UCLA Physiologist Dr. Jared Diamond Wins National Medal of Science
UCLA PHYSIOLOGIST DR. JARED DIAMOND WINS NATIONAL MEDAL OF SCIENCE
Today President Clinton named UCLA professor of physiology Dr. Jared Diamond as one of 12 high-ranking scientists to receive the prestigious 1999 National Medal of Science. Diamond will join the other honorees at a White House presentation ceremony on March 14. "Jared Diamond is an extraordinary scholar and teacher," praised Dr. Albert Carnesale, UCLA chancellor. "His important scientific contributions have enabled millions of people to share in the excitement of new knowledge and theories. We're proud to have Dr. Diamond as a member of the UCLA family."
"UCLA is honored to have such a brilliant scholar on our faculty," agreed Dr. Gerald S. Levey, provost for medical sciences and dean of the UCLA School of Medicine. "Dr. Diamond's writing, research and field studies have made remarkable contributions to our understanding of the natural world."
The National Science Foundation (NSF) bestowed the award on Diamond for his breakthrough discoveries in evolutionary biology and landmark research in applying Darwinian theory to the diverse fields of physiology, ecology, conservation biology and human history.
"Just as engineers design our machines, so did natural selection 'design' our bodies," explained Diamond, who joined the UCLA School of Medicine in 1966. "Natural selection eliminates poorly designed bodies in the same way that marketplace competition eliminates poorly designed machines.
"Applying this evolutionary perspective to our bodies helps us to better understand the strength of our bones, the size of our organs and the quantity of our enzymes," he added.
The NSF also commended Diamond for his passion and rare skill at interpreting important scientific issues for the public. In 1998, he captured the Pulitzer Prize for his second nonfiction book, "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies." The work reveals the complex reasons Eurasian societies evolved more rapidly than societies living on other continents during the same era. "This book challenges the intellectual basis for racism," Diamond said. "I discovered that history turned out differently for various peoples due to differences in their environments. It had nothing to do with imagined differences in their IQ."
Diamond devotes much of his time to writing for popular science magazines. He is a contributing editor for Discover and produces regular pieces for the "News & Views" section of the prestigious journal, Nature. His most recent book, "Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality," was published in 26 languages.
Not content to rest on his academic laurels, Diamond has led 18 grueling scientific expeditions to the South Pacific's most remote, uninhabited mountain ranges. A leading expert on the birds of New Guinea, his field studies have illuminated how hundreds of bird species can co-exist in a small area of rainforest.
Widely recognized as a founder of conservation biology, Diamond has contributed enormously to the preservation of endangered species by identifying what makes some animal populations more vulnerable to extinction than others.
He also has applied his practical expertise to stem the accelerating loss of the world's biodiversity. The government of Indonesian New Guinea hired Diamond to design its national park system and adopted most of his proposal.
Formally trained at Cambridge University in physiology and membrane biophysics, Diamond has also pursued a parallel career in ecology and evolutionary biology. His imaginative work has won him a continuous stream of more than 20 literary prizes and academic honors. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, board member of the World Wildlife Fund, and founding member of the activist group, Club of Earth.
Diamond is the ninth UCLA faculty member to receive the National Medal of Science. Other awardees include physicist Dr. C. Kumar Patel (1996), biochemist Dr. Elizabeth Neufeld (1994), Nobel laureate Dr. Donald Cram (1993), chemist Dr. Richard Bernstein (1989), chemist Dr. Saul Winstein (1970), meteorologist Dr. Jacob Bjerkenes (1966), geophysicist Dr. William Rubey (1965), and physicist Dr. Julian Schwinger (1964).
Counting this year's recipients, the National Science Foundation has bestowed 374 medals on leading U.S. scientists and engineers since Congress established the program in 1959.