Peter Ward (paleontologist)

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Peter Douglas Ward
Born Seattle, United States of America
Residence U.S.
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Fields Paleontology, Biology, Astrobiology
Institutions University of Adelaide[1]
Known for work on the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event

Peter Douglas Ward (born 1949) is an American paleontologist and professor at Sprigg Institute of Geobiology at the University of Adelaide. He has written numerous popular science works for a general audience and is also an adviser to the Microbes Mind Forum.[2]

Life and work[edit]

His parents, Joseph and Ruth Ward, moved to Seattle following World War II. Ward grew up in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle, attending Franklin High School, and he spent time during summers at a family summer cabin on Orcas Island.[3]

Ward's academic career has included teaching posts and professional connections with Ohio State University, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the University of California, McMaster University (where he received his PhD in 1976), and the California Institute of Technology. He was elected as a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 1984.

Ward specializes in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, the Permian–Triassic extinction event,[3] and mass extinctions generally. He has published books on biodiversity and the fossil record. His 1992 book On Methuselah's Trail received a "Golden Trilobite Award" from the Paleontological Society as the best popular science book of the year. Ward also serves as an adjunct professor of zoology and astronomy.

His book The End Of Evolution was published in 1994. In it, he discussed in three parts, each about an extinction event on earth.

Ward is co-author, along with astronomer Donald Brownlee, of the best-selling Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe, published in 2000. In that work, the authors suggest that the universe is fundamentally hostile to advanced life, and that, while simple life might be abundant, the likelihood of widespread lifeforms as advanced as those on Earth is marginal. In 2001, his book Future Evolution was published, featuring illustrations by artist Alexis Rockman.[4][5]

Ward and Brownlee are also co-authors of the book The Life and Death of Planet Earth: How the New Science of Astrobiology Charts the Ultimate Fate of the World, which discusses the Earth's future and eventual demise as it is ultimately destroyed by a warming and expanding Sun. See also Future of the Earth.

According to Ward's 2007 book, Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future,[6] all but one of the major mass extinction events in history have been brought on by climate change. The author argues that events in the past can give valuable information about the future of our planet. Reviewer Doug Brown goes further, stating "this is how the world ends." Scientists at the Universities of York and Leeds also warn that the fossil record supports evidence of impending mass extinction.

Medea hypothesis[edit]

Main article: Medea hypothesis

The Medea hypothesis is a term coined by Ward for the anti-Gaian hypothesis that multicellular life, understood as a superorganism, is suicidal.[7][8][9] In 2009 Ward wrote a book about this hypothesis under the same name.

Appearances[edit]

Peter Ward was featured in the PBS's Evolution series (2001) to discuss the evidence for evolution in the geologic record and has appeared on NOVA scienceNOW. He was also one of the scientists on Animal Planet's Animal Armageddon (2009).

Selected works[edit]

  • In Search of Nautilus: Three Centuries of Scientific Adventures in the Deep Pacific to Capture a Prehistoric, Living Fossil (1988) ISBN 978-0-671-61951-0 OCLC 17840660
  • On Methuselah's Trail: Living Fossils and the Great Extinctions (1992) ISBN 978-0-7167-2488-9
  • The Call of Distant Mammoths: Why the Ice Age Mammals Disappeared (1997) ISBN 978-0-387-98572-5
  • Time Machines: Scientific Exploration of Deep Time (1998) ISBN 978-0-387-98416-2
  • Rivers in Time: the Search for Clues to Earth's Mass Extinctions (2000) ISBN 978-0-231-11862-0
  • Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe with Donald Brownlee (2000) ISBN 978-0-387-95289-5
  • Future Evolution: An Illuminated History of Life to Come (2001) ISBN 978-0-7167-3496-3
  • The Life and Death of Planet Earth: How the New Science of Astrobiology Charts the Ultimate Fate of Our World with Donald Brownlee (2003) ISBN 978-0-8050-7512-0
  • Gorgon: Obsession, Paleontology, and the Greatest Catastrophe in Earth's History (2004) ISBN 978-0-670-03094-1
  • Life as We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life (2005) ISBN 0-670-03458-4
  • Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth's Ancient Atmosphere (2006) ISBN 0-309-10061-5
  • Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future (2007) ISBN 978-0-06-113791-4
  • The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? (2009) ISBN 0-691-13075-2
  • The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps (2010) ISBN 978-0-465-00949-7

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Professor Peter Ward". http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/peter.ward. 
  2. ^ "Advisers, Microbe Mind Forum". 
  3. ^ a b Dietrich, William (2005-12-09). "Prophet, Populist, Poet of Science". Pacific Northwest Magazine. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  4. ^ Motluk, Alison (2002-01-29). ""Future Evolution" by Peter Ward". Salon. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  5. ^ "Anthropology Update/ Future Evolution". Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. 2002-03-22. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  6. ^ Ward, Peter Douglas (2007). Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future. New York: Smithsonian Books/Collins. OCLC 224875122. Lay summary (July/August 2007). "by Christopher Cokinos, Orion magazine" 
  7. ^ Bennett, Drake (January 11, 2009). "Dark green. A scientist argues that the natural world isn't benevolent and sustaining: it's bent on self-destruction". Boston Globe. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Peter Ward speaker profile". TED. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  9. ^ D'Arconte (February 10, 2009). "Is Mother Nature nuts?". The Sun Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  • The Science of Doom: Peter Ward takes on the great unknowns, Pacific Northwest magazine (Seattle Times), December 11, 2005, p. 12ff

External links[edit]