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Encyclopedia of Life

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Title: Encyclopedia of Life  
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Subject: ARKive, Aptera in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, Taxonomic impediment, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Taxon
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Encyclopedia of Life

Encyclopedia of Life
EOL Home Page
Web address .orgeol
Commercial? No
Type of site Encyclopedia
Registration Optional
Available in
Created by Field Museum
Harvard University
MacArthur Foundation
Marine Biological Laboratory
Missouri Botanical Garden
Sloan Foundation
Smithsonian Institution
Launched February 26, 2008 (2008-02-26)
Alexa rank positive decrease 57,877 (April 2014)[1]
Current status Active

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all of the 1.9 million living species known to science. It is compiled from existing databases and from contributions by experts and non-experts throughout the world.[2] It aims to build one "infinitely expandable" page for each species, including video, sound, images, graphics, as well as text.[3] In addition, the Encyclopedia incorporates content from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which digitizes millions of pages of printed literature from the world's major natural history libraries. The project was initially backed by a US$50 million funding commitment, led by the MacArthur Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, who provided US$20 million and US$5 million, respectively. The additional US$25 million came from five cornerstone institutions—the Field Museum, Harvard University, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution. The project was initially led by Jim Edwards and the development team by David Patterson. Today, participating institutions and individual donors continue to support EOL through financial contributions.


EOL went live on 26 February 2008 with 30,000 entries.[4] The site immediately proved to be extremely popular, and temporarily had to revert to demonstration pages for two days when it was overrun by traffic from over 11 million views it received.[5]

The site relaunched on 5 September 2011 with a redesigned interface and tools.[6] The new version – referred to as EOLv2 – was developed in response to requests from the general public, citizen scientists, educators and professional biologists for a site that was more engaging, accessible and personal. EOLv2 is redesigned to enhance usability and encourage contributions and interactions among users. The product is also internationalized with interfaces provided for [7]

The initiative's Executive Committee includes senior officers from the Atlas of Living Australia, the Biodiversity Heritage Library consortium, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, CONABIO, Field Museum, Harvard University, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria), MacArthur Foundation, Marine Biological Laboratory, Missouri Botanical Garden, Sloan Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution.[8][9]


Information about many species is already available from a variety of sources, in particular about the megafauna. Gathering currently available data on all 1.9 million species will take about 10 years.[10] As of September 2011, EOL had information on more than 700,000 species available, along with more than 600,000 photos and millions of pages of scanned literature.[11] The initiative relies on indexing information compiled by other efforts, including the Sp2000 and ITIS Catalogue of Life, Fishbase and the Assembling Tree of Life project of NSF, AmphibiaWeb, Mushroom explorer, microscope, etc.. The initial focus has been on living species but will later include extinct species. As the discovery of new species is expected to continue (the current rate is about 20,000 per year), the encyclopedia will grow continuously. As taxonomy finds new ways to include species discovered by molecular techniques, the rate of new species additions will increase - in particular in respect of the microbial work of (eu)bacteria, archaebacteria and viruses.

The goal of EOL is to serve as a resource for the general public, enthusiastic amateurs, educators, students and professional scientists from around the world.[2]

Vision and mission

Encyclopedia of Life's vision is to provide global access to knowledge about life on Earth.

Biologist E. O. Wilson announced a "dream" that someone would fund the project during a TED speaking engagement in March 2007,[12] a yearly forum in which luminary speakers are given the opportunity to ask for a "dream prize". On 9 May 2007 that dream "came true" when the five cornerstone institutions and two foundations announced an initial 50 million dollar grant to get the project started.[13]

WorldHeritage and other existing online works served as an inspiration for the Encyclopedia of Life.[14] All content on the site is available under Creative Commons or other Open Access licenses.[15]

Resources and collaborations

The Encyclopedia of Life has hundreds of content partners around the world who share information through the EOL platform,[16] including WorldHeritage and Flickr.

Its interface is translated at

See also


  1. ^ " Site Info".  
  2. ^ a b "EOL History". 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  3. ^ Odling-Smee, Lucy (2007-05-09). "Encyclopedia of Life launched". Nature.  
  4. ^ Zimmer, Carl (2008-02-26). "The Encyclopedia of Life, No Bookshelf Required". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  5. ^ """Life Encyclopedia Debut Too Popular to Stay "Live. National Geographic. Associated Press. February 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  6. ^ "New Version of Encyclopedia of Life Now Available - Encyclopedia of Life". 2011-09-05. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "'"Scientists compile 'book of life. BBC News. 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  9. ^ "Meet the Team: Executive Committee". EOL. 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  10. ^ "Encyclopédie de la vie: Une arche de Noé virtuelle!". Radio-Canada. 9 May 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  11. ^ "New Version of the Encyclopedia of Life Now Available". 2011-09-05. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  12. ^ "E.O. Wilson: TED Prize wish: Help build the Encyclopedia of Life". Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED). 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  13. ^ "E. O. Wilson's Encyclopedia of Life gets over $50m in funding". BoingBoing. 9 May 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  14. ^ "Leading Scientists Announce Creation Of Encyclopedia Of Life". Science Daily. 2007-05-09.  Adapted from a Harvard University news release.
  15. ^ "Terms of use". Encyclopedia of Life. 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  16. ^ "EOL Content Partners". Retrieved 2012-03-23. 

External links

  • Official website
  • "'"A Leap for All Life: World's Leading Scientists Announce Creation of 'Encyclopedia of Life. Encyclopedia of Life. 2007-05-09. 
  • The Encyclopedia of Life - Introductory video on YouTube from May 2007.
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