Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Lotka, Alfred James (United States 1880-1949)
statistics, demography

Thoroughly trained in mathematics and the physical sciences, Lotka supplemented his various day jobs with explorations on theoretical topics ranging from evolutionary biology and predator-prey interactions to immigration/fertility rate relations and bibliometrics. In his most influential work, Elements of Physical Biology, Lotka tackled a range of problems that his background in mathematics and physics suited him for, including (as listed in his entry in the ANB) "growth and reproduction of organisms, equilibrium between organisms and their environment, evolutionary change, energy balance, the operations of the senses, and the problem of consciousness." Nowadays his name comes up most frequently in two contexts: regarding his work on the population dynamics of animals (summarized in the so-called "Lotka-Volterra model" also named for Volterra, who independently worked out the same principles), and his mathematical explanation of a pattern observed in bibliometric studies in which around sixty-one percent of the authors cited in a typical scientific paper are only cited once in that work.

Life Chronology

--born in Lemberg, Austria-Hungary (now Lwiw, Ukraine), on 2 March 1880 (the son of American expatriate missionaries).
--1901: B.S., Birmingham University; subsequently studies at the University of Leipzig
--1902-1908: moves to the United States and works as an assistant chemist for General Chemical Company
--1909: M.A. in physics, Cornell University
--1909: examiner, U. S. Patent Office
--1909-1911: assistant physicist, U. S. Bureau of Standards
--1911-1914: editor, Scientific American Supplement
--1912: D.Sc, Birmingham University
--1914-1919: works for the General Chemical Company
--1922-1924: resident at Johns Hopkins University
--1924: joins Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as the supervisor of its statistical bureau
--1925: publishes his Elements of Physical Biology
--1925: publishes "On the True Rate of Natural Increase" in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, with L. I. Dublin
--1926: publishes "The Frequency Distribution of Scientific Productivity" in the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences
--1934: promoted to assistant statistician at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
--1938-1939: president, Population Association of America
--1942: president, American Statistical Association
--1948: retires from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
--dies at Red Bank, New Jersey, on 5 December 1949.

For Additional Information, See:

--American National Biography, Vol. 13 (1999).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 8 (1973).
--Science in Context, Vol. 6 (1993): 469-509.
--Natural Images in Economic Thought: "Markets Read in Tooth and Claw" (1994): 231-246.
--Electronic Journal for History of Probability and Statistics, Vol. 4(1) (2008).
--Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 45(249) (1950): 138-139.
--International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 9 (1968).

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

Return to Home/Alphabetical Listing by Name
Return to Listing by Country
Return to Listing by Discipline