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4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,519 ratings  ·  97 reviews
In Naturalist, Wilson describes for the first time both his growth as a scientist and the evolution of the science he has helped define. He traces the trajectory of his life—from a childhood spent exploring the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida to life as a tenured professor at Harvard—detailing how his youthful fascination with nature blossomed into a lifelong calling. He ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Island Press
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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 ·  1,519 ratings  ·  97 reviews

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Edward O. Wilson writes here of his life and his views on nature and science. He is that American author, biologist and naturalist commonly referred to as "the father of sociobiology" and "the father of biodiversity".

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 10, 1929, he is today at the ripe old age of ninety-one. This book was written when he was sixty-six. It opens when he is seven. While his parents try to sort out marital difficulties, he is placed with a family acquaintance living near Paradise
3.5 - Edward O. Wilson is a famed Harvard scientist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize twice for general nonfiction, the first time in 1979 for ‘On Human Nature’ and the second in 1991 for ‘The Ants.’ I knew of Wilson because of my reading on environmental and conservation topics where I’ve come across numerous of his quotes. There is of necessity a lot of science in a memoir about the life of a scientist. Some of it was beyond me, but much of it was accessible, and I was interested in most of it, ...more
Courtney Holt
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much when I first started reading this book. I mean, it's an autobiography of a biologist. Even though I am a biologist, I still expected to have to tape my eyes open to get through it. However, I was pleasantly surprised - this book is amazing! It was hard for me to put it down. His style of writing is so effortless to read and his life story is so interesting. You probably have to be at least a little interested in natural history/biology to appreciate and e ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have followed this guy since I met him on a plane at 19 on my way to a conference where he happened to be the keynote speaker. He is a true scientist, crawling through the grass and on the ground chasing bugs. His career has more highlights than many scientists could claim in two lifetimes. This book shares just a few. I'm sure it has inspired many people, including me. ...more
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, memoir, science
For a scientist's memoir, there was disappointingly little science. I suspect Wilson wanted to avoid repeating what he had already said in his other popular books. (My favorite Wilson books were coauthored with Bert Hölldobler, though, and maybe I just prefer Hölldobler's style.) Too little science, and too much academic politics! It was interesting to hear Wilson's description of his conflict with James Watson (who after proposing the DNA double helix structure in 1953 joined Harvard's biology ...more
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
In his essays, the French philosopher Montaigne suggests that education be based on Plutarch's Lives, which are biographies of historical figures. After reading Wilson's autobiography, I can see how an argument could be made for a similar approach to education today.

Wilson's book, while a biography of a man, is a biography of ideas and science through the twentieth century. While the book follows the chronology of Wilson's life, he breaks out of the timeline of his life as he discusses ideas ra
Nick D
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of all time, in my top 3 most formative in life so far. Third time reading.

It seems like Wilson has had the perfect scientific life and accomplished so much in so many different disciplines. He is a giant of biology and a personal hero.

Summary: Wilson grew up mostly in Alabama in the 30s and 40s, steeped in southern culture. He was fascinated by the life in the Gulf of Mexico and southern swamps. His parents divorced - unusual for the time - and he went to milita
Juliet Wilson
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, science, biography
This beautifully written, fascinating scientific memior from Edward O Wilson outlines his development as a scientist, from early influences (including youthful nature studies, the church and the Boy Scouts) to his greatest works as a scientist.

Wilson is an eloquent champion of biodiversity and conservation and is the world's greatest expert on ants and a pioneer in the fields of biogeography and sociobiology. Not surprisingly therefore these memoirs are wide ranging in their scope, covering the
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Although I was excited to get to my first book from author E.O. Wilson, this one did not meet my expectations...
Author Edward Osborne Wilson, usually cited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, naturalist, and writer. Wilson is considered the most important and outstanding living biologist in the world, according to his Wikipedia page.

Naturalist is more of an autobiography than a traditional science book. The book highlights and chronicles the life and career of author E. O. Wilson. While
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book illustrates the amazing breadth of E.O. Wilson’s work. The format of an autobiography allows for inclusion of everything on which Wilson worked, thought, and collaborated. He tells how each of his ideas and studies was inspired and developed, and includes the context of the state of knowledge and politics of the times. He explains conflicts with other scientists that arose on many issues, with an uncanny ability to describe other people’s mannerisms. I had no idea that ecology and biol ...more
Dec 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Aug 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
Really more of a 2.4 stars, but I couldn't bring myself to only give it two. This book took me about five attempts and 12 years to make it through this snoozer, but I finally did it! His 700+ page book on ants was more of a page turner.
This was a fantastic read when E.O. was covering his field work and pure science, but languished when he was gossiping about his peers a about how he synthesized his "great" concepts with his coworkers. Sadly the book dealt little with his personal life, but I ki
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent account of the evolution of a scientist from his deep south Southern Baptist roots to his role as champion of the preservation of biodiversity. As Wilson concludes, "My truths, three in number, are the following: first, humanity is ultimately the product of biological evolution; second, the diversity of life is the cradle and greatest natural heritage of the human species; and third, philosophy and religion make little sense without taking into account these first two conceptions"

Stuart Malcolm
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wilson is an excellent writer and his descriptions of how he became interested in nature and how he retained that excitement throughout his career are absorbing. His passion for science and his delight in new discoveries shines through the book. It loses a star for the chapter on the sociobiological 'controversy' which is a little dull and for those of us who aren't in academia more than a little silly - we would have just sent the protagonists to bed without any dinner. ...more
Sara Van Dyck
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Science, environment, growth of a scientist, and lovely stories about a boyhood spent in the outdoors in the 1930s and '40s. Both informative and charming. ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wendy Feltham
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this autobiography by E.O. Wilson. Wilson is a brilliant scientist who studied ants in order to introduce and explain concepts in biodiversity, evolution, and sociobiology. His childhood is unexpected, including years at a military boarding school when very young, and he was always drawn to nature. His career as a top scientist at Harvard who traveled the world studying ants included honors and many prizes along the way, as well as academic conflict with others on the faculty. (There was ...more
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Godfather of Sociobiology Edward O. Wilsons life, in his own words. It is an idyllic account on a spectacular journey - from an exploring kid in the southern states in the 30s and 40s - to a respected and revolutionary natural scientist and lecturer at Harvard University.

And the genres (ecology, sociology, biodiversity, biophilia, insects, microbiology++) of wich Wilson thrives and/or promotes is getting increasingly more relevant as the years go by, and I suspect it will be even more so in
Jacob North
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating piece of writing and autobiography by a brilliant researcher. Dr. Wilson brought a genuine account of his progress through his scientific journey, key advancements and theories he posed along the way, and connections between human and animal behaviors, evolution, genetics, and population biology. A great read for anyone interested in learning more about the origin of a school of thought, and important concept today: conservation and environmental protection.
Lorne Cheeseman
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The autobiographical history of one of the greatest scientist of this century is a lovely read into the intellectual discovery process. As someone who thinks in the scientific manner I thoroughly enjoyed this book and history. It is very well written and an easy read. The first half of the book is about the journey to becoming the prominent scientist and then the second half is the history of some of Wilson's key discoveries in science. Highly recommended. ...more
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
An autobiography with no trauma, no drama and only the occasional beer enjoyed after a long day of collecting ants in the tropics. It's dull in a very genial way. I was worried when I reached the era of the Sociobiology controversy, but I actually agree with his critics more than his explanations.

Well-written and covers a half-century of scientific developments I knew nothing about. Not my regular thing, but interesting.
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating autobiography, beginning with Wilson's unique childhood growing up as a foster child in Alabama much of the time, to becoming one of the world's most renowned ecologists. That he was trained in a military academy at the age of 7 goes a long way to understanding the man he became. The academic disputes described may seem a bit arcane to some readers, but for anyone who has studied the science of evolutionary biology and island biogeography in particular, highly recommended reading. ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it liked it
I loved reading about Wilson's early years: wrangling snakes in the swamp, then later trekking to remote locations to find ants. The second half of the book was a bit of a grind to read, all about academia and his rivalries with other professors. I would have loved to hear more about his family, and was disappointed to get clearer pictures of his co-workers than we ever did for his wife and daughter. ...more
Edward May
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an autobiography of Edward Wilson. For me, his early years resonated strongly with mine in location, if nothing else. It also provides an outline for various scientific schools of thought in biology, by direct involvement of the author. It can be tedious at times due to the arcane detail provided, but overall an interesting book.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This autobiography is wonderful. Wilson is a great man, an engaging writer and a scientist of the highest caliber. He writes about why he became a scientist, who he studied with and under, what the natural world is all about and all the while expressing humility, grace and intelligence.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Unfortunately, since this book was published in 1994, we don’t learn about the author’s continued contributions.
He exemplifies to me the concept of first best destiny. May he continue his interesting and fruitful quest for many more years.
Graham Sommers
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic writing coupled with wonder for the world
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Finished "Naturalist" - E.O. Wilson - A/UN - Languid telling, interesting autobio, lots of college stuff - elegant writer 3.5/5 ...more
John Nelson
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is the autobiography of one of the great scientists of the twentieth century - by turns wry and perceptive, on the whole it's an enjoyable and worthwhile read. ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interesting book about a great evolutionary biologist
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Edward Osborne Wilson, sometimes credited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, a branch of entomology. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical ma ...more

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“All my life I have placed great store in civility and good manners, practices I find scarce among the often hard-edged, badly socialized scientists with whom I associate. Tone of voice means a great deal to me in the course of debate. I despise the arrogance and doting self-regard so frequently found among the very bright.” 22 likes
“The greater problems of history are not solved; they are merely forgotten.” 1 likes
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