E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth
Morgan Ryan, Gaël McGill, PhD, & Edward O. Wilson
Published June 30, 2014 by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

An iBooks Textbook available for iPad and Apple laptops and desktops

On June 30, 2014, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation released the ground-breaking new high school biology textbook E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth. We believe that education is the most important tool we have to face the challenges confronting our living planet. Life on Earth was created to instruct and inspire students, the future stewards of Earth.

Life on Earth is an iBooks Textbook consisting of 41 chapters in 7 separate units and can be downloaded for free from the iBooks Store. The text provides a complete, original, standards-based, media-rich curriculum to give high school students a deep understanding of all of the central topics of introductory biology.

To create Life on Earth, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation brought together a team consisting of educators, writers, multimedia artists, 3D animators trained in science and cinema, and textbook professionals, led by naturalist Edward O. Wilson (1929–2021). The editorial team, headed by Morgan Ryan, worked in full partnership with the Boston-based scientific graphics company Digizyme, Inc, headed by Gaël McGill, PhD, with the goal of creating a cultural landmark—a portal that will introduce students to the grandest story there is, the story of life on Earth, from molecules to ecosystems, from the origin of life to the modern awareness that we control the environment we live in.

Digital textbooks are poised to transform education. The richness and immediacy of vibrant multimedia lessons will transform how students learn and how instructors teach. Our textbook development team is thrilled by the things we are able to deliver that were never possible before. We navigate inside a virtual cell. We take students by helicopter to the Gorongosa landscape in Africa to explain the succession of plants and animals over time.

Edward O. Wilson introduces Life on Earth.

Today’s high school biology students will be tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policymakers, park rangers, and informed citizens. E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth was created to prepare them for their work.

Screenshot from E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth. The text discusses a previously unknown species of carpenter ant collected by E.O. Wilson in Gorongosa National Park during a textbook development expedition to Mozambique in the summer of 2011.

Life on Earth is a gift from the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation for students, families, and concerned individuals. It is available now for free in 151 countries and has already been adopted in many classrooms. Our goal for 2014–2015 is to promote its use in classrooms everywhere. If you share our goals for educational and environmental awareness, please support the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and join us in promoting a culture of stewardship in which people are inspired to conserve and protect our biological inheritance.


The E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation assembled a creative team of educators and multimedia specialists to create E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth. The editorial team was headed by project director and co-author Morgan Ryan. Digital production and animation was carried out by Digizyme, Inc., a Boston-based scientific visualization firm led by Digizyme CEO and Life on Earth co-author Gaël McGill. Additional animations were produced by a 3D animation team led by Drew Berry at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

Edward O. Wilson, PhD (1929–2021)


E.O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard, was a distinguished biologist, teacher, and writer. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, his many literary awards included two Pulitzer Prizes, and he has received over 60 awards for his scientific work, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize.

Morgan Ryan

Project Director

Before heading up the Life on Earth project, Mr. Ryan was managing editor of American Scientist magazine. As a textbook development editor for twenty years, he has served as executive editor for divisions of Prentice Hall and HarperCollins. As a digital producer, writer, and 3D animator, he has developed course-length online materials for college biology (Prentice-Hall), high school chemistry (Holt MacDougall), and molecular biology (McGraw-Hill’s AccessScience.com).

Gaël McGill, PhD

Digital Media Director

Dr. McGill is Director of Molecular Visualization at the Center for Molecular and Cellular Dynamics at Harvard Medical School, where he also teaches scientific visualization. He is the founder and CEO of Digizyme, Inc., a firm dedicated to the visualization and communication of science through advanced technology applications. He is also the creator of the online portal molecularmovies.org and the Molecular Maya (mMaya) software toolkit, as well as a technical editor for Wiley/SYBEX Publishing. He received his B.A. summa cum laude in Biology, Music, and Art History from Swarthmore College and received his PhD from Harvard Medical School in the Division of Medical Sciences (Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology).

Drew Berry

Animation Director

Mr. Berry is a biomedical animator specializing in science topics at the microscopic scale. In 2010, he was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship for his collected work and his wide influence in the field of scientific visualization. He has a masters degree in cell biology and works at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), Australia. He has spent the last dozen years developing novel, state-of-the-art animation techniques that illuminate the frontiers of cellular and molecular biology. His work has been featured in many national news and current affairs programs, documentaries, museum exhibitions, and education multimedia.

Jay Vavra, PhD

Education Director

Dr. Vavra directs the biology education program at High Tech High. He studied biology at Stanford University and earned his PhD in marine biology from the University of Southern California. His students have published three books on various aspects of urban ecology in San Diego, resulting in nearly 200 published authors graduating from his class. His teaching awards include the Genzyme-Invitrogen Biotech Educator of the Year Award, the National Education Association Christa McAuliffe Award, and an AmgenAward for Science Teaching Excellence. He and his eleventh graders have received two Busch Gardens–Fuji Film Environmental Excellence Awards, and their film about the African bushmeat crisis was selected Best in Show at the National Council on Science and the Environment convention.

Susan Warne

Managing Editor

Sue Warne has been a manager and editor of numerous textbook and technology products. As Director of Development at Houghton Mifflin, she worked to develop new processes for publishing digital materials. She is the designer of many innovative production and editorial protocols required for the development of Life on Earth.

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