The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Paul R. Ehrlich

Dr. Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born May 29, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a Stanford University professor and a renowned entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies). He is also well known as a researcher and author on the subject of human overpopulation.



Ehrlich earned a B.A. in zoology in 1953 at the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in 1955 at the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in 1957, also at the University of Kansas. During his studies he took part in surveys of insects on the Bering Sea and in the Canadian Arctic, and then on a National Institutes of Health fellowship, investigated the genetics and behavior of parasitic mites. In 1959 he joined the faculty at Stanford, being promoted to full professor of biology in 1966.

Marriage and family

On December 18, 1954, Paul Ehrlich married the former Anne Fitzhugh Howland, a research assistant. They remain married and have one child, Lisa Marie.

Academic activities

Ehrlich is president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Ehrlich's research group at Stanford currently works extensively on the study of natural populations of checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas). Along with Dr. Gretchen Daly , he has conducted work in "countryside biogeography ", or the study of making human-disturbed areas hospitable to biodiversity. Ehrlich continues to conduct policy research on population and resource issues, focusing especially on endangered species, cultural evolution, environmental ethics, and the preservation of genetic resources.


Ehrlich is the author of How to Know the Butterflies in 1960, and the textbook Process of Evolution in 1963.

His best known book is The Population Bomb, published in 1968. The Population Bomb was written at the suggestion of David Brower, at the time the executive director of the Sierra Club, following an article Ehrlich wrote for the New Scientist magazine in December, 1967. In that article, Ehrlich erroneously predicted that the world would experience famines sometime between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources, and declared that the battle to feed humanity was over.

He has since written or co-authored several books on the subjects of ecology, biology, entomology, and overpopulation. They include:

  • Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology (1970)
  • How to Be a Survivor (1971)
  • Man and the Ecosphere: Readings from Scientific American (1971)
  • Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (1973)
  • Introductory Biology (1973)
  • The End of Affluence (1975)
  • Biology and Society (1976)
  • Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment (1978)
  • The Race Bomb (1978)
  • Extinction (1981)
  • The Golden Door: International Migration, Mexico, and the United States (1981)
  • The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War (1984, co-authored with Carl Sagan, Donald Kennedy, and Walter Orr Roberts )
  • Earth (1987, co-authored with his wife)
  • Science of Ecology (1987, co-authored with Jonathan Roughgarden )
  • The Cassandra Conference: Resources and the Human Predicament (1988)
  • The Population Explosion (1990, co-authored with his wife)
  • Healing the Planet: Strategies for Resolving the Environmental Crisis (1991, co-authored with his wife)
  • Birds in Jeopardy: The Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico (1992, co-authored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye )
  • The Stork and the Plow : The Equity Answer to the Human Dilemma (1995)
  • Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environment Rhetoric Threatens Our Future (1998, co-authored with his wife)
  • Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect (2002)
  • One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future (2004, co-authored with his wife)
  • On the Wings of Checkerspots: A Model System for Population Biology (2004, co-authored with Ilkka Hanski )

Other activities

Ehrlich was one of the founders of the group Zero Population Growth in 1968, along with Richard Bowers and Charles Remington . Supporters point to the impact of The Population Bomb and the ZPG organization in helping to raise awareness about overpopulation and in helping to change U.S. laws to make birth control and other reproductive health care more easily available. The U.S. fertility rate dropped from 3.4 children per woman in the early 1960s to 1.8 by 1975, and ZPG credits Ehrlich's influence along with the efforts of National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the U.S. Supreme Court for helping to bring this about.

He and his wife Anne were on the board of advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform until 2003.

With Stephen Schneider and two other authors, writing in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American, he critiqued Bjørn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist.


Ehrlich has been recognized for his work with the following awards:

The critics

Critics have compared Ehrlich to Thomas Malthus for his multiple predictions of famine and economic catastrophe. The leading critic of Ehrlich was the late author Julian Simon, a libertarian theorist and the author of the book The Ultimate Resource, a book which argues against the notion of human overpopulation. In 1980, Ehrlich and Simon entered into a wager over how the price of metals would move during the 1980s. Ehrlich predicted that the price would continue to increase, and he lost the bet. Supporters of Simon and critics of Ehrlich make much of this wager. Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation during the 1970s because the earth's inhabitants would multiply at a faster rate than world's ability to supply food. According to Ehrlich, the United States would see its life expectancy drop to 42 years because of pesticide usage, the nation's population would drop to 22.6 million by 1999, and the use of insecticides in the United Sates would provoke a nuclear war. Criticizing Ehrlich on similar grounds as Simon was Ronald Bailey , a leader in the wise use movement, who wrote a book in 1993 entitled Eco-Scam where he blasted the views of Ehrlich, Lester Brown , Carl Sagan and other environmental theorists.

In his book Betrayal of Science and Reason, Ehrlich discussed these earlier predictions of his and re-affirmed his stances on population and resource issues.

Ehrlich also has critics on the political left. These include Betsy Hartmann , author of the 1987 book Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control & Contraceptive Choice. Hartmann accuses Ehrlich and other environmentalists who focus on population control of misanthropy, and believes that such focus is antithetical to activism on issues of social class and feminism.

External links



Sympathetic articles

Critical articles

Last updated: 05-07-2005 16:49:47
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04