May 10, 2007
By: Alvaro Fernandez
A Leap for All Life: World’s Leading Scientists Announce Creation of Encyclopedia of Life (a database of all living things)
- WASHINGTON (May 9, 2007) – Many of the world’s leading scientific institutions today announced the launch of the Encyclopedia of Life, an unprecedented global effort to document all 1.8 million named species of animals, plants, and other forms of life on Earth. For the first time in the history of the planet, scientists, students, and citizens will have multi-media access to all known living species, even those that have just been discovered.
- Over the next 10 years, the Encyclopedia of Life will create Internet pages for all 1.8 million species currently named. It will expedite the classification of the millions of species yet to be discovered and catalogued as well. The pages, housed at http://www.eol.org/, will provide written information and, when available, photographs, video, sound, location maps, and other multimedia information on each species. Built on the scientific integrity of thousands of experts around the globe, the Encyclopedia will be a moderated wiki-style environment, freely available to all users everywhere.
- Scientists began creating individual web pages for species in the 1990s. However, Internet technology needed to mature to allow fast and efficient creation of a comprehensive Encyclopedia. While specific Encyclopedia of Life efforts, including the scanning of key research publications and data, have been underway since January 2006, work has accelerated due to the support provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the recent discussion of the Encyclopedia of Life by renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson at the March 2007 Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference.
- One of the world’s foremost scientists and environmentalists, Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard University, “wished” for the establishment of the Encyclopedia of Life during his TED Conference address. Noting that “our knowledge of biodiversity is so incomplete that we are at risk of losing a great deal of it before it is ever discovered,” Wilson called for a contemporary, dynamic portrait of the living Earth.
- “I wish that we will work together to help create the key tool that we need to inspire preservation of Earth’s biodiversity: the Encyclopedia of Life,” Wilson said at TED. “What excites me is that since I first put forward this idea, science has advanced, technology has moved forward. Today, the practicalities of making this encyclopedia real are within reach as never before.”
If you are interested in the biology of learning, you will enjoy our interview with Dr. James Zull, Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at Case Western University, and author of The Art of Changing the Brain: An ape can do this. Can we not?.