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A masterful, timely, fully authorized biography of the great and hugely influential biologist and naturalist E. O. Wilson, one of the most ground-breaking and controversial scientists of our time—from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb
“An impressive account of one of the 20th century’s most prominent biologists, for whom the natural world is ‘a sanctuary and a realm of boundless adventure; the fewer the people in it, the better.’” —The New York Times Book Review
Few biologists in the long history of that science have been as productive, as ground-breaking and as controversial as the Alabama-born Edward Osborne Wilson. At 91 years of age he may be the most eminent American scientist in any field.
Fascinated from an early age by the natural world in general and ants in particular, his field work on them and on all social insects has vastly expanded our knowledge of their many species and fascinating ways of being. This work led to his 1975 book Sociobiology, which created an intellectual firestorm from his contention that all animal behavior, including that of humans, is governed by the laws of evolution and genetics. Subsequently Wilson has become a leading voice on the crucial importance to all life of biodiversity and has worked tirelessly to synthesize the fields of science and the humanities in a fruitful way.
Richard Rhodes is himself a towering figure in the field of science writing and he has had complete and unfettered access to Wilson, his associates, and his papers in writing this book. The result is one of the most accomplished and anticipated and urgently needed scientific biographies in years.
About the Author
Richard Rhodes is the author or editor of 22 books, including The Twilight of the Bomb, the last volume in a quartet about nuclear history. The first, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, won the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received numerous fellowships for research and writing, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and a host and correspondent for documentaries on public television's Frontline and American Experience series. An affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, he lectures frequently to audiences in the United States and abroad.
“It has been an honor to know Ed Wilson. His life and work have inspired so many—scientist and layperson, alike. Richard Rhodes’s Scientist is a wonderful introduction to one of the great thinkers and observers of our age.”
“An impressive account of one of the 20th century’s most prominent biologists, for whom the natural world is ‘a sanctuary and a realm of boundless adventure; the fewer the people in it, the better.’”
—The New York Times Book Review, "5 New Biographies To Read This Season"
“Wilson’s life and substantial accomplishments—many have called him the “natural heir” to Darwin—are ripe topics for exploration, and particularly important as we continue to confront the climate crisis’ effects on biodiversity."
—Lit Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2021"
“Pulitzer–winner Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) does justice to ‘one of the...greatest biologists of the twentieth century’ in this brilliant biography…Rhodes depicts Wilson as a tireless field scientist at a time when the general belief was that the future of biological discoveries was in the laboratory, and as a proponent who popularized sociobiology, and as a Pulitzer-winner for his books The Ants and On Human Nature. The author leaves no doubt as to Wilson’s broad impact on science and the public’s perceptions of nature, without ever veering into hagiography. This is a must-read.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Esteemed biographer and historian Rhodes warmly portrays Wilson as an ambitious and accomplished biologist, a passionate and influential advocate for identifying all life forms and preserving half of Earth as natural habitat, and a prolific, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer…Rhodes also illuminates Wilson's insights into biodiversity, biophilia, altruism, and the nature of science…His many admirable attributes include a genuine inquisitiveness, sense of wonder, and deep concern for all life, from insects to people, and our planet. Rhodes' biography makes a fine companion to Wilson's Tales from the Ant World (2020).”
—Booklist, starred review
“Rhodes (who won a Pulitzer for The Making of the Atomic Bomb) devotes as much time to Wilson’s remarkable life as to his remarkable achievements as a biologist, making this biography a joy to read.”
—The Washington Post, "10 Books To Read in November"
“Richard Rhodes. . .himself a Pulitzer Prize winner, has produced a well-crafted book on the unlikely trajectory of ‘a polite, soft-spoken product of Gulf Coast Alabama, the first in his family to graduate from college’. . .Rhodes says of Wilson that he ‘never stopped growing in knowledge or expanding in range.’ What a life.” –Yale Alumni Magazine