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Albert Bartlett - a tribute

Professor Albert Bartlett has died at the age of 90.

Al Bartlett accomplished a lot in his 90 years—inspiring thousands of students, helping shape Boulder, Colorado’s development policies, and providing the word sustainability with a meaningful definition. But he was best known for The Lecture. In an hour, using simple arithmetic and irrefutable logic, he explained why steady, compound growth—the kind of growth that we have come to take for granted in populations and economies—is inherently unsustainable and must inevitably lead to a crash. He gave The Lecture hundreds of times; it was captured on video, which millions have viewed in classrooms or on YouTube. Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Al can attest to his incisive intellect and sense of humor, which enlivened his many scientific papers. Thank you, Al!

Richard Heinberg


CU-Boulder campus mourns death of longtime, celebrated physics professor Al Bartlett

Press Release, CU Boulder
Albert Allen Bartlett, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, was remembered today as a revered teacher who had a major impact on his students, the university, Boulder and far beyond.

Bartlett died on Sept. 7 at the age of 90.

“Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach for years after his retirement. His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim. And we can all be thankful for his vision and foresight in making the Boulder community what it is today.”...

Bartlett started teaching at CU-Boulder in 1950 and retired in 1988 but continued to teach CU students for many years afterward. He is a former president of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

When Bartlett first delivered his internationally celebrated lecture on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” to a group of CU students on Sept. 19, 1969, the world population was about 3.7 billion. He proceeded to give it another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven other countries to corporations, government agencies, professional groups and students from junior high school through college.

His talk warned of the consequences of “ordinary, steady growth” of population and the connection between population growth and energy consumption. Understanding the mathematical consequences of population growth and energy consumption can help clarify the best course for humanity to follow, he said.

The talk contained his most celebrated statement: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” A video of his lecture posted on YouTube has been viewed nearly 5 million times...
(9 September 2013)

Al's lecture was recorded for Post Carbon Institute's Global Public Media Series back in 2004. Listen to the audio or read the transcript here - Dr. Albert Bartlett: arithmetic, population and energy

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