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Jared Diamond

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Subject: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Anarcho-primitivism, Wolf Prize in Agriculture, Environmental determinism, Royal Society Prizes for Science Books
Collection: 1937 Births, 20Th-Century American Writers, 21St-Century American Writers, Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge, American Biologists, American Geographers, American People of Moldovan-Jewish Descent, American Science Writers, American Skeptics, Evolutionary Biologists, Guggenheim Fellows, Harvard University Alumni, Human Evolution Theorists, Jewish American Scientists, Jewish American Social Scientists, Jewish American Writers, Living People, MacArthur Fellows, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, National Medal of Science Laureates, Non-Fiction Environmental Writers, People from Boston, Massachusetts, Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction Winners, Theorists on Western Civilization, University of California, Los Angeles Faculty, Wolf Prize in Agriculture Laureates, Writers from Boston, Massachusetts, Writers from California
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Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond
Born Jared Mason Diamond
(1937-09-10) September 10, 1937
Boston, Massachusetts
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)
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. As of 2013, he is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles.[1][2]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Works 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Selected bibliography 5
  • Boards 6
  • Awards and honors 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life and education

Diamond was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Both of his parents were from East European Jewish families who had emigrated to the United States.[3] His father, Louis K. Diamond, was a physician, and his mother, Flora Kaplan, a teacher, linguist, and concert pianist. 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.[4] He attended the Roxbury Latin School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and history from Harvard College in 1958 and a PhD on the physiology and biophysics of membranes in the gall bladder from Trinity College, University of Cambridge in 1961.[1][5]


After graduating from Cambridge, Diamond returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow until 1965, and, in 1968, became 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 Professor of Geography at UCLA, his current position.[6] He also teaches at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome. [7] He won the National Medal of Science in 1999[8] and Westfield State University granted him an honorary doctorate in 2009.

Diamond originally specialized in salt absorption in the gall bladder.[5][9] He has also published scholarly works in the fields of ecology and ornithology,[10] 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 diversity Diamond has been described as a polymath.[11][12]


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[13] and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.[14]

His second and best known popular science book, Pulitzer Prize, an Aventis Prize for Science Books[13] and the 1997 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science.[15] A television documentary series based on the book was produced by the National Geographic Society in 2005.[16][17]

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.[18][19] It was also nominated for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.[13]

In 2008, Diamond published an article in The New Yorker entitled Vengeance Is Ours,[20] 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.[21][22][23] In 2013, The Observer reported that the lawsuit "was withdrawn by mutual consent after the sudden death of their lawyer."[3]

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.[24]

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.

Personal life

Diamond is married to Marie Cohen, granddaughter of Polish politician Edward Werner. They have twin sons, born in 1987.[25]

Selected bibliography


Awards and honors

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Jared Diamond in conversation with Michael Berkeley on the BBC Radio 3 program Private Passions (broadcast 3 March 2013)
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ Geografia politica | LUISS Guido Carli
  8. ^ National Science Foundation – The President's National Medal of Science
  9. ^ Radio interview by NPR
  10. ^
  11. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e f
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ (subscription required)
  19. ^ McAnany, P.A. & Yoffee, N. (Eds) (2010). Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire. Cambridge University Press.
  20. ^ (subscription required)
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ , broadcast 4/12/2012The Life ScientificRadio interview with Jim Al-Khalili, BBC Radio 4, series
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^

External links

  • Personal website
  • Diamond's page at the UCLA Department of Geography
  • UCLA Spotlight – Jared Diamond
  • Jared Diamond with bio, conversations, podcasts at The Third Culture, (Edge Foundation)
  • Jared Diamond at TED
    • Jared Diamond: Why do societies collapse? (TED2003)
    • Jared Diamond: How societies can grow old better (TED2013)
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, April 2007
  • The Evolution of Religions on YouTube at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California
  • PBS – Guns, Germs and Steel at PBS (with full transcripts)
  • What can we learn from traditional societies? at Royal Institution, October 2013
  • Hammer Conversation with Jared Diamond and John Long, Hammer Museum, March 16, 2010
  • Interview with Charlie Rose
  • Natural Experiments of HistoryInterview with Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson about at New Books in History
  • Jared Diamond at the Internet Movie Database
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