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International Cosmos Prize

The Prizewinner 2012

Name Edward Osborne Wilson (Deceased)
Born on 10 June 1929
Nationality U.S.A
Title Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard

Reason for Awarding

Dr. Edward Osborne Wilson has accomplished outstanding achievements in his research into the natural history of ants and ethology. He has focused his scientific perspective and experience on helping to illuminate the human circumstance, including human origins, human nature and human interactions. Dr. Wilson has also been active in practicing biodiversity conservation and environmental education.

Dr. Wilson’s specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants. In 1967, The Theory of Island Biogeography was co-published on the basis of, work he conducted regarding the classification and ecology of ants in New Guinea and other Pacific islands, and in the American tropics. The theory of island biogeography, featuring the concepts of species equilibrium and r-K selection, has now become a cornerstone of biogeography and conservation biology, and has led to the development of modern landscape ecology.

Another theory he used to explain the behavior of ants, which are social insects, led to the establishment of “sociobiology” as a new academic discipline. Sociobiology initially generated worldwide controversy, since it asserted that genetics have a much greater effect on social behavior of humans than had been previously accepted. However, sociobiology has now become part of mainstream biological and sociological thinking, and joint researches have been carried out involving sociologists and philosophers.

Dr. Wilson has often been called the “father of biodiversity,” partly because the term “biodiversity” was first used in a symposium he chaired for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1987, but also because in his books Dr. Wilson has championed the idea of biodiversity, and has highlighted the threats to its loss. As a spokesperson for biodiversity, through his lectures and books Dr. Wilson disseminates the importance of ecosystem services and the crisis of biodiversity loss. At the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, established in 2006, he is also committed to activities promoting worldwide understanding of the importance of biodiversity, thereby enhancing biodiversity awareness.

In his book Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge (1998), Dr. Wilson proposed that knowledge of all types, ranging from science to humanities and even to such areas as human behavior, can profitably be studied together, in an interdisciplinary manner. This conforms well to the objective of the International Cosmos Prize, which advocates the application of integrated and inclusive approaches to the resolution of various social and environmental challenges. This conformity is of extreme significance, at the time when the Prize commemorates its 20th anniversary.

Dr. Wilson’s ideas, originally developed through the study of ants, now center a world view in which the continued existence of humanity requires integrated research. His environmentalism, based on the importance of biodiversity, embraces the values of “harmonious coexistence,” recognizing that humans and all other animals are part of the natural world. Dr. Wilson’s achievements are therefore truly deserving of the International Cosmos Prize, whose governing principle is the harmonious coexistence between nature and mankind.


1949 B.S. in biology, University of Alabama
1950 M.S. in biology, University of Alabama
1955 Ph.D. in biology, Harvard University


1956-1958 Assistant Professor of Zoology, Harvard University
1958-1964 Associate Professor of Zoology, Harvard University
1964-1976 Professor of Zoology, Harvard University
1973-1977 Curator in Entomology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
1977- Honorary Curator in Entomology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
1997-2002 Pellegrino University Research Professor, Harvard University
2002- Pellegrino University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University


  • U.S. National Medal of Science, 1976
  • Pulitzer Prize, 1979
  • Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, 1984
  • Crafoord Prize, 1990
  • Gold Medal, Worldwide Fund for Nature(WWF-International), 1990
  • Pulitzer Prize, 1991
  • International Prize for Biology, 1993
  • TED Prize 2007

Major Books

  • The Theory of Island Biogeography with Robert MacArthur (1967).
  • A Primer of Population Biology with William H. Bossert (1971).
  • The Insect Societies (1971).
  • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975).
  • On Human Nature (1978).
  • Caste and Ecology in the Social Insects with GeorgeF. Oster (1978).
  • Genes, Mind, and Culture with Charles J. Lumsden (1981).
  • Promethean Fire with Charles Lumsden (1983).
  • Biophilia (1984).
  • The Ants with Bert Hölldobler (1990).
  • Success and Dominance in Ecosystems: The Case of the Social Insects (1990).
  • The Diversity of Life (1992).
  • Journey to the Ants with Bert Hölldobler (1994).
  • Naturalist (1994).
  • In Search of Nature (1996).
  • Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998).
  • Biological Diversity: The Oldest Human Heritage (1999).
  • The Future of Life (2002).
  • Pheidole in the New World (2003).
  • From So Simple a Beginning (2006).
  • Nature Revealed (2006).
  • The Creation (2006).
  • The Superorganism with Bert Hölldobler (2008)
  • Ant Hill (2010)
  • Kingdom of Ants: Jose Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World, with José María Gómez Durán (2010).
  • The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct (2011).
  • The Social Conquest of Earth (2012).