Great minds think alike, I guess. Like Razib and Stranger Fruit, my answer to this week’s Ask a ScienceBlogger – “Who would you nominate for Scientist Laureate, if such a position existed?” – was going to be E. O. Wilson.
His work on conservation alone would justify that status, if such a thing existed. His work on sociobiology is justifiably famous, and his early work on island biogeography. His work is iconic across the sciences.
In an episode of the West Wing, the incoming poet laureate gives a reading of poets who were never chosen to be a poet laureate because they were too rebellious and controversial. I wonder if the memory of Wilson getting hit with a pie wouldn’t spike him from being a scientist laureate.
The pie incident was a response to sociobiology, which some people interpreted as justifying sexism. We’ll set aside for the moment that it wasn’t, and just note that laureates are generally uncontroversial folks who don’t get pies thrown at them.
Alas, with the passing of Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, there isn’t another late-career scientist with an established public persona who could fill that role. We need more.