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E. O. Wilson (June 10, 1929 – December 26, 2021) (Text and Videos)

Edward Osborne Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard, Is The Guiding Force That Shapes The Mission Of The E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. In his long career, he has transformed his field of research—the behavior of ants—and applied his scientific perspective and experience to illuminate the human circumstance, including human origins, human nature, and human interactions. Wilson has also been a pioneer in spearheading efforts to preserve and protect the biodiversity of this planet. Beginning with his unusual childhood in Alabama, “E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men” chronicles the famed biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s lifelong love for the natural world and the groundbreaking research that would establish him as the foremost authority on ants. It is an exciting journey of ideas but also an endearing portrait of a remarkable man; often dubbed “a Darwin for the modern day.” Early in his career, Wilson conducted work on the classification and ecology of ants in New Guinea and other Pacific islands, and in the American tropics. In 1963 his work and his conception of species equilibrium led him to the theory of island biogeography, which he developed with the late Robert H. MacArthur of Princeton University. In their theory, immigration and extinction, the determinants of biodiversity at the species level, were tied to area (distance of islands from source regions) and the basic properties of ecology and demography. The work culminated in their 1967 book The Theory of Island Biogeography, which has been a standard reference work ever since. The theory greatly influenced the discipline of ecology and became a cornerstone of conservation biology. Applied to “habitat islands,” such as forests in a sea of agricultural land, it has influenced the planning and assessment of parks and reserves around the world. With his student Daniel Simberloff, in the late 1960s, he set up experiments in the Florida Keys that tested predictions of the theory, and added knowledge of the processes of species immigration and extinction. The foundational discoveries of sociobiology are generally recognized to be the analysis of animal communication and division of labor, in which Wilson played a principal role, and the genetic theory of the origin of social behavior, which he helped to promote and apply in his 1971 and 1975 syntheses. Sociobiology was later ranked in a poll of the officers and fellows of the international Animal Behavior Society as the most important book on animal behavior of all time, and is regarded today as the founding text of sociobiology and its offshoot, evolutionary psychology. Sociobiology also included a brief analysis of the origins of human nature. This stirred a bitter controversy on the role of biology in human behavior, which has now been largely resolved in favor of the sociobiological view.

From Dr. Vernon Coleman
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