TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Edward O. Wilson, the most highly decorated scientist in the world and a University of Alabama alumnus, has made two major gifts to UA with an approximate value totaling $500,000.
He has given UA all of the 246 international awards, prizes and tributes that have been bestowed on him throughout his career, including two Pulitzer Prizes, the Nobel Prize-equivalent Crafoord Prize, the U.S. National Medal of Science and more than 100 international awards valued at nearly $400,000.
A selection of these tributes will be displayed at The University of Alabama Gallery in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa during Edward O. Wilson Week at UA. The exhibit, “The World Speaks: Tributes to Dr. Edward O. Wilson,” will be on display April 21-25. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wilson has given $100,000 to establish the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows Endowment within the College of Arts and Sciences. The endowment will support students to conduct field and museum research in the area of biodiversity.
The first three Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows will present their research at the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Symposium at UA to be held April 22-24. All three are doctoral candidates in the department of biological sciences: Scotty DePriest, of Birmingham, Mike Kendrick, of Chester, Va., and Samantha Perkins, of Pensacola, Fla. They will serve as the masters of ceremonies for a tribute to Wilson, “Alabama’s Biodiversity: Inspiring A New Century of Discovery,” to be held April 23 on the UA campus in conjunction with the symposium.
“Edward O. Wilson’s contributions to both science and letters are beyond compare in our time,” said Dr. Robert F. Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “He is respected throughout the world not just for advancing knowledge but also for his beautifully articulated and insightful perspectives on what it means to be human and the responsibility we have as stewards of the earth.
“This great man’s collection of impressive awards will be displayed at The University of Alabama to inspire the young men and women of our state to tackle challenging ideas and contribute their intellectual might to the betterment of our planet, as Dr. Wilson, a native son of Alabama, has done.
“We are doubly honored,” Olin said. “Dr. Wilson is a strong proponent of field research, what he calls ‘boots on the ground’ work, as a way of gaining a broad understanding of our natural world. The Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows will underscore the importance of this fundamental type of inquiry by young scientists, inspire their work, and bring further distinction to our institution and our state. We are deeply honored by these gifts from Dr. Wilson.”
Wilson is the leading expert on ants and one of the world’s leading experts on evolution and species diversity. Wilson’s theories have sparked decades of debate about the interface between the human psyche and human biology.
Wilson is known as the founder of the theory of sociobiology, which proposes that human and animal behavior is shaped by evolutionary forces and which greatly influenced the development of its offshoot, evolutionary psychology. He developed the basis of modern biodiversity conservation efforts through his biophilia hypothesis, which proposes that there is a vital, instinctive bond between humans and all other forms of life.
Throughout his life, Wilson has spearheaded efforts to preserve the world’s biodiversity. He played a central role in establishing the Encyclopedia of Life, which has the goal of curating a web page for every one of Earth’s species, and he has mobilized the movement to protect the world’s “hot spots,” the realms of highest biodiversity on the planet.
A Birmingham native, Wilson chronicled his childhood exploring the woods and creeks of south Alabama in his bestselling 1994 autobiography, “Naturalist.” He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from The University of Alabama in 1949 and 1950. He received his doctoral degree from Harvard University where he taught and conducted research for 45 years and where he is a University Research Professor Emeritus.
For more information on the symposium or Edward O. Wilson Week at UA, visit biodiversity.ua.edu.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.