The first director of Harvard's Center for Population Studies said yesterday that the problem of population growth was one "of which we are frightfully and frighteningly ignorant." For just that reason, he continued, "this is a area in which a university may be useful."
Roger Revelle, who was named to his post in June, said that the center's staff might eventually number 100 persons, growth will be imperceptible."
The center, which is just beginning to get organized, will take over the Social Relations Department's house at 9 Bow St. after the department moves to William James Hall early in 1965.
Speaking at a press conference called to mark a "step in our birth pangs"--occupancy of quarters in the Boston research laboratories of the School of Public Health, with which the center is affiliated--Revelle painted a grim picture of what will happen if the world's present two per cent birth rate goes unchecked.
In 100 years, he said, some 35 billion people will be alive, with a combined weight equaling that of the earth. And in about 650 years, there will be one person for every square foot of the earth's land surface, or 25 million people per square mile, he said.
Unless population growth is controlled. Revelle warned, "people who live in desperate poverty and misery will constitute the overwhelming fraction of the world's population." Prosperity in Europe and the United States may then create "an almost impossible situation," he added.
"I just don't believe our Western society can maintain itself as a beleaguered citadel of opulence in a world of poverty," he said. "It literally cannot survive if a majority of people are starving and a minority are overfed."
Revelle called the population problem "psychological, social, moral, and even religious," not merely biological. He said the center would therefore cut across University divisions and include scholars on the Faculties of Arts and Sciences, Education, and Law, as well as Medicine and Public Health.