Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson was born this day, 1929, in Birmingham, Alabama. Wilson spent his childhood between Washington D.C. and Mobile, Alabama, where he undertook some of his first scientific expeditions. A fishing accident at age seven left Wilson with 20/10 vision. But due to this lopsided eyesight, Wilson was left with the uncanny ability to focus on the smallest details of the creatures he studied. This led him to focus his scientific inquiry on the study of insects. At the age of 18 Wilson began a survey of all the ants in Alabama. He was the first to report that fire ants had established their first colony in the U.S. at the port of Mobile. Wilson sought to join the military to insure himself with money for a college education. However, he was turned away due to his eye condition. Wilson was able to afford enrollment at the University of Alabama where he earned a B.S. and and an M.S. Degree in Biology. He later earned a Ph.D in biology from Harvard University. Wilson earned the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for his book On Human Nature. He won the prize again in 1991 for his book The Ants. In 1996 Wilson retired from teaching at Harvard University but still holds honorary positions. In 1999, a year after the publication of his book Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, Wilson visited the University of Alabama to accept the Clarence Cason Award. During that trip I had the opportunity to photograph Wilson on Hurricane Creek. I took a few photos that day but one of my favorites is the one of him bent down, as if in prayer, scanning for ants at the base of tree.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at email@example.com