Thomas Malthus

DEFINITION of 'Thomas Malthus'

An 18th-century British philosopher and economist famous for his ideas about population growth. Malthus' population theories were outlined in his book, "An Essay on the Principle of Population", first published in 1798. In it he theorized that populations will continue to grow until growth is stopped or reversed by disease, famine, war or calamity. He developed what is now referred to as the Malthusian growth model, an exponential formula used to forecast population growth.

BREAKING DOWN 'Thomas Malthus'

Thomas Malthus was a controversial figure. The late 18th and early 19th centuries were marked by philosophers who believed that humanity would continue to grow and improve itself, and could create a utopian society. Malthus countered this argument by saying that, throughout history, a portion of the general population has always been poor and miserable, that this was unlikely to change and that these factors actually helped control population growth.