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Joel E. Cohen

International & Public Affairs, School of the Arts
Earth and Environmental Sciences Department
1230 York Avenue, Box 20 New York NY 10021 US
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  • Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor Laboratory of Populations
  • Head, Laboratory Populations

Joel E. Cohen is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations at the Rockefeller University, New York. He heads the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller and Columbia Universities. At Columbia University, New York, he is Professor of Populations in the Earth Institute, with appointments in the Departments of International and Public Affairs; Earth and Environmental Sciences; and Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology.

Cohen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1989 in evolutionary and population biology and ecology, the American Philosophical Society in 1994 in the professions, arts, and affairs, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997 in applied mathematical sciences.

His research deals with the demography, ecology, epidemiology and social organization of human and non-human populations and with mathematical concepts useful in these fields. He earned doctorates in applied mathematics in 1970 and population sciences and tropical public health in 1973 from Harvard University.

In June 2002, he received the Mayor's Award for Excellence in Science and Technology from the Mayor of the City of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg. In December 2000, his book Comparisons of Stochastic Matrices, with Applications in Information Theory, Statistics, Economics and Population Sciences (with J. H. B. Kemperman and Gheorghe Zbaganu; Birkhäuser Boston, 1998) received the Gheorghe Lazar Prize of the Romanian Academy. In March 1999, Cohen was co-winner of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 1998, for his work on Chagas' disease, he shared the Fred L. Soper Prize awarded by the Pan American Health and Education Foundation of the Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC. In March 1997, he was the first winner of the Olivia Schieffelin Nordberg Prize "for excellence in writing in the population sciences." The Nordberg Prize recognized his book, How Many People Can the Earth Support? (W. W. Norton, New York, 1995), which has been translated into Japanese and Italian.

His other scientific books are A Model of Simple Competition (Harvard University Press, 1966), Casual Groups of Monkeys and Men (Harvard University Press, 1971), Food Webs and Niche Space (Princeton University Press, 1978), and Community Food Webs: Data and Theory (with F. Briand and C. M. Newman; Springer-Verlag, 1990). He co-edited volumes on Random Matrices and Their Applications (with H. Kesten and C. M. Newman; American Mathematical Society, 1986), Mutualism and Community Organization (with H. Kawanabe and K. Iwasaki; Oxford University Press, 1993), and Plants and Population: Is There Time? (with N. V. Fedoroff; National Academy Press, 1999). He has published more than 300 papers, and a book of scientific and mathematical jokes, Absolute Zero Gravity (with B. Devine; Simon and Schuster, 1992).

In 1972, he received the Mercer Award of the Ecological Society of America for an "outstanding ecological paper published in the previous two years." In 1984, he was named one of "America's Top 100 Young Scientists" by Science Digest. In 1992, he received the Sheps Award of the Population Association of America for "outstanding contributions to mathematical demography or demographic methodology." In 1994, he received the Distinguished Statistical Ecologist Award at the Sixth International Congress of Ecology (Manchester, U.K.) for "outstanding contributions to the development of basic concepts and applications of statistical ecology."

Cohen serves as a member of the Governing Board of the National Research Council, since 2001; the worldwide Board of Governors of The Nature Conservancy, since 2000; the Board of Trustees of the New York State Nature Conservancy since 2001; the Board of Directors of the Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC, since April 2004; and the Board of Trustees of the Black Rock Forest Preserve, New York, since 1989. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, both in New York. He is a member of the scientific board of the Institute for Scientific Interchange, Torino, Italy, since 1991 and the Harvard College Board of Overseers' Committee to Visit the Department of Statistics since July 2003. He co-leads the project on Universal Basic and Secondary Education at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA, since 1998.

Cohen served as a consultant to Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, New York, on the epidemiology of asbestos-related diseases (1982-1986), as a U.S. Federal Court-appointed neutral expert on projection of asbestos-related claims in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York (1991-95) and as a Special Master (1996) on the panel to select experts for the multi-district liability litigation concerning silicone gel breast implant products before the United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Southern Division). He was appointed to the Panel on Science, Technology and Law of the National Research Council, Washington, DC, and to the Panel's Executive Committee in 2000. He was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Science for Judges Project of Brooklyn Law School in 2002.

He was elected a Fellow of Harvard University's Society of Fellows (1967-71), King's College Cambridge (1974-75), the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1981-82), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1981-86), the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1981-82), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1983), the American Statistical Association (1987), and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1990). He was a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation (1989-99) and Vice-Chairman of the Russell Sage Foundation Board (1996-99), a member of the Committee on Selection (1990-99) and the Educational Advisory Board (1985-2001) of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Director's Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1989-90), a Visiting Scholar of Phi Beta Kappa (1992-93), a member of the editorial board of The American Scholar (1994-99), a member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences (2001-4), a member of the Council of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000-4), and a member of the Executive Committee of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2001-04).

He taught at Harvard (1971-74) in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and School of Public Health, and was a Visiting Professor at Stanford University (1982), the National University of San Luis, Argentina (1987), the Central University of Venezuela (1991), the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (1993), and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland (1994). In 1996, he was the Zucker Environmental Fellow of Yale University and the BES Lecturer of the British Ecological Society. In 1997, he was the Michael Perkins Lecturer of the Department of Zoology, Cambridge University, UK. He spent a sabbatical in 1997-98 at the Harvard Institute for International Development and the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Cambridge, MA. He gave the commencement address to the University of California, Berkeley, College of Natural Resources in 1999 and was Hitchcock Professor of the University of California, Berkeley, in 2000.

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