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Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born 29 May 1932) is an Americanmarker biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford Universitymarker and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he is better known as an ecologist and for his warnings about unchecked population growth and limited resources. Ehrlich became a household name after publication of his controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb.

Life and career

The Bay checkerspot butterfly

Ehrlich was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker. His father was a shirt salesman, his mother a Greek and Latin scholar. He earned a bachelors degree in zoology from the University of Pennsylvaniamarker in 1953, an M.A. at the University of Kansasmarker in 1955, and a Ph.D. in 1957 at the University of Kansas, under the prominent bee researcher C.D. Michener. During his studies he participated in surveys of insects on the Bering Seamarker and in the Canadianmarker Arctic, and then on a National Institutes of Healthmarker fellowship, investigated the genetics and behavior of parasitic mites. In 1959 he joined the faculty at Stanford, being promoted to full professor of biology in 1966. He was named to the Bing Professorship in 1977, and is he president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. In addition, Ehrlich is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciencesmarker and the American Philosophical Societymarker.

Ehrlich continues to conduct policy research on population and resource issues, focusing especially on endangered species, cultural evolution, environmental ethics, and the preservation of genetic resources. Along with Dr. Gretchen Daily, he has conducted work in countryside biogeography, or the study of making human-disturbed areas hospitable to biodiversity. His research group at Stanford currently works extensively on the study of natural populations of the Bay checkerspot butterfly(Euphydryas).

He has been married to Anne H. Ehrlich since 1954; he and Anne have one child, Lisa Marie.

Paul and Ann Ehrlich have been praised for bringing to public awareness issues regarding population, resources and environment, and for making "ecology" a household word.

Overpopulation debate

In December 1967, Ehrlich wrote in the New Scientist that the world would experience famines sometime between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources. He stated that "the battle to feed all of humanity is over ... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also stated, "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980," or "be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He has been criticized as being wrong in his "predictions." Ehrlich himself concedes that he did overstate his case here, underestimating the effects of the green revolution, but that part of the reason that there have not been such serious famines has been due to a reduction in birth rates that that book had argued were necessary. He also argued that in some areas that book underestimated the dangers of high population - it made no mention of global warming for instance.In 2006, Lara Knudsen wrote that Ehlich's views were accepted by many population control advocates in the United States and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. She chose a brief passage from the final chapter of Population Bomb, to show that Ehrlich had discussed an extreme solution to overpopulation: "compulsory birth regulation... (through) the addition of temporary sterilants to water supplies or staple food. Doses of the antidote would be carefully rationed by the government to produce the desired family size."

In a 2004 interview, Ehrlich answered questions about the "predictions" he made in The Population Bomb. He acknowledged that some of what he had written had not "come to pass", but stated that he and his wife Anne had "followed U.N. population projections as modified by the Population Reference Bureau -- so we never made "predictions," even though idiots think we have." He went on to say:

Finally, Ehrlich noted that 600 million people were very hungry, billions were under-nourished, and stated that his predictions about disease and climate change were essentially correct.

In retrospect, Ehrlich feels that The Population Bomb was “way too optimistic.” He acknowledges that he underestimated the success of higher-yielding grains, and how that spurred further population growth. But he also points out that there have been perhaps 300 million deaths since the book was published that were caused in large part by malnourishment and undernourishment. He claims that the success of the “green revolution” of the 1970s is already running into the difficulties he and others predicted, while global hunger is now increasing.

Other activities

Ehrlich was one of the founders of the group Zero Population Growth in 1968, along with Richard Bowers and Charles Remington. He and his wife Anne were on the board of advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform until 2003. He is currently a patron of the Optimum Population Trust.

With Stephen Schneider and two other authors, writing in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American, he critiqued Bjørn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Awards and honors


  • How to Know the Butterflies (1960)
  • Process of Evolution (1963)
  • The Population Bomb (1968)
  • Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology (1970)
  • How to Be a Survivor (1971)
  • Man and the Ecosphere: Readings from Scientific American (1971)
  • Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology Second Edition (1972)
  • Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (1973)
  • Introductory Biology (1973)
  • The End of Affluence (1975)
  • Biology and Society (1976)
  • Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment (1978)
  • The Race Bomb (1978)
  • Extinction (1981)
  • The Golden Door: International Migration, Mexico, and the United States (1981)
  • The Cold and the Dark: The World after Nuclear War (1984, co-authored with Carl Sagan, Donald Kennedy, and Walter Orr Roberts)
  • Earth (1987, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Science of Ecology (1987, co-authored with Joan Roughgarden)
  • The Cassandra Conference: Resources and the Human Predicament (1988)
  • The Birder's Handbook: A field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds (1988, co-aurhored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye)
  • New World, New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution (1988, co-authored with Robert Ornstein)
  • The Population Explosion (1990, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Healing the Planet: Strategies for Resolving the Environmental Crisis (1991, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Birds in Jeopardy: The Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico (1992, co-authored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye)
  • The Stork and the Plow : The Equity Answer to the Human Dilemma (1995, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich and Gretchen C. Daily)
  • A World of Wounds: Ecologists and the Human Dilemma (1997)
  • Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environment Rhetoric Threatens Our Future (1998, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect (2002)
  • One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future (2004, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • On the Wings of Checkerspots: A Model System for Population Biology (2004, edited volume, co-edited with Ilkka Hanski)
  • The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment (2008, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)

See also


  1. Lewis, J. "Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. Six billion and counting., Scientific American, October 2000, pages 30, 32.
  2. Tierney, John 'Betting on the Planet',New York Times, December 2, 1990
  3. Paul Ehrlich gets Stanford "Reviewed" by Mike Toth, Stanford Review, March 10, 1998.
  4. CV of Paul R. Ehrlich
  5. Center for Conservation Biology, Staff
  6. Anne and Paul Ehrlich, "Conservatives and Conservation", Mother Earth News', November 1, 1981
  7. The Population Bomb Revisited - by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich
  8. Family Medicine Directory, Lara Knudsen,
  9. Knudsen, Lara "Reproductive Rights in a Global Context:South Africa, Uganda, Peru, Denmark, United States, Vietnam, Jordan", Vanderbilt University Press, 2006, pages 2-4 ISBN 0826515282, ISBN 9780826515285
  10. "Paul in a day's work: Paul Ehrlich, famed ecologist, answers readers' questions"
  11. The Heinz Awards, Paul and Anne Ehrlich profile

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