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Jared Mason Diamond (born 10 September 1937) is an American scientist and nonfiction author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLAmarker. He is best known for the award-winning popular science books The Third Chimpanzee; Guns, Germs, and Steel; and Collapse.


Diamond was born in Bostonmarker, Massachusettsmarker, to a Polish-Jewish family. His father was the physician Louis K. Diamond, and his mother a teacher, musician, and linguist. He attended the Roxbury Latin School, earning his A.B. degree from Harvard Collegemarker in 1958, and his Ph.D. in physiology and membrane biophysics from the University of Cambridgemarker in 1961. After graduating from Cambridge, he 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 also developed a second, parallel, career in the ornithology of New Guineamarker, and has since undertaken numerous research projects in New Guinea and nearby islands. In his fifties, Diamond gradually developed a third career in environmental history, and become a Professor of Geography at UCLA, his current position. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Westfield State College in 2009.

He is married to Marie Diamond (née Marie Nabel Cohen), granddaughter of Polishmarker politician Edward Werner, and has two adult sons named Josh and Max Diamond. In 1999, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. His sister Susan Diamond is a successful novelist. Her book What Goes Around has sold many copies.

Diamond speaks a dozen languages, listed in the order learned: English, Latin, French, Greek, German, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, Fore (a New Guinea language), Neo Melanesian, Indonesian, and Italian.


As well as scholarly books and articles in the fields of ecology and ornithology, Diamond is the author of a number of popular science books, which are known for combining sources from a variety of fields other than those he has formally studied.

The first of these, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1991), examined human evolution and its relevance to the modern world, incorporating insights from anthropology, evolutionary biology, genetics, ecology, and linguistics. It was well-received by critics, and won the 1992 Rhône-Poulenc Prize for Science Books and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 1997, he followed this up with Why is Sex Fun?, which focused in on the evolution of human sexuality, again borrowing from anthropology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.

His third and best known popular science book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, was published in 1997. In it, Diamond seeks to explain Eurasian hegemony throughout history. Using evidence from ecology, archaeology, genetics, linguistics, and various historical case studies, he 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. As a result, the geography of the Eurasian landmass gave its human inhabitants an inherent advantage over the societies on other continents, which they were able to dominate or conquer. Although certain examples in the book, and its alleged environmental determinism, have been criticised, it became a best-seller, and received numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, an Aventis Prize for Science Books (Diamond's second), and the 1997 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science. A television documentary based on the book was produced by the National Geographic Societymarker in 2005.

Diamond's most recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), examines a range of past civilizations in an attempt to identify why they either collapsed or succeeded, and considers what contemporary societies can learn from these historical examples. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, he argues against traditional culture-historical explanations for the failure of past societies, and instead focuses on ecological factors. Among the societies he considers are the Norse and Inuit of Greenland, the Maya, the Anasazi, the indigenous people of Rapa Nuimarker (Easter Island), Japanmarker, Haitimarker, the Dominican Republicmarker, and modern Montanamarker. While not as successful as Guns, Germs and Steel, Collapse was again both critically acclaimed and subject to accusations of environmental determinism and specific inaccuracies. "Collapse" was the third book written by Diamond that was nominated for Royal Society Prize for Science Books (previously known as the Rhône-Poulenc and Aventis Prize) but this time he did not win the prize, losing out to David Bodanis's "Electric Universe".

Vengeance Is Ours controversy

On 21 April 2009, Henep Isum Mandingo and Hup Daniel Wemp of Papua New Guineamarker filed a $10 million USD defamation lawsuit against Diamond over a New Yorker magazine article titled Vengeance Is Ours: What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even? The article is an account of feuds and vengeance killings among tribes in the New Guinea highlands which Mandingo and Wemp claim have been misrepresented and embellished by Diamond. The lawsuit came in the wake of an investigation by Rhonda Roland Shearer which highlighted factual inaccuracies in the article, most notably the fact that Mandingo, the alleged target of the feud who was rendered wheelchair-bound in the fighting, is fit and healthy. Diamond and the New Yorker stand by the article. They maintain that it is a faithful account of the story related to Diamond by Wemp while they worked together in 2001 and in a formal interview in 2006, based on "detailed notes", and that both Diamond and the magazine did all they reasonably could to verify the story. Furthermore they claim that in a taped interview between Wemp and a New Yorker fact-checker, Wemp failed to raise any significant objections. Pauline Wiessner, an expert on tribal warfare in Papua New Guinea, points out that young men often exaggerate or make up entirely their exploits in tribal warfare, and that Diamond was naïve to accept and publish Wemp's stories at face value.

Selected publications


  • 1972 Avifauna of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, No. 12, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 438.[15625]

  • 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



Awards and honors

See also


External links


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