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Letters to a Young Scientist [Kindle Edition]

Edward O. Wilson
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"He [Wilson] makes science accessible and enthralling. His Letters to a Young Scientist is a joy." Patrick Neale, Booksellers' Choice: May 2013, The Bookseller "...offers an array of poignant and often philosophical messages aimed at inspiring and enthusing the next generation of scientists." Geographical Magazine "Skilfully and elegantly written..." New Scientist "Appealing and inspiring, rather than authoritative and formulaic, because it focuses on the variable nature of our motivations and origins, this book traces all experience, progress and directions back to raw curiosity." Times Higher Education "His [Wilson's] lifelong study has unveiled hugely significant facts about the fascinating social structure of ants and life generally, and he has written beautifully about it." The Guardian "...engaging and inspiring short book." The Biologist "... a great book that will be an inspiration for any young person considering whether a career in natural sciences is the path to follow." Nexus Institute "An approachable amalgam of hard-headed advice and high-minded inspiration." The Independent


Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson imparts the wisdom of his storied career to the next generation.

Edward O. Wilson has distilled sixty years of teaching into a book for students, young and old. Reflecting on his coming-of-age in the South as a Boy Scout and a lover of ants and butterflies, Wilson threads these twenty-one letters, each richly illustrated, with autobiographical anecdotes that illuminate his career—both his successes and his failures—and his motivations for becoming a biologist. At a time in human history when our survival is more than ever linked to our understanding of science, Wilson insists that success in the sciences does not depend on mathematical skill, but rather a passion for finding a problem and solving it. From the collapse of stars to the exploration of rain forests and the oceans’ depths, Wilson instills a love of the innate creativity of science and a respect for the human being’s modest place in the planet’s ecosystem in his readers.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 7148 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 246 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0871403773
  • Verlag: Liveright; Auflage: 1 (8. April 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B00AR3551Y
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Nicht aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #234.068 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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0 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Langatmig 12. Mai 2013
Von Robert D.
Format:Kindle Edition
Ich habe das Buch als Kindle gelesen und mir etwa 10 Stellen markiert, an denen der Autor mir, als Doktoranden, etwas interessantes mitteilt.
Drumherum geht es viel um seinen Lebensweg und um Ameisen. Diese Passagen empfand ich dich eher ermüdend und nur selten amüsant.

Kurzum, das Buch hätte für mich auf eine DIN A4 Seite reduziert werden können.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.5 von 5 Sternen  76 Rezensionen
78 von 83 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen When E.O. speaks, we younger ones everywhere listen. 13. April 2013
Von Dusty Rhoads - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
So, I was more than a little surprised that a new book by EO Wilson was out for more than 8 seconds without a single review yet posted on Amazon. I rarely write a review unless I feel passionately about an item -- at one end of the spectrum or another -- but I could not resist the chance to write the first review for a book by a scientist whom I revere and admire for his indomitable energy and unrelenting productivity.

I should preface my review by acknowledging that I am a somewhat biased devotee of Wilson's in that I think he and I share much in common: I am a snake biologist (Professor Wilson was nicknamed "Snake" by his comrades as a teenager, as he went through a three-year stint as an amateur ophiologist [a fancy word for "snake biologist"] before he turned to studying ants), I'm a Southerner (He is too.), I'm an evolutionary biologist (He is too.), an Eagle Scout (So is he.), a science educator (yep, you guessed it...), and I am a proponent of conserving biodiversity (and Ed is the proverbial Patriarch and Anointed High Priest of that unifying concept in science). I mention these aforementioned biases not to share my résumé, but because this book bends to all of those, among others. And so, as I rightly guessed, Mr. Wilson would draw upon a lot of these shared interests in order to make his points and teach us. (This may be a downside for those of you who connect more readily with chemistry, physics, or astronomy examples. This book might have been more aptly called "Letters to a Young Biologist", but I think the title the publishers went with is the right one.)

I am also among Wilson's target readers -- young aspiring scientists, but more emphatically -- anyone who would love to be a success as a scientist. This book has helped me feel less daunted by the sometimes mistaken commonly perceived demands of science.

"Letters to a Young Scientist" is a clarion call for many MANY more people to join the ranks of natural scientists and to embrace a life of scientific investigation. Ed Wilson leaves no one with room for excuses to fail in this endeavor. He addresses the concept (or reality?) that if we humans are to survive the foreseeable future, we need to be a science-minded people.

Perhaps some of the most comforting aspects of the book are that Wilson belabors the point that you don't need to be a math wiz or even have a high IQ to be a great scientist. (Ed did not take Calculus until he was a 32-year-old professor at Harvard, and his grade was a C.) He divulges his own IQ as a modest "If I can do it without genius levels, you can too" admission. In fact, he argues that a high IQ can be something of a detriment to a scientific career.
Since many readers are likely to also be followers of Wilson's other works and thus, interested in biology, another book that I have found to have been written in a similar spirit of deep caring and empathy for the non-stereotypical and uninitiated scientist is Reading the Story in DNA: A Beginner's Guide to Molecular Evolution; it is written for the scientist interested in the whole organism, but who wants to understand how to DO and get started on molecular evolution research and techniques, WITHOUT all of the math. I think you'll love it.

Okay. Now, back to "Letters"...

Do I agree with everything written in this collection of sagely correspondence? No. One such point of contention for me was when Wilson admonished readers on how many hours they should expect to devote to teaching, administrative duties, research, etc if they choose an academic profession -- the part I didn't like was when he says [paraphrasing], "Only rest from work and seek diversion on weekends. Don't take vacations; real scientists don't take vacations. They go on field trips." As a herpetologist, I know of several friends and colleagues who use their vacation-time to take their families looking for snakes (for fun and research) in prime, wonderful habitat; they have formed rich memories that lasted a lifetime, and all family members seem to have enjoyed those times and remember them with fondness. I do hope to adopt that with my toddler. And perhaps Wilson's assertion is slightly tongue-in-cheek here, BUT, as a father, I'm also cautious to not subject my son in his vacation time to always doing dad's hobby or livelihood. And hey, I love Disney World, so my son won't know it's not totally for him. ;) But, once again, I digress...

If you have already read other works by Wilson, you will likely see some redundancy of ideas and stories in this book, such as his informal rules of biological evolution he has pointed out in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, for instance (i.e.. "For every unanswered problem or question in nature, there exists a species suited to solving that problem."). You will also hear of how he and MacArthur came up with the Theory of Island Biogeography. He uses his collection of examples and ideas as a teaching tool for how to think and create like a scientist. And keep in mind, this book is meant as an introductory rabble-rouser, in the best sense -- as a shot in the arm for the passionate tenderfoot -- so some review of Wilson's life's work is expected, albeit it is in a fresh, new light.

And there are new nuggets of wisdom gleaned from over 60 years as an Ivy League researcher. He has offered two different ways that convergently lead to the formation of a scientist: (1) the problem-solver who often employs models -- organismal or otherwise -- to get to the bottom of unanswered questions, and (2) the naturalist who loves and finds pleasure in his or her favorite species or phenomenon for the sake of its mere existence, who tries to learn all that is currently known on the topic, and is naturally led to questions. Again, since Wilson is drawing on his own experience, he mostly explores the latter pathway to sciencedom.

Overall, I would highly encourage young and old scientists to read this book. It is, as the title suggests, non-technical, and is suitable for high schoolers and mature-minded middle schoolers. (And older.) E.O. Wilson can indeed offer advice on most aspects of doing science, from encouraging "quick and sloppy" experiments on a whim (some of his own produced no noteworthy results for him at all; others paid handsome dividends beyond reasonable hope), the importance of daydreaming and fantasizing about science, taking the responsibility of being a world expert on a subject (which he asserts is often easier and quicker than most people think), to devising testable and successful frameworks of conceptual knowledge that we call scientific theories.

I've a very sorry track record when it comes to finishing books, but I read this one in three or four days quite easily. It's a quick read, even for this notoriously slow, easily distracted reader. The main idea of this book is that you don't need to fit the stereotype of a scientist (e.g. math wiz, genius, poor communicator [I added that last one]) in order to be a good scientist. AND if you don't fit the stereotype, you are exactly what the world and scientific community at large really lacks. Ed Wilson says that the world needs your unique talents, badly. I agree. Happy reading! I would recommend this book as a gift to young people. Buy a copy, read it yourself, and then give it away.
61 von 64 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Good effort, but narrow 26. April 2013
Von W. James Dittmar - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
3.5 stars

Wilson does an excellent job at summarizing some very important pieces of advice in science. He espouses the importance of the "prepared mind", the necessity of in depth and general knowledge of the subject area, and the benefits of being passionate about your area of interest. He provides some encouraging remarks for students who do not excel at math, and some observations about the importance of IQ in science (he actually argues that a high IQ may be harmful because it does not necessitate that the individual persevere).

But his advice is not broadly applicable to all types of scientists. Wilson is a naturalist--he derives questions about the world based on observations in nature. He then thinks about possible ways in which those phenomena occurred. While this path worked for Wilson, I don't think it is the only possible meaningful path. Molecular biologists, as an example, spend very little time in the "natural" world, and instead focus on phenomena that are difficult to observe with our unaided senses. He also categorizes faculty as fitting into one of two categories: the insiders and the outsiders. He recommends that budding scientists opt for the latter, and eschew, as much as possible, teaching responsibilities and departmental obligations beyond serving on a thesis committee. He also advocates against so-called think-tanks, and instead recommends a more solitary approach, catering especially to the introvert.

I don't think that his advice is wrong, but I also don't think it is balanced. This book is basically a case study of a successful scientist, and I think it should be viewed as such, rather than a general book of advice. And as a scientist, I wished he would have provided more reasoning as to why he makes specific recommendations or at least provide more examples that support his claims.
26 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Good read but misleading title 7. Mai 2013
Von hk32 - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
E.O. Wilson has again written another very good, readable book. My reason for giving it only three stars is that the title "Letters to a Young Scientist" is somewhat misleading. It could more accurately be title "A Brief Autobiography of E.O. Wilson with Occasional Advice to a Young Scientist Interested in Biology." Wilson's title chapters certainly appear to make their subjects appear to be some form of counsel or another, and in the introductions and conclusions they generally contain some modicum of it. However, it does not take long before Wilson begins waxing on about his own work and history (which is of course incredible). I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in biological sciences, particularly entomology or ecology, but it may prove a long winded mass of reminiscence to anyone actually looking for some advice on pursuing a career in science.
15 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Principles and insights for both early and senior biologists 15. April 2013
Von JBC (Wisconsin) - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
[[ASIN:0871403773 Letters to a Young Scientist]

I found this a completely enjoyable and easily readable autobiographical reflection of one who takes the care and time to observe how nature works.

What I found particularly interesting are some of the principles early in the book give a generic perspective of how, in science, any number of viewpoints are important to keep in mind, no matter how intriguing the immediate problem at hand may be. I feel that these could serve individuals at various stages in their career. First, for the young enthusiast who delights in the first discoveries, either in the field or under the microscope, will see how one can start. Secondly, a valuable set of guidelines can serve the undergraduate or graduate biology student who wants to sort out what kinds of questions to ask and how to craft ones own research endeavors. Lastly, these letters might inspire the midcareer scientist to reassess the course of ones own research and the probable directions it might go.

Throughout this short volume, references are made to a number of experiments that produced interesting outcomes and enough information is given so that one can read the original literature if desired. Wilson's own successful and failed experiments are mentioned, thereby encouraging a young scientist to continue even if original experiments do not produce interesting or interpretable results. Pasteur's exhortation - chance favors only the prepared mind - urges all of us to think broadly and to observe carefully.

Toward the end of the book, an outline is given of an interesting experiment to determine what is the biological succession or repopulation of a single small ecosystem. This issue underscores not only community ecodynamics and possible futures for systems in which a species is lost, but also (yet not discussed in this book) biological predictions in what are presumed to be seemingly abiotic planetary environments.

Overall, I found the book so interesting that I could not easily put it down, and completed the first reading task in a few days. The book will have a semi-permanent place on my bookshelf, reminding me that multiple re readings are yet to be done and new ideas yet to be tested.
16 von 19 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen If Letters Were Ants 15. April 2013
Von Robert Taylor Brewer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The world's greatest authority on ants started out collecting snakes and black widow spiders. His book is ostensibly for a young scientist contemplating a career, but the writing is so engaging it becomes an appropriate book for any reader. The only real pre-requisite is an inquiring mind.

And a mind free to fail in mathematics. What a revelation. It's been an article of faith with nearly everyone that real scientists could diagram an equation across a blackboard in one fell swoop. Not so, the world's leading pioneer in biodiversity tells us. Most successful scientists may be, in matters of mathematics, semi literate. And be further re-assured in the knowledge that mathematical ability is partly hereditary. So if you flunked algebra, can you blame mom and dad for not giving you the equation gene? Time for the inconvenient truth. Missing innate math abilities can be offset by study(yuck) and practice (double yuck). That "F" in geometry might be your fault after all! But who really cares, real mathematical ability is necessary in very few career fields. Teaching, no. Operating a particle accelerator, probably. In short, if you have it flaunt it. If you don't have mathematical fluency, there are fields of scientific inquiry that will welcome you anyway. What a hopeful message.

Wilson next offers common sense advice in career planning. Stay away from the glitz and glitter. If huge grant fundings and famous personalities inhabit your intended career field, avoid it like the plague. This works in selecting restaurants too. In Rutland, Vermont I opened the doors of places teeming with smart, hip well paid up and comers. Closed the door and walked out immediately on the grounds that those people are there to meet and greet. The food is probably overpriced and you will be underfed. Off the main drag however, I stumbled into a place called Kong Chow Fusion. Weird name, no one in the place, a mere 6 people, regulars no doubt, crowded into a corner booth. Something said "this is it." I was right, the place served up the best beef lo mein I've ever eaten.

Passion for a subject trumps skill, according to Wilson, because with passion, you will master the skills. Absent passion, you will flit from field to field adrift, moving where the glitterati go, seeking to draft in behind them and siphon off some of their energy as your own. Avoid this at all costs, Wilson advises.

Now, I can feel the author taking serious heat on this one because on page 170, we get: "however much the humanities enrich our lives... they also limit thought to that which is human." One possible counter argument, the humanities are, as the name implies, the very thing which makes us human. Here we go with science vs art,art vs science. It's a battle the likes of which has been around for centuries. Good luck to anyone with a possible answer, although perhaps we don't even need an answer because this is a book that can take you from the rain forests of the Amazon to the Museum of Natural History in New York in the blink of an eye.

Enjoy the journey.
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