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E.O. Wilson delivers Distinguished Lecture

Lauren Hennen

Issue date: 3/6/09 Section: News
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An English servant, Edward O. Wilson said, had once come across Charles Darwin looking at a colony of ants in his backyard.

"What a pity this man doesn't have something to do to pass his time," said the servant.

Wilson, a well known biologist and one of the world's foremost experts on ants, came to Severance Hall this Tuesday as part of Case's Distinguished Lecture Series to speak about the impact of Darwin's studies on the landscape of modern biology. He is the Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University.

Wilson delivered his speech to Case students, faculty, and members of the community as part of the university's year-long celebration of Darwin's 200th birthday. The event was sponsored by Jeanette and Glenn Brown, two prominant community members, as well as the College Scholars Program and the Office of the Provost.

Wilson has been credited with a major role in the development of the field called sociobiology, which claims that any behavior can be explained in terms of evolutionary advantages it confers. Because of the issues resulting from extension of sociobiology to humans, Wilson has been considered by some as a controversial figure.

While introducing Wilson, Case anthropology professor Cynthia Beall referred to the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner as "Darwin's natural heir."

Wilson's talk, which largely focused on the breadth of Darwin's contributions to many scientific disciplines, began with the story about the father of evolutionary studies looking at the ant colony.

Far from being a waste of time, Darwin's curiosity in natural phenomena and animal behavior, Wilson argued, led to an impressive body of work that altered the course of scientific study. Wilson pointed to Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, as his "four great books."

"The four books, when read chronologically, flow like a well-wrought narrative of Darwin's thinking," he said. He continued by describing The Origin of Species, Darwin's most famous publication, as "arguably history's most important intellectual work."
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In This Issue


  • E.O. Wilson delivers Distinguished Lecture
  • Have you heard about: Student Executive Council?
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  • The Internet and your finances
  • University continues to look for input on SAGES
  • USG's Student Life Improvement Grant delayed, but still moving


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  • Men's Basketball: Spartans get happy ending against Emory
  • MLB Preview: Angels will continue to dominate AL West
  • Softball Preview: Young, small squad and interim head coach hope to come together
  • Spartan Spotlight: Phil Keefe
  • Track & Field: Nwanna mastering all trades
  • Women's basketball struggles in second half, falls to Emory

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