Thomas Malthus Biography

Thomas Robert Malthus (13 February 1766 – 29 December 1834) was 13 February 1766. Better known as Thomas Malthus, he was a British scholar, regarded as one of the first Demographers in History.

Malthus outlined the relationship between population growth and increased sufficient resources, making great contributions to the field of Political Economy. His theory, known as Malthusianism, influenced the thinking of great scientists, which is why he is also listed as one of the most influential figures in history.

Early life

Thomas Malthus was born on 13 February 1766 in Surrey, England into a prosperous family of Anglican beliefs. His initial upbringing came at home, under the guidance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was a close friend of his father. His higher education began at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he earned a master’s degree in Philosophy and Theology in 1791.

He was soon ordained as an Anglican shepherd, taking over for a time the leadership of Albury Parish. In 1793, he was appointed as a management staff of Jesus College, a position he held until 1804, when he retired, in order to join in marriage.

A year later, in 1805, Marthus took up a professorship in History and Political Economy at the newly opened University of East India Company in Haileybury, where he would remain until the end of his days.


His work covers a dozen writings on demographic and political economy theories, however, the most recognized is his Essay on the Principle of Population, first published in 1798, the year after which it continued to be republished and expanded by Malthus, until its final version published in 1826.

In its pages, Thomas Malthus sets out his theory that obstacles to population growth are caused by natural elements such as the amount of food and space.

According to Malthus, the human stops in his reproductive instinct in the voice of reason, which suggests the idea of not being able to provide enough resources for his children. With this fear, he refrains from seeking population growth, although sometimes men do not listen to his conscience, multiplying, and causing a particular population to grow much more than the resources it has to sustain itself.

Similarly, Malthus argues in his work Essay on the Principle of Population that this will always be a law, for populations grow in the form of geometric progression, while resources always multiply arithmetically, so they will always tend to insufficient for existing humans.

Malthus argues that the number of settlers in a specific region doubles its number every twenty-five years, unless an unexpected event is prevented.

To test his theory of population growth, Malthus based his study on data on population growth that the United States had in the 18th century, who during that century had abundant food resources, as well as a large number of early marriages and early pregnancies, proving that in fact, every twenty-five years the number of settlers doubles in number, thus increasing in a geometric regression.

In this sense, this thinker argue that the types of obstacles that may oppose population growth can be classified as proprietary obstacles, where those concerning moral restriction and social vices can be counted, and obstacles destructive factors, as well as vices and natural disasters.

Likewise, Malthus points out in his work that the unbridled increase of the population cannot be stopped without this producing misery in the population.

So obstacles, private or destructive, work in order to ensure the livelihood of the population, keeping the growth of this controlled. This series of theories about population growth and obstacles are called Malthusianism.

Influence and detractors

Malthus’s thesis marked a great influence on the political, social, scientific and economic fields. According to some historians, scientists such as Charles Darwin and Alfed Russel Wallace based their respective theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution on the concepts of Malthus.

Likewise, this theory served as the theoretical basis for the initiation of the research and development of contraceptive methods, among other groups and movements that have been based on Malthusian theory, among which are the Ecologist Movement of the sixties , as well as The Club of Rome and the Optimun Population Trust.

For his part, one of Thomas Malthus’s great detractors and his theory was the Philosopher Karl Marx, who dedicated a note of his famous work The Capital to accuse the author of the Essay on the Population Principle of plagiarizing authors such as Benjamin Franklin and Daniel Defoe , among others, at the time that it disqualifies the Malthusian thesis, stating that science and technology would at some point make it possible for the production of resources for livelihoods to be based on exponential growth, allowing growth sustainable population.

Late years

Malthus cultivated great prestige during his time. In 1819, he was appointed a Member of the Royal Society. In 1821 he obtained a membership in the Economic syllabook Club. Likewise, three years later, in 1824, Malthus became part of the ten royal partners, who made up the Royal Society of Literature.

Also, in 1834, he was one of the co-founders of the Statistical Society of London. However, his work was not well interpreted by his contemporaries, becoming better valued in the twentieth century, from the beginning of the Keynesian economy. Finally, Thomas Malthus died in Bath, England, on 23 December 1834, at the age of sixty-eight.

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Thomas Malthus Biography
Source: Education  
July 31, 2019

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