University Professor Emeritus
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
National Academy of Sciences
Presentation Titles: “The State of Global Biodiversity” (April 22) and “How Humans and Ants Conquered the World” (April 24)
Dr. Edward O. Wilson, distinguished biologist, naturalist, theorist, and author is the leading expert on ants and one of the world’s leading experts on evolution and species diversity.
Wilson’s theories — put forth in his books Consilience, Sociobiology, and Pulitzer Prize winners On Human Nature and The Ants, among others — have sparked decades of debate about the interface between the human psyche and human biology.
He is known as the founder of the theory of sociobiology, which proposes that human and animal behavior is shaped by evolutionary forces, and its offshoot, evolutionary psychology. He developed the basis of modern biodiversity conservation efforts through his biophilia hypothesis, which proposes that there is a vital, instinctive bond between humans and all other forms of life.
Throughout his life, Wilson has spearheaded efforts to preserve the world’s biodiversity. He played a central role in establishing the Encyclopedia of Life, which has the goal of curating a web page for every one of Earth’s species, and he has mobilized the movement to protect the world’s “hot spots,” the realms of highest biodiversity on the planet.
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, named in honor of Wilson, works to foster a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage.
A Birmingham native, Wilson chronicled his childhood sloshing through the woods and creeks of south Alabama in his bestselling 1994 autobiography Naturalist. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from The University of Alabama (1949, 1950). He received his doctoral degree from Harvard University where he is Pelligrino University Research Professor Emeritus and where he taught and conducted research for 45 years.
He is a recipient of the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, an honor equal to the Nobel Prize; the U.S. National Medal of Science; and more than 100 international awards including Japan’s International Prize for Biology, the Prix de Institut de Vie — Paris, Italy’s presidential Medal and the Nonino Prize in science and letters, the Cosmos Prize, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the Gold Medal of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Audubon Medal of the Audubon Society, the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal International Prize for Science, the Dominican Republic’s highest award, the Order of the Silver Cross of Christopher Columbus, and Sweden’s highest award given to a noncitizen, Commander, First Class, Royal Order of the Polar Star.
He is the author of 29 books including his first novel, Ant Hill, the story of a young boy growing up in Mobile, published in 2010; The Social Conquest of Life, published in 2012; Why We Are Here, a collection of essays and photography of his childhood hometown, Mobile, Alabama; and A Window on Eternity: Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, which will be released on the opening day of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Symposium at The University of Alabama.
In 2011, Wilson led scientific expeditions to the wild preserve of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique and the archipelagoes of Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific. Professor Wilson has developed a special attachment to Gorongosa, where U.S. philanthropist Gregory C. Carr has joined with the government of Mozambique to direct the park’s recovery after years of civil war that saw its wildlife dwindle dramatically.
A Window on Eternity: Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique tells the remarkable story of how Gorongosa, one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world, was destroyed, was restored, and continues to evolve.