Peter Douglas Ward (born 1949) is an American paleontologist and professor of Biology and of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. He has written popular numerous science works for a general audience and is also an adviser to the Microbes Mind Forum.
Life and work
His parents, Joseph and Ruth Ward, moved to Seattle following World War II. Ward grew up in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle, attending Franklin High School, and he spent time during summers at a family summer cabin on Orcas Island.
Ward's academic career has included teaching posts and professional connections with Ohio State University, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the University of California, McMaster University (where he received his PhD in 1976), and the California Institute of Technology. He was elected as a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 1984.
Ward specializes in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, the Permian–Triassic extinction event, and mass extinctions generally. He has published books on biodiversity and the fossil record. His 1992 book On Methuselah's Trail received a "Golden Trilobite Award" from the Paleontological Society as the best popular science book of the year. Ward also serves as an adjunct professor of zoology and astronomy.
His book The End Of Evolution was published in 1994. In it, he discussed in three parts, each about an extinction event on earth.
Ward is co-author, along with astronomer Donald Brownlee, of the best-selling Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe, published in 2000. In that work, the authors suggest that the universe is fundamentally hostile to advanced life, and that, while simple life might be abundant, the likelihood of widespread lifeforms as advanced as those on Earth is marginal. In 2001, his book Future Evolution was published, featuring illustrations by artist Alexis Rockman.
Ward and Brownlee are also co-authors of the book The Life and Death of Planet Earth: How the New Science of Astrobiology Charts the Ultimate Fate of the World, which discusses the Earth's future and eventual demise as it is ultimately destroyed by a warming and expanding Sun. See also Future of the Earth.
According to Ward's 2007 book, Under a Green Sky, all but one of the major mass extinction events in history have been brought on by climate change-the same global warming that occurs today. The author argues that events in the past can give valuable information about the future of our planet. Reviewer Doug Brown goes further, stating "this is how the world ends." Scientists at the Universities of York and Leeds also warn that the fossil record supports evidence of impending mass extinction.