Edward Osborne Wilson
E. O. Wilson, or Edward Osborne Wilson, was born 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama, and is an entomologist and biologist known for his work on evolution and sociobiology. He received his PhD from Harvard. Wilson's specialty is ants, in particular their use of pheromones for communication.
Wilson has argued that the preservation of the gene, rather than the individual, is the focus of evolution (a theme explored in more detail by Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene). Wilson has also studied the mass extinctions of the 20th century and their relationship to modern society.
Wilson explains, "Now when you cut a forest, an ancient forest in particular, you are not just removing a lot of big trees and a few birds fluttering around in the canopy. You are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you. The number of these species may go to tens of thousands. Many of them are still unknown to science, and science has not yet discovered the key role undoubtedly played in the maintenance of that ecosystem, as in the case of fungi, microorganisms, and many of the insects."
Wilson adds, "Let us get rid immediately of the notion that all you have to do is keep a little patch of the old growth somewhere, and then you can do whatever you want with the rest. That is a very dangerous and false notion."
His main works are:
- The Theory of Island Biogeography (1967)
- Insect Societies (1971)
- Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975)
- On Human Nature (1978 - Winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
- Biophilia (1984)
- The Ants (1990 - Winner of the Pulitzer Prize), with Bert Holldöbler
- The Diversity of Life (1992)
- Naturalist (1995)
- Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998)