June 26, 2016

Joel E. Cohen

Inaugural "Math and Society" Lecture Series to promote dialogue between mathematical and social sciences

TORONTO, April 23, 2007 - The Fields Institute is pleased to announce that award-winning theoretical biologist Joel E. Cohen will present the inaugural lecture in the series The Nathan and Beatrice Keyfitz Lectures in Mathematics and Social Sciences. He will address the questions "How Many People Can the Earth Support? And How Do You Know That?" The lecture will take place at 6:00pm on Tuesday, May 8, 2007, in Room KP 108 of the Koffler Institute at the University of Toronto.

Nathan and Beatrice Keyfitz

People have been worrying about how many people the Earth can support for thousands of years. In the last 350 years, according to Cohen, scientists have published more than 60 estimates of the number of people the Earth can support. These estimates range from fewer than 1 billion to more than 1,000 billion. Professor Cohen will describe the nature and limitations of the mathematical methods used to derive these estimates.

The Earth's capacity to support people is determined both by natural constraints and by human choices concerning economics, environment, culture (including values and politics), and demography. Human carrying capacity is therefore dynamic and uncertain. However, human choice is not captured by ecological notions of carrying capacity that are appropriate for non-human populations.

Joel E. Cohen is a professor of populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University in New York City and heads the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller and Columbia University. His research deals with the demography, ecology, epidemiology and social organization of human and non-human populations and with mathematical concepts applicable to these fields. In 1997 he was the first recipient of the Olivia Schieffelin Nordberg Award "for excellence in writing in the population sciences," in recognition of his book, How Many People Can the Earth Support? (1995). In 2002, he received the Mayor's Award for Excellence in Science and Technology from the City of New York. In 1997 was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the following year he shared the Fred L. Soper Prize awarded by the Pan American Health Organization for his work on Chagas' disease. In 1999, Cohen was the co-recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. His most recent book is Forecasting Product Liability Claims: Epidemiology and Modeling in the Manville Asbestos Case (2004).

This series of public lectures, made possible by the generous support of Nathan and Beatrice Keyfitz, will focus on the topic of "mathematics and the social sciences" and will be held annually. Lecturers are selected by a distinguished international committee consisting of both mathematicians and social scientists. All lectures are open to the public and everyone is welcome. The purpose of the series is both to inform the public of some of the ways quantitative methods are being used to design solutions to societal problems, and to encourage dialogue between mathematical and social scientists. These lectures will be of interest to the university community as well as to individuals involved in public administration, economics, health policy, social and political science. See for further details.

The Fields Institute, located in Toronto, is recognized as one of the world's leading independent mathematical research institutions. With a wide array of pure, applied, industrial, financial and educational programs, The Fields Institute attracts over 1,000 visitors annually from every corner of the globe, to collaborate on leading-edge research programs in the mathematical sciences. The Field's Institute is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, seven principal sponsoring universities, seven affiliate universities and several corporate sponsors. See for further details.

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