DATE OF BIRTH: 10 September 1937, Boston
AWARDS AND COMMISSIONS
1997 – Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science
1998 – Pulitzer Prize
1999 – National Medal of Science
2006 – Royal Society Prize for Science Books
“Jared Diamond is simply one of the brightest people in the world,” says Harvard biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson about his friend and colleague.
Diamond is the world-famous biologist and award-winning author of such bestsellers as
. Boston-born Diamond currently lives in Los Angeles where he is a professor of geography and physiology at UCLA. Research, primarily on the bowerbird, has taken him to New Guinea many times. Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse
During interactions with primitive jungle peoples, Diamond asked himself what directs the success and failure of societies. Did people of extinct civilizations like the Aztecs and the Mayans simply move away and, if so, why? Or did they somehow become extinct as the result of a catastrophe? And most importantly, might such a fate eventually befall our own civilization?
“I’ve set myself the modest task of trying to explain the broad pattern of human history, on all the continents, for the last 13,000 years,” says Diamond, who speaks a dozen languages, including French, Finnish, Neo-Melanesian and a New Guinea dialect called Fore.
Diamond has identified eight possible reasons for societal collapse: deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems, water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, effects of introduced species on native species, population growth and an increased per-capita impact of people.
In addition, he says, there are four new factors of concern: human-caused climate change, buildup of toxins in the environment, energy shortages and full human utilization of the Earth. “I compare many past and present societies,” he says, “asking, ‘Which were the solutions to the survival of some societies that succeeded in the past?’ The answers could help identify at-risk societies and measures to prevent their collapse.” The 71-year-old finds inspiration in his twin sons to continue with his research and writing. “I don’t have a desire to become more famous,” he says, “but I would like to convince people to build a saner world.”