According to an E.O. announcement, Wilson was "called Darwin's natural heir" and was affectionately known as "the ant man" for his pioneering work in entomology. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation's site. He passed away in Burlington (Massachusetts) on 26 December 2017.
It would be difficult to overstate Ed's scientific accomplishments, but his impact is felt in every sphere of society. He was a visionary who had a unique ability of inspiring and mobilizing. David J. Prend (chairman of the E.O. board) said that he understood, perhaps more than anyone, what it meant to be human. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation released a statement.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor, he gained wide attention with his 1975 book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. In it, he explained the evidence linking human behavior to genetics. It caused a storm of controversy among academics and activists who mistakenly equated the groundbreaking theories of sociobiology with racism, sexism and Nazism.
Wilson is a champion of the preservation of diverse species and ecosystems. In 1993, Wilson stated that "The diversity of life on Earth" is greater than most biologists realize.
He said that less than 10% of Earth's species have scientific names. This makes it "a still largely unexplored planet."
Wilson's first Pulitzer Prize was won in 1979 for "On Human Nature", the third volume of a series that included "The Insect Societies", and "Sociobiology". Wilson's second Pulitzer was for "The Ants", which he co-wrote along with Harvard colleague Bert Holldobler.
He was also awarded the 1990 Crafoord prize in biosciences by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This is the highest scientific award in this field. Time magazine named him as one of America's 25 most important people in 1996.
Wilson's sociobiology theories revolutionized biology and rekindled the debate between nature and nurture. Wilson's sociobiology theories were based on data from many species. This idea contradicted the current view that human behavior is determined by cultural and environmental factors.
Critics claimed that this theory promoted social injustice and discrimination against women by claiming that inequality is written in the human genome. In 1978, fifteen Boston-area academics signed a letter condemning it. One case saw protesters dump a pitcher full of ice water on Wilson's head as he spoke at a scientific conference.
Although he didn't believe genes were responsible for all human behavior, he did say that "roughly... maybe 10%" of it. Later, he said that the intensity of his reaction scared him so he stopped giving lectures to the public.
He said, "I thought that my career was going down in flames."
His 2006 book "The Creation" argued that science and religion, which are "the most powerful social forces in the world," should cooperate to protect nature.
Wilson's first research project was inspired by a creature that has fascinated him since he was a teenager: the ant.
He showed an Associated Press reporter a dramatic microscopic image of an ant specimen. In 1993, he said, "I call that looking in the face creation." It's possible that this specimen is a million years old and no one has ever seen it before.
His book, "The Ants", was illustrated by Holldobler and Holldobler. It featured photographs of ants crawling about their day, eating, and even stinging other insects. It detailed every movement of the ants.
He pointed out that studying ants could provide insights into the environmental state, as the welfare and diversity among ant populations may be a useful indicator of subtle but destructive changes in an area.
Wilson was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1929. Wilson was an only child, whose parents divorced at 7 years old. He found comfort in nature and called it his "companion" of choice.
In his teens, he also suffered from partial hearing loss and the loss of one eye following a fishing accident.
Wilson was able to explore nature through Boy Scouts, and at the age of 15 he had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
In 1949, he graduated from the University of Alabama. In 1955, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard in biology and was made an assistant professor at Harvard in 1956. Wilson's field work included stops in Australia and New Guinea, as well as his ongoing work at home.
Wilson, a Mobile resident, is known for being the first to recognize invasive fire ants brought in from South America via ships. Later, as a University of Alabama student, he described how the ants were rapidly spreading across the South.
Wilson stated that "I believe I found that ant in the U.S.A. and certainly the first time to study it in detail," American Entomologist told Wilson in 2014.
He was a member of the boards of directors for several environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy. He received the Gold Medal from the Worldwide Fund for Nature in 90 and the Audubon Medal from the National Audubon Society 1995 for his conservation efforts.
His daughter Catherine is the only survivor of Wilson. His wife, Irene, predeceased him.