Jared Diamond

(* 1937)

Jared_diamond.jpg (JPEG-Grafik, 1038 × 1081 Pixel): Biographical Sketch

Jared Mason Diamond (born Boston, MA, USA, September 10, 1937) is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee (1991); Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize); Collapse (2005); and The World Until Yesterday (2012). Originally trained in physiology, Diamond is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, evolutionary biology, and and biogeography.

A professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Diamond has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical society.  Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan’s Cosmo Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize Honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by Rockefeller University.  He has published more than six hundred articles and his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.  In 2005, Diamond was ranked ninth on a poll by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals.

Read more about Jared Diamond on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Pulitzer Prize (USA)
  • 1998: General Non-Fiction – “Guns, Germs and Steel”
National Academy of Sciences
  • 1973: Elected to Membership
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1973: Member

National Medal of Science
  • 1999
MacArthur Foundation (USA)
  • 1985: Genius Award
Commonwealth Club of California Book Awards (USA)
  • 1998: Gold Medal in nonfiction – “Guns, Germs and Steel”
Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
(USC – University of Southern California, USA)
  • 2001
Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science (Rockefeller University, New York City, NY, USA)
  • 2002
American Philosophical society
  • 1988: Elected to Membership
Winton Prize (Formerly: Rhône-Poulenc Prize) – Royal Society Prize for Science Books (UK)
  • 1992: “The Third Chimpanzee”
Trinity College, Cambridge University (UK)
  • 2005: Honorary Fellow
International Cosmos Prize (Japan)
  • 1998



  • Avifauna of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea (1972)
  • Ecology and Evolution of Communities (1975)
    Editor, with M.L. Cody.
  • Birds of Karkar and Bagabag Islands, New Guinea (1979)
    – With M. LeCroy.
  • The Avifaunas of Rennell and Bellona Islands: The Natural History of Rennell Islands, British Solomon Islands (1984)
  • Community Ecology (1986)
    – Editor, with T.J. Case.
  • 1986 Birds of New Guinea (1986)
    With B. Beehler, T. Pratt, D. Zimmerman, H. Bell, B. Finch, and J. Coe.
  • The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1992)
    – Young adult edition published 2015.
  • Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1997)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. (1997)
  • The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology, & Biogeography (2001)
    – With Ernst Mayr.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: Reader’s Companion (2003)
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005)
  • Natural Experiments of History (2010)
    – With James A. Robinson.
  • The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (2012)
  • Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019)
Young Adult Books
  • The Third Chimpanzee for Young People: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (2015)


A Selection of Quotes

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.”

“In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography – in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.”

“Much of human history has consisted of unequal conflicts between the haves and the have-nots.”

“[W]hat makes patriotic and religious fanatics such dangerous opponents is not the deaths of the fanatics themselves, but their willingness to accept the deaths of a fraction of their number in order to annihilate or crush their infidel enemy.”

“It’s striking that Native Americans evolved no devastating epidemic diseases to give to Europeans in return for the many devastating epidemic diseases that Indians received from the Old World.”

“The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics and genocide. Those collisions created reverberations that have still not died down after many centuries, and that are actively continuing in some of the world’s most troubled areas.”

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.”

“The metaphor is so obvious. Easter Island isolated in the Pacific Ocean – once the island got into trouble, there was no way they could get free. There was no other people from whom they could get help. In the same way that we on Planet Earth, if we ruin our own [world], we won’t be able to get help.”

“Two types of choices seem to me to have been crucial in tipping the outcomes [of the various societies’ histories] towards success or failure: long-term planning and willingness to reconsider core values. On reflection we can also recognize the crucial role of these same two choices for the outcomes of our individual lives.”

“Science is often misrepresented as ‘the body of knowledge acquired by performing replicated controlled experiments in the laboratory.’ Actually, science is something broader: the acquisition of reliable knowledge about the world.”

“History as well as life itself is complicated – neither life nor history is an enterprise for those who seek simplicity and consistency.”

“People often ask, “What is the single most important environmental population problem facing the world today?” A flip answer would be, “The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!”

“Above all, it seems to me wrongheaded and dangerous to invoke historical assumptions about environmental practices of native peoples in order to justify treating them fairly. … By invoking this assumption [i.e., that they were/are better environmental stewards than other peoples or parts of contemporary society] to justify fair treatment of native peoples, we imply that it would be OK to mistreat them if that assumption could be refuted. In fact, the case against mistreating them isn’t based on any historical assumption about their environmental practices: it’s based on a moral principle, namely, that it is morally wrong for one people to dispossess, subjugate or exterminate another people.”

“For anyone inclined to caricature environmental history as ‘environmental determinism,’ the contrasting histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti provide a useful antidote. Yes, environmental problems do constrain human societies, but the societies’ responses also make a difference.”

“Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote … can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past. That’s why I wrote this book.”

“The Anasazi did manage to construct in stone the largest and tallest buildings erected in North America until the Chicago steel girder skyscrapers of the 1880s.”

“Many of our problems are broadly similar to those that undermined … Norse Greenland, and that many other past societies also struggled to solve. Some of those past societies failed (like the Greenland Norse) and others succeeded … The past offers us a rich database from which we can learn in order that we may keep on succeeding.”

[On the beginning of the mid-1990s’ genocidal war in Rwanda:]
“Within six weeks, an estimated 800,000 Tutsi, representing about three-quarters of the Tutsi then remaining in Rwanda, or 11% of Rwanda’s total population, had been killed.”

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

“Isn’t language loss a good thing, because fewer languages mean easier communication among the world’s people? Perhaps, but it’s a bad thing in other respects. Languages differ in structure and vocabulary, in how they express causation and feelings and personal responsibility, hence in how they shape our thoughts. There’s no single purpose “best” language; instead, different languages are better suited for different purposes. For instance, it may not have been an accident that Plato and Aristotle wrote in Greek, while Kant wrote in German. The grammatical particles of those two languages, plus their ease in forming compound words, may have helped make them the preeminent languages of western philosophy. Another example, familiar to all of us who studied Latin, is that highly inflected languages (ones in which word endings suffice to indicate sentence structure) can use variations of word order to convey nuances impossible with English. Our English word order is severely constrained by having to serve as the main clue to sentence structure. If English becomes a world language, that won’t be because English was necessarily the best language for diplomacy.”

Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality

“Perhaps our greatest distinction as a species is our capacity, unique among animals, to make counter-evolutionary choices.”

Interviews and Magazine Contributions

“In much of the rest of the world, rich people live in gated communities and drink bottled water. That’s increasingly the case in Los Angeles where I come from. So that wealthy people in much of the world are insulated from the consequences of their actions.”  [Why Societies Collapse, ABC Local, July 17, 2003]

“Technology causes problems as well as solves problems. Nobody has figured out a way to ensure that, as of tomorrow, technology won’t create problems. Technology simply means increased power, which is why we have the global problems we face today.” [Interview, Sierra Magazine, May/June 2005]

Find more quotes by Jared Diamond on Wikiquote and Goodreads.