Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond
Born Jared Mason Diamond
(1937-09-10) September 10, 1937
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Residence United States
Citizenship American
Fields Physiology, biophysics, ornithology, environmentalism, history, ecology, geography, evolutionary biology and anthropology
Institutions University of California, Los Angeles
Alma mater
Thesis Concentrating activity of the gall-bladder (1961)
Influenced Yuval Noah Harari
Notable awards
Jared Diamond in London, February 2013

Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee (1991); Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize); Collapse (2005); and The World Until Yesterday (2012). Originally trained in physiology, Diamond is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography and evolutionary biology. He is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles.[1][2]

In 2005, Diamond was ranked ninth on a poll by Prospect and Foreign Policy of the world's top 100 public intellectuals.[3]

Early life and education

Diamond was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. Both of his parents were from East European Jewish families who had emigrated to the United States. His father, Louis Diamond, was a physician, and his mother, Flora Kaplan, a teacher, linguist, and concert pianist.[4] Diamond himself began studying piano at age six; years later he would propose to his wife after playing the Brahms Intermezzo in A minor for her.[5] He attended the Roxbury Latin School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and history from Harvard College in 1958 and a doctorate on the physiology and biophysics of membranes in the gall bladder from Trinity College, University of Cambridge in 1961.[1][6]


After graduating from Cambridge, Diamond returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow until 1965, and, in 1968, became a professor of physiology at UCLA Medical School. While in his twenties he developed a second, parallel, career in ornithology and ecology, specialising in New Guinea and nearby islands. Later, in his fifties, Diamond developed a third career in environmental history and became a professor of geography at UCLA, his current position.[7] He also teaches at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome.[8] He won the National Medal of Science in 1999[9] and Westfield State University granted him an honorary doctorate in 2009.

Diamond originally specialized in salt absorption in the gall bladder.[6][10] He has also published scholarly works in the fields of ecology and ornithology,[11] but is arguably best known for authoring a number of popular-science books combining topics from diverse fields other than those he has formally studied. Because of this academic diversity, Diamond has been described as a polymath.[12][13]


Diamond's first popular book, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1991), examines human evolution and its relevance to the modern world, incorporating evidence from anthropology, evolutionary biology, genetics, ecology, and linguistics. The book traces how humans evolved to be so different from other animals, despite sharing over 98% of our DNA with our closest animal relatives, the chimpanzees. The book also examines the animal origins of language, art, agriculture, smoking and drug use, and other apparently uniquely human attributes. It was well received by critics and won the 1992 Rhône-Poulenc Prize for Science Books[14] and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.[15]

His second and best known popular science book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, was published in 1997. It asks why Eurasian peoples conquered or displaced Native Americans, Australians, and Africans, instead of vice versa. It argues that this outcome was not due to biological advantages of Eurasian peoples themselves but instead to features of the Eurasian continent, in particular, its high diversity of wild plant and animal species suitable for domestication and its east/west major axis that favored the spread of those domesticates, people, and technologies for long distances with little change in latitude. The first part of the book focuses on reasons why only a few species of wild plants and animals proved suitable for domestication. The second part discusses how local food production based on those domesticates led to the development of dense and stratified human populations, writing, centralized political organization, and epidemic infectious diseases. The third part compares the development of food production and of human societies among different continents and world regions. Guns, Germs, and Steel became an international best-seller, was translated into 33 languages, and received several awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, an Aventis Prize for Science Books[14] and the 1997 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science.[16] A television documentary series based on the book was produced by the National Geographic Society in 2005.[17][18]

In his third book, Why is Sex Fun?, also published in 1997, Diamond discusses evolutionary factors underlying features of human sexuality that are generally taken for granted but that are highly unusual among our animal relatives. Those features include a long-term pair relationship (marriage), coexistence of economically cooperating pairs within a shared communal territory, provision of parental care by fathers as well as by mothers, having sex in private rather than in public, concealed ovulation, female sexual receptivity encompassing most of the menstrual cycle (including days of infertility), female but not male menopause, and distinctive secondary sexual characteristics.

Diamond's next book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, published in 2005, examines a range of past societies in an attempt to identify why they either collapsed or continued to thrive and considers what contemporary societies can learn from these historical examples. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, he argues against explanations for the failure of past societies based primarily on cultural factors, instead focusing on ecology. Among the societies mentioned in the book are the Norse and Inuit of Greenland, the Maya, the Anasazi, the indigenous people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Japan, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and modern Montana. The book concludes by asking why some societies make disastrous decisions, how big businesses affect the environment, what our principal environmental problems are today, and what individuals can do about those problems. Like Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse was translated into dozens of languages, became an international best-seller, and was the basis of a television documentary produced by the National Geographic Society.[19][20] It was also nominated for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.[14]

In 2008, Diamond published an article in The New Yorker entitled "Vengeance Is Ours",[21] describing the role of revenge in tribal warfare in Papua New Guinea. A year later two indigenous people mentioned in the article filed a lawsuit against Diamond and The New Yorker claiming the article defamed them.[22][23][24] In 2013, The Observer reported that the lawsuit "was withdrawn by mutual consent after the sudden death of their lawyer."[4]

In 2010, Diamond co-edited (with James Robinson) Natural Experiments of History, a collection of seven case studies illustrating the multidisciplinary and comparative approach to the study of history that he advocates. The book’s title stems from the fact that it is not possible to study history by the preferred methods of the laboratory sciences, i.e., by controlled experiments comparing replicated human societies as if they were test tubes of bacteria. Instead, one must look at natural experiments in which human societies that are similar in many respects have been historically perturbed, either by different starting conditions or by different impacts. The book’s afterword classifies natural experiments, discusses the practical difficulties of studying them, and offers suggestions how to address those difficulties.[25]

Diamond's most recent book, The World Until Yesterday, published in 2012, asks what the western world can learn from traditional societies. It surveys 39 traditional small-scale societies of farmers and hunter-gatherers with respect to how they deal with universal human problems. The problems discussed include dividing space, resolving disputes, bringing up children, treatment of elders, dealing with dangers, formulating religions, learning multiple languages, and remaining healthy. The book suggests that some practices of traditional societies could be usefully adopted in the modern industrial world today, either by individuals or else by society as a whole.


At the end of his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond wrote:

People who get depressed at such thoughts [big global environmental problems] often then ask me, "Jared, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the world’s future?" I answer, "I am a cautious optimist." By that, I mean that, on the one hand, I acknowledge the seriousness of the problems facing us. If we don’t make a determined effort to solve them, and if we don’t succeed at that effort, the world as a whole within the next few decades will face a declining standard of living, or perhaps something worse. That’s the reason why I decided to devote most of my career efforts at this stage of my life to convincing people that our problems have to be taken seriously and won’t go away otherwise. On the other hand, we shall be able to solve our problems – if we choose to do so.[26]

Personal life

Diamond is married to Marie Cohen, granddaughter of Polish politician Edward Werner. They have twin sons, born in 1987.[27]


Awards and honors

Selected bibliography

See also


  1. 1 2 "Jim Al-Khalili talks to Jared Diamond about his journey from the gall bladder to global history via a passion for the birds of Papua New Guinea.". Retrieved 2012-12-19.
  2. List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  3. "Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals Results". October 15, 2005. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  4. 1 2 McKie, Robin (January 5, 2013). "Jared Diamond: what we can learn from tribal life". The Observer. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  5. Jared Diamond in conversation with Michael Berkeley on the BBC Radio 3 program Private Passions (broadcast 3 March 2013)
  6. 1 2 Diamond, Jared (1961). Concentrating activity of the gall-bladder (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  7. 1 2 "The Prize Winner, 1998". Expo-Cosmos. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
  8. Geografia politica | LUISS Guido Carli
  9. National Science Foundation – The President's National Medal of Science
  10. Radio interview by NPR
  11. Diamond, J.; Bishop, K. D.; Gilardi, J. D. (2008). "Geophagy in New Guinea birds". Ibis. 141 (2): 181. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1999.tb07540.x.
  12. http://www.abc.net.au/animals/human_stars.htm Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  13. "Rapa Nui déjà vu". The Economist. October 8, 2009.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Prize for Science Books previous winners and shortlists". Royal Society. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
  15. 1 2 "Los Angeles Times Festival of Books – Book Prizes – Winners by Award (science)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
  16. "1997 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award". Phi Beta Kappa. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  17. Lovgren, Stefan (6 July 2005). "'Guns, Germs and Steel': Jared Diamond on Geography as Power". National Geographic News. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  18. "Guns, Germs & Steel: The Show". PBS. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  19. Demenocal, Peter B.; Cook, Edward R., eds. (December 2005). "Perspectives on Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed". Current Anthropology. CA Forum on Anthropology in Public. 46 (supplement): S91–S99. doi:10.2307/3597146 (inactive 2016-06-17). ISSN 0011-3204. JSTOR 3597146.(subscription required)
  20. McAnany, P.A. & Yoffee, N. (Eds) (2010). Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire. Cambridge University Press.
  21. Diamond, Jared (2008-04-21). "Vengeance Is Ours". Annals of Anthropology. p. 74.(subscription required)
  22. Balter, M. (2009). "'Vengeance' Bites Back at Jared Diamond". Science. 324 (5929): 872–874. doi:10.1126/science.324_872. PMID 19443760.
  23. Maull, Samuel (April 22, 2009). "Author Jared Diamond sued for libel". AP News. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
  24. Smillie, Dirk (19 October 2009). "Fresh Legal Jab At 'The New Yorker'". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  25. "Natural Experiments of History – Jared Diamond, James A. Robinson". Harvard University Press. Retrieved September 18, 2010.
  26. Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, chapter "The world as a polder: what does it all mean to us today?", section "Reasons for hope", Penguin Books, 2005 and 2011, page 521 (ISBN 978-0-241-95868-1).
  27. Radio interview with Jim Al-Khalili, BBC Radio 4, series The Life Scientific, broadcast 4/12/2012
  28. "Distinguished Achievement Award". gastro.org. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  29. 1 2 "Jared Diamond, Geographer, Explorer-in-Residence". National Geographic. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  30. "Carr is honored for activities". Gainesville Sun. April 5, 1989. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  31. "Tanner lecturer will present on Tuesday". SUU News. Southern Utah University. March 4, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  32. "The 1998 Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Nonfiction". pulitzerprize.org. 1998. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  33. "Previous awardees". aou.org. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  34. Schmidt, Elaine (January 30, 2000). "UCLA Physiologist Dr. Jared Diamond Wins National Medal of Science". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  35. Jared Diamond is awarded by the Academy of Finland
  36. "Honorary Fellows". Trinity College. 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  37. Shmulovich, Michal (2 January 2013). "Seven scientists and an architect to be awarded Israel's prestigious Wolf Prize". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jared Diamond.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Jared Diamond
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/21/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.