E. O. Wilson, King of Ants and Father of Biodiversity, passed away at 92
December 28, 2021 by Wonder Science
Evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson passed away on December 26, 2021. Wilson was a distinguished evolutionary biologist, prolific author, teacher, myrmecologist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and a champion of biodiversity. He was known for his pioneering work in entomology, and was recognized as a synthesizer of knowledge from diverse fields. E. O. Wilson pioneered two scientific disciplines: sociobiology, which is the systematic study of the biological basis of social behavior, and island biogeography, examining the factors that affect the species richness and diversification of isolated natural communities.
46 Years at Harvard
E. O. Wilson shared his love of biology as a professor at Harvard for 46 years. Wilson’s scintillating storytelling attracted hundreds of students to giant lecture halls. He taught a wildly popular core class colloquially dubbed ‘Sex,’ on sexual selection as a driving force of evolution. In upper level classes, his lectures waded into the dense muck of species-shaping evolutionary biology.
On a personal level, Professor Wilson was my teacher and inspiration to study and film ants. In 2004, I interviewed Professor Wilson in his office at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard on the subject of ant society. Here is a still frame from the interview:
In E. O. Wilson’s office at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.
E.O. Wilson and Ants
E. O. Wilson studied the behavior of ants from the age of 13 through his entire career. His is a wonderful example of someone who hit upon their life’s passion early and what such singular devotion can yield. Wilson advanced our understanding of eusociality, which appears in only a few species of animal, notably ants, and involves a high-level of cooperation and self-sacrifice among the members of a group. Wilson puzzled out the seeming paradox of how eusociality and self-sacrifice could persist in a species gene pool over generations.
Here is my inscribed copy of “Journey to the Ants”, by Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, the shorter companion book to their Pulitzer Prize winning tome, “The Ants”.
Inscribed, “For Danielle, With warm regards, E. O. Wilson”
E. O. Wilson’s initiatives, including the Half-Earth Project, will continue through the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. He will be greatly missed and his contributions will be passed forward like genes through future generations.