Copyright The Atlantic
MY FIRST GLIMPSE of E. O. Wilson came in July, in the late afternoon, when the light fades and dies with alarming speed in Mozambique. He had emerged from his cabin within Gorongosa National Park, one of southern Africaâ€™s great, historic game reserves, just as the nightly winter chill was bestirring itself, and across an expanse of garden, he appeared almost spectral: tall, gaunt, white-haired, and possessed of a strange gaitâ€”slow and deliberate, yet almost woozy in the faint swerve described by each long-legged stride.
Wilsonâ€™s head was cocked sharply downward as he walked, as if he suffered a neck condition. (Later he would tell me this habit grew from a lifetime of scanning the ground for insect life.) In his right hand, he carried a flowing white net, like what Vladimir Nabokov might have used to pursue butterflies by Lake Geneva. Without fanfare, just before dark, on the first evening of his first visit to Africa below the Sahara, he had begun his first bug-collecting expedition.