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Naturalist Paperback – April 24, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Edward O. Wilson--Harvard University professor, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, champion of biodiversity--is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the Twentieth century. In this autobiography, Wilson describes for the first time both his growth as a scientist and the evolution of the science he has helped define. "One of the greatest scientific autobiographies ever written." --Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"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 Holldobler 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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; Revised edition edition (April 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597260886
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597260886
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 2, 2002
Format: Audio Cassette
An engaging and well-written account of the famous biologist's intellectual development from his early to his mature years and most important achievements. Nice discussions of some of his most interesting and important ideas punctuate this history. For example, there's a good section on the origin and development of his ecological ideas and the theory of island biogeography. Wilson is always a cautious but careful writer and thinker, but in a couple of the sections, he gets at least a little bit speculative and is all the more entertaining for it. For example, his discussion of the innateness of our fear of spiders and snakes is entertaining (Wilson himself is very phobic about spiders). Equally entertaining is the section where he discusses people's preference for a particular type of environment or ecology (subalpine or montane foothills parkland or partially wooded savannah with some lakes). Wilson attributes this to it being the environment where we originally evolved. Overall it counts as one of the best scientific biographies I've ever read.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on August 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
How far have city-bred enterprises removed us from our natural heritage? E.O. Wilson, author of so many wonderful ideas and books, has here revealed himself as a human being of immense strength and courtly self-awareness. Sharing with us so many aspects of his personal life and scientific endeavors, Wilson shows how a bit of dedication can overcome obstacles most of us find daunting. Raised in the rural South, losing the sight of one eye, his struggles to gain a place as a scientist are inspiring. More importantly, he makes clear how much remains to be done by the upcoming generations in determining our true place in the natural order. This work is a clarion call for aspiring young scientists to enter research, following paths similar to his own.
The editorial reviews here focus overmuch on the sociobiology 'controversy'. Sociobiology is a major thesis in examining humanity's place in nature. Rejecting this idea out of hand continues to impair understanding of how important an idea sociobiology is, although he spends little time on it in this book. Much of his work has focussed on animal behaviour from ants through mammals. People remain resistant to the idea that we are somehow associated with 'the beasts', but Wilson demonstrates the continuity of behaviour patterns throughout the animal kingdom. Until we address that issue honestly, which is a major aspect of Wilson's work, we will never understand who we truly are. His studies stress that until we achieve that understanding, we will continue to unwittingly intrude on our own environment. The loss of species threatens our own existence.
The major advantage of this book is its honesty. Wilson pulls few punches and reviews his own prejudices and how he overcame them.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
To me, it looks as if Wilson turned to be a great scientist against all odds. He did not come from the academic royalty, but from a broken family in Alabama. With strong intuition, lot of hard work and endless enthusiasm, he became one of the great scientists of the 20th century. A well written book, that would probably change the course of my life have I read it at the right age...
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dwight D. Schmidt on August 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had always thought a scientist of the calibre of Dr. E. O. Wilson was perhaps out of my league; I'd partly read his Diversity of Life and perhaps got the most out of it by jumping around and reading what interested me. His other famous books seemed too specialized for me, basically a lover of fiction or action stories. However, I saw recently that Wilson had endorsed the book jacket of "Nabokov's Butterflies", one of my favorite writers, whose biography "Nabokov's Blues" was a great read last year. "Naturalist" is a word often spurned by modern scientists, I'm told; its sometimes another word for generalist-- whom "real" scientists often don't take seriously. Nabokov had been one (and not often taken seriously); it interested me that Wilson would use that term to describe his own journey into professional science. What Wilson explains so well here, in his own story, is that it is growing up with a FASCINATION with nature, first perhaps as only a hobby, that based on this "fascination for life", great scientists are sometimes born. Wilson makes the point, echoed by another commentator above, that all of us with a fascination for nature are not so different and perhaps science has not done itself a service by make its field seem so rarified and only for that highly educated PhD. FIRST perhaps comes the youthful fascination with things that then leads to the productive scientist. I know when I was a kid I enjoyed reading the biographies of John Audobon and other naturalists. E. O. Wilson was not well known at the time. But, any youth, parent or teacher who wants to get a proper perspective on what seems to make great scientists, that is, the ongoing fascination with life itself and what makes it tick, will find great support in this biography of, yes, a famous Harvard professor, but also a person not so different from you and me. An autobiography worth reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 1997
Format: Paperback
E.O. Wilson shows us the essence of what it is to be a naturalist and a professional scientist, as well as a complete and happy human. His progression from a child who never quite fit in and communed with insects and animals instead of humans, to a world renowned scientist and professor was inspiring. This book shows the author's love for his work, his family and for life. Here is the story of a man who has attained fulfillment in his work in a way most of us will never achieve. E.O. Wilson is an example of one who had the courage to follow his own dream and achieve happiness in a way few people can
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