Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose

  • Naturalist by Edward O.Wilson
    Allen Lane, 380 pp, £20.00, August 1995, ISBN 0 7139 9141 0
  • Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson
    Harvard, 228 pp, £19.95, November 1994, ISBN 0 674 48525 4

Arriving at university from the shelter of a London suburban home, I was soon introduced to curry. Unaware that Indian cuisine is built around a wide range of spices, my ambition was simple: I would prove my sophistication by eating without flinching the hottest Madras or Vindaloo. Something of the same determinedly trivial desire to prove himself is revealed in Edward Wilson’s Naturalist. The great myrmecologist’s memoir is filled with references to scaling the highest mountains, collecting the most species, and above all to standing where no (white) man had ever stood before, finding organisms hitherto ‘unknown to science’ or hacking his way through trackless jungle.

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