Hardin, Garrett James 1915-2003

views updated

HARDIN, Garrett James 1915-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born April 21, 1915, in Dallas, TX; committed suicide September 14, 2003, in Santa Barbara, CA. Ecologist, educator, and author. Hardin was a controversial ecologist whose concern over world overpopulation led him to his controversial stand in favor of on-demand abortion and a belief, expressed in his famous paper "The Tragedy of the Commons" (1968), that people should give up their freedom of unchecked procreation for the good of the planet. After completing his undergraduate work at the University of Chicago in 1936, he earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1941. He then joined the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., where he did food research and tried to develop palatable foods from algae. He quit his job in 1946, however, when he came to the conclusion that solving the world's food shortage problems would lead to a disastrous crisis in overpopulation. He was next hired as an assistant professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he would spend the rest of his career, becoming a full professor of human ecology in 1956 and retiring in 1978. At Santa Barbara, Hardin established a course in human ecology in which he taught students about the issues of the environment and human population. His "The Tragedy of the Commons," which was first published in the December 1968 issue of Science, drew the analogy that if several cow ranchers were allowed to graze their cattle in one field as much as they wanted to, the field would be destroyed. In the same way, the Earth will be destroyed if the human population goes unchecked, Hardin maintained. The paper was, to say the least, extremely controversial, since it advocated enforced government birth control similar to what is currently used in China. Hardin was also pro-abortion and anti-immigration, feeling that if the United States allowed everyone who wanted to to enter the country, then America's wealth of resources would soon run out. A member of the Hemlock Society, when Hardin felt it was time for him to die because of poor health, he took his own life; the body of his wife, Jane, was also found with him. Hardin also wrote and edited over a dozen books, including Nature and Man's Fate (1959), Exploring New Ethics for Survival (1972), Naked Emperors: Essaysof a Taboo-Stalker (1982), and The Ostrich Factor: Our Population Myopia (1999).



American Men & Women of Science, 21st edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.

Netzley, Patricia D., Environmental Literature, ABC-CLIO (Santa Barbara, CA), 1999.


Chicago Tribune, September 22, 2003, Section 4, p. 10.

Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2003, p. B21.

New York Times, October 28, 2003, p. C15.

Seattle Times, September 21, 2003, p. A29.

About this article

Hardin, Garrett James 1915-2003

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article