Nature's Wild Ideas

How the Natural World is Inspiring Scientific Innovation

By (author) Kristy Hamilton
Categories: Classical mechanics, Physics, Mathematics and Science
Publisher: Greystone Books
Hardcover : 9781771648196, 328 pages, October 2022


A lively and endlessly fascinating deep-dive into nature and the many groundbreaking human inventions inspired by the wild.

"Delightful."—The Guardian

"Fans of Helen Scales won't want to miss this."—Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

When astronomers wanted a telescope that could capture X-rays from celestial bodies, they looked to the lobster. When doctors wanted a medication that could stabilize Type II diabetic patients, they found their muse in a lizard. When scientists wanted to drastically reduce emissions in cement manufacturing, they observed how corals construct their skeletons in the sea. This is biomimicry in action: taking inspiration from nature to tackle human challenges.

In Nature?s Wild Ideas, Kristy Hamilton goes behind the scenes of some of our most unexpected innovations. She traverses frozen waterfalls, treks through cloudy forests, discovers nests in the Mojave desert, scours intertidal zones and takes us to the deepest oceans and near volcanoes to introduce us to the animals and plants that have inspired everything from cargo routing systems to non-toxic glues, and the men and women who followed that first spark of ?I wonder? all the way to its conclusion, sometimes against all odds.

While the joy of scientific discovery is front and center, Nature?s Wild Ideas is also a love letter to nature—complete with a deep message of conservation: If we are to continue learning from the creatures around us, we must protect their untamed homelands.


  • Runner-up, Nautilus Book Award 2024


"Hamilton is an intrepid story gatherer. . .This may be Hamilton's first book, but she writes like a well-informed veteran."
Winnipeg Free Press

"Delightful... It takes a skilled journalist like Hamilton to bring highly technical vignettes of scientific innovation to life with such warmth and wit."
The Guardian

"An impressive look at the myriad human innovations that have been derived from animals and plants... Fans of Helen Scales won't want to miss this."
Publishers Weekly STARRED review

"This extraordinary book tells the story of tens of the ways in which scientists are working to learn from nature to solve humanity's grand challenges. The book is exceptional; there is nothing quite like it. One is left eager to look for other, new solutions, of which there will be many given that there are millions (and some argue trillions) of species on Earth and that we have so far learned the lessons from just a few."
—Rob Dunn, author of A Natural History of the Future and Never Home Alone

"Kristy Hamilton's Nature's Wild Ideas is replete with beautifully crafted sentences and with genuinely insightful observations that inspire readers to stop, take a breath—and think. Very few people can write on this level."
—Wendy Williams, author ofThe Language of Butterflies and the New York Times bestseller The Horse

"As an engineer and educator teaching a core competency course called 'Bioinspiration' at a liberal arts college, I highly recommend this book as a must-read for everyone including my students to learn from the brilliance of nature's problem-solving skills and cherish it as an unlimited source of inspiration now and forever."
—Rafael (Yong-Ak) Song, Program Head, Bioengineering, New York University Abu Dhabi

"Witty and delectable, Kristy's writing takes complex issues and boils them down into bite-sized, digestible portions. Her writing takes us on a journey around the planet (and beyond!) as we explore our own evolutionary histories, and the many species whose lineage continue to influence humanity's greatest technological innovations. From the Rocky Mountains in Montana to the mussel-laden waters of Washington State, Nature's Wild Ideas enriches and engages our senses to make us, the reader, feel as if we are a fly on the wall of Kristy's extensive research and reporting."
—Madison Dapcevich, Science Journalist and Staff Writer for Snopes

"A truly remarkable debut. Hamilton's masterfully crafted anthology—a paean to nature's ingenuity and to the scientists who study it—is that rarest of literary gems: a book that's as exhilarating as it is humbling. These stories are a kaleidoscopic joy to behold, the sort you will dwell on long after you put this book down."
—Dr. Robin George Andrews, Volcanologist, award-winning science journalist and author of Super Volcanoes

"I simply loved this collection of stories describing the incredible advancements in technology, medicine, and engineering that humans have made by closely observing the intricacies and brilliance of natural design. Kristy's writing style is delightfully engaging and instilled with curiosity and a sense of wonder. Like a detective, she unravels the major milestones of each story taking the reader through the often painstaking and circuitous processes, and ultimate thrill, of scientific discovery. I highly recommend Nature's Wild Ideas, it will make you look at the natural world around you in a completely different light!
—Kim Bernard, Associate Professor at Oregon State University

"Looking for ideas? Look around you in Nature! Hamilton's book is fresh and easy to read, guiding readers on a journey of some of humanity's great discoveries that were inspired by Nature. Unique and empowering—this book invites anyone with a curious mind to have a closer look at how natural systems have evolved to solve problems."
—Dr. Dimitri Deheyn, Research Scientist of Marine Biology at UC San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

"Nature's Wild Ideas is a whimsical look into the biology that has inspired some of our most ingenious inventions, and a call to action to rebuild a better world.
—Gina Rae La Cerva, author of Feasting Wild

"In Nature's Wild Ideas, Kristy Hamilton delivers a multi-course feast of biomimicry delights. Dip into a single chapter and the exquisite blend of invention, ecology, history, multi-species wonders and inspiration is so rich and satisfying, you will read on, long past the moment you thought you would be satiated."
—Elin Kelsey, PhD, author of Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis

"It's rare to find literature that you would want to share with your seven-year-old as well as your work colleagues and friends! Hamilton's work is engaging from the first word; masterfully connecting ecology, history, social sciences and many other disciplines into a thoughtful, engaging learning opportunity. Makes learning from nature feel like the ultimate innovators manual!"
—Shirley-Ann Augustin-Behravesh, a Senior Global Futures Scientist at Arizona State University

"Delightful... It takes a skilled journalist like Hamilton to bring highly technical vignettes of scientific innovation to life with such warmth and wit."
—The Guardian