E.O. Wilson is, by any available yardstick, one of the grand scientific figures of the second half of the 20th century. By the time he published his first book in 1967, Wilson, just 38 years old then, had already helped revolutionize the fields of physiology (with his discovery of pheromones) and ecology (with his research on island biogeography). Not bad for a myrmecologist — that’s the technical term for someone who studies ants — from Alabama.
The Social Conquest of Earth By E.O. Wilson
(Liveright, 2012) $27.95
As it turned out, he was just getting started. In the 1970s, Wilson published three books (“The Insect Societies,” “Sociobiology,” and “On Human Nature”) that helped create an entire new academic discipline dedicated to studying the biological basis of culture and society. Those books brought him fame and acclaim well outside of the ivied walls of Harvard, which has been Wilson’s academic home since the 1950s: His work was featured on the cover of Time and “On Human Nature” won a Pulitzer Prize.