Dr. Peter Ward



Dr. Peter Ward – Anthropologist, Astro-biologist, Extinction Specialist, author



Author of books, Rare Earth, and, The Medea Hypothesis, among others.  Currently a professor at University of Washington, and a researcher of the Chambered Nautilus.  Peter Ward is currently examining the nature of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event with studies in France and Spain involving detailed field work which concentrates on ammonites and bivalves. Ward is also researching speciation patterns and ecology of the living cephalopods Nautilus and Sepia. A final field of research is examining the stratigraphic history of West Coast Cretaceous basins through detailed biostratigraphy and basin analysis.


Biography/ Background

Peter Ward conducts his research within The Environment Institute‘s Sprigg Geobiolgy Centre.

Peter Ward has been active in Paleontology, Biology, and more recently, Astrobiology for more than 40 years. Since his Ph.D. in 1976, Ward has published more than 140 scientific papers dealing with paleontological, zoological, and astronomical topics.

He is an acknowledged world expert on mass extinctions and the role of extraterrestrial impacts on Earth. Ward was the Principal Investigator of the University of Washington node of the NASA Astrobiology Institute from 2001-2006, and in that capacity led a team of over 40 scientists and students. His career was profiled by the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, William Dietrich in The Seattle Times article “Prophet, Populist, Poet of Science“.

Peter has written a memoir of his research on the Nautilus for Nautilus Magazines “Ingenious” feature entitled “Nautilus and me. My wonderful, dangerous life with the amazing Nautilus“.

Awards & Achievements

In 2003 Ward was awarded the Jim Shea medal for popular science writing, by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, its highest annual award. Previous recipients include Stephen Jay Gould, John McPhee, Robert Ballard, and Jack Horner.

Other Awards:

  • Fellow (elected 1984) California Academy of Sciences
  • Gallagher Lecturer, University of Calgary (1996)
  • Affiliate Professor, California Institute of Technology, 1995-1997
  • Golden Trilobite Award, Paleontological Society, Best Science Book of 1993 (On Methuselah’s Trail)
  • Nominee, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 1992 (On Methuselah’s Trail)
  • Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 1994 (The End of Evolution)
  • Directors Lecturer, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 2001
  • Distinguished Lecturer, University of Hawaii, 2001
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Milan, Turin, and Bologne Cultural Ministries, 2001
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, 2001,2004, 2008.
  • Keynote lecturer, Rimini Conference (Italy), 2002
  • Jim Shea Award, NAGT, 2003
  • Washington State Governors Book Award, 2005, for Gorgon
  • Stafford Little Lectureship in Public Affairs at Princeton University, 2007
  • TED main speaker, 2008.
  • Origins Speaker, 2009
  • Crossroads Conference Main Speaker, 2009.
  • 33rd Annual Faculty Lecturer, The University of Washington
  • Rome Science Festival, 2011
  • Washington State Academy of Sciences, elected 2011
  • First South American Conference on Astrobiology, Keynote Speaker, Quito, 2011



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