E.O. Wilson Offers Advice to Aspiring Researchers in New Book, “Letters to a Young Scientist”

Cover of Letters to a Young Scientist by Edward O. Wilson.

Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson imparts the wisdom of his storied career to the next generation in his new book, Letters to a Young Scientist, published this month by W.W. Norton.

Edward O. Wilson has distilled sixty years of teaching into a book for students, young and old. Reflecting on his coming-of-age in the South as a Boy Scout and a lover of ants and butterflies, Wilson threads these twenty-one letters, each richly illustrated, with autobiographical anecdotes that illuminate his career—both his successes and his failures—and his motivations for becoming a biologist.

At a time in human history when our survival is more than ever linked to our understanding of science, Wilson insists that success in the sciences does not depend on mathematical skill, but rather a passion for finding a problem and solving it. From the collapse of stars to the exploration of rain forests and the oceans’ depths, Wilson instills a love of the innate creativity of science and a respect for the human being’s modest place in the planet’s ecosystem in his readers. Letters to a Young Scientist, like all of his books, bears Wilson’s distinctive voice and his ability to traverse disciplines and communities (while quoting from Vladimir Nabokov, Jimmy Cagney, and Floyd Patterson along the way) to convey big ideas.

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