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Thomas Sowell

About Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell was born on June 30, 1930 in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem.  As was common with other neighborhood youths, he did not graduate high school. He joined the Marine Corps and found work as a photographer in the Korean War.  When his time in the service was over, he entered Harvard University under the G.I. Bill.  Sowell worked part time as a photographer and graduated magna cum laude in 1958 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics.  He continued his education at Columbia University, graduating in 1959 with a Master’s Degree in Economics.  He completed his formal education with a doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1968. (Sowell, n.d.; Sowell, 2003; Sowell, 2004)


Sowell has held jobs as an economist with AT&T and the Department of Labor.  He was the project director at the Urban Institute for two years starting in 1972, an adjunct scholar of the American Enterprise Institute for one year starting in 1975, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford for one year starting in 1976. Sowell was more interested in teaching and in 1965, he began a professorship at Cornell University.  He has also held professor positions at other prestigious schools like Rutgers University, Amherst University, Douglass College, Brandeis University and the University of California at Los Angeles. The American Enterprise Institute presented the Francis Boyer Award to him in 1990, and he was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2002 by President George W. Bush.  Currently, Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow in Public Policy at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.  He is focusing on cultural history in a world perspective. (Hoover Institution Newsletter, 2002; Sowell, 2000; Sowell, n.d.; Sowell, 2004)


Thomas Sowell is a very well published author.  He has written over a dozen books and innumerable articles, essays, and columns.  He does not limit himself to the field of economics.  His writings have covered topics ranging “from classic economic theory to judicial activism, from civil rights to choosing the right college.”  His books have been translated into Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Chinese, Swedish, Polish, Hebrew, Bulgarian, and Indonesian.  His book Vision and the Anointed was published in 1995 and emerged on three major best-seller lists: The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today.  In 1984, he found a career as a regular newspaper columnist, though he had been contributing throughout the late seventies and early eighties.  His syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers nationwide, and his also writes a column for Forbes Magazine. (Sowell, 2000; Sowell, n.d.; Sowell, 2004)


Thomas Sowell and GMOs

I was unable to obtain any specific information regarding Thomas Sowell’s views on genetically modified or transgenic organisms, but some articles and quotations led me to believe he would not support such technology.  At least two of his articles for his syndicated column speak negatively of environmentalists.  He says they are selfish and bigoted.  Sowell questioned why humans should be inconvenienced for the sake of saving a couple of endangered animals or preserving national wildlife parks.  He also doesn’t understand why the media continues to take these people seriously since they have no qualifications (Sowell, 2000 April; Sowell, 2002 Green Bigots).  One could be extremely anti-environmentalist but still support the development of GMO technology.  They do have the potential to be more economical than traditional agricultural methods. Two other quotes convinced me otherwise.


1. Scientists are now putting jellyfish genes in monkeys.  I don’t know what they’re trying to produce, but they could end up producing academic administrators.” (Sowell 2002, Random Thoughts)  According to many other articles, Sowell is not a huge fan of administrators or any sort.  Basically, with this quote he is saying scientists could potentially create something unpleasant and unnecessary.

2.      “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.  In area after area - crime, education, housing, race relations - the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.” (Sowell, 1993)  This was intended for social scientists, but I think it is appropriate to extrapolate to biological scientists.  Neither failure nor disaster (or potential disaster in the case of GMOs) has stopped scientists from continuing to produce new technologies and experiment with different transgenic organisms.  The impact on surrounding wildlife is not completely known, yet the technology keeps on growing.


Works Cited

Hoover Institution Newsletter. “Thomas Sowell Awarded National Humanities Medal.” 3 March 2002. Hoover Institution. 25 January 2004.



Moncur, Michael. The Quotations Page. 2003. 25 January 2004. <>


Sowell, Thomas. “About Thomas Sowell.” n.d. – Creators Syndicate. 25 January 2004. <>


Sowell, Thomas. “Quotations by Author.” 1993. Is Reality Optional?. The Quotations Page. 25 January 2004. <>


Sowell, Thomas. “Green Bigots Versus Human Beings.” Hoover Institution Press; 2002. Controversial Essays; pgs 134-36.


Sowell, Thomas. “Random Thoughts.” Hoover Institution Press; 2002. Controversial Essays; pgs 300.


Sowell, Thomas. Home page. 2000. Hoover Institution. 25 January 2004. <>


Sowell, Thomas. Home page. 2004. 25 January 2004. <>


Sowell, Thomas. “Silly Letters.” Jewish World Review Insight. 1 October 2003. Creators Syndicate. 25 January 2004. <>


Sowell, Thomas. “Stealing Yosemite.” Jewish World Review Insight. 3 April 2000. Creators Syndicate. 25 January 2004.



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