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Jared Diamond

evolutionary biology
(recorded in 2000)

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Jared Diamond is professor of physiology at the School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles. Diamond received his B.A. from Harvard College in 1958 and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1961. He has several appointments at UCLA: professor of physiology at the medical school, professor of environmental health sciences at the School of Public Health, and professor of geography. Diamond is also a research associate in ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and a research associate in ornithology and mammalogy for the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Diamond is a contributing editor for Discover Magazine and director of the U.S. Division of the World Wildlife Fund. Diamond has led 19 expeditions to New Guinea and nearby islands. He is the author of eight books, two monographs and 577 articles. In 1992, Diamond received both Britain's Science Book Prize and the Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize for The Third Chimpanzee. For Guns, Germs, and Steel, he received Britain’s Science Book Prize in 1998, the Pulitzer Prize in 1998, the Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Prize in 1997, the California Book Awards Gold Medal in nonfiction in 1998, and the Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction in 1999.

Part 1: Diamond sums up his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, a chronicle of why human history unfolded differently on different continents. He contends that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world, and that racially based theories of human development are unfounded. The domestication of animals and lack of geographic barriers in Europe and Asia were among the keys to the evolution of modern civilizations. He explains why only certain animals can be domesticated, and notes that only nine areas of the world had the plant resources necessary to become independent centers of agriculture.

Part 2: Diamond recounts the most dramatic event in human history during the past 5,000 years—the capture of the Inca emperor by the Spaniards in 1532. He says that people today are more oppressed by economic competition than military conquests, and modern transportation and communication allow advances in technology to be exploited by lesser developed countries more readily. Accomplished in physiology and evolutionary biology, he argues for treating the study of history as a science; despite the intersections between hard and social sciences in research, he explains, historians aren't trained in statistics or scientific methods. He concludes with the belief that the greatest impact of his work may be in demolishing the basis for racist views and racist theories of history. (45 minutes)


Last Updated: 07-26-2004

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The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.

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