Every so often a giant emerges on the stage of science, someone who transcends the narrow boundaries of a particular line of research and alters our perspective on the world. E.O. Wilson is such a man. Ant expert E.O. Wilson has spent his career studying tiny creatures. Yet what sets him apart is his ability to step back and see the grand scheme of things. Newly appointed to Harvard, Wilson ignores charges by molecular biologists that his work with ants is mere “stamp-collecting.” He goes on to discover ants’ extraordinary means of communication, which opens up whole new areas of study.
Wilson realizes that the chemicals governing an ant’s behavior must have a genetic basis. Does this hold true for other animals, including humans? His answer, the 1975 book Sociobiology, unleashes a firestorm of controversy. As the controversy slowly dies down, Wilson turns his attention to a new crisis: the ongoing loss of biodiversity. In the Florida Keys, he undertakes a groundbreaking experiment that provides data critical to the new field of conservation biology. Now in his sixth decade at Harvard, Wilson launches his Encyclopedia of Life and continues writing books and actively campaigning to protect what’s left of the world’s endangered ecosystems.