No one else in biology has ever had a career quite like that of Edward O. Wilson. One of the world’s leading authorities on ants, an influential evolution theorist and an author who is at once prolific, bestselling and highly honored, E. O. Wilson—his first name comes and goes from bylines but the middle initial is ever-present—has over several decades been at the center of scientific controversies that spilled out of the journals and into wider public awareness.
Among activists in the environmental movement, Wilson is the elder statesman, the intellectual patriarch whose writings are foundational to the campaign. Soon to celebrate his 90th birthday, he shows no sign of losing his enthusiasm for the fray.
“I’ll tell you something about Ed—he’s a bit of an intellectual grenade thrower,” observed David Sloan Wilson (no relation), an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University in New York. “He likes to be a provocateur. That’s unusual in someone as established as he is.”