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Harvard Biologist Receives BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

By JOE B. LERER, Contributing Writer

Entomology Professor Edward O. Wilson, a ground-breaking biologist who coined the terms “biodiversity” and “sociobiology,” has received the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category, in recognition of his long and varied career in the field.

The award, which includes a 400,000 euro prize check, is given to interdisciplinary scholars who have made major contributions to science.

Wilson, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, is best known for his studies on ants, which revealed the way that ants use pheromones to communicate with one another. That research garnered Wilson the moniker “Lord of the Ants.”

In addition to his research on the ant population, Wilson’s research has also contributed widely to the field of biology. His coinage of term “sociobiology,” which explains the social behavior of humans through evolutionary and biological terms, led to a wide variety of research into the topic.

Wilson has also contributed to ecological research. He coined another term—“biodiversity,” which refers to the variation of species in a particular ecosystem—that helped spark research into such issues.

“I have to say that the public and politicians are insufficiently aware of the importance of biodiversity,” Wilson said in a press release accompanying the announcement of his award.

Wilson is widely considered to be one of the giants of his field, and his research has made major contributions to fields outside of his own specialty, especially evolutionary psychology.

“For me, Ed Wilson is one of the faculty whom I admire most because he has pursued his research in the purest way possible,” Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Professor Peter R. Girguis said. “Often times, it is easy to be swayed by fads that occur in the sciences, but Ed Wilson has always been the person to let the data do the talking and pursue science in a manner that he thinks is the most appropriate. This helps explains his intellectual firepower.”

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category is given out once a year and is currently in its third year.

Wilson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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