Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Edward O. Wilson

Pub Date: April 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-87140-377-3
Publisher: Liveright/Norton

The eminent entomologist, naturalist and sociobiologist draws on the experiences of a long career to offer encouraging advice to those considering a life in science.

Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson (The Social Conquest of Earth, 2012, etc.), whose book’s title is reminiscent of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, is not, however, writing to one young man but to a generation of potential scientists. After a prologue in which the author assures would-be scientists of their importance in our technoscientific world, he groups 20 letters into five sections. In Part I, “The Path to Follow,” he offers a set of guiding principles. Surprisingly, the first is designed to comfort students who fear going into science because they lack confidence in their math skills. Not to worry, he counsels, for one can always find collaborators with the necessary mathematical skills. Most important, he advises, is to find a field that interests you, that stirs your passion, that you can call your own, and then become an expert in it. In Part II, “The Creative Process,” Wilson discusses the nature of science, the scientific method, how scientists think creatively and what it takes to succeed. In “A Life in Science,” he relates events from his career, discoveries he and others made, and how they made them. In “Theory and the Big Picture,” Wilson again uses concrete examples from his own work to show how hypotheses are tested and how theories are developed. Finally, he closes with a discussion of proper behavior in working with other scientists, in conducting research and in publishing results. The take-home message is that enthusiasm, creativity, curiosity and persistence are the keys to success.

Glows with one man’s love for science.