From the May 2014 Desktop News | Two Pulitzer Prizes and a host of other international awards bestowed on Dr. Edward O. Wilson, the world’s most decorated scientist and a College of Arts and Sciences alumnus, were recently given to the College as an inspiration for generations of scientists to come. Wilson also gave $100,000 to the College to establish the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows Endowment, a scholarship that will support students to conduct field and museum research in the area of biodiversity.
Wilson announced his gifts as part of Edward O. Wilson Week, April 21-25, at UA. He has given his entire collection of 246 international awards, prizes and tributes that have been bestowed on him throughout his career. These include two Pulitzer Prizes, the Nobel Prize-equivalent Crafoord Prize, the U.S. National Medal of Science and more than 100 top international awards.
“Edward O. Wilson’s contributions to both science and letters are beyond compare in our time,” said Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College. “He is respected throughout the world not just for advancing knowledge, but also for his beautifully articulated and insightful perspectives on what it means to be human and the responsibility we have as stewards of the earth.
“We are doubly honored by the establishment of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows Endowment,” Olin said. “Dr. Wilson is a strong proponent of field research, what he calls ‘boots on the ground’ work, as a way of gaining a broad understanding of our natural world. The endowment will underscore the importance of this fundamental type of inquiry by young scientists, inspire their work and bring further distinction to our institution and our state. We are deeply honored by these gifts from Dr. Wilson.”
A selection of Wilson’s awards was displayed at The University of Alabama Gallery in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa during the week honoring Wilson. The first three Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows, all three doctoral candidates in the Department of Biological Sciences, also presented their research during the week as part of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Symposium at UA.
Wilson chronicled his childhood exploring the woods and creeks of south Alabama in his bestselling 1994 autobiography, Naturalist. He is also the author of On Human Nature and The Ants, both Pulitzer Prize winners.
He is the leading expert on ants, one of the world’s leading experts on evolution and species diversity, the founder of the theory of sociobiology, and has sparked decades of debate about the interface between the human psyche and human biology.
Throughout his life, Wilson has spearheaded efforts to preserve the world’s biodiversity. He played a central role in establishing the Encyclopedia of Life, which has the goal of curating a web page for every one of Earth’s species, and he has mobilized the movement to protect the world’s “hot spots,” the realms of highest biodiversity on the planet.
He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from The University of Alabama in 1949 and 1950. He received his doctoral degree from Harvard University where he taught and conducted research for 45 years and where he is a University Research Professor Emeritus.
For more information about the symposium or Edward O. Wilson Week at UA, visit biodiversity.ua.edu.