Joel E. Cohen

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Positions. Joel E. Cohen is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations and head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University, New York. At Columbia University, he holds appointments in the Earth Institute and the Departments of International and Public Affairs; Earth and Environmental Sciences; and Statistics. He is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Statistics of the University of Chicago.

He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Vienna Institute of Demography (Institut für Demographie), Austria, 2017-2021, the Editorial Board of the Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2021-2025, and the International Advisory Committee of the School of Geographic Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, 2018-2022. He serves on the Academic Council (faculty governing board) of The Rockefeller University, 2019-2022, and its Research Restart Committee since 2020. He was a visiting professor of the University of Tokyo, Japan, 2014, 2017, and 2019.

Research. Cohen studies the demography, ecology, epidemiology and social organization of human and non-human populations. He also studies mathematical, statistical, and computational concepts and tools useful in studying populations. He earned doctorates in applied mathematics in 1970 and population sciences and tropical public health in 1973 from Harvard University. He has published 14 books (4 written as sole author, 4 co-authored, 5 edited, and one translated) and more than 445 papers and chapters.

Honorary societies. Cohen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA, in 1989 in evolutionary and population biology and ecology; the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA, in 1994 in the professions, arts, and affairs; and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, in 1997 in applied mathematical sciences.

Honors and awards. In October 2020, he spoke in the Distinguished Speaker Series of the Exploratory Sciences Program, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, New York. In January 2020, he delivered the Ulam Colloquium in the Department of Mathematics, University of Florida, Gainesville. In March 2018, he delivered the 26th Granville H. Sewell Distinguished Lecture in Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, New York. In February 2018, he delivered the special invited lecture on "Life Time" at the Annual Multidisciplinary Science & Humanities Meeting at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem. In December 2016, he delivered the Süssmilch Lecture at the Max Planck Institute for Demography, Rostock, Germany. In September 2015, he received a Golden Goose Award at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, for his federally supported basic research with unanticipated benefits for society, the economy, and health. In September 2013, he was appointed honorary professor of the Institute of Population and Development of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. In August 2013, he delivered an invited plenary address at the International Congress of Ecology and British Ecological Society 100th Anniversary joint meeting, London, UK. In December 2012, he gave a Mathematical and Physical Sciences Distinguished Lecture at the U.S. National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA. His 2009 essay in The American Scholar on poetry and applied mathematics was selected for Best Spiritual Writing 2011. In March 2010, he gave the first annual Malthus Lecture sponsored by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, DC. 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 Zbăganu; Birkhäuser Boston, 1998) received the Gheorghe Lazăr Prize of the Romanian Academy. In March 1999, Cohen was co-winner of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 1997, 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 Award "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 was translated into Japanese and Italian. In 1996, he was the BES Lecturer of the British Ecological Society. 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." In 1992, he received the Mindel C. Sheps Award of the Population Association of America for "outstanding contributions to mathematical demography or demographic methodology." In 1984, he was named one of "America's Top 100 Young Scientists" by Science Digest. In 1981, he was named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1981-82) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1981-86). In 1972, he received the Mercer Award of the Ecological Society of America for an "outstanding ecological paper published in the previous two years."

Books. His 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), Community Food Webs: Data and Theory (with F. Briand and C. M. Newman; Springer-Verlag, 1990), and Forecasting Product Liability Claims: Epidemiology and Modeling in the Manville Asbestos Case (with E. Stallard and K. G. Manton; Springer-Verlag 2005). 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), Plants and Population: Is There Time? (with N. V. Fedoroff; National Academy Press, 1999), Educating All Children: A Global Agenda (with David E. Bloom and Martin Malin; MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007) and International Perspectives on the Goals of Universal Basic and Secondary Education (with Martin Malin; Routledge, New York, London, 2010). He published a book of scientific and mathematical jokes, Absolute Zero Gravity (with B. Devine; Simon and Schuster, 1992).

Public communication. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Project Syndicate, Discover, Scientific American, and New York Review of Books. His video introduction to demography, "An Introduction to Demography and Populations Study through an Examination of the World's Population" (Youtube), has been viewed more than 248,000 times. He has been interviewed by National Public Radio (Science Friday, 1A, Diane Rehm Show, Weekend Edition, Brian Lehrer Show, Leonard Lopate Show, The Takeaway, Earth & Sky, The Academic Minute), Bloomberg News, CBS News, CNN, BBC News, and many U.S. and foreign broadcast media, newspapers and magazines.

International relations. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association. He has been an invited speaker of both organizations. In June 2015, he served on an international jury to select the founding members of the Academy of Science and Technology of Algeria. Since 2012, his co-authors have come from 18 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, UK, and USA. He has a working knowledge of English, French, German, and Spanish. He has studied and, when in country, used Swahili, Turkish, Japanese, and Hebrew.

Science in law. Cohen served as a consultant to Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, New York, on the epidemiology of asbestos-related diseases (1982-1986) and 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), 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), and as a consultant to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, New York, on the epidemiology of asbestos-related diseases (2006). He was a member of the Committee on Science, Technology and Law (and its Executive Committee), National Research Council, Washington, DC (2000-09). He served on the Advisory Board of the Science for Judges Project of Brooklyn Law School (2002-07).

Fellowships. He was elected a Fellow of Harvard University's Society of Fellows (1967-71), King's College Cambridge UK (1974-75), 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 Director’s Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1989-90). As mentioned above, he was a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1981-82) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1981-86).

Organizational service. He served on the governing boards of the Russell Sage Foundation (1989-99; Vice-Chairman 1996-99), National Academy of Sciences (2001-04), National Research Council (2001-05), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000-04), Black Rock Forest Preserve and Consortium, New York (1989-2011), Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2001-04, 2005-06), The Nature Conservancy worldwide (2000-09), New York State Nature Conservancy (2001-10), Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC (2004-10), and American Philosophical Society (2008-2014). Cohen served as Chairman of the 2014 Annual Fund of the American Philosophical Society. He was a member of the Committee on Selection (1990-99) and the Educational Advisory Board (1985-2001) of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a member of the scientific board of the Institute for Scientific Interchange, Torino, Italy (1991-2007), a Visiting Scholar of Phi Beta Kappa (1992-93), a member of the editorial board of The American Scholar (1994-99), and a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science (2013-15). After giving the Nathan and Beatrice Keyfitz Lecture on Mathematics and Society in 2007, he served on the Keyfitz Lectureship Committee of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences, Toronto, Canada (2016-2019). He served on the Academic Council (faculty governing board) of The Rockefeller University (2008-11).

Teaching. He taught at Harvard University (1971-74) in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Department of Organismal and Evolutionary Biology and Department of Statistics) and School of Public Health. He was a Visiting Professor in the Stanford University Department of Statistics (1982), National University of San Luis, Argentina (1987), Central University of Venezuela (1991), Technion–Israel Institute of Technology (1993), College of Notre Dame of Maryland (1994), Zucker Environmental Fellow of Yale University (1996), Michael Perkins Lecturer of the Department of Zoology, Cambridge University UK (1997), Hitchcock Professor of the University of California, Berkeley (2000), Frederick S. Pardee Visiting Professor at Boston University (2007), Roberts Lecturer at Colorado College (2012), and Graduate Program on Environmental Sciences, University of Tokyo, Komaba, Tokyo, Japan (2014, 2017, 2019). At Columbia University, he co-taught "Challenges of Sustainable Development" and gave guest lectures in "Environmental Science for Sustainable Development" (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020). He spent sabbatical years at the Harvard Institute for International Development and the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Cambridge, MA (1997-98), and University of Chicago Department of Statistics and Department of Ecology and Evolution (2013-14). He was a visiting faculty member of the University of Montpellier II, France, in 2009, 2010, and 2011.


Last updated: 2021-04-26

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Joel E. Cohen narrative vita 2018-05-29