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King in a maverick style

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 09 October 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:942

The world population has just reached 6 billion. Kamran Abbasi profiles Maurice King, who is advocating a one child world

Maurice King is a visionary or a madman—depending on how you take him. Certainly he is an enigma. To promote debate about world population, which he says is being stifled by vested interests, he has coined a new phrase: benign uproar. Benign uproar is good, believes King, far better than the alternatives of slaughter and starvation. Radical thoughts burst freely from him and may seem unpalatable at first. But he is a man of conviction, misguided or otherwise.

In 1993, after he had safely fathered two children, King hit on the idea of a one child world: “I had been to a meeting in Paris and was writing something. When the words first appeared on my computer screen they seemed daft. I cannot now remember what sparked off the idea. Then the idea seemed more and more reasonable and was incorporated in several papers in 1994, notably a handout at the Cairo conference” (see glossary, p 1000).

Born in 1927 in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), King studied at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and then St Thomas's Hospital, London. Initially, he worked as a pathologist, moving to Africa in 1956. While in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he displayed his willingness to fight injustice. He objected to not being allowed to train black Africans; his employers did …

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