Raymond Pearl

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Raymond Pearl
File:Raymond Pearl (cropped).jpg
Born (1879-06-03)June 3, 1879
Died November 17, 1940(1940-11-17) (aged 61)
Nationality American
Fields Biogerontology
Institutions Johns Hopkins University
Alma mater University of Michigan
Author abbrev. (botany) Pearl

Raymond Pearl (3 June 1879 – 17 November 1940) was an American biologist, regarded as one of the founders of biogerontology. He spent most of his career at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Pearl was a prolific writer of academic books, papers and articles, as well as a committed populariser and communicator of science. At his death, 841 publications were listed against his name.


Born of upper-middle class parents in New England, Pearl excelled at school and went on to Dartmouth College where he gained his B.A. in 1899, and the University of Michigan where he gained his PhD in zoology in 1902. In 1906 he spent a year studying under Karl Pearson at University College, London. During this year he discovered biometry, which seemed to offer a solution to the problems he was concerned with in biology, zoology and eugenics. On his return to the US he continued his interests, but was converted from biometry to Mendelian genetics.

Eugenics and politics

Pearl maintained a loose interest in eugenics, but in 1927 published the landmark article The Biology of Superiority, which attacked the basic assumptions of eugenics.[1] The article was the first general attack on eugenics by someone perceived as being within the movement.[2] It also contributed to the emergence of reform eugenics and the population control movement. Pearl was an influential member of the Advisory Committee of the World Population Conference,[3] after which Pearl helped found the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population Problems.[2][4]

Despite his apparent rejection of eugenics, Pearl maintained relatively good relations with key eugenicists[5] and expressed classist views.[6] He made statements which have been interpreted as being anti-Semitic.[7] On the other hand, he worked for Black civil rights groups as an advisor.[citation needed]


In 1926 Pearl founded The Quarterly Review of Biology.

Pearl is regarded as one of founders of biogerontology. In 1908 Max Rubner observed that mammals of different size and longevity had equal mass specific metabolic output.[8] Partly based on the observation that the longevity of fruit flies varies inversely with ambient temperature,[9] Pearl (like Rubner) also asserted that maximum life span is inversely proportional to basal metabolic rate. Pearl accepted Alexis Carrel's erroneous ideas that normal somatic cells don't age, and that aging must therefore be due to dysfunction at the body level. Pearl speculated that lifespan was limited by vital cell components that were depleted or damaged more rapidly in animals with faster metabolisms.[10] Denham Harman's free-radical theory of aging later provided a plausible causal mechanism for Pearl's hypothesis.

The Rate of Living Hypothesis enjoyed prominence as one of the foremost theories of aging for nearly 50 years. The Rate of Living Hypothesis is undermined by the observation that a rat and a bat have similar metabolic rate, but a bat lives several times longer.[11] More recently, further doubts have been raised on the Rate of Living Hypothesis by the demonstration that, when modern statistical methods for correcting for the effects of body size and phylogeny are employed, metabolic rate does not correlate with longevity in mammals or birds.[12] (For a critique of the Rate of Living Hypothesis see Living fast, dying when?.[13])

He also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 1929-1935.

Social habits and death

Pearl was widely known for his lust for life and his love of food, drink, music and parties.[14] He was a key member of the Saturday Night Club which also included H. L. Mencken.[15][16] Prohibition made no dent in Pearl's drinking habits (which were legendary). In 1926, his book, Alcohol and Longevity,[17] Pearl demonstrated that drinking alcohol in moderation is associated with greater longevity than either abstaining or drinking heavily.[18] In 1938, his data and work demonstrated the negative health effects of smoking tobacco.[19][20]

In November 1940 Pearl was in apparently good health and paid a visit to the Baltimore Zoo. He cut his trip short complaining of chest pains and died later that day.

See also


  1. Pearl, Raymond (1927). "The biology of superiority". American Mercury. 12: 257–266.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Allen, Garland E. (1987). "The role of experts in scientific controversy". In Hugo Tristram Engelhardt and Arthur Leonard Caplan (eds.) (eds.). Scientific controversies: case studies in the resolution and closure of disputes in science and technology. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 169‒202. ISBN 978-0-521-27560-6.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Sanger, Margaret (1927). Proceedings of the World Population Conference. London: Edward Arnold & Co. p. 11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Ludmerer, K. M. (1969). "American geneticists and the eugenics movement: 1905–1935". Journal of the History of Biology. 2 (2): 337–362. doi:10.1007/BF00125023.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kühl, Stefan (14 February 2002). The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-534878-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ordover, Nancy (2003). American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism. U of Minnesota Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-8166-3558-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Barkan, Elazar (16 September 1993). The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States Between the World Wars. Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-521-45875-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Rubner, Max (1908). Das Problem der Lebensdauer und seine Beziehungen zum Wachstum und Ernahrung. Munich, Germany: Oldenbourg.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[page needed]
  9. Loeb, Jaques and Northrop,J.H. (1 October 1917). "On the influence of food and temperature upon the duration of life". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 32 (1): 103–121.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Pearl, Raymond (1928). The Rate of Living, Being an Account of Some Experimental Studies on the Biology of Life Duration. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[page needed]
  11. Brunet-Rossinni AK, Austad SN (2004). "Ageing studies on bats: a review". Biogerontology. 5 (4): 211–22. doi:10.1023/B:BGEN.0000038022.65024.d8. PMID 15314271.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. de Magalhães JP, Costa J, Church GM (February 2007). "An analysis of the relationship between metabolism, developmental schedules, and longevity using phylogenetic independent contrasts". The Journals of Gerontology. Series a, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 62 (2): 149–60. doi:10.1093/gerona/62.2.149. PMC 2288695. PMID 17339640.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  13. Speakman JR, Selman C, McLaren JS, Harper EJ (June 2002). "Living fast, dying when? The link between aging and energetics". The Journal of Nutrition. 132 (6 Suppl 2): 1583S–97S. PMID 12042467.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Kingsland, S. (1984). "Raymond Pearl: On the frontier in the 1920's. Raymond Pearl memorial lecture, 1983". Human biology. 56 (1): 1–18. PMID 6378756.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Rodgers, Marion Elizabeth (1 September 2007). Mencken:The American Iconoclast. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-983927-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Meng, Xiao-Li; Charles Rohde; Scott L. Zeger; Karen Kruse Thomas; Karen Bandeen-Roche (2012). "Johns Hopkins University Department of Biostatistics". In Alan Agresti (ed.) (eds.). Strength in Numbers: The Rising of Academic Statistics Departments in the U. S. New York, NY: Springer New York. pp. 129–141. ISBN 978-1-4614-3648-5. Retrieved 5 April 2013.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Pearl, Raymond (1926). Alcohol and Longevity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-405-13615-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Boyle, Peter; Paolo Boffetta; Albert B. Lowenfels; Harry Burns; Otis Brawley; Witold Zatonski; Jürgen Rehm (7 March 2013). Alcohol: Science, Policy and Public Health. Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-19-965578-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Pearl, R. (1938). "Tobacco Smoking and Longevity". Science. 87 (2253): 216–217. doi:10.1126/science.87.2253.216. PMID 17813231.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Cordry, Harold V. (2001). Tobacco: a reference handbook. Contemporary world issues. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0-87436-967-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Author Query for 'Pearl', International Plant Names Index Invalid |mode=CS1 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Goldman IL (November 2002). "Raymond Pearl, smoking and longevity". Genetics. 162 (3): 997–1001. PMC 1462343. PMID 12454050.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kingsland S (February 1984). "Raymond Pearl: on the frontier in 1920s. Raymond Pearl memorial lecture, 1983". Human Biology. 56 (1): 1–18. PMID 6378756.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lloyd PJ (1967). "American German and British antecedents to Pearl and Reed's logistic curve". Population Studies. Population Investigation Committee. 21 (2): 99–109. doi:10.2307/2172714. JSTOR 2172714. PMID 11630390.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Alvarez WC (January 1959). "Raymond Pearl, student of longevity; 1879-1946". Geriatrics. 14 (1): 56–8. PMID 13609920.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links