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Jared Diamond | Biography


Early Life and Education

On September 10, 1937, Jared Diamond was born to eastern European immigrant parents in Boston, Massachusetts, where his father was a physician and his mother a classically trained pianist. He attended a private Latin school where he developed a love of languages, history, and the sciences.

A formative experience for Diamond was growing up during World War II (1939–45); he says, "it formed our games and our fantasies." Diamond recalls following the progress on maps of the armies of anti-fascism in daily updates with his father. Importantly, he writes that he holds with him the shock and the horror of the discovery and liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the conclusion of the war.

Early Career

Diamond studied at Harvard and Cambridge, where he trained to be a physiologist, or one who studies living systems. He also continued his study of other disciplines, including languages, poetry, and history. It was while studying in the United Kingdom that he became interested in geography. Traveling the European continent, he learned that people's experiences with the war varied based on their physical locations. Upon graduation Diamond was initially employed in the study of membrane transport in gallbladders, but he soon revived his interest in human geography during a 1964 trip to New Guinea.

Becoming a Science Writer

In New Guinea Diamond began to ask questions that would lead to his book Guns, Germs, and Steel. In his first visit, Diamond expected to find primitive peoples, but instead he found New Guineans to be smart, curious, and engaging. He wondered why they didn't develop writing or steel tools.

Upon his return to the United States, Diamond became a popular science writer, contributing to Nature, Discover Magazine, and Natural History Magazine, which in turn led to a career as an author. His books, including The Third Chimpanzee (1991), Collapse (2005), The World Until Yesterday (2012), and Guns, Germs, and Steel, have made him one of the world's foremost public intellectuals.

Guns, Germs, and Steel was tremendously well received in both popular and academic circles. It sold millions of copies, was positively reviewed in popular magazines and academic journals, won Diamond both the Pulitzer Prize and the Aventis Prize in 1998, and was turned into a documentary featuring the author in 2005.

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