In Memoriam – E.O. Wilson

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the following statement from Carter Roberts, President and CEO, on the passing of Dr. E.O. Wilson:

We’ve lost another conservation giant. Former WWF Board member and longtime WWF National Council member Dr. E.O. Wilson passed away on December 26. He was 92.

A native of Alabama, Ed started studying ants as a teenager, and went on to a career devoted to examining and cataloging the diversity of life on Earth. He published broadly and across many fields, conceiving a new field of sociobiology, the idea that genes guide our social behavior, the theory of island biogeography, and coined the term ‘biophilia’ to describe humanity’s innate affinity for the natural world.

After two Pulitzer prizes and countless honors, he ended his career focused on conserving the places that sustained the species he named and catalogued throughout his life. His 2016 book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, delivered a call to arms to set aside half the planet if we hoped to save life on Earth, including our own. It laid the groundwork for the conservation community’s current vision of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030 as a step toward that vision.

Like other legendary scientists who have served on WWF’s Board, he was long past proving himself by making others feel smaller. Instead, he focused on the person in front of him, and he always made them feel both appreciated and capable of great things.

In 2018 I visited his modest office one last time to interview him for our magazine. I learned he was working on his 34th and 35th books simultaneously. He shared that once he turned 90 and those two books were done, he planned to “stop writing and go back into the woods”. “To just sit and contemplate nature seems like a luxury,” he said, “but we could all use a bit more of it in our lives.”

Ed’s distinctions and accolades are too many to count. He mentored thousands of students as a Harvard professor. His award-winning books made it possible for millions to see the genius of the natural world world and its importance to our lives. But more than anything, Ed will be remembered for that rare combination of brilliance and kindness which touched and inspired us all.

  • conversation wilson winter2018

    Carter Roberts in conversation with E.O. Wilson