Wade Davis is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.
An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6000 botanical collections. His work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing Passage of Darkness (1988) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture.
Davis’s latest books include: Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, published by Knopf 2011 and The Sacred Headwaters published by Greystone, also in 2011. In 2012 and 2013 three additional books will appear including a second book of photographs covering Davis’s work 2000-2010. Davis will edit the journals of Oliver Wheeler, and also produce a work of literary nonfiction on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Sheets of Distant Rain will follow in 2014.
His other books include Penan: Voice for the Borneo Rain Forest (1990), Shadows in the Sun (1993), Nomads of the Dawn (1995), One River (1996), which was nominated for the 1997 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction, The Clouded Leopard (1998), Rainforest (1998), Light at the Edge of the World (2001), The Lost Amazon (2004), Grand Canyon (2008), Book of Peoples of the World (ed. 2008) and The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, the 2009 Massey lectures. His books have been translated into fifteen languages, including Basque, Serbian, Korean, Mandarin, Bulgarian, Japanese and Malay, and have sold approximately 800,000 copies worldwide.
Davis is the recipient of numerous awards including: The Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club (2011), the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (2009), the 2002 Lowell Thomas Medal (The Explorer’s Club) and the 2002 Lannan Foundation $125,000 prize for literary non-fiction. He has been granted Honorary Degrees (Doctorate of Sciences) from University of Victoria (2003), University of Guelph (2008), and Colorado College (2010), and (Doctorate of Laws) from the University of Northern British Columbia (2010) and the National College of Natural Medicine (2011). In 2004 he was made an Honorary Member of the Explorer’s Club, one of twenty. In 2012 he will receive the David Fairchild Medal, the most prestigious award for botanical exploration.
A professional speaker for over twenty-five years, Davis has lectured at the American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, California Academy of Sciences, Missouri Botanical Garden, Field Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Garden, National Geographic Society, Royal Ontario Museum, the Explorer’s Club, the Royal Geographical Society, the Oriental Institute, Musée du Quai Branly, Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, the Chautauqua Institute, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank as well as some 150 universities, including Harvard, M.I.T., Oxford, Yale, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Duke, Vanderbilt, University of Pennsylvania, Tulane and Georgetown.
Davis was the series creator, host and co-writer of Light at the Edge of the World, a four-hour ethnographic documentary series, shot in Rapa Nui, Tahiti, the Marquesas, Nunuvut, Greenland, Nepal and Peru, which is currently airing in 165 countries on the National Geographic Channel and in the USA on the Smithsonian Network. Other television credits include the award winning documentaries, Spirit of the Mask, Cry of the Forgotten People, Forests Forever, and Earthguide, a 13 part television series on the environment, which aired on the Discovery Channel in 1990. Davis has recently completed a new four-hour series for the National Geographic, Ancient Voices/Modern World, which was shot in Australia, Mongolia, and Colombia.