EO Wilson, Anthill

June 10 (1929) is the birthday of the biologist E.O. Wilson, born Edward Osborne Wilson in Birmingham, Alabama. There have recently been several book reviews of his novel Anthill (2010)(not his usual forte, his 22nd book but first fiction, but brilliant nonetheless) by Klinkenborg and Kingsolver.

A biology major at the University of Tennessee and Harvard (later professor), he developed an interest in Ants. He spent years researching ants all over the world (which makes fascinating reading!). One of his first books The Theory of Island Biogeography (1967), was a cornerstone in my own ecological career. The book remains influential in the fields of ecology and conservation biology.

Then, he wrote Sociobiology (1975), describing the biological foundation for behavior from ants to humans. The book was and remains controversial because some people believed that it justified racism and sexism. His book On Human Nature(1978) was a rebuttal, developing the concepts of sociobiology into a more fair and just society, not the opposite. It won the Pulitzer Prize. Other favourite books include Biophilia (1984), The Ants (1990), and his autobiography, Naturalist (1995). I love reading Bernd Heinrich’s nonfiction books as well (ravens, bees, Maine Woods). Edward Hoagland still writes the best nature essays.

Wilson said, “Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”


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