Jared Mason Diamond (b. 10 September, 1937) is an American evolutionary biologist, physiologist, biogeographer, lecturer, and nonfiction author. Diamond works as a professor of geography and physiology at UCLA. He is best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel (1998), which also won the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science. He received the National Medal of Science in 1999.
Diamond was born in Boston
heritage, to a physician
father and a teacher/musician/linguist mother. After attending the Roxbury Latin School
, he earned an A.B. degree from Harvard College
in 1958 and his Ph.D.
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.
Diamond is the author of a number of popular science
works that combine anthropology
, and history
His best-known work is the non-fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel (1998), 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 technologically less advanced civilizations around the world. Diamond's quest is to explain why Eurasian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others, while refuting the belief that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, genetic, or moral superiority. Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies do not reflect cultural or racial differences, but rather originate in environmental differences powerfully amplified by various positive feedback loops, 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.
In his following book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), Diamond examines a range of past civilizations and societies, attempting to identify why they collapsed into ruins or survived only in a massively reduced form. He considers what contemporary societies can learn from these societal collapses. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, he argues against ethnocentric explanations for the collapses which he discusses, and focuses instead 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, Anasazi, and Easter Island civilizations, among others. He cites five factors that often contribute 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.
In Collapse, Diamond distances himself from the charges of "ecological or environmental determinism" that were leveled against him in Guns, Germs, and Steel This is particularly evident in his chapter comparing Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two nations that share the same island (and similar environments) but which pursued notably different futures, primarily on the strength of their differing histories, cultures, and leaders.
- 1972 Avifauna of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, No. 12, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 438.
- 1975 M. L. Cody and J. M. Diamond, eds. Ecology and Evolution of Communities Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
- 1979 J. M. Diamond and M. LeCroy. Birds of Karkar and Bagabag Islands, New Guinea. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 164:469-531
- 1984 J. M. Diamond. The Avifaunas of Rennell and Bellona Islands. The Natural History of Rennell Islands, British Solomon Islands 8:127-168
- 1986 J. M. Diamond and T. J. Case. eds. Community Ecology. Harper and Row, New York
- 1986 B. Beehler, T. Pratt, D. Zimmerman, H. Bell, B. Finch, J. M. Diamond, and J. Coe. Birds of New Guinea. Princeton University Press,Princeton
- 1992 The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal, ISBN 0-060-98403-1
- 1997 Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality, ISBN 0-465-03127-7
- 1997 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-06131-0
- 2001 The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology, & Biogeography (with Ernst Mayr), ISBN 0-195-14170-9
- 2003 Guns, Germs, and Steel Reader's Companion, ISBN 1-586-63863-7.
- 2005 Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Books. ISBN 1-586-63863-7.
- 2006 [re-release] The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-060-84550-3.
- A three part, three hour 2005 PBS documentary called Guns, Germs and Steel based on his 1997 book of the same name originally aired between July 11-25, 2005.
Awards & Honors
- 1961-1965 Prize Fellowship in Physiology, Trinity College, Cambridge, England
- 1968-1971 Lederle Medical Faculty Award
- 1972 Distinguished Teaching Award, UCLA Medical Class
- 1973 Distinguished Teaching Award, UCLA Medical Class
- 1975 Distinguished Achievement Award, American Gastroenterological Association
- 1976 Kaiser Permanente/Golden Apple Teaching Award
- 1976 Nathaniel Bowditch Prize, American Physiological Society
- 1978 American Ornithologists Union, elected fellow
- 1979 Franklin L. Burr Award, National Geographic Society
- 1985 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant
- 1989 Archie Carr Medal
- 1990 MacArthur Foundation Fellow
- 1992 Tanner Lecturer, University of Utah and many other endowed lectureships
- 1992 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books (Rhone-Poulenc Prize)
- 1992 Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize
- 1993 Zoological Society of San Diego Conservation Medal
- 1994 Skeptics Society, Randi Award
- 1995 Honorary doctor of literature, Sejong University, Korea
- 1996 Faculty Research Lecturer, UCLA
- 1997 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Prize
- 1998 Pulitzer Prize
- 1998 Elliott Coues Award, American Ornithologists' Union
- 1998 California Book Awards, Gold Medal in nonfiction
- 1998 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books (Rhone-Poulenc Prize)
- 1999 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction
- 2001 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
- 2002 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science
- 2006 Dickson Prize in Science
- Diamond speaks a dozen languages, listed in the order learned: English, Latin, French, Greek, German, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, Fore (a New Guinea language), New Melanesian, Indonesian, and Italian.
- Diamond's books rely on fields as diverse as molecular biology, linguistics, physiology, and archeology, 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 has suggested jokingly that Jared Diamond is not a single person, but instead "is really a committee."