Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Preston, Frank William (England-United States 1896-1989)
ecology, conservation, glass technology

Photo courtesy of The Auk.
Frank Preston's reputation was earned through his success in two rather distinct fields of knowledge: glass technology, and mathematical ecology. Preston's "day job" involved running a consulting firm that catered to special problems served up by the glass industry. He became a leading expert on glass breakage and melting, ending up with many dozens of patents for related innovations. But he also had a lifelong interest in birds and their characteristics, and brought to their study an acute analytical and mathematical awareness that resulted in a number of classic papers: e.g., on the shapes and pigmentation of birds' eggs, the distribution of heights of their nests, and their migration patterns. He is most remembered, however, for his three major papers on the mathematical characteristics of ecological commonness and rarity, and how these can be described in terms of lognormal curves. A lesser known side of his work was his commitment to conservation causes related to the landscape of his adopted home of Pennsylvania--an interest brought on in part by his many years of spare time studies on the evolution of the glacial and postglacial features dominating the physiography of the region.

Life Chronology

--born in Leicester, England, on 14 May 1896.
--1916: B.Sc. in civil engineering, London University (by examination)
--1925: Ph.D., London University
--1925: takes a trip around the world
--1926: founds Preston Laboratories, a glass research company, in Butler, Pennsylvania
--1946: asked to serve as official observer at the atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll
--1948: publishes "The Commonness, and Rarity, of Species" in Ecology
--1951: D.Sc., London University
--1961: takes a cruise up the Amazon
--1960: publishes "Time and Space and the Variation of Species" in Ecology
--1962: publishes the two-part "The Canonical Distribution of Commonness and Rarity" in Ecology
--1962: visits Costa Rica
--1969: publishes "Diversity and Stability in the Biological World" in the Brookhaven Symposia in Biology
--1971: named a fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union
--dies at Butler, Pennsylvania, on 1 March 1989.

For Additional Information, See:

--The Auk, Vol. 106(4) (1989): 714-717.
--Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, Vol. 70(4) (1989): 244-247.
--Ecology Letters, Vol. 10(3) (2007): 188-196.

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

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