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Naturalist by Edward O. Wilson


by Edward O. Wilson

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Recently added bytagore, tally.bookman, private library, Flaneurette, Nobodaddy26, klockrike, TJ0513, KarenAFY
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    In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel (GabrielF)
    GabrielF: Wilson and Kandel work in completely different areas of biology but they both write inspiring and honest biographies that explain their process, their results and its significance.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I found the first~1/4 of the book interesting and the last chapter. I found the bulk of the book bit tedious. The book is a memoir of Wilson's entire life. I had expected Tge book to make the reader more aware of the wonders of nature, which Wilson does touch upon, but the book gets bogged down in the detailing of his place in academia. ( )
  Cricket856 | Jan 25, 2016 |
top 3 biographies/autobiographies I have ever read

Big Ship

read 1995 ( )
  bigship | Jan 5, 2016 |
I've had this book for ages, seem to have picked it up while browsing in the discount section of B&N, but never got around to reading it. I recently read Anthill, and though I wasn't wild about the book as a whole, the embedded section about ants made it worthwhile, and I was curious how much of the story came from the Wilson's life. The answer is a fair amount -- it's set in the Alabama / Florida region of his childhood and in universities he's familiar with, he too was involved in the Boy Scouts, and then there are the ants. Naturalist however, is more detailed and less contrived -- there is no need to manufacture a dramatic story, because reality is quite interesting enough. This is a person who is infinitely curious and interactive. He describes how, as a kid, he learned to catch different types of animals by observing their behavior -- lizards, poisonous snakes, flies. ("My most memorable accomplishment in my freshman year (of high school) was to capture twenty houseflies during one hour of class, a personal record, and lay them in rows for the next student to find. The teacher found these trophies instead, and had the grace to compliment me on my feat next day in front of the class. I had developed a new technique for catching flies, and I now pass it on to you." A half page of instruction and explanation follows.) He describes the process of removing ant organs using needles and watchmaker tools, crushing and smearing each into a chemical trail, in order to understand how ants communicate the location of food. When Wilson decided to become a world expert on ants in the 1940s, biology was focused on organisms (botany, entomology, zoology). By 1960, it had changed, "sliced crosswise, according to levels of biological organization" (molecule, cell, organism, population, ecosystem). In the mid 1950s, James Watson arrived at Harvard, and a battle for the future ensued. ("When he was a young man, in the 1950s and 1960s, I found him the most unpleasant human being I had ever met. ... Watson, having risen to historic fame at an early age, became the Caligula of biology. He was given license to say anything that came to his mind and expect to be taken seriously. And unfortunately, he did so, with a casual and brutal offhandedness.") Watson and Wilson were on opposite ends of the spectrum, and Watson was not one to suppose that other people too might be doing necessary and important work. This episode occupies a mere chapter, so may pervade the book far less than it did the dozen years in the Harvard biology department. A controversy that gets more attention is sociobiology. I only vaguely recall the uproar at the time, the mid to late 1970s, and I'm now interested in reading Wilson's book Sociobiology, which I suspect will seem more dated than disturbing. As he describes it here, his error was to speculatively extend his observations and theories about the evolution of animal social systems into a single chapter on humans, oblivious to political implications, which evoked strenuous opposition from Stephen Jay Gould among others. There's not much about his personal life. He was an only child, his parents divorced when he was in elementary school and he was shuffled around as they reconstructed their lives, and about as much as he says about his immediate family is that he promised his wife to avoid airplanes until their daughter was grown, so on his frequent trips from MA to FL he took the train instead. I'm not doing justice to the tone of the book, which is more gracious than my excerpts suggest, and much more about nature and experiments and people he has collaborated with and admires. Highly recommended.

(read 23 May 2011)
1 vote qebo | Jul 16, 2011 |
One of the most interesting autobiographies ever: To me, it looks as if Wilson turned to be a great scientist against all odds. He did not come from the academic royalty, but from a broken family in Alabama. With strong intuition, lot of hard work and endless enthusiasm, he became one of the great scientists of the 20th century. A well written book, that would probably change the course of my life have I read it at the right age...
  iayork | Aug 9, 2009 |
Great memoir by a brilliant man, who seems genuinely modest. And it passed my stiffest test--I immediately started researching more about the issues he discussed (bioethnicity) and his other books. If anything, he's more relevant now than ever. (I'd like someone to say that about me at this age). And I'm very curious about ants. ( )
  NellieMc | Mar 18, 2009 |
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What happened, what we think happened in distant memory, is built around a small collection of dominating images. In one of my own from the age of seven, I stand in the shallows off Paradise Beach, staring down at a huge jellyfish in water so still and clear that its every detail is revealed as though it were trapped in glass.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446671991, Paperback)

E. O. Wilson, among the most prominent biologists working today, has made signal contributions to the field both large and small. As an entomologist, and especially as a student of several kinds of ants, he is famed among a small audience. He is better known for his work in the controversial subdiscipline of sociobiology for his formulations of island-biogeographic theory, and for his catastrophic view of modern extinctions. His lucid memoir, Naturalist, treats all these matters and more, and it celebrates the sea change in our view of nature--namely, that we now see that "we are bound to the rest of life in our ecology, our physiology, and even our spirit"--that has come about in no small measure because of Wilson's distinguished career.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:58 -0400)

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 recounts with drama and wit the adventures of his days as a student at the University of Alabama and his four decades at Harvard University, where he has achieved renown as both teacher and researcher.… (more)

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