E. O. Wilson


E. O. Wilson : biography

June 10, 1929 –

Wilson makes a similar suggestion, and appeal to the religious community, on the lecture circuit. An article on his September 17, 2009 lecture at Midland College, Texas, reports, "he said the appeal received a ‘massive reply’ and a covenant has been written. ‘I think that partnership will work to a substantial degree as time goes on,’ Wilson said." mywesttexas.com September 18, 2009

Wilson appears in the documentary Behold The Earth, which inquires into America’s "divorce from nature" and the relationship between science and religion.


When discussing the reinvigoration of his original fields of study since the 1960s, Wilson has said that if he could start his life over he would work in microbial ecology. He studied the mass extinctions of the 20th century and their relationship to modern society, arguing strongly for an ecological approach:

His understanding of the scale of the extinction crisis has led him to advocate a number of strategies for forest protection, including the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new markets-based mechanisms to protect tropical forests.

Early life

Wilson was born in Birmingham, Alabama. According to his autobiography Naturalist, he grew up mostly around Washington, D.C. and in the countryside around Mobile, Alabama.Edward O. Wilson – Naturalist, Island Press; (April 24, 2006), ISBN 1-59726-088-6 From an early age, he was interested in natural history. His parents, Edward and Inez Wilson, divorced when he was seven. The young naturalist grew up in several cities and towns, moving around with his father and his stepmother. In the same year that his parents divorced, Wilson blinded himself in one eye in a fishing accident. He suffered for hours, but he continued fishing. He did not complain because he was anxious to stay outdoors. He never went in for medical treatment. Several months later, his right pupil clouded over with a cataract. He was admitted to Pensacola Hospital to have the lens removed. Wilson writes, in his autobiography, that “[t]he surgery was a terrifying [19th] century ordeal.” Today, he suffers from the phobia of being enclosed in a “closed space with [his] arms immobilized and [his] face covered with an obstruction.” Wilson was left with full sight in his left eye, with a vision of 20/10. He lost his stereoscopy, but he could see fine print and the hairs on the body of small insects. His reduced ability to observe mammals and birds led him to concentrate on insects. At nine, Wilson undertook his first expeditions at the Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. He began to collect insects and he gained a passion for butterflies. He would capture them using nets made with brooms, coat hangers, and cheesecloth bags. Going on these expeditions lead to Wilson’s fascination with ants. He describes in his autobiography how one day he pulled the bark of a rotting tree away and discovered citronella ants underneath. The worker ants he found were “short, fat, brilliant yellow, and emitted a strong lemony odor. Wilson said the event left a “vivid and lasting impression on [him].” He also earned the Eagle Scout award and served as Nature Director of his Boy Scout summer camp. At the age of 18, intent on becoming an entomologist, he began by collecting flies, but the shortage of insect pins caused by World War II caused him to switch to ants, which could be stored in vials. With the encouragement of Marion R. Smith, a myrmecologist from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Wilson began a survey of all the ants of Alabama. This study led him to report the first colony of fire ants in the US, near the port of Mobile.first-hand account, Smithsonian Institution talk, April 22, 2010

Concerned that he might not be able to afford to go to a university, Wilson attempted to enlist in the United States Army. His plan was to earn U.S. government financial support for his education, but he failed his Army medical examination due to his impaired eyesight. Wilson was able to afford to enroll in the University of Alabama after all. There, he earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees In Biology. He later earned his Ph.D. degree in Biology from Harvard University.