Robert Malthus and the Principle of Population

Robert Malthus

Robert Malthus

On February 13, 1766, English cleric and scholar Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus was born. His An Essay on the Principle of Population observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease, leading to what is known as a Malthusian catastrophe. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society. Malthus placed the longer-term stability of the economy above short-term expediency. His views became influential, and controversial, across economic, political, social and scientific thought.

Robert Malthus grew up in Westcott, near Dorking in Surrey and was educated at home in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire, and then at the Warrington Academy from 1782. Two years later, he entered Jesus College, Cambridge and graduated with homors in mathematics. In 1789, he took orders in the Church of England, and became a curate at Oakwood Chapel in the parish of Wotton, Surrey.

Robert Malthus became famous for his essay on population growth, published in 1798. He argued that population multiplies geometrically and food arithmetically. Therefore, the population will eventually outstrip the food supply. The Essay gave rise to the Malthusian controversy during the next decades. The content saw an emphasis on the birth rate and marriage rates. The neo-Malthusian controversy, or related debates of many years later, has seen a similar central role assigned to the numbers of children born.

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