Edward O. Wilson, biologist known as ‘ant man’, dies at 92



Edward O. Wilson, a pioneering Harvard biologist who argued for a new vision of human nature in “Sociobiology” and warned of the decline of ecosystems , passed away. He is 92 years old.

Wilson died on December 26 in Burlington, Massachusetts, according to an announcement posted Monday on the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation website.

“It’s hard to underestimate Ed’s scientific achievements, but his impact extends to every aspect of society. He is a true visionary with unique powers of inspiration and strength. He made it clear, perhaps better than anyone, what it means to be human,” David J. Prend, board chair of the EO Wilson Biodiversity Fund, said in a statement. .

The professor and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author first gained widespread attention with his 1975 book, Sociology: The New Synthesis, in which he presented evidence for see the link between human behavior and heredity. The work has generated a storm of controversy among activists and fellow scholars, who have equated groundbreaking theories of social biology with sexism, racism, and socialism. National Socialist.

More recently, Wilson has advocated for the importance of conserving diverse species and ecosystems.

He said in 1993: “The diversity of life on Earth is much greater than most biologists realize.

Less than 10 percent of species on Earth, he said, have a scientific name, making it “a planet that remains largely unexplored.”

In 1979, “On Human Nature” – the third volume in a series that included “The Society of Insects” and “Sociology” – won Wilson his first Pulitzer Prize. His second Pulitzer came in 1991 with “The Ants”, which Wilson co-wrote with fellow Harvard Bert Holldobler.

Among his other honors was the 1990 Crafoord Prize in biological sciences from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the highest scientific award in the field. Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people in America in 1996.

Wilson’s sociobiological theories transformed the field of biology and reinvented nature versus fostering debate among scientists. Drawing on data on multiple species, Wilson suggests that social behaviors ranging from war to altruism have a genetic basis, an opinion that contradicts the popular view that cultural and environmental factors determine human behavior.

Critics argue that such a theory promotes social injustice, including discrimination against women, by saying that inequality is shaped by human genes. Fifteen Boston-area scholars participated in a letter denouncing it, and in one case, protesters poured a pitcher of ice water over Wilson’s head while he was speaking at a scientific meeting in 2016. 1978.

He doesn’t think genes determine all of a person’s behavior, but “roughly speaking… maybe 10%” of them.

He later said that the intensity of the reaction frightened him and at one point he gave up speaking in public.

“I think my career is flourishing,” he said.

His 2006 book, “Creativity,” argued that the fields of science and religion, “the most powerful social force on Earth,” should work together to protect nature.

The following year, he joined more than two dozen other leaders in religion and science to sign a statement calling for urgent changes in values, lifestyles and public policies to avert catastrophic climate change. . Among the participating religious leaders were Rev. Rich Cizik, public policy director for the National Missionary Society.

The starting point for Wilson’s studies was a creature that had fascinated him since he was a teenager – the ant.

When showing an Associated Press reporter an impressive microscope view of an ant specimen in 1993, he remarked: “I call it looking into the face of nature. You’re looking at something that could be millions of years old, and no one has seen it before. “

His and Holldobler’s book “The Ants” features detailed photographs of ants crawling through their daily lives, copulating, regurgitating food and biting other insects. It meticulously detailed every move of the ants.

He notes that ant research has provided insights into the state of the environment because the well-being and diversity of ant populations can be useful as an indicator of potential health problems. Subtle destructive change in a seemingly normal area.

Wilson was born in 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama. An only child whose parents divorced when he was 7, Wilson found comfort in nature, which he calls “the companion of choice”.

He also faced losing an eye in a fishing accident and in his late teens partially lost his hearing.

The Boy Scouts gave Wilson an opportunity to continue his enthusiasm for nature, and by the age of 15, Wilson had been promoted to Eagle Scout.

He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1949. He received his Ph. biology from Harvard in 1955 and became an assistant professor there in 1956. Wilson’s fieldwork included stops in Australia, New Guinea and Sri Lanka, in addition to work he was doing at home.

He has sat on the boards of several environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy. He was honored for his conservation efforts with the Global Nature Fund Gold Medal in 1990 and the National Audubon Society’s Audubon Medal in 1995.

Wilson is survived by his daughter, Catherine. He is despised by his wife, Irene.

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Aila Slisco

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