Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Nicholson, (Alexander) John (England-Australia 1895-1969)
population biology, entomology, science administration

Nicholson receives little more than a quick nod in most elementary ecology or population biology texts, yet on last checking I find that no fewer than three of his papers (he wrote no books) have been cited more than four hundred times in the Science Citation Index, a record very few past scientists in either field can match. On moving to Australia in 1921 the young scientist was faced with the challenge of upgrading instruction in zoology, and particularly entomology, to a standard matching that of Europe and North America; this he succeeded in doing to an extent that he is now sometimes referred to as being the "father" of entomology as a profession in that country. In 1931 he moved over to CSIR, where he began a thirty-year career as the country's top economic entomologist. Meanwhile, Nicholson was finding time to work on interesting theoretical problems. In 1927 he published an innovative look at the theory of mimicry, but it was his 1933 and 1935 analyses on animal population regulation that brought him to general attention. In these, as later backed up by laboratory studies on parasitized blowflies, he derived a model of parasite-host population regulation operating under what came to be called "density dependent" and "density independent" causal forces; Nicholson believed that only the former, population-hosted, factors led to long-term population modifications--evolution--but this position was immediately challenged by those who believed environmental, independent, forces predominated. The discussion has continued to the present, being the more or the less related to biogeography depending on whether population survival is viewed more in terms of social devices and behavior, or the exigencies of the environment (defined either in physical or locational terms).

Life Chronology

--born in Biackall, Meath, Ireland, on 25 March 1895.
--1908: enters Waverly Road Secondary School
--1912: graduates from Waverly with honors; enters Birmingham University
--1915: B.S. in zoology, chemistry, and botany, Birmingham University
--1915-1918: serves in World War I with the Royal Field Artillery
--1920: M.S., Birmingham University
--1921-1930: lecturer in entomology, University of Sydney
--1922: elected to the Linnean Society of New South Wales
--1926-1927: president, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
--1927: publishes a study on mimicry in insects
--1929: D.Sc., University of Sydney, for his work on mimicry
--1930-1936: deputy chief, Division of Economic Entomology, CSIR
--1933: publishes "The Balance of Animal Populations" in the Journal of Animal Ecology
--1935: publishes "The Balance of Animal Populations. Part 1." in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, with V. A. Bailey
--1936-1960: serves as chief of the CSIR Division of (Economic) Entomology
--1951: president, Royal Society of Australia
--1952: receives the Clarke medal of the Royal Society of New South Wales
--1954: publishes "An Outline of the Dynamics of Animal Populations" in the Australian Journal of Zoology
--1957: publishes "The Self-adjustment of Populations to Change" in the Cold Spring Harbor Symposia
--1960-1966: funded by a senior research fellowship
--1961: made C.B.E.
--1963: made an honorary member of the British Ecological Society
--dies on 28 October 1969.

For Additional Information, See:

--Records of the Australian Academy of Science, Vol. 2(1) (1970): 66-81.
--Trove (National Library of Australia). [online]
--Encyclopedia of Australian Science. [online]

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

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