Jared Diamond

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Jared Diamond (2007)

Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937 in Boston , Massachusetts ) is an American evolutionary biologist , physiologist and biogeographer .


Diamond is the son of haematologist and pediatrician Louis K. Diamond .

Jared Diamond received a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1958 and a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1961 . He was active in field research for many decades and led numerous anthropological and evolutionary expeditions to New Guinea . Since June 2004 he has been Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles . Before that, he was professor of physiology at the medical school there. Jared Diamond has become known to the general public through his popular science books, in which he presents the latest findings from anthropology , biology and history together. He has received numerous prizes and honors for his work, including the International Cosmos Prize in 1998, the Dickson Prize in Science in 2006 and the Wolf Prize for Agricultural Science in 2013 . He is a member and a. the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1973), the National Academy of Sciences (1979) and the American Philosophical Society (1988). Diamond's work is extremely broadly interdisciplinary .

In 1985 Diamond, who speaks ten other languages ​​in addition to German , was a MacArthur Fellow .


Diamond sees the main motive for his anthropological and historical work in finding non-racist explanations for essential features of human history. Because as long as there were no comprehensible and plausible non-racist interpretation alternatives, many people would fall back on racist explanations.

In The Third Chimpanzee , he draws on findings from evolutionary biology, linguistics , history, archeology and other disciplines to answer the question of how the decisive peculiarities of humans can be explained: life cycle and sexual behavior, language, art, agriculture, genocide and environmental destruction . In this work the topics that he deepened in the following three books are already laid out.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his book Poor and Rich , in which he found drastic differences in the natural features of the continents as factors for the global dominance of Western and Asian (ie " Eurasian ") cultures . The key message of this work is that it was not racial differences, but very different natural spatial starting conditions that formed the basis for the various development paths of human cultures. In sharp rejection of racist explanations, Diamond assumes a simultaneously strict and multi-layered environmental determinacy, which in a certain way predetermined the development on the continents. He argues that the superior development and global penetration of the Eurasian cultures can also be traced back to their geographical connection with one another, which has made a centuries-long exchange of achievements and resistance-causing infectious diseases possible via traffic routes, while high mountains, deserts and tropical forests of endless expanse as effective barriers to innovation, for example , would have separated the Inca South America from the Mayan and Aztec Mesoamerica . According to his description, the transition to agricultural societies, which is decisive for human development, is characterized - in addition to climatic differences - above all by the different availability of domesticable plant and animal species on the various continents, among which Eurasia had an advantageous special position from the start .

In his work Why is Sex Fun? it is about the highly unusual human sexual behavior in nature and our special features in the life cycle, which were central to the incarnation .

In collapse: Why societies survive or perish , he looks at some cultures as an example, which destroyed themselves through overexploitation of the environment or through incorrect reaction to general environmental changes and then experienced a complete social collapse in a very short time. For example, he analyzes the Vikings in Greenland, the Anasazi in North America, the Polynesians on Easter Island or the Maya in Central America. But it also deals with examples of cultures that have been able to survive through adaptation despite unfavorable conditions. He mentions the Icelanders, the Inuit in Greenland, Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate and populations of some Polynesian islands . In addition, from this knowledge he derives recommendations for action for today's societies, which he sees in a similarly dangerous overall situation worldwide. In the year it was published, Diamond summarized his book in a 45-minute lecture for SWR .

Diamond's book Legacy: What We Can Learn from Traditional Societies (2012) advocates the thesis that the social structures of indigenous societies largely correspond to the structures of premodern societies and that anthropological research therefore allows conclusions to be drawn about human history .

The book Crisis: How Nations Can Renew themselves (2019) is his most politically related work to date, although he himself says that this is due solely to the topic of collective evolutionary possibilities.


In addition to recognition, the statements in his last book also aroused opposition from anthropologists and representatives of indigenous Papuan societies. For example, it is criticized that Diamond generally portrays indigenous society as warlike and that he describes it as relics of "our" ancestors, although indigenous societies, like everyone else, had to adapt over time and no longer lived as it did that humans did hundreds of thousands of years ago. Diamond's statement of a reduction in violence through state-building processes overlooks the catastrophic effects that contact with real states has already had and continues to have for indigenous societies.

Stephen Corry from Survival International generally criticizes the benchmarks for statistical comparisons. According to Diamond, wars are all the more devastating, the more war deaths they bring in relation to the total population of all countries involved. It would be more correct, however, to place the dead in relation to the people who were also in the area of ​​war. The impression of a more peaceful modernity comes about through this politically motivated arbitrary basis of comparison.

Fonts (selection)


Articles in scientific journals

Online articles

Newspaper and magazine articles

Web links

Commons : Jared Diamond  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Nick Ravo: Louis Diamond, 97, a Pediatrics Legend, Dies. In: nytimes.com. June 25, 1999, accessed December 19, 2016 .
  2. Cosmos Prize: The Prizewinner 1998. ( Memento from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) On: expo-cosmos.or.jp , accessed on September 25, 2015.
  3. Winand von Petersdorff: Don't forget the geography! In: FAZ.net . November 22, 2014, accessed December 16, 2014 .
  4. Jared M. Diamond: Collapse. What we can learn from the demise of human societies. (Video 43:57) SWR Fernsehen Tele-Akademie, October 23, 2005, accessed on April 15, 2018 .
  5. Interview with Jared Diamond: So how do states recover from crises? Same way as people do , The Observer, April 21, 2019, accessed May 17, 2019
  6. Abby O'Reilly: Review: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? . In: The Independent , January 20, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2013. 
  7. Why Does Jared Diamond Make Anthropologists So Mad?
  8. Survival and Indians criticize Jared Diamond's new book "Legacy"
  9. Stephen Corry: A "Self-Help Guide" for the "Modern" People. In: welt.de . February 5, 2013, accessed December 16, 2014 .