Harvard's E.O. Wilson And B. Holldobler Share 1991 Pulitzer Prize For The Ants

Harvard's E.O. Wilson And B. Holldobler Share 1991 Pulitzer Prize For The Ants University Of Wyoming President Named Head Of Western Science Consortium Joseph W. Plandowski Leo W. Buss Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University's Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science, and Berthold H”lldobler, formerly Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard, have won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for The Ants. The 732-page, seven-pound book was published by Harvard Univers

May 27, 1991
Rebecca Andrews

  • Harvard's E.O. Wilson And B. Holldobler Share 1991 Pulitzer Prize For The Ants
  • University Of Wyoming President Named Head Of Western Science Consortium
  • Joseph W. Plandowski
  • Leo W. Buss
  • Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University's Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science, and Berthold H”lldobler, formerly Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard, have won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for The Ants. The 732-page, seven-pound book was published by Harvard University Press last March. The two professors will share the $3,000 award. This is Wilson's second Pulitzer Prize.

    The Ants, says Wilson, "is a synthesis of everything we know--not just the natural history and classification of ants, but a lot of ideas in population biology, microevolution, genetics, biochemistry, behavior, sociobiology." In addition to the three years spent writing the book, the two authors have "worked together in the lab and in the field for 20 years," he says. "It was a close collaboration from start to finish."

    Wilson has been trying to bring respect to the ant world for most of his career. This "often neglected and despised group of insects," says Wilson, is "actually a major part of ecosystems around the world."

    Wilson, 61, earned his Ph.D. in biology at Harvard in 1955, and has remained there ever since. Early in his career, he identified and described the pheromone signals ants use to communicate, launching a new area of research. In 1977, he won a National Medal of Science for his research on chemical communication systems.

    While Wilson's work has focused primarily on ants, his encompassing knowledge of the insects has enabled him to delve into other scientific realms, such as sociobiology and, more recently, biodiversity. Wilson found himself at the center of controversy in the mid-1970s, when he extended his theories on sociobiology to the human species, drawing allegations of racism and sexism. In 1979, his book On Human Nature (Harvard University Press, 1978), which explored the area between biological and social evolution, won him his first Pulitzer.

    Wilson has spent much of his time in recent years promoting efforts to preserve global biodiversity (The Scientist, April 15, 1991, page 1), and has contributed to the development of an interdisciplinary curriculum at Harvard dedicated to biodiversity.

    H”lldobler, Wilson's coauthor, has been a professor of behavioral physiology at the University of Wurzburg in Germany since 1989. He and Wilson are still collaborating; they spent two weeks in Costa Rica together this past March. Wilson says they are currently working on an article describing an ant they've discovered recently. "The ant defends itself by its superficial resemblance to termite soldiers, and runs about its nest in the same manner," says Wilson. He believes this to be the first case of mimicry of the termite--"a quite formidable insect."

    --Rebecca Andrews

    Terry P. Roark, president of the University of Wyoming in Laramie, is the new chairman of the Associated Western Universities Inc. (AWU), a nonprofit consortium of 42 colleges in 14 western states, headquartered in Salt Lake City. The consortium's goals are to foster science education and establish working relationships between educational institutions and federal research laboratories. Roark took office at the consortium's April meeting in San Diego.

    One of AWU's primary activities, says Roark, is to match opportunities at federal laboratories with students and faculty wanting to do research in such installations. The consortium is primarily funded by the United States Department of Energy, and most, but not all, of the research labs involved are affiliated with that agency. The program covers a wide range of the sciences, he says, and has placed students and faculty in a number of labs, including the Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute in Albuquerque, N.Mex.; the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls; and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In 1991, Roark adds, AWU expects to place 900 students and faculty--from nonconsortium schools as well as member institutions--in federal laboratories throughout the West. "It does our folks good to leave the campus and get a fresh view," says Roark.

    While the consortium generally brings academics to federal labs, over the last two years, says Roark, "we've begun to turn that process around," by bringing government researchers to academia. They join campuses as lecturers or visiting professors, for periods lasting from a single lecture to a full year.

    In the last year, says Roark, AWU has become involved in efforts to recruit minority and female students to careers in science and engineering. The consortium is developing programs in conjunction with historically black colleges and universities, primarily in the eastern and southeastern U.S., to recruit minorities to science fields. Some colleges in the consortium are developing "precollege honors programs" to give high school students a head start in the sciences. And for even younger students, says Roark, the "pre-freshman enrichment program" is aimed at minorities and young women in grades 6 through 10. Participants work for two summers in a federal lab, and participate in honors academic programs during the school year.

    Roark joined the faculty of Ohio State University in 1966, the same year he earned his Ph.D. in astronomy from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. In 1983, he joined Kent State University in Ohio, where he taught astronomy while serving as vice president for academic and student affairs. In 1987, Roark gave up teaching completely to become president of the University of Wyoming. "I miss [teaching]," says Roark, "but right now I'm just making a contribution of another sort."

    --Rebecca Andrews

    Joseph W. Plandowski has been appointed president and chief executive officer at Genetrix Inc., an independent genetic testing and research laboratory in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    Plandowski has more than 25 years' experience in the medical products, services, and pharmaceutical industries. Most recently, he has been executive vice president, sales and marketing, at Allscrips Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill. Previously, he was vice president, operations, at SmithKline Beckman Corp. of Philadelphia (now Smith-Kline Beecham). He received a B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1965 and an MBA in 1969, both from the State University of New York, Buffalo.

    Leo W. Buss, a professor of biology and of geology and geophysics at Yale University, has been appointed to a five-year term as the first director of the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies. The institute will foster research and education in global change, the evolution and diversity of life, and the impact of people on their environment; it will also promote the exchange of information between scientists and policymakers, among other functions. Buss, who is also curator of invertebrates for the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, joined the Yale faculty in 1979. He received his B.A. in 1975, his M.A. in 1977, and his Ph.D. in 1979, in earth and planetary science, all from Johns Hopkins University. He was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1984 and was named as a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellow in 1989. He is the author of The Evolution of Individuality (Princeton University Press, 1987).