I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of E.O. Wilson this past December, but am happy to share a few thoughts celebrating his amazing life. Who better to inform me of Dr. Wilson’s passing than Dan Moreland, publisher emeritus of PCT magazine, the same person who gave me the priceless opportunity to meet Dr. Wilson some 16 plus years ago, a moment in my life that I will cherish forever.

A naturalist from his early childhood, E.O. Wilson went on to become one of the most highly regarded and esteemed scientists ever known. A formerly trained biologist, naturalist and, of course, entomologist, E.O. Wilson pioneered the subject of Evolutionary Biology, and challenged the scientific community and humanity alike, with his writing of the book On Human Nature, gaining him his first of two Pulitzer Prizes. The second Pulitzer, came for his book The Ants, which he wrote with his colleague Bert Hölldobler.

Richard Cooper

It was E.O. Wilson’s love of ants that provided me with the opportunity to meet this living legend. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Dan reached out to ask me if I would provide a keynote presentation at a PCT Ant Summit in Atlanta, Ga. It wasn’t until after I accepted that Dan told me I would be one of two keynote presenters; the other would be the “Ant Man” himself, E.O. Wilson.

I remember Dan telling me that Dr. Wilson and I would be kicking off the 2-½ day meeting. Fear, anxiety and trepidation are just a few of the emotions I experienced leading up to that meeting. I was truly terrified to be giving a talk about how to eliminate ants in the presence of one of the most important naturalists and myrmecologists of our time.

What I didn’t know was that E.O. Wilson would also prove to be among the humblest of people I would have the privilege to meet. I can vividly remember him sitting in the first row of the auditorium, frantically taking notes as if he were a high school or college student preparing to take a final exam. I marveled at the enthusiasm of this, at that time 76-year-old man, seeing every moment as an opportunity to learn something new.

His kindness was extended to all attendees at the meeting, who I’m sure, also remember and cherish the opportunity to meet and talk to Dr. Wilson that day. It was his lifelong curiosity to learn that guided him from early childhood through his remarkable life and career.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to share my memories and celebrate the life of this humble giant among men. Often referred to as the Modern Day Darwin, E.O. Wilson will be forever missed, but his legacy will continue to live on.

The author, who earned his Ph.D. in Entomology from Rutgers University, is owner of R Cooper Consulting. Cooper speaks frequently at industry educational events and scientific meetings and is widely published in trade and peer-reviewed journals. He can be reached at rick@rcooperconsulting.net.