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Jared Diamond
Diamond in 2013
Jared Mason Diamond

(1937-09-10) September 10, 1937 (age 86)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysiology, biophysics, ornithology, environmental science, history, ecology, geography, evolutionary biology, and anthropology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Los Angeles
ThesisConcentrating activity of the gall-bladder (1961)

Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937)[1] is an American scientist, historian, and author. In 1985 he received a MacArthur Genius Grant, and he has written hundreds of scientific and popular articles and books. His best known is Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997), which received multiple awards including the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. In 2005, Diamond was ranked ninth on a poll by Prospect and Foreign Policy of the world's top 100 public intellectuals.[2]

Originally trained in biochemistry and physiology,[3] Diamond has published in many fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology.[4][5] In 1999, he received the National Medal of Science, an honor bestowed by the President of the United States and the National Science Foundation. As of 2024, he is a professor of geography at UCLA.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Diamond was born on September 10, 1937 in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were both Eastern European Jewish immigrants. His father, Louis Diamond, was a physician who emigrated from Chișinău in present-day Moldova, then known as Bessarabia. His mother, Flora née Kaplan, was a teacher, linguist, and concert pianist.[7][8] Diamond began studying piano at age six; years later, he would propose to his wife after playing Brahms' Intermezzo in A major for her.[9]

By the age of seven he developed an interest in birdwatching.[3] This became one of his major life passions and resulted in a number of works published in ornithology.[10]

He attended the Roxbury Latin School and studied biochemical sciences at Harvard College, graduating in 1958. He later studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated from Cambridge with a Ph.D. in 1961; his thesis was on the physiology and biophysics of membranes in the gallbladder.[6][11][12]


After graduation from Cambridge, Diamond returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow until 1965, and, in 1968, became a 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, which he began visiting from 1964.[3] Later, in his fifties, Diamond developed a third career in environmental history and became a professor of geography at UCLA, his current position.[12] He also teaches at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome.[13] He is a lecturer on the biodiversity management course at the European Institute of Innovation for Sustainability (EIIS) in Rome.[14] He won the National Medal of Science in 1999.[15] He has been invited to give two TED talks, "Why do societies collapse" (2008), and "How societies can grow old better (2013).[16]

Diamond originally specialized in salt absorption in the gall bladder.[11][17] He has also published scholarly works in the fields of ecology and ornithology,[18][19] but is arguably best known for authoring a number of popular science and history books combining topics from diverse fields other than those he has formally studied. Because of this academic diversity, Diamond has been described as a polymath.[20][21]

Selected popular works[edit]

Diamond has written scores of academic peer-reviewed articles for publications such as the scientific journal Nature. He has also written scores of popular science articles in publications such as Discover, as well as several bestselling popular books, notably The Third Chimpanzee (1991); Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize); Collapse (2005), The World Until Yesterday (2012), and Upheaval (2019). For a full list, see Jared Diamond bibliography § Books.

The Third Chimpanzee (1991)[edit]

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[22] and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.[23]

Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997)[edit]

Jared Diamond in San Francisco, 2007

His second and best known popular science book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, was published in 1997. It asks why Eurasian peoples conquered or displaced Native Americans, Australians, and Africans, instead of vice versa. It argues that this outcome was not due to genetic advantages of Eurasian peoples themselves but instead to features of the Eurasian continent, in particular, its high diversity of wild plant and animal species suitable for domestication and its east/west major axis that favored the spread of those domesticates, people, technologies—and diseases—for long distances with little change in latitude.[citation needed]

The first part of the book focuses on reasons why only a few species of wild plants and animals proved suitable for domestication. The second part discusses how local food production based on those domesticates led to the development of dense and stratified human populations, writing, centralized political organization, and epidemic infectious diseases. The third part compares the development of food production and of human societies among different continents and world regions. Guns, Germs, and Steel became an international best-seller, was translated into 33 languages, and received several awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, an Aventis Prize for Science Books[22] and the 1997 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science.[24] A television documentary series based on the book was produced by the National Geographic Society in 2005.[25][26]

The book is controversial among anthropologists.[27]

Why is Sex Fun? (1997)[edit]

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 menopause, and distinctive secondary sexual characteristics.[28]

Collapse (2005)[edit]

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.[29] Collapse was also nominated for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.[22] When it was nominated, Diamond was the only author to have won the award twice previously,[30] though he did not win a third time.

Fifteen archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, and historians from the American Anthropological Association criticized Diamond's methods and conclusions, working together with the larger association to publish the book Questioning Collapse as a counter to Diamond's claims.[31] In response, Diamond, as an editor at the time for the journal Nature, published an official review in the journal negatively covering the book,[32] without mentioning that the book was a critique of his own work. The authors and the publisher, Cambridge University Press, called out Diamond for his conflict of interest on the subject.[33][34]

"Vengeance is Ours" controversy (2008)[edit]

In 2008, Diamond published an article in The New Yorker entitled "Vengeance Is Ours",[35] 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.[36][37][38] In 2013, The Observer reported that the lawsuit "was withdrawn by mutual consent after the sudden death of their lawyer."[8]

Natural Experiments of History (2010)[edit]

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. The book's afterword classifies natural experiments, discusses the practical difficulties of studying them, and offers suggestions on how to address those difficulties.[39]

The World Until Yesterday (2012)[edit]

In The World Until Yesterday, published in 2012, Diamond 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.[citation needed]

Upheaval (2019)[edit]

In Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change Diamond examines whether nations can find lessons during crises in a way like people do. The nations considered are Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, Australia, and the U.S.[40] Diamond identifies four modern threats: nuclear weapons, climate change, limited resources, and extreme inequality.[41]

Anand Giridharadas, reviewing for The New York Times, claimed the book contained many factual inaccuracies.[42] Daniel Immerwahr, reviewing for The New Republic, reports that Diamond has "jettisoned statistical analysis" and the associated rigour, even by the standards of his earlier books, which have themselves sometimes been challenged on this basis.[43]

Personal life[edit]

Diamond is married to Marie Cohen, granddaughter of Polish politician Edward Werner. They have twin sons, born in 1987.[6] Although Diamond is a non practicing Jew and has described religion as irrational, [44]he and his wife attend High Holiday services.[45]


While Diamond's writings have received considerable praise,[27] they are controversial among anthropologists, with his argumentation having been described as "shallow", with criticism suggesting that Diamond overemphasises the importance of environmental factors like geography and climate over other influences.[27][46][47]

Selected memberships[edit]

Selected honors[edit]

Eastern long-beaked echidna Zaglossus bartoni diamondi was named in honor of Jared Diamond,[60] as was the frog Austrochaperina adamantina.[61]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • 1992: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (ISBN 0-06-098403-1-)
  • 1993: "Ten Thousand Years of Solitude" Discover Magazine; March 1993
  • 1997: Why Is Sex Fun? (ISBN 0-465-03127-7)
  • 1997: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (ISBN 978-0-099-30278-0). Also published with the title Guns, germs and steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years (ISBN 978-0099302780)
  • 2005: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (ISBN 978-0241958681)
  • 2010: Natural Experiments of History, with James A. Robinson (ISBN 0-674-03557-7)
  • 2012: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (ISBN 978-0141024486)
  • 2015: The Third Chimpanzee for Young People: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (ISBN 9781609806118)
  • 2019: Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change (ISBN 978-0316409131)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Man Who Knows Too Much".
  2. ^ "Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals Results". Foreign Policy. October 15, 2005. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c Diamond, Jared (2005). Collapse. Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-14-303655-5.
  4. ^ Rothenberg, Randall (July 1, 2001). "Jared Diamond: The Thought Leader Interview". strategy+business. Booz & Company. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  5. ^ Anthony, Andrew (April 21, 2019). "Jared Diamond: So how do states recover from crises? Same way as people do". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c Al-Khalili, Jim (December 4, 2012). "Jared Diamond". The Life Scientific; "Jared Diamond". Discovery. January 12, 2013.
  7. ^ "Jared Diamond: 'Humans, 150,000 years ago, wouldn't figure on a list of the five most interesting species on Earth' | Jared Diamond | the Guardian".
  8. ^ a b McKie, Robin (January 5, 2013). "Jared Diamond: what we can learn from tribal life". The Observer. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  9. ^ Berkeley, Michael (March 3, 2013). "Jared Diamond". Private Passions.
  10. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Diamond, Jared (2001). The Birds of Northern Melanesia. Color Plates by H. Douglas Pratt. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514170-2.
  11. ^ a b Diamond, Jared Mason (1961). Concentrating activity of the gall-bladder (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  12. ^ a b c "The Prizewinner 1998". International Cosmos Prize. Expo '90 Foundation. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  13. ^ "Geografia Politica". LUISS Guido Carli. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  14. ^ "Manager della Biodiversità". eiis.eu. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  15. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details". National Science Foundation. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  16. ^ "Jared Diamond, Civilization Scholar". TED. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  17. ^ "Understanding History With 'Guns, Germs, And Steel'". NPR. September 8, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  18. ^ Symes, C. T.; Hughes, J. C.; Mack, A. L.; Marsden, S. J. (January 2006). "Geophagy in birds of Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Papua New Guinea". Journal of Zoology. 268 (1): 87–96. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2005.00002.x. ISSN 0952-8369.
  19. ^ Diamond, Jared; Bishop, K. David; Gilardi, James D. (June 2008). "Geophagy in New Guinea birds". Ibis. 141 (2): 181–193. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1999.tb07540.x.
  20. ^ "Human Stars". The Animal Attraction. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on May 7, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  21. ^ "Rapa Nui déjà vu". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  22. ^ a b c d e f "Prize for Science Books previous winners and shortlists". Royal Society. Archived from the original on June 11, 2008. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  23. ^ "Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winners: Science & Technology". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2002. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
  24. ^ "1997 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award". The Phi Beta Kappa Society. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  25. ^ Lovgren, Stefan (July 6, 2005). "'Guns, Germs and Steel': Jared Diamond on Geography as Power". Science. National Geographic. Archived from the original on March 4, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  26. ^ "Guns Germs & Steel: The Show. Overview". PBS. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  27. ^ a b c Jaschik, Scott (August 2, 2005). "'Guns, Germs, and Steel' Reconsidered". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved June 17, 2024.
  28. ^ Diamond, Jared (1997). Why Is Sex Fun?. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03127-6.
  29. ^ "Perspectives on Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed". Current Anthropology. 46 (S5): S91–S99. 2005. doi:10.1086/497663. ISSN 0011-3204. JSTOR 10.1086/497663.
  30. ^ Pauli, Michelle (April 13, 2006). "Diamond in the running for Aventis hat-trick". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  31. ^ Flexner, James L. (December 2011). "Asia General, Book Reviews: QUESTIONING COLLAPSE: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire". Pacific Affairs. 84 (4): 740. Retrieved September 3, 2022.
  32. ^ Diamond, Jared (February 2010). "Two views of collapse". Nature. 463 (7283): 880–881. Bibcode:2010Natur.463..880D. doi:10.1038/463880a. S2CID 41340630.
  33. ^ "Puttin' the Objective in Objectivity". Fifteen Eighty Four. Cambridge University Press. March 8, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  34. ^ Smith, Sydney (March 23, 2010). "Cambridge U Press backs authors against Jared Diamond's Nature review". iMediaEthics. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  35. ^ Diamond, Jared (April 14, 2008). "Vengeance Is Ours". The New Yorker.
  36. ^ Balter, Michael (May 2009). "'Vengeance' Bites Back at Jared Diamond". Science. 324 (5929): 872–874. doi:10.1126/science.324_872. JSTOR 20493922. PMID 19443760.
  37. ^ Maull, Samuel (April 22, 2009). "Author Jared Diamond sued for libel". The Huffington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  38. ^ Smillie, Dirk (October 19, 2009). "Fresh Legal Jab At 'The New Yorker'". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  39. ^ Diamond, Jared; Robinson, James A., eds. (2010). Natural Experiments of History. Belknap Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctvjghwf6. ISBN 978-0-674-06019-7. JSTOR j.ctvjghwf6.
  40. ^ Hughes, Ian (May 11, 2019). "Upheaval review: How countries seldom learn from their past". The Irish Times. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  41. ^ Martindale, David (May 9, 2019). "Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond to discuss new book, 'Upheaval,' in Dallas". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  42. ^ Giridharadas, Anand (May 17, 2019). "What to Do When You're a Country in Crisis". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  43. ^ Immerwahr, Daniel (June 11, 2019). "All Over the Map". The New Republic. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  44. ^ "Jared Diamond: It's irrational to be religious". January 13, 2013.
  45. ^ https://www.timesofisrael.com/ancient-culture-clash-brings-diamond-into-the-rough/amp/
  46. ^ Davis, Wade (January 9, 2013). "The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 17, 2024.
  47. ^ King, Barbara J. (January 17, 2013). "Why Does Jared Diamond Make Anthropologists So Mad?". NPR.
  48. ^ "Editorial Board". Skeptic. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  49. ^ "Jared Mason Diamond". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  50. ^ "Jared M. Diamond". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  51. ^ "Jared Mason Diamond". American Philosophical Society (Search results). Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  52. ^ "Leadership". World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  53. ^ "Tanner lecturer will present on Tuesday". SUU News. Southern Utah University. March 4, 2012. Archived from the original on September 8, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  54. ^ "Jared Diamond, Geographer, Explorer-in-Residence". National Geographic. Archived from the original on December 24, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  55. ^ "The 1998 Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Nonfiction". pulitzerprize.org. 1998. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  56. ^ Schmidt, Elaine (January 30, 2000). "UCLA Physiologist Dr. Jared Diamond Wins National Medal of Science". UCLA Newsroom. Archived from the original on October 13, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  57. ^ Jared Diamond is awarded by the Academy of Finland, archived from the original on October 5, 2015
  58. ^ "Honorary Fellows". Trinity College. 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  59. ^ Shmulovich, Michal (January 2, 2013). "Seven scientists and an architect to be awarded Israel's prestigious Wolf Prize". The Times of Israel. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  60. ^ Flannery, T.F. & Groves, C.P. (1998). "A revision of the genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with description of new species and subspecies". Mammalia. 62 (3): 367–396. doi:10.1515/mamm.1998.62.3.367. S2CID 84750399.
  61. ^ Zweifel, R. G. (2000). "Partition of the Australopapuan microhylid frog genus Sphenophryne with descriptions of new species". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 253: 1–130. doi:10.1206/0003-0090(2000)253<0001:POTAMF>2.0.CO;2. hdl:2246/1600. S2CID 85621508.

External links[edit]