John V.H. Dippel’s latest book, To the Ends of the Earth, examines why polar explorers willingly endured unimaginable cold, hunger, and disease in the 19th and 20th centuries. This follows on the heels of other books of his probing how other groups have responded to great dangers and crises in the past – for example, why young men eagerly volunteer to fight in wars, why so many German Jews decided to remain in Nazi Germany, and why small farmers in the U.S. abandoned their lands to strike out for the Western frontier.
Educated at Princeton, Trinity College, Dublin, and Columbia, Dippel combines solid, thorough research with a fluid, accessible style to bring to light the psychological, social, and economic factors which induce individuals to risk their lives for some greater, all-consuming goal.
Of his reasons for choosing these topics, Dippel says, “I am intrigued by how people behave at critical historical moments, when their lives are really on the line. Too often, we make the mistake of superimposing our own values and outlooks on their decisions, rather than trying to understand them from their point of view. My books try to do just that.”
As a member of the “baby-boom” generation, Dippel experienced the upheavals of the Sixties, when many assumptions about American society were called into question, and men of draft-age had to decide whether or not to take part in a war they felt violated their principles.
The founder of a program bringing English teachers to Vietnam, Dippel lives in northwest Connecticut.