Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson imparts the wisdom of his storied career to the next generation.
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.
“What is this grand enterprise called science that has lit up heaven and earth and empowered humanity?” Wilson, a foremost authority on ants and biodiversity now in his eighties, has dedicated his life to this “culture of illuminations” in the field and laboratory and as a Harvard professor and best-selling writer. In his newest book, he offers candid guidance and profound inspiration to young scientists. “The world needs you––badly,” Wilson writes, explaining that our very survival depends on our learning enough about life on earth to halt our deleterious impact on the biosphere. “Put passion ahead of training,” Wilson advises, and don’t let a fear of math stop you. Hard work and entrepreneurship, he assures readers, are more important than “native genius.” Practical advice, reflections, and funny and dramatic stories of his own pioneering scientific adventures and breakthroughs make for an enlivening and affecting mixture of memoir, philosophy, and instruction that brings into focus the highest missions of science. Wilson’s celebration of creativity and discipline, love for the living world, and commitment to explicating its wonders and fragility will uplift every reader, no matter her or his calling. Warm, sage, and compelling, this concise and mighty book of wisdom and encouragement belongs in every library. –Donna Seaman