This book illustrates the amazing breadth of E.O. Wilson’s work. The format of an autobiography allows for inclusion of everything on which Wilson worked, thought, and collaborated. He tells how each of his ideas and studies was inspired and developed, and includes the context of the state of knowledge and politics of the times. He explains conflicts with other scientists that arose on many issues, with an uncanny ability to describe other people’s mannerisms. I had no idea that ecology and biology had been so controversial. Reading these personal stories behind developing ecological principles is a good way to make them memorable. There is really more to be gained from this book that can be absorbed in one reading.
Even though Wilson writes about his childhood, his father’s alcoholism emerges later as an afterthought. Another person might have written an entire book about their struggle to overcome that kind of early life, but instead Wilson’s focus is on his passion for biology and barely touches on what others might have seen as difficulties. His passion infused his early life with joy and his later life with unbelievable achievement.