By SudOuest.fr with AFP
EO Wilson, an American ant scientist, has died at the age of 92. He had notably received two Pulitzer Prizes
The great American scientist Edward Osborne Wilson, internationally renowned expert on ants who was nicknamed “Darwin’s heir”, died Sunday, December 26 in Massachusetts, at the age of 92, announced the foundation that bears his name. He taught at Harvard University for a long time, wrote dozens of books, two of which won him Pulitzer Prizes. The first in 1978 for “Human nature”, the second in 1990 for “The ants”.
Time magazine had described him as having had “one of the great careers of 20th century science” by highlighting his work of mapping the social behavior of ants, through which he showed that their colonies communicated via a system of. pheromones.
A controversial but respected scientist
EO Wilson also sparked criticism after suggesting in one of his books that the idea of a biological basis for behavior in animals could be extended to humans. He was accused of genetic determinism and of justifying injustices. The controversy was such that in 1978, demonstrators came to protest against him at a conference, knocking a pitcher of ice water over his head.
The entomologist, described as a “superstar” of science, remains however highly respected. “We disagreed on some things, but that did not affect his generosity and the fact that he is willing to discuss”, tweeted the scientist Steven Pinker who lamented the death of a “great scientist”.
EO Wilson is also known for his relentless calls to defend Earth’s ecosystems. “If we do not act quickly to protect global biodiversity, we will soon lose most of the species that make up life on Earth,” said the scientist, quoted on the foundation’s website. The biologist said he had developed “a special link” with Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, which he helped to save and where a laboratory bearing his name has been opened to study and protect the region’s biodiversity.
EO Wilson also struck a chord by proposing to dedicate half of the Earth’s surface to nature (the “Half-Earth” project) to avoid the extinction of species, including our own. “I know it sounds radical,” he admitted in 2016 on the PBS NewsHour show. But “it’s easier to do than you think.” “And who are we, we who are only one species, to wipe out the majority of the remaining species that live with us on this planet? […] for our selfish needs? He had said.
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EO Wilson, American ant biologist, dead at 92