E.O. Wilson, ‘Darwin’s natural heir’, has passed away at 92

Image of E.O. Wilson with the copy Edward O. Wilson (1929 - 2021).

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is deeply saddened to share the passing of preeminent scientist, naturalist, author, teacher, and our inspiration, Edward O. Wilson, PhD. One of the most distinguished and recognized American scientists in modern history, Dr. Wilson devoted his life to studying the natural world and inspiring others to care for it as he did.

E.O. Wilson died on December 26 in Burlington, Massachusetts. He was 92. Dr. Wilson is preceded in death by his wife Irene K. Wilson. He is survived by his daughter, Catherine, and her husband John.

“Ed’s holy grail was the sheer delight of the pursuit of knowledge. A relentless synthesizer of ideas, his courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet. His greatest hope was that students everywhere share his passion for discovery as the ultimate scientific foundation for future stewardship of our planet. His gift was a deep belief in people and our shared human resolve to save the natural world,” said Paula J. Ehrlich, CEO & President of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and co-founder of the Half-Earth Project.

E.O. Wilson was called “Darwin’s natural heir,” and was known affectionately as “the ant man” for his pioneering work as an entomologist. Dr. Wilson was Honorary Curator in Entomology and University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Chairman of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Board of Advisors, and Chairman of the Half-Earth Council. Beloved by his students throughout the world and at Harvard University where he taught, Dr. Wilson was also an advisor to the world’s preeminent scientific and conservation organizations. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, the author of over 30 books and hundreds of scientific papers, creator of two scientific disciplines including sociobiology, and advances in global conservation, including, “Half-Earth.” Dr. Wilson was honored with over 100 prizes including the U.S. National Medal of Science, and the Crafoord Prize.

“It would be hard to understate Ed’s scientific achievements, but his impact extends to every facet of society. He was a true visionary with a unique ability to inspire and galvanize. He articulated, perhaps better than anyone, what it means to be human. His infectious curiosity and creativity have shaped the lives of so many, myself included, and I feel lucky to have called him a friend,” said David J. Prend, Chairman of the Board, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

Paul Simon, friend and member of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation board shared, “It is a rare combination of good when an intellectual giant like Ed Wilson can leave a legacy of enormous scientific contributions with a memory trail of a kind, humble, generous man who had great exuberance for life.” 

A tribute to Dr. Wilson’s life is planned for 2022. Memorial details are to be announced.

Read the full statement (last updated Jan. 5th, 2022).

Read the full collection of tributes to Dr. Wilson.

Contact: Joel R. Johnson, 202-505-0165, jjohnson@eowilsonfoundation.org

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