IN MEMORIAM: Dr. Edward Osborne Wilson


December 28, 2021


Dr. Wilson published Tales of the Ant World in 2020, sharing stories about his encounters with ants from his boyhood in Alabama to his research trip to the Brazilian rainforest.

American biologist and naturalist Dr. Edward Osborne “E.O.” Wilson died Dec. 26 at the age of 92. Because of his many contributions to the scientific community’s understanding of animals and biodiversity over his long career, he was dubbed “Darwin’s Natural Heir” and, because of his interest in myrmecology in particular, “the Ant Man.”

According to a statement released Dec. 28 by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation:

Born June 10, 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama, “Ed” grew up in “America’s Amazon,” the Mobile-Tensaw delta, as well as Washington, D.C. At a young age, he cultivated his love for nature among the marshes and bottomland forests of Alabama and in Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. Educated at University of Alabama and later Harvard University, he received his Ph.D. in entomology in 1955 and participated in expeditions to Cuba, Mexico, the South Pacific, Australia, Fiji, Sri Lanka and later, Mozambique. In the 1960s, he partnered with mathematician and ecologist Robert MacArthur in developing the theory of species equilibrium, which led to Wilson and MacArthur’s book The Theory of Island Biogeography, now a standard ecology text and the basis for the scientific principle of “half-earth.” He won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for On Human Nature, which dealt with the role of biology in the evolution of human culture, and a second in general nonfiction in 1990 for The Ants, co-written with Bert Hölldobler. He officially retired in 1996…

Dr. Wilson was Honorary Curator in Entomology and University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Chairman of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Board of Advisors, and Chairman of the Half-Earth Council. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost naturalists in both science and literature, as well as a synthesizer in works stretching from pure biology across to the social sciences and humanities. Dr. Wilson was the author of over 30 books and forewords, over 430 scientific papers, and recipient of over a hundred awards including the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Crafoord Prize and the International Prize of Biology of Japan; and in letters, two Pulitzer Prizes in non-fiction, the Nonino and Serono Prizes of Italy and COSMOS Prize of Japan.

In his long career, Dr. Wilson 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. Dr. Wilson has also been a pioneer in spearheading efforts to preserve and protect the biodiversity of earth.

Dr. Wilson is acknowledged as the creator of two scientific disciplines (island biogeography and sociobiology), three unifying concepts for science and the humanities jointly (biophilia, biodiversity studies, and consilience) and two major advances in global biodiversity conservation (the Encyclopedia of Life and Half-Earth)…

Dr. Wilson’s last lecture, “Ecosystems & the Harmony of Nature,” was presented in conversation with Sir David Attenborough and Sir Tim Smit at Half-Earth Day® 2021 in October. Wilson’s authorized biography, SCIENTIST, E.O. Wilson: A Life in Nature by Richard Rhodes, was published in November…

Dr. Wilson is preceded in death by his wife, Irene K, Wilson. He is survived by his daughter, Catherine I. Cargill, and her husband, John. A tribute to Dr. Wilson’s life is planned for 2022. Memorial details are to be announced.


About the Author

Heather Gooch

Heather Gooch is the editor-in-chief for PMP magazine. She can be reached at or 330-321-9754.

Leave A Comment

Comments are closed.