Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Lotka, Alfred James (United States 1880-1949)
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.
--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
--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
--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.
--American National Biography, Vol. 13 (1999).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography,
Vol. 8 (1973).
--Science in Context, Vol. 6 (1993):
--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)
--International Encyclopedia of the Social
Sciences, Vol. 9 (1968).
Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights
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