Portion of encyclopedic ‘macroscope’ unveiled

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The first 30,000 pages of a massive online Encyclopedia of Life were unveiled last week at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Monterey, Calif.

The project was described by E.O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus, who articulated the need for a dynamic modern portrait of biodiversity in a widely read essay in 2003. “The launch of the Encyclopedia of Life will have a profound and creative effect in science,” Wilson said. “It aims not only to summarize all that we know of Earth’s life forms, but also to accelerate the discovery of the vast array that remain unknown.”

Wilson’s letter in 2005 to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation resulted in a $10 million seed grant to start the project, soon complemented by a further $2.5 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.