$10,000 PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing Will Honor One Nonfiction Book Each Year

New York City, October 14, 2010—PEN American Center announced today that acclaimed naturalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Edward O. Wilson and actor and conservationist Harrison Ford have joined with PEN to create the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing. Wilson and Ford will hold a press conference tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. (PST) at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, California, to announce the creation of the prize.

“It’s wonderful to live in a time of great scientific advances,” said PEN’s president, Anthony Appiah, “but we aren’t doing a great job in communicating the fascination and the challenge of science to a wider public. I’m delighted that E.O. Wilson—a great scientist and a great writer—and Harrison Ford, a committed conservationist with a deep respect for science, have made it possible for us to recognize the best contributions to this important task. Writing about science in a way that all of us can understand is one of the hardest and the most important literary challenges of our day.”

This new award joins the ranks of other prestigious annual prizes given by PEN American Center, which has recognized outstanding voices in literature for over 50 years. The 2010 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony was held last night in New York; Don DeLillo, Susan Choi, Anne Carson, David Mamet, and many others were honored this year. “Our literary awards program is central to our work,” Appiah said, “honoring, as it does, excellence in the many genres of our literary civilization. I’m delighted to say that the program is flourishing.”

The PEN/E.O. Wilson Award will acknowledge new and compelling literary writing about the physical and biological sciences. Beginning in 2011, a winner will be chosen by PEN American Center each fall, and will receive a prize of $10,000. Dr. Wilson and Mr. Ford have provided funding for the first three years of the award’s conferral.

“Dr. Wilson is not only one of the most respected and decorated scientists in the world,” said Mr. Ford, “he is also an eloquent, timeless writer. His words have transcended any single line of research—deeply altering our perspective of the world. It is appropriate that this award is named in his honor.” Best known as an actor, Ford has also played an important role as a conservationist. He is currently an active advisory board member of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Conservation International.

“I am honored to have my name associated with this award,” said Dr. Wilson. “It is important for science to engage people outside of the walls of academia. Authors who are committed to helping the public understand our surroundings in new ways are a rare breed. This is an opportunity to acknowledge their talents.”

Past examples of works that exemplify the quality of writing the award is designed to acknowledge include Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Dr. James Watson’s The Double Helix, Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell, Christian de Duve’s Guided Tour of the Living Cell, and Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

A private reception to celebrate the creation of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and the work of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, will be held at a nearby location following the press conference in Palo Alto tomorrow.

About PEN American Center
PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. International PEN (poets, playwrights, essayists, editors and novelists) was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 145 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN. Visit www.pen.org for more information.

About Dr. Edward O. Wilson
Dr. E.O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest naturalists. He has been a Harvard Professor of Biology for over 40 years, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize Award-winner for his works On Human Nature and The Ants, and is considered the a founding father of sociobiology, biodiversity, and consilience. He was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential people in America, and is the bestselling author of the novel Anthill.

About Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is an actor and longtime conservation advocate. He is known for his leading role in some of the most recognized movies in cinematic history: the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones series, The Fugitive, and many more. In 2000, Ford was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. He is an active Board member of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and Conservation International.

David Haglund, (212) 334-1660, ext 115
Stefanie Simons, (212) 334-1660 ext 122