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The Body

E. O. Wilson and Rebecca Skloot: 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prizes

This annual prize, awarded separately for fiction and nonfiction, recognizes recently published works “embodying the spirit of the nations heartland.” The prizes are part of the Chicago Tribune’s ongoing dedication to reading, writing, and ideas.

Fiction: Anthill by E. O. Wilson

This extraordinary first novel, by one of the preeminent scientists of his generation, is simultaneously a coming-of-age story of a boy in the wilds of southern Alabama, a unique and glorious dramatization of the “humanity” and beauty of ant society, and a persuasive argument for biodiversity, the primacy of natural cycles, and environmentalism. E. O. Wilson deftly weaves these three threads into a fascinating and remarkable novel. Wilson is an ethicist, a social theorist, an environmentalist, a biologist, and, of course, one of the world’s leading experts on ants. At 81 years old, he is the author of over 20 books and the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for nonfiction for The Ants, written with Bert Hölldobler, and On Human Nature.

Nonfiction: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In 1951, a poor black tobacco farmer named Henrietta Lacks died of an aggressive form of cervical cancer. Just 31 years old, she left behind five children, and an astonishing legacy: cells from her cervix—taken without her knowledge—became the first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, and one of the most important tools in medicine. Called HeLa for short, Henrietta’s cells are still alive today in laboratories around the world, though she has been dead for nearly 60 years. They were vital for developing the polio vaccine; revealed secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; and helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. Rebecca Skloot specializes in narrative science writing and has tackled a wide range of topics, including gold- fish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She is the guest editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011, a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine, and has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW.

All proceeds will benefit the Chicago Tribune Holiday Campaign, a campaign of Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation Fund.

Speakers and Performers

Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer who contributes to the New York Times, NPR, and numerous others. Her first book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took eleven years to write and instantly became a runaway bestseller. It is being made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.  She lives in Chicago, where she’s working on her next book on the roles animals play in our lives.

E.O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science and Mellon Professor of Science at Harvard University. He is an authority on ants and co-founder of the modern field of sociobiology. Wilson's publications include The Insect Societies and Sociobiology. A world-renowned entomologist, he is the recipient of Sweden's Crafoord Prize, a 1979 Pulitzer Prize for literature, and the 1977 National Medal of Science.

CHF Suggests      Related links and resources for further study

Leaders And Thinkers

E.O. Wilson
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
Rebecca Skloot
Rebecca Skloot's website

Good Reads

The Guardian
A profile of E.O. Wilson in the British newspaper

Online Resources

Culture Dish
Rebecca Skloot's blog on science and news