Remembering E. O. Wilson, Alabama native, one of America’s most distinguished naturalists

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Portrait of Dr. Edward O. Wilson. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

America and Alabama have lost one of their greatest scientists and naturalists—Dr. Edward O. Wilson

This morning, we all woke up to the news that Wilson died yesterday in Burlington, Massachusetts. He was 92.

Wilson was born in Birmingham, grew up in Mobile and attended the University of Alabama. 

For decades, he spearheaded efforts to preserve and protect the biodiversity of earth. During his long career, Wilson transformed his field of research—the behavior of ants—and applied his scientific perspective and experience to illuminate the human circumstance, including human origins, human nature and human interactions. 

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E.O Wilson holding a snake with biologist Mark Bailey. Photo via Mark Bailey

He is acknowledged as the creator of two scientific disciplines (island biogeography and sociobiology), three unifying concepts for science and the humanities jointly (biophilia, biodiversity studies, and consilience) and two major advances in global biodiversity conservation (the Encyclopedia of Life and Half-Earth).

E.O. Wilson Changed the Way People Think of Alabama Globally

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Photo of Dr. Edward Wilson middle and Bill Finch (left). Photo via Casi Callaway

Author of 30 books and over 430 scientific papers, Wilson regularly visited Alabama— promoting the state and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta as “America’s Amazon.”

Alabamians from all walks of life have been commenting on social media about passing today.  Bill Finch, author, naturalist and friend of Wilson’s told The Bama Buzz, Wilson will be known for revealing Alabama’s biodiversity to the world.

“He gave Alabama the language to understand what Alabama is,” said Finch. “We didn’t really have a language to understand Alabama before Ed.”

“More than any other person or any other thing. More than Mercedes, more than Toyota, more than all those other things we think are important. Ed changed the way people think about Alabama globally. I think that’s his legacy to Alabama.”

Future generations will recognize that Ed has done more to change the way people view Alabama as not just a place of oppression or backwardness, but in fact a place of incredible diversity and that in itself is Alabama’s most important asset.”

Other Reactions

WBHM posted an interview with Wilson back in 2014 about growing up in Alabama and its biodiversity.

Interview: Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Biologist and Alabama Native

Some told stories on Facebook, like Casi Callaway, the former director of Mobile Baykeeper.

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Facebook post by Casi Callaway remembering Dr. E.o Wilson

Or Lindsey Whiteaker, co-founder of Harvest Roots Ferments in Birmingham.

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Lindsay Whiteaker Instagram post about E.O. Wilson

According to the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, Wilson’s last lecture “Ecosystems & the Harmony of Nature,” was presented in conversation with Sir Richard Attenborough and Sir Tim Smit at Half-Earth Day® 2021 in October. 

In celebration of Dr. Edward O. Wilson and to carry on his memory and purpose, below, is a video of that lecture and interview.

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Pat Byington
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