Edward O. Wilson

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 1597260886

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In Naturalist, Wilson describes for the first time both

his growth as a scientist and the evolution of the science

he has helped define. He traces the trajectory of

his life—from a childhood spent exploring the Gulf

Coast of Alabama and Florida to life as a tenured

professor at Harvard—detailing how his youthful

fascination with nature blossomed into a lifelong

calling. He recounts with drama and wit the adventures

of his days as a student at the University of

Alabama and his four decades at Harvard University,

where he has achieved renown as both teacher and researcher.

As the narrative of Wilson’s life unfolds, the reader is treated to an

inside look at the origin and development of ideas that guide today’s

biological research. Theories that are now widely accepted in the scientific

world were once untested hypotheses emerging from one man’s

broad-gauged studies. Throughout Naturalist, we see Wilson’s mind

and energies constantly striving to help establish many of the central

principles of the field of evolutionary biology.

The story of Wilson’s life provides fascinating insights into the making

of a scientist, and a valuable look at some of the most thought-provoking

ideas of our time.

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argued (rather stuffily it seems in retrospect) that political beliefs should not influence faculty appointments. Some of the members remained unpersuaded: beliefs are one thing, they said, but what about personal attacks and disruption? I badly wanted Lewontin to come to Harvard. I said, let me call a friend in his department at the University of Chicago and ask if Dick has attacked his own colleagues there on ideological grounds. The proposal was accepted, and the decision postponed. In the

Eagle Volant grasping crossed sabers and rifles with bayonets and lances; the shafts of the lances were hung with matched dexter and sinister forty-eight-star American flags. The Navy was represented by a triangular escutcheon enclosing a three-masted barkentine. All boys at GCMA, from first through twelfth grades, followed the same daily routine and worked their way up the vertically stacked curriculum. We junior cadets, boys in the first six grades, were given a few concessions. There was a

back and forth through the basin grove, turning logs, scanning the tree trunks, inspecting every moving light-colored ant remotely resembling a Nothomyrmecia, but found nothing. We hiked up onto the sandplain heath and swept the low bushes back and forth with a net to capture foraging ants, again without success. That night, armed with flashlights and net, we walked back out onto the sandplain, and this time lost our way. Rather than risk wandering farther from camp in a dangerous desert-like

islands the size of Manhattan or larger by volcanic explosions, occur at most once a century. Another hundred years might then be needed, once the smoking tephra cooled down, to observe the full course of recolonization. How might we get data more quickly, say within ten years? I brooded over the problem, imagined scenarios of many kinds, and finally came up with the solution: a laboratory of island biogeography. We needed an archipelago where little Krakataus could be created at will and their

Finally, four years later, back in Cambridge with a well-equipped laboratory, I began the search for the chemical releasers of ant communication. Even then the idea evidently still eluded others; I had plenty of sea room. It was to be a year before Adolf Butenandt, Peter Karlson, and Martin Lüscher introduced the word “pheromone” to replace “ectohormone” in the literature of animal behavior. They used the term “hormone” to designate a chemical messenger inside the body of the organism,

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