Letters to a Young Scientist



Edward O. Wilson


Liveright Publishing Corporation, first edition, 2013


ISBN: 978-0-87140-377-3

World renowned entomologist, ant expert, Pulitzer prize winner and arguably one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, Edward O. Wilson pens this short collection of essays for the benefit of young scientists in training. This down to earth and candid account of how to become a successful scientists is easy to read and sure to motivate students currently majoring in any subspecialty of the life sciences. Although E. O. Wilson is a naturalist and taxonomist, and draws heavily from his experiences in the field discovering and studying new ant species, his advice is generalizable to any field in science. In particular young readers will learn how being passionate about a subject that has been little studied is the surest path to scientific success; something that I highly agree with. Indeed, E. O. Wilson emphasizes that not only passion but hard work, common sense and creativity are much more valuable tools in science than genius.

Using personal anecdotes and experiences, E. O. Wilson tries to convince scientists in training that a career in scientific research can be both personally fulfilling as well as professionally productive. Of course, like all books offering advice, these essays are necessarily idiosyncratic and the reader will not always agree with every view. For instance, I am not sure that taking vacations, or working in groups, is always counterproductive in a scientific career, as Wilson exhorts. Nevertheless, I think the book is overwhelmingly positive and I have always been a supporter of learning from scientific greats. If a student finds him/herself in need of a confidence boost during those dark time when doubting whether or not he/she made the right career choice, this would be one book I turn to.