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First Scripps Nierenberg Prize Awarded to Renowned Biologist E.O. Wilson

Award recognizes science in the public interest

The first award honoring the memory of William A. Nierenberg, who led UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography as director for more than two decades, will be awarded to renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson.

Wilson will receive the inaugural Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest during a ceremony on Sunday, May 20, at 4:30 p.m. in front of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. The event will include a special, free public lecture by Wilson, the Harvard professor recognized as one of the world’s leading environmental scientists. He will receive $25,000 and a medal.

Through his books and lectures, Wilson fuels an enthusiasm for science by showcasing its immediacy in our everyday lives. His passionate concern for the preservation of our natural heritage has placed him in the forefront of environmental activism, and his public lecture, "The Future of Life," will cover the present and likely future status of biodiversity and current activities and prospects of the global conservation movement.

The prize is named for William Nierenberg, who died Sept. 10, 2000, and was a renowned and acknowledged national science leader. He served Scripps Institution as director from 1965 to 1986. The recipient of numerous awards and honors for professional research and public service, Nierenberg was widely known for a long record of national and international service. He served on various panels of the Presidents’ Science Advisory Committee. A leading expert in several fields of underwater research and warfare, Nierenberg was primarily known for his work in low-energy nuclear physics.

"The Nierenberg Prize will annually honor the name of William A. Nierenberg by promoting the idea of good science in the public interest," said Charles Kennel, director of Scripps Institution. "The prize will reflect Scripps’s mission to seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the earth for the benefit of society and the environment. It will be awarded to those involved in the search for a sustainable balance between the natural environment and human activity. E. O. Wilson is a remarkable choice for this honor as his studies have changed the way scientists and nonscientists alike view the natural world."

One of the world’s most distinguished scientists, E.O. Wilson is a university research professor and honorary curator in entomology at Harvard University. His most recent work has focused on drawing public attention to the impact human activity has had on life on the planet. His research includes evolutionary biology, the biology of social insects, the classification of ants, sociobiology, biogeography, and ethical philosophy.

A recent biography on Wilson noted:

"As a young boy growing up in the deep South, Wilson began to dream of going to the ‘Big Tropics, the Amazon, New Guinea, of discovering new kinds of plants and animals.’ This urge to explore propelled him from a childhood interest in collecting insects to a career that has encompassed studies in the biology of social insects, ecology, biogeography, sociobiology, and environmental conservation. Wilson’s devotion to natural history, his broad humanistic approach to learning, and a gift for storytelling make him one of the most popular teachers at Harvard."

Wilson has received numerous awards and honors, including the National Medal of Science. Among his books are The Insect Societies; Sociobiology: The New Synthesis; On Human Nature, which won the Pulitzer Prize; Biophilia; The Ants, co-authored with Bert Holldobler and, most recently, Consilience.

Aquarium admission is not included in the E.O. Wilson public lecture.

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About UC San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, we embrace a culture of exploration and experimentation. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to look deeper, challenge expectations and redefine conventional wisdom. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at

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