“Steve just continued to grow and grow, taking on bigger and deeper issues. He was a marvelous scholar, a marvelous teacher, and a marvelous person.”
— James "Gus" Speth, former F&ES Dean
After completing a Ph.D. in sociology at Yale, Kellert joined F&ES in 1977 as a senior research associate and lecturer. Three years later he became an associate professor, and in 1988 he was promoted to professor. During his tenure at the School he also served as director of admissions, chairman of the budget committee, and associate dean.
During the 1980s he helped develop an emerging theory known as “biophilia,” a term coined by biologist and environmental theorist Edward O. Wilson, which describes humanity’s innate connection with the natural world. Together they elucidated the ideas and concepts of biophilia in a series of articles and books, including the seminal “The Biophilia Hypothesis.”
As Kellert described it, the theory of biophilia asserts that human dependence on nature goes far beyond our reliance upon material and physical sustenance. This dependence, he wrote in 1993, includes “a human craving for aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual meaning and satisfaction.” This intrinsic connection, forged during our evolutionary development, plays a central role in our capacities to think, feel, communicate, create, and find meaning in life.