I divide my professional time between four areas: teaching geography to UCLA undergraduates; doing field research on the birds of New Guinea and other Southwest Pacific islands; writing books about human societies, aimed at the broad public; and promoting sustainable environmental policies, as a director of the international environmental organizations World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International.
I was born and grew up in Boston. My father was a pediatrician who trained medical students and physicians and was known for his research on blood diseases of children. My mother was a concert pianist, school teacher, and linguist.
I went on to Harvard College, where I began to do laboratory science research, but I took a minimum of science courses, again reasoning that I was going to be doing science for the rest of my life, so I might as well do something different now.
After graduating college, I went to live and travel in Europe for four years while obtaining my doctorate in physiology at the University of Cambridge.
When I returned to the U.S. in 1962, I pursued my career in laboratory physiological research, initially in the Biophysical Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, then (from 1966) as a professor of physiology at UCLA Medical School. I was able to develop two parallel careers, one in laboratory physiology, the other in evolutionary biology of New Guinea birds.more » « less