iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Jared Diamond

Listen now 28 mins

Listen in pop-out player

Jared Diamond

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 04 December 2012

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Jared Diamond about how his passion for the birds of Papua New Guinea overtook his medical interest in the gall bladder, and led him to undertake a scientific study of global history.
Science polymath and celebrated author, Jared Diamond has tackled some of the big questions about humanity: what is it that makes us uniquely human not just a third species of chimpanzee; and why do some societies thrive and others struggle to survive, or collapse?
Once a Professor of Physiology (specialising in the gall bladder), he became increasingly fascinated by the birds of Papua New Guinea and does an excellent imitation of the ptilinopus fruit dove, among others.
Now Professor of Geography at University of California in LA, he stresses the vital importance of the environment in determining the success or otherwise of a society. He argues first that it was settled agriculture that enabled the white man to develop guns, germs and steel and later that abuse of the environment is often responsible for their collapse.
But can the history of humanity really be understood in much the same way as we might seek to explain the success or otherwise of a particular species of bird?

Broadcasts

Jim Al-Khalili - Presenter

Jim Al-Khalili

Find out more about Jim Al-Khalili and listen to his Science Explorer journey.

Plants: From Roots to Riches

Plants: From Roots to Riches

Our relationship with plants: a major new history by Kew's science director Kathy Willis

Inside Science

Image for BBC Inside Science

Adam Rutherford explores the research that is transforming our world.

Free download

  1. Image for The Life Scientific

    The Life Scientific

    Each week, Jim al-Khalili invites a leading scientist to tell us about their life and work. He'll…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss