'Modern-Day Darwin' Is Dead at 92

Harvard's E.O. Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer winner, started with ants
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2021 6:54 AM CST
'Modern-Day Darwin' Is Dead at 92
Dr. E.O. Wilson, Harvard biologist and two-time Pullitzer winner.   (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

(Newser) – Renowned Harvard naturalist Edward O. Wilson has died at age 92, reports Reuters. The cause was not disclosed by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. It might be safe to say that nobody on the planet knew more about ants than Wilson, but it was how Wilson applied what he learned to all animals, including humans, that has obituaries using phrases such as "modern-day Darwin" (Reuters) and "often cited as Darwin’s greatest 20th century heir," (Washington Post.) Here is how the New York Times sums things up:

  • "As an expert on insects, Dr. Wilson studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces could produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this kind of research as a way of making sense of all behavior—including our own."

The Alabama native coined the term "biodiversity" and wrote scores of books, including two Pulitzer-winners: On Human Nature (1979) and The Ants (1991). But it was his 1975 book Sociobiology that put forth what is considered Wilson's "most significant and controversial idea," per the Post. In the book, he made the case that genetics play a strong role in determining human behavior—everything from the bonds between parents and children to labor divisions between the sexes, hostility, and altruism. Essentially, he emphasized "nature" in the nature-vs.-nurture debate, per Reuters, which notes that critics felt his views carried echoes of eugenics. The Times calls his legacy both "complicated" and "profound." (Read more obituary stories.)

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