1798 – England
‘If unchecked, the human population would grow geometrically while the food supply could only grow arithmetically. In two centuries the population would be to the food supply 256:9’
(in an arithmetic series of numbers there is a common difference between any number and its successor, while in a geometric series each number is a constant multiple of the preceding number)
When Malthus, an obscure country curate, published his Essay on the Principle of Population it excited much attention and placed its author in the centre of a controversial political debate on population. The essay was denounced as unholy, atheistic and subversive of the social order. FRIEDRICH ENGELS, the cofounder of communism, criticised Malthus’ essay for underestimating science;
‘But science increases as fast as population – in the most normal conditions it also grows in geometrical progression – and what is impossible for science? ‘
Malthusian ideas form the foundations of the modern theory on the relationship between economics, population and the environment. DARWIN wrote in his book ‘The Origin of Species’ that his theory ‘is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms’.