Wednesday (30th May) I attended a talk at the Science Museum in London given by Andrea Wulf, the award winning author of ‘The Invention of Nature’.
In the talk we discovered more about the visionary and privileged German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and how Andrea sythesised everything together. One alarming fact I learnt was the amount of correspondence Humboldt sent and received during his life time. The only real comparison I have is Charles Darwin, who himself was a prolific letter writer during his time investigating the natural world and researching for ‘Origin of Species’. Humboldt blows Darwin out of the water, he sent over 50,000 letters in his lifetime and received over 100,000 – some of which he later used as reference material for his published works.
On the night, Andrea was awarded the Dingle Prize from the British Society for the History of Science for the best history of science book for non-specialist readers. The book has already won the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016 and I’m not surprised that it has done so, despite only reading a fraction of the book so far. This talk has pushed me to finish it as soon as possible to unlock the secrets of the self-funded trips Humboldt went on to explore the New World and make such a lasting impression there. I’d like to thank Andrea and Gaia Vince for a great evening, I really enjoyed it and I hope they did too!