August 18, 2005 Jared Diamond Gives First Annual Jay I. Kislak Lecture on Sept. 20

Diamond to Speak on “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”

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Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, evolutionary biologist, physiologist and biogeographer, will deliver the inaugural Jay I. Kislak Lecture, titled “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The free lecture, sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center, is open to the public, but space is limited. No tickets are required.

Diamond, best known as the author of the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (1997) in which he describes, through a variety of case studies, the role that geography plays in societal development, will turn his attention to the role that humans themselves play in that same development. The title he has chosen for his lecture is the same as that of his most recent book, which was published by Viking Press in 2005.

In his lecture, Diamond will discuss why some civilizations collapsed in the past and what we might learn from their fate. Using case studies to make his point, Diamond identifies five factors that might contribute to a particular society’s demise. Among them are climate change, hostile neighbors, trading partners and environmental problems. Diamond believes that a society’s response to the challenges of its environment is controllable and that its management of the environment may be the ultimate determining factor in its future.

Professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles and formerly professor of physiology there, Diamond received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and his doctorate from the University of Cambridge. He currently has several appointments at UCLA: as professor of physiology at the medical school, professor of environmental health sciences at the School of Public Health and professor of geography. He 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 the recipient of numerous awards, honors and research prizes, and the author of books that range in subject from the birds of New Guinea, human sexuality and the ecology and evolution of communities to the evolution and future of human beings. His most recent work focuses on the development and collapse of societies.

The Kislak Lecture is one component of the Kislak American Studies Program established at the Library of Congress in 2004 by the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. The Kislak gift includes an important collection of books, manuscripts, historic documents, maps and art of the Americas. It contains some of the earliest records of indigenous peoples in North America, as well as superb objects from the discovery, contact and colonial periods, especially for the areas of Florida, the Caribbean and Mesoamerica. Some of the treasures of the Kislak Collection are currently on view through Sept. 24 in an exhibition titled “The Cultures & History of the Americas” in the North Gallery of the Library’s Great Hall. Visit the exhibition online at

A generous endowment from John W. Kluge enabled the Library of Congress to establish the Kluge Center in 2000. Its mission is to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize scholarly discussion, distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and interact with policymakers in Washington. The Kluge Center houses senior Kluge Chairs, other senior-level chairs, senior distinguished scholars and nearly 25 postdoctoral fellows. For more information about any of the fellowships, grants and programs offered by the John W. Kluge Center, including Kislak Fellowships in American Studies, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Web at


PR 05-171
ISSN 0731-3527