John Templeton Foundation

Oskar Morgenstern and John von Neumann at Spring Lake, ca. 1946

Courtesy of the Institute for Advanced Study


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Simon Asher Levin, an internationally renowned mathematical ecologist, is George M. Moffett Professor of Biology at Princeton University and director of its Center for Biocomplexity. His research focuses on understanding how macroscopic patterns and processes are maintained at the level of ecosystems and, indeed, the biosphere in terms of ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that operate primarily at the level of organisms. In writing about his work, he integrates empirical studies and mathematical modeling with an emphasis on how to extrapolate across scales of space, time, and organizational complexity. Dr. Levin’s current studies include plant communities as well as marine open-ocean and inter-tidal systems. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Maryland in 1964. Joining the Cornell mathematics faculty as an assistant professor the next year, he was made a professor of applied mathematics and ecology in 1977 and, five years later, also named the Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences. He accepted his Princeton professorship in 1992. Most recently a Visiting Miller Research Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Levin also has been a visiting professor at the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia, the Weizmann Institute, the University of Kyoto, Stanford University, All Souls College, Oxford, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He has delivered numerous named lectures. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society, Dr. Levin is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His many other honors include the 2007 Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences as well as the A. H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award of the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology, the MacArthur Award and a Distinguished Service Citation of the Ecology Society of America, the first Okubo Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Society for Mathematical Biology and the Japanese Society for Theoretical Biology, the Distinguished Statistical Ecologist Award of the International Association for Ecology, and the Phi Beta Kappa Biology Colloquium Award. He holds honorary degrees from Eastern Michigan University and Whittier College. Dr. Levin serves as chair of the science board of the Santa Fe Institute, chair of the council of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, vice chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, and a member of the science board of the Institute for Medical BioMathematics in Israel. Editor-in-chief of the Princeton University Press (PUP) Series in Theoretical and Computational Biology and co-managing editor of PUP’s Monographs in Population Biology and its Complexity Series, he also is honorary editor of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology and currently a member of the editorial boards of a dozen scientific journals and of the advisory boards of eight other scientific publications. He is the author or co-author of nearly 400 scientific papers, the editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (2001), and the co-editor (with M. C. Press and N. J. Huntley) of Ecology: Achievement and Challenge (2001), (with Akire Okubo) of a revised and updated second edition of Okubo’s classic monograph Diffusion and Ecological Problems: Modern Perspectives (2001), (with Peter Kareiva) of The Importance of Species: Perspectives on Expendability (2003), and, most recently, (with Zhilan Feng and Ulf Dieckmann) of Disease Evolution: Models, Concepts, and Data Analyses, a topical overview of current techniques and challenges in mathematical evolutionary epidemiology, which was published by Oxford University Press last year. Dr. Levin is also the author of Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons (Perseus Books, 1999 and Basic Books, 2000), an explanation of how the new science of complexity can be applied to understanding and alleviating ecological problems besetting the planet.