Robert U. Ayres is a physicist and economist noted for his work on the role of thermodynamics in the economic process, and more recently for his investigation of the role of energy in economic growth. He is Emeritus Professor of Economics and Technology at the international business school INSEAD, in France, where he has continued his lifelong, pioneering studies of materials/energy flows in the global economy. He originated the concept of industrial metabolism, which has since become a field of study explored by the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
Ayres was trained as a physicist at the University of Chicago, University of Maryland, and Kings College London (Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics). He was Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh from 1979 until 1992, when he was appointed Professor of Environment and Management at INSEAD. He is also an Institute Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.
Ayres is author or coauthor of 18 books and more than 200 journal articles and book chapters. His books range from Alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine, with Richard A. McKenna (Johns Hopkins Press, 1972), to Turning Point: The End of the Growth Paradigm (Earthscan, 1998) to The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity, with Benjamin Warr (Edward Elgar, 2009). He and his wife reside in Paris.
Edward (Ed) H. Ayres was Editorial Director at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. (publisher of the annual State of the World and bi-annual Vital Signs) from 1994 through 2005. He also served as editor of the bimonthly World Watch magazine during this period. World Watch articles and essays by Ayres were distributed to the global media by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in Time magazine in its series “Beyond 2000: Your Health, Our Planet”; Utne Reader; The Ecologist; and other publications.
Ayres has pursued a lifelong interest in the relationships between individual human health and endurance and the sustainability of human societies. He was the third-place finisher in the first New York Marathon in 1970, and today continues to write and run long distances in the mountains of California, where he and his wife have built an eco-friendly house.