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The Encyclopedia of Life and E.O. Wilson


The naturalist E.O. Wilson, who coined the term "biodiversity," was an award winner at the 2007 Technology Entertainment Design conference (which I have previously written about here). In his acceptance speech, posted above, he proposed the creation of an "Encyclopedia of Life." This is one of these ideas that, once proposed, seems so self-evidently important, interesting, and plausibly constructable that it gathers an overwhelming amount of support.

The Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org) is an effort to create an online catalog of the 1.8 million known species of animals, plants, and other forms of life on Earth. Initial supporters have included the Field Museum of Natural History, Harvard University, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Smithsonian, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Financial support has been provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Sloan Foundation.
"The Encyclopedia of Life will be a vital tool for scientists, researchers, and educators across the globe, providing easy access to the latest and best information on all known species," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. "Technology is allowing science to grasp the immense complexity of life on this planet. Sharing what we know, we can protect Earth's biodiversity and better conserve our natural heritage."
An example page of Amanita phalloides, the death cap mushroom, is featured below:

It's easy to image how an online database of biological diversity, modifiable by scientists and amateurs alike, could be a useful and inspiring resource, much like Wikipedia. The Encyclopedia of Life is still in its early stages, but the video below show a hint of its potential:

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.