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Jared Mason Diamond (born 10 September, 1937) is an American evolutionary biologist, physiologist, biogeographer and nonfiction author. He is best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997). He also received the National Medal of Science in 1999.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Diamond was born in Boston of Polish-Jewish heritage, to a physician father and a teacher/musician/linguist mother. After attending The Roxbury Latin School, he earned a BA degree from Harvard in 1958 and his PhD in physiology and membrane biophysics from Cambridge University in 1961. During 1962-1966, he returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow. He became a professor of physiology at UCLA Medical School in 1966. While in his twenties, he also developed a second, parallel, career in the ecology and evolution of New Guinea birds, and has since led numerous trips to explore New Guinea and nearby islands. In his fifties, Diamond gradually developed a third career in environmental history, becoming a professor of geography and of environmental health sciences at UCLA, his current position.
Works[edit | edit source]
His best-known work is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997), which asserts that the main international issues of our time are legacies of processes that began during the early-modern period, in which civilizations that had experienced an extensive amount of "human development" began to intrude upon simpler civilizations around the world. Diamond's quest is to explain why such advanced colonial civilizations developed only in Eurasia, and to do so in ways that do not appeal to ethnocentric myths, but do away with them. He claims that ecological factors account for the development of civilizations and technologies, and fills the book with examples throughout history. He identifies the main processes and factors of civilizational development that were present in Eurasia, from the origin of human beings in Africa to the proliferation of agriculture and technology. He posits, for instance, that agricultural development and complexity are a function of climate. Ultimately, the explanation does not center on humanity itself, but rather the resources at human disposal relative to geography, climate, and the availability of food and shelter.
In his most recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), Diamond examines what caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin and considers what contemporary society can learn from their fates. As in Guns, Germs and Steel, he dismantles previous ethnocentric explanations for the collapse of the civilizations he discusses, and focuses on ecological factors. He pays particular attention to the Norse settlements in Greenland, which vanished as the climate got colder, while the surrounding Inuit culture thrived. He also has chapters on the collapse of the Maya civilizationAnasazi]], and Easter Island civilizations, among others. He cites five factors that often contributed to a collapse, but shows how the one factor that all had in common was mismanagement of natural resources. He follows this with chapters on prospering civilizations that managed their resources very well, such as Tikopia Island and Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Books[edit | edit source]
- (2005) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-03337-5.
- Guns, Germs, and Steel Reader's Companion (2003), ISBN 1-58663-863-7.
- (1997) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, New York: W.W. Norton & Co.. ISBN 0-393-31755-2.
- Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1997), ISBN 0-465-03127-7.
- The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1992), ISBN 0-06-098403-1.
- The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology, & Biogeography (with Ernst Mayr, 2001), ISBN 0-19-514170-9.
- Avifauna of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, No. 12, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 438 (1972).
Articles[edit | edit source]
- Japanese Roots (June 1998) Discover
- Curse and Blessing of the Ghetto (March 1991) Discover, pp.60-66
- The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race (May 1987) Discover pp. 64-66
- Ethnic differences. Variation in human testis size. (April 1986) Nature 320(6062):488-489 PubMed.
- Island Biogeography and the Design of Natural Reserves (1976), in Robert M. May's Theoretical Ecology: Principles and Applications, Blackwell Scientific Publications, pp. 163-186.
Miscellany[edit | edit source]
- Diamond speaks a dozen languages, and his books rely on fields as diverse as molecular biology and archaeology, as well as knowledge about typewriter design and feudal Japan. Because of his broad expertise and the large number of articles credited to him, Mark Ridley, the zoologist has suggested jokingly that Jared Diamond is not a single person, but instead "is really a committee".
- Diamond is on the editorial board of Skeptic Magazine, a publication of The Skeptics Society. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences.
- Diamond is US regional director of the World Wildlife Fund. He was the recipient of the 1998 International Cosmos Prize.
- Diamond's wife, Marie, is a granddaughter of Edward Werner, Polish vice-Finance Minister (pre-World War II|WWII). She is also a great-grandniece of Saint Raphael Kalinowski. 
- He has two sons, twins Josh and Max Diamond, who attend Duke University and Northwestern University respectively.
[edit | edit source]
- Diamond's page at UCLA department of geography
- Diamond's page at the UCLA school of medicine
- Diamond biography at The Edge
- EvoWiki: Jared Diamond
- Diamond's page at thelavinagency.com
- "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race"
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