Video Library: Inspiration from E.O. Wilson

Alan Alda and E.O. Wilson: The Humanities, Sciences, and the Origins of Creativity

“The important thing is to see what the groups really were when they gathered around the firelight as opposed to the sunlight, and to know what they were really saying, and what was talked about all around….what they were doing by the firelight—talking and singing and story-telling—was what made us human.”—E.O. Wilson, from his conversation with Alan Alda at the Chicago Humanities Festival

In his profound and lyrical book, “The Origins of Creativity”, E.O. Wilson offers a sweeping examination of the relationship between the humanities and the sciences: what they offer to each other, how they can be united, and where they still fall short. Both endeavours, he reveals, have their roots in human creativity—the defining trait of our species.

Learn more about E.O. Wilson’s book “The Origins of Creativity”

“E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men”

“So, I wanted that word — biodiversity — to remind us how little we know about the natural world and of the danger that we destroy it before we even know it’s there.”—E.O. Wilson, from “E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men”

Beginning with his unusual childhood in Alabama, “E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men” chronicles the famed biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s lifelong love for the natural world and the groundbreaking research that would establish him as the foremost authority on ants. It is an exciting journey of ideas but also an endearing portrait of a remarkable man; often dubbed “a Darwin for the modern day.”

Learn more about the award-winning film “E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men” and watch the entire film for free online at

Biodiversity Days 2017: Panel Discussion, “Half-Earth: How to Save the Natural World”

“Let me underline the importance of Ed’s remarks about science education and how you start off with learning the magic of living things, you end up with a very different perspective of science and what counts.”—Tom Lovejoy, George Mason University

Following E.O. Wilson’s keynote address at Biodiversity Days 2017, a distinguished panel discussed the underlying concerns that drive the Half-Earth Project and the next steps that are needed to bring E.O. Wilson’s grand vision for Half-Earth to life. Panel discussants were Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University), John Seager (Population Connection), Louie Psihoyos (Oceanic Preservation Society), and E.O. Wilson (Harvard University, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation).

See more photo and video highlights from Biodiversity Days 2017.

Biodiversity Days 2017: E.O. Wilson, “Half-Earth: How to Save the Natural World”

“Let us reinvigorate the fields of biology that we have neglected in a renaissance and along with that, let us work hard to get a better approach to science and science education by our children.”—E.O. Wilson

Biodiversity Days are focused on cultivating awareness and promoting understanding as a key foundation for engagement, action and inspired care of our planet. The theme of Biodiversity Days 2017 was Half-Earth, E.O. Wilson’s call to save half the Earth for the rest of life. On March 2-3, 2017 the Half-Earth Project program partners and Half-Earth Council gathered at The Carolina Theatre and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University for two full days of public lectures, roundtable discussions, and film screenings about how the Half-Earth Project will bring this grand vision and important goal to life. A highlight of Biodiversity Days 2017 was the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity by E.O. Wilson, shown here in this video.

To learn more about the Half-Earth Project, please visit the new Half-Earth website.

The Importance of Biodiversity

“You have to start paying attention to what, I’m sorry, most Americans still refer to as bugs and critters. They are the foundation of the ecosystem.”—E.O. Wilson

In this video produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), hear about the importance of biodiversity from Alison Sudol (musician, actress, author and IUCN Goodwill Ambassador), Shonisani Mathews Munzhedzi (Deputy Director General for Biodiversity and Conservation, South Africa), E.O. Wilson (Harvard University, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation), Jane Goodall (Jane Goodall Institute), Inger Andersen (Director General, IUCN), Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias (Executive Secretary, UN Convention on Biological Diversity), and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Coordinator, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad).

Read more about the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where E.O. Wilson presented the ideas of Half-Earth to a gathering of stakeholders from public, private, and non-governmental organizations.

Setting Aside Half the World for the Rest of Life

“In this century humanity, if you will, is passing through a bottleneck of overpopulation and environmental destruction. At the other end, if we pass through safely and take most of the rest of Earth’s life forms with us, human existence could be a paradise compared to today.”—E.O. Wilson

In these presentations, E.O. Wilson, Jim McClintock, Greg Carr and Stuart Pimm explore a bold new strategy for protecting biodiversity in vital places around the world. E.O. Wilson introduces his vision for “Half Earth”—the permanent networks of protected and interconnected wild landscapes that are necessary to ensure the survival of the 10 million other species with which we share the planet. The lecture is followed by a deep panel discussion of unique ideas, practical experiences, and creative solutions that can bring this goal to life with the finest boots-on-the-ground researchers and conservationists.

Read more about Biodiversity Days, a gathering of notable scientists and conservationists at Duke University in April 2015 convened by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

Mission of the National Park Service and Its Relevancy Today

“We really need to have an ethic that recognizes the importance of the natural world in its own right, at least until such time we have begun to have at least half understand it.”—E.O. Wilson

In his keynote address at the “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century” summit in March 2015, E.O. Wilson addressed the audience on “Setting Aside Half the World for the Rest of Life.” The summit was organized by the University of California, Berkeley in partnership with the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society.

Read more about the summit “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century”

Science, Not Philosophy, Will Explain the Meaning of Existence

“I like to say that most of philosophy, which is a declining and highly endangered academic species, incidentally, consists of failed models of how the brain works. So students going into philosophy have to learn what Descartes thought and then after a long while why that’s wrong and what Schopenhauer might have thought and what Kant might of thought or did think. But they cannot go on from that position and historical examination of the nature of humanity to what it really is and how we might define it.”—E.O. Wilson

In this interview excerpt from the Big Think digital platform, Edward O. Wilson explores how science — and not philosophy or religion — is best equipped to explore the fundamental questions of “What are we and why?,” “Where do we come from?,” and “Where are we most likely to be headed?”

The Meaning of Human Existence

“I would call our species dysfunctional. . . . We have Paleolithic emotions. . . . we have medieval institutions. . . . and we have God-like power. Now that is a very dangerous and unstable combination.”—E.O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson talks about what makes us human and what makes us supremely different from other species. He spoke about the topic, the subject of his book, “The Meaning of Human Existence,” at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Learn about upcoming events associated with the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and E.O. Wilson

Duke University Public Lecture: The Diversity of Life

“Scientists have found that the biosphere—that razor-thin membrane of organisms around the Earth in which we live—to be richer in diversity than ever before conceived.” —E.O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson presents a public lecture entitled “The Diversity of Life” to an enthusiastic audience at Duke University’s Reynolds Theater on February 11, 2014. Wilson weaves together an engaging and wide-ranging presentation, accompanied by a slideshow of photographs, drawings, and graphs, and filled with his personal stories of his journey as a scientist. Wilson covers the present day threats to biodiversity and the risks the loss of biodiversity holds for the human race.

Listen to a podcast in which Edward O. Wilson discusses the “Encyclopedia of Life” project.

Biodiversity: Bringing Life Back to the Environment

“We need more field biologists to explore the ecosystems of the world, from the highest mountain tops to the bottom of the ocean trenches.” —E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson delivers the Inaugural James and Cathleen Stone Foundation Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity on February 8, 2014 at the Washington Duke Inn in Durham, North Carolina, co-sponsored by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

Following his lecture, E.O. Wilson answers wide-ranging questions from the audience, on such topics as how biodiversity affects the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, synthetic biology and designer genes, and how developing nations can engage with concerns about biodiversity.

Desktop Diaries: E.O. Wilson

“This is the biggest ant collection in the world. We have, perhaps, a million specimens. Discovering a new species is nothing, to us, working in a museum like this. It may, in fact, be a bit of a burden. But what science—good science—gets done without going through a lot of tedium?”—E.O. Wilson

As part of the “Desktop Diaries” video series for the public radio show “Science Friday,” this short video visits with E.O. Wilson in his office at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Highlights include E.O. Wilson giving a tour of the largest ant collection in the world, playing a backwoods fiddle, and explaining how he looks to Darwin (who makes a cameo appearance as a bobble head doll in the video) for encouragement.

Read about E.O. Wilson being named one of “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today.”

Africa: The Future

“This is one of the great stories, it’s inspirational… it’s a fine shining example of what to do with all our parks.” —E.O. Wilson

Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique, came very close to vanishing, but its biodiversity is coming back.

In this excerpt from the BBC series “Africa,” David Attenborough narrates a sequence where E.O. Wilson and Tonga Torcida discuss how the abundant and diverse ecosystem of insect life—”the little things that run the earth”—create tremendous hope for the future of Gorongosa National Park.

Read more about the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory at Gorongosa National Park

Reflections on a Life in Science

“The scientist is much more a storyteller and a mythmaker than I think most scientists realize or at least care to admit.”—E.O. Wilson

This except from a 1990 documentary film reviews E.O. Wilson’s then 30-year career at Harvard University, through interviews and a sequence filmed at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. In a revealing conversation, E.O. Wilson relates how a scientist’s research closely models a storyteller’s approach and how he views the role of imagination in the scientific process.

Read about E.O. Wilson’s Spring 2014 course, “Biodiversity and the Meaning of Human Existence.” This seminar is being taught as part of a new partnership between the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

National Geographic Society Hubbard Medal Video for E.O. Wilson

“This is biology’s century. This is the century in which we’ve got to solve the great problems and make the great discoveries concerning life on this planet.”—E.O. Wilson

The Hubbard Medal—the National Geographic Society’s highest honor—is awarded for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. In June 2013 at the National Geographic Society’s 125 Anniversary Gala, the recipients were: scientist and author E.O. Wilson; oceanographer Sylvia Earle (who serves on the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Board of Advisors); and explorer and filmmaker James Cameron.

Read more about E.O. Wilson being awarded the Hubbard Medal.

Advice to Young Scientists

“The thirst for knowledge is in our genes. It was put there by our distant ancestors who spread across the world and it’s never going to be quenched.”—E.O. Wilson

Previewing his upcoming book, “Letters to a Young Scientist,” in this TED talk from 2012, E.O. Wilson offers advice collected from a lifetime of experience, reminding the audience that, “the world needs you… badly” and that wonder and creativity are the center of a scientific life.

An Encyclopedia of Life

“I wish that we will work together to help to create the key tool we need to inspire preservation of earth’s biodiversity: The Encyclopedia of Life.”—E.O. Wilson

As E.O. Wilson accepts his 2007 TED Prize, he makes a plea on behalf of all creatures that we learn more about our biosphere—and build a networked encyclopedia of all the world’s knowledge about life.

Read about the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s new digital textbook for high school biology students, “E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth.”

Visit the website for the “Encyclopedia of Life.”

Global Town Hall

“I’ve probably been stung by more different kinds of ants around the world than any living person.”—E.O. Wilson

In a presentation filmed in December 2012 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, E.O. Wilson shows that the exploration of biodiversity is now cutting-edge science, and explains why this subject is destined to be increasingly supported due to its importance in medicine and in the environment. Fielding questions from young people in the audience, as well as questions via Twitter, Wilson emphasizes the hands-on approach to science and its unique opportunities for physical adventure.

Follow the Twitter feed of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

A Journey Through Gorongosa

“Gorongosa Park was rated one of the best, if not even the very best, park in Africa because of the number of individuals and the number of species of big animals it had.”—E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson, on one of his early trips to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, touches briefly on the history of the park and the impact on it of that country’s civil war. He ties the current restoration of the park to the increasing important field of conservation biology.

Learn more about the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s commitment to contribute to the revival of the Gorongosa National Park.

The Theory of Biogeography

“This forest patch can be thought of as an island in a sea of grassland and savannah all around us, going all the way down into these habitants on the main part of the (Gorongosa) National Park.”—E.O. Wilson

On an expedition to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, E.O. Wilson explains his famous theory of biogeography in terms of “habitat islands” and how their size and location correlate to species extinction.

The Naturalist

“Every so often, a giant emerges on the stage of stage of science, someone who transcends the narrow boundaries of a particular line of research and alters our perspective of the world. Ed Wilson is such a man.”—from “Darwin’s Natural Heir”

The education mission of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation was advanced with support for the production of “Darwin’s Natural Heir” (2008), directed by David Dugan and produced by Neil Patterson. Narrated by Harrison Ford, the film details the life and work of E.O. Wilson, and has aired on NOVA, the BBC, and in many museums.

Learn more about the history of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

Wilson’s Boyhood

“A little boy, I think, has an automatic interest in monsters. In my little boy’s mind I then saw the sea as something of great mystery, of alien purpose and dark happenings, and wanted to know more.”—E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson recollects his boyhood and what inspired him to become a naturalist.

Learn how the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s participation in the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador Program catalyzes exploration of the natural world and inspires moments of discovery.

Why Did I Choose Ants?

“They have social habits that differ from one kind of ant to the next… each kind of ant has almost the equivalent of a different human culture.”—E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson contemplates how anyone could choose not to devote their lives to studying ants.

The Chemical Language of Ants

“I started thinking about how I would find the key to turn the lock and open up the code by which ants speak.”—E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson recounts one of his most renowned discoveries—how ants use chemicals to communicate with one another.

Learn how, in his long career, E.O. Wilson has transformed his field of research—the behavior of ants—and applied his scientific perspective and experience to illuminate the human circumstance, including human origins, human nature, and human interactions.

Full Circle

“Now, in my superannuated years, I’m witnessing a tremendous surge upward of the fields that I began with.”—E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson traces the study of biology during his career, starting with when he began as a serious student at age 16 and through to the present day.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation connects with students the same age as when E.O. Wilson became fascinated by science. Watch ‘Inspired by Nature: A Collaborative Storytelling Project of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation,’ and see and listen to young people as they develop a sense of awe about the natural world.


“It takes a little effort for me to realize that I, and people like me, see the world in a different way than others. I see it as a universe of immense diversity.”—E.O. Wilson

In examining a patch of the forest floor, E.O. Wilson expands our perception of what lies underneath the ground and the richness of subterranean life that exists there. Through a revealing animated sequence, we learn that 99% of life on earth is smaller than the eye can see.

Learn how the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is celebrating the biodiversity of the Mobile Tensaw Delta.

The Diversity of Life

“Ed Wilson is a magic name to many of us working in the natural world.” —Sir David Attenborough

World-famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough talks about what makes E.O. Wilson such an inspiring and original figure in the field of conservation biology.

Attacked for an Idea

“I believe I’m going to be able to claim that I was the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea.”—E.O. Wilson

After publishing his acclaimed and controversial book “Sociobiology,” E.O. Wilson faced fierce—and physical—criticism.

Read how the public responds to E.O. Wilson’s ideas and writing on the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Facebook page.

Anna Deavere Smith Recounts E.O. Wilson’s Famous Story

On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the World Science Festival in New York honored the life and legacy of E.O. Wilson. As part of that celebration, world renowned actress and impressionist Anna Deavere Smith played E.O. Wilson at the moment in 1978 when he was confronted on stage giving a speech about Sociobiology.

Read about how E.O. Wilson recently received the Hubbard Medal—the National Geographic Society’s highest honor—for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research.

E.O. Wilson Portrait

“I’ve been very inspired by the writings of naturalist E.O. Wilson over the years. So much so that I decided to create a sculpture of him.”—Gary Staab

Sculpture and music by Gary Staab

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