(Aaron Jacob Sachs)
CAREER: Historian, educator, and writer. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, professor of intellectual history. Formerly worked as an environmental journalist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Project Censored Award in U.S. journalism, 1998, for an article on Nigerian playwright and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa; Honorary Mellon fellowship, 1998-99; Jacob K. Javits fellowship, U.S. Department of Education, 1998-2002; Bienecke Library Research fellowship, 2001; Huntington Library Research fellowship, 2001-20; John F. Enders Research fellowship, Yale University, 2002; Graduate Affiliate fellowship, Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, 2003-04; Prize Teaching fellowship, Yale University, 2003-04; Mrs. Giles Whiting Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-04; John Addison Porter Prize, Yale University and Washington Egleston Historical Prize, both 2005, both for dissertation; George Washington Egleston Historical Prize (for dissertation), Yale University, 2005; Andrew W. Mellon Short-Term fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society, 2006-07. Also recipient of research grants.
(With John E. Young) The Next Efficiency Revolution: Creating a Sustainable Materials Economy, edited by Ed Ayers, Worldwatch Institute (Washington, DC), 1994.
Eco-Justice: Linking Human Rights and the Environment, edited by Jane A. Peterson, Worldwatch Institute (Washington, DC), 1995.
The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to journals, including Pacific Historical Review, History and Theory, Palimpsest, and World Watch.
SIDELIGHTS: In his book The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, Aaron Sachs tells how Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who was world-famous in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, profoundly influenced the development of ecology and environmentalism. Considered by many to be the first ecologist, Humboldt developed many areas of expertise, according to Sachs, including inventor, explorer, climatologist, botanist, cosmic theorist, and philanthropist. The author begins by outlining Humboldt’s life and career and then incorporates Humboldt’s extensive philosophy on interconnectedness of nature as he tells the story of four American explorers who were influenced by Humboldt’s thoughts and philosophies. The explorers are Clarence King, first director of the U.S. Geological Survey; George Melville, an Arctic expedition survivor; John Muir, famous environmentalist and founder of the Sierra Club, and J.N. Reynolds, who helped push for an expedition that discovered Antarctica.
Writing in Audubon, Kathleen McGowan noted that “the portraits of these early environmentalists are compelling, particularly the surprising depiction of John Muir.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: “The book’s greatest achievement lies in its deeply impressive scope, its integration not just of science and exploration, but also of the art, literature and politics of the 19th century.” Referring to Humboldt’s influence on the growth of environmentalism in America, a Publishers Weekly contributor commented: “This ambitious subject is admirably tackled in this complexly argued book by Sachs.” Donald Worster wrote in the American Scholar that “as a history of exploration, it is brilliant, imaginative, and bold.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
American Scholar, autumn, 2006, Donald Worster, review of The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, p. 130.
Audubon, November-December, 2006, Kathleen McGowan, review of The Humboldt Current, p. 84.
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Humboldt Current, p. 21.
Harper’s, August, 2006, John Leonard, review of The Humboldt Current, p. 83.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of The Humboldt Current, p. 564.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Patricia Ann Owens, review of The Humboldt Current, p. 105.
Publishers Weekly, June 26, 2006, review of The Humboldt Current, p. 47.
Cornell University ChronicleOnline, http://www.news.cornell.edu/ (October 10, 2006), Franklin Crawford, “Aaron Sachs Follows ‘The Humboldt Current’ in New Book.”
Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences Web site, http://www.arts.cornell.edu/ (January 28, 2007), faculty profile of author.*