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Format:
Title:
Naturalist
ISBN:
9781559632881
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Island Press [for] Shearwater Books, ©1994.
Physical Description:
xii, 380 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Contents:
Daybreak in Alabama. Paradise Beach -- Send us the boy -- Light in the corner -- Magic kingdom -- To do my duty -- Alabama dreaming -- Hunters -- Good-bye to the South -- Orizaba -- Storyteller. South Pacific -- Forms of things unknown -- Molecular wars -- Island are the key -- Florida keys experiment -- Ants -- Attaining sociobiology -- Sociobiology controversy -- Biodiversity, biophilia.
Summary:
Edward O. Wilson -- University Professor at Harvard, winner of two Pulitzer prizes, eloquent champion of biodiversity -- is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. His career represents both a blueprint and a challenge to those who seek to explore the frontiers of scientific understanding. Yet, until now, little has been told of his life and of the important events that have shaped his thought. 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 mans'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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921 WILSON 1994
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921 Wilson, Edward 1994
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Summary

Summary

Edward O. Wilson -- University Professor at Harvard, winner of two Pulitzer prizes, eloquent champion of biodiversity -- is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. His career represents both a blueprint and a challenge to those who seek to explore the frontiers of scientific understanding. Yet, until now, little has been told of his life and of the important events that have shaped his thought.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 mans'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.


Author Notes

He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1929. He is currently Pellegrino University Research Professor & Honorary Curator in Entomology of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. He is on the Board of Directors of the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International & the American Museum of Natural History. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

``Most children have a bug period,'' writes the author. ``I never grew out of mine.'' Winner of two Pulitzer prizes, pioneer in sociobiology, distinguished entomologist and teacher, Wilson has written an absorbing memoir that charts his development as a scientist. From the age of seven, he wanted to be a naturalist; an accident that left him blind in one eye determined his field, and he settled on ants. Wilson recounts with affection his student days at the University of Alabama. In 1951 he enrolled at Harvard to complete his Ph.D.; there he began to study the evolution of social ecology among animals. Memorable field trips-to Cuba, Central America, the South Pacific-led him into new disciplines (biogeography and biodiversity). Noting that he has been ``blessed with brilliant enemies,'' he gives a lively account of academic infighting between molecular (James Watson of DNA fame) and evolutionary biologists during the 1960s. Wilson discusses his collaboration with Bert Hölldobler and the controversy that arose from the publication of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. Wilson's memoir gives a rare glimpse into the evolution of scientific theory. 40,000 first printing. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Kirkus Review

``When others at Harvard spoke of their experiences at Hagia Sophia and the Prado, I reminisced about the wondrous ants I examined in Geneva and Paris,'' remarks the eminent Harvard entomologist in his stylish autobiography. Now 66, Wilson (Biophilia, 1984, etc.) recounts the life of a born observer and synthesizer. As a boy he roamed the woods and creeks of Florida and Alabama collecting bugs; he went on to become the world's leading authority on ants and insect societies. He also pioneered the study of chemical communication among insects and, of course, effected the marriage of population biology and evolutionary biology that led to the still controversial field of sociobiology. Wilson deals fairly with the debate, as well as with the earlier ``molecular wars'' that pitted Wilson and his fellow naturalists against Jim Watson and the new breed of molecular biologists. He provides telling sketches of the principals, confesses to some naïveté on his own part, but generally adopts a more-in-sorrow-than-anger stance. These chapters, along with his descriptions of mentors and collaborators over the years, are valuable contributions to the sociology of the rapidly changing science of biology. Wilson still thinks the time will come for a theory of human behavior based on the co-evolution of genes and culture. He also argues for his ``biophilia'' hypothesis--the idea that human beings have an inborn affinity for other forms of life. Not surprisingly, he has become an ardent spokesman for biodiversity, deploring the daily loss of species and natural terrain. Next time around, he says, he'll opt for being a microbial ecologist: ``Ten billion bacteria live in a gram of ordinary soil...they represent thousands of species, almost none of which are known to science.'' To which the reader can only respond: Go to it, and tell us all about in another grand book. (Natural Science Book Club dual main selection; first printing of 40,000)


Booklist Review

Wilson likes to think of himself as an explorer-naturalist, but he is known as one of the founders of the controversial field of sociobiology, an influential member of the biodiversity preservation movement, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Wilson's gift for translating the complexities of science, particularly evolution, into lucid and welcoming prose is evident in his earlier books, including On Human Nature and The Diversity of Life, as well as in his newest autobiographical work. Here the process of natural selection takes on an enticingly personal form: Wilson's own evolution from a small, lonely, nature-loving boy into a world-class scientist. Wilson describes his boyhood raptures over the beauty and mystery of wildlife, how he came to study insects, and the foundation for his lifelong diligence and devotion to his ideals. Appreciative of both his supportive colleagues and "brilliant enemies," Wilson tells the stories behind his discoveries about ants and their chemical communication systems, his pioneering studies of island insect populations, and his visionary, hotly contested theories about the evolution of social behavior. Along the way, he also exposes some extreme examples of the politics of science, especially within the ivy-clad walls of Harvard. It's a privilege to learn about the man behind the scientist and the boy at the heart of the man. Now when we think of Wilson's achievements, we'll see him as a seven-year-old boy staring at a jellyfish in wonder and bliss. ~--Donna Seaman


Choice Review

Most autobiographies of scientists chronicle the chance meetings, important events, and intellectual avenues that directed a life. Instead, Wilson lets the reader listen in on his attempt to clarify for himself how he came to be. It is not a summation of a life but rather how his life's context has changed as his worldview has expanded. One might imagine that Wilson could write another autobiography once he looks back again from a new vantage point. This is not a chronology; this is a study of why alternative histories did not arise. As such, it is valuable as a background reference for recent advances in entomology, biogeography, sociobiology, and conservation biology. It is inspirational without being syrupy, candid without being boastful. An excellent example of science writing for a nontechnical audience that will be avidly read by scientists. All levels. G. Stevens; University of New Mexico


Library Journal Review

Harvard biologist Wilson is one of the most important figures in 20th-century science. Fortuitously, this Pulitzer Prize winner is one of the most admirable characters in 20th-century letters as well. He writes with elegance, grace, and exquisite precision whether his subject is ants (Wilson and Bert Hölldobler's The Ants, Belknap: Harvard Univ. Pr., 1990, was a surprise best seller), sociobiology, biodiversity, or, as here, his long and interesting life. While not as rhetorically flashy as works by biologist-writers like Stephen Jay Gould, Wilson's work is eminently accessible and delightful to consume, and this book is no exception: if he had never done anything but write about his early years on the Gulf Coast, he would still be a favorite of all who love writing that brims with clarity and warmth. This memoir, a fitting capstone to an extraordinary career, should inspire yet another generation of scientists to explore the natural world. Essential for science collections and a wise acquisition for everyone else. [See also Hölldobler and Wilson's Journey to the Ants, reviewed on p. 208; see profile on p. 210.-Ed.]-Mark L. Shelton, Athens, Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Prelude
Part I Daybreak in Alabama
Chapter 1 Paradise Beach
Chapter 2 Send Us the Boy
Chapter 3 A Light in the Corner
Chapter 4 A Magic Kingdom
Chapter 5 To Do My Duty
Chapter 6 Alabama Dreaming
Chapter 7 The Hunters
Chapter 8 Good-Bye to the South
Chapter 9 Orizaba
Part II Storyteller
Chapter 10 The South Pacific
Chapter 11 The Forms of Things Unknown
Chapter 12 The Molecular Wars
Chapter 13 Islands Are the Key
Chapter 14 The Florida Keys Experiment
Chapter 15 Ants
Chapter 16 Attaining Sociobiology
Chapter 17 The Sociobiology Controversy
Chapter 18 Biodiversity, Biophilia
Afterword
Acknowledgments
Index