William (Bill) Durham is Bing Professor in Human Biology (Emeritus), Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, and a Senior Fellow (Emeritus) in the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford. He has been jointly appointed in Human Biology and Anthropology at Stanford since 1977, when he came from the Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan. Bill was an undergraduate Biology major at Stanford, Class of 1971, and received the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award at graduation for his contribution to undergraduate education via the NSF-funded Student Air Pollution Research Project, the first student initiative nationally to receive NSF funding.
Bill’s career has focused on two main themes: (1) putting principles of evolution to work in efforts to sustain the biological and cultural diversity of our world; and (2) identifying social dimensions of environmental problems in Latin America and working with local leaders to help solve them. He has carried out fieldwork in Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador (especially Galápagos) in South America, and in El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica in Central America. In 1983, he was one of the first scholars to receive the MacArthur Prize Fellowship and has also received five five awards for research and teaching at Stanford, including one by vote of the students. Bill’s recent book, Exuberant Life: An Evolutionary Approach to Conservation in Galápagos (Oxford University Press, 2021) was named a Finalist for the 2022 PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers.
Bill’s other publications include the books Scarcity and Survival in Central America (Stanford Press 1979; and in Spanish, by UCA Editores 1988), Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity (Stanford Press, 1991), The Social Causes of Environmental Destruction in Latin America (U. of Michigan Press, 1995, with M. Painter), Inbreeding, Incest and the Incest Taboo (Stanford Press 2004, with A. Wolf), and Ecotourism and Conservation in the Americas (CABI, 2008, with A. Stronza). In addition, he served as Editor in Chief for 16 volumes of the Annual Review of Anthropology between 1992 and 2008.
Bill was Founding Co-Director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), a research organization that views tourism as a means to promote local livelihoods and environmental conservation. Along with Stanford Professors Rodolfo Dirzo and Larry Crowder, Bill has been Co-director of the Osa-Golfito Initiative (INOGO) in the Woods Institute, working with Costa Ricans to develop a sustainability strategy for the southern region of the country.
He has led more than 35 Stanford Alumni Association trips to Galápagos, Costa Rica, the Amazon, East Africa, and elsewhere.