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Thomas Robert Malthus: Numbers & People!

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This title is a part of the series Science Gossip! Series: Famous Scientists' Private Lives

Catalogue Number:  FI0043
Producer:  Film Ideas
Subject:  History, Science
Language:  English
Grade Level:  6 - 8, 9 - 12
Country Of Origin:  United States
Copyright Year:  2014
Running Time:  7:00
Closed Captions:  Yes

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Malthus was born in 1766, at the same time as the development of French revolution in Europe and the industrial revolution in England. His wealthy father was a friend of free thinkers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and William Godwin, but Thomas Malthus became much more conservative in his thinking, and was ordained as an Anglican priest.  In 1798 he anonymously published a pamphlet called “An Essay on the Principle of Population”. Later known as the father of demography, he described how to predict population growth and plan for the future of humanity. 

He believed that population was growing too fast in proportion to the resources available for sustainability, and he predicted that massive inequality and poverty would result. One way to balance the scale was population control, and the other occurred through natural disasters such as hunger, epidemics and war.  Malthus did not know that the industrial revolution would lead to increasingly efficient food production methods and that advances in microbiology would lead to much longer lives for many people.  His ideas about demography and sustainability are very relevant today as activists demand responsible use of natural resources and restrictions on the uncontrolled growth burdening the planet.  Malthus was affectionately called “old Pop” by his economics class students when they studied population theories.

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