Robert McCredie May

1998 Balzan Prize for Biodiversity

For his seminal contributions to the mathematical analysis of biodiversity, in particular, his pioneering work on chaos theory and ecological systems, and the development of a variety of methods for estimating the total number and rates of extinction of species living on the earth today.

Robert McCredie May (Lord May of Oxford) was born in Sydney, on 8 January 1936 (1936 – 2020).

BSc (1956) and PhD (1959) at Sydney University.

Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Head of the UK Office of Science and Technology (1995-2000).

Previously he was Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and Chairman of the Research Board at Princeton University (1973-1988);
taught physics at Sydney University (1962-1973) and mathematics at Harvard University (1959-1961 and 1966).

He was awarded a Knighthood in 1995 and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1998, both for “Services to Science”;

Trusty of the Nuffield and Cambridge University Gates Trusts and until recently Chaired the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London;

Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Sciences (1992), Overseas Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences (1991), Fellow of Academia Europaea (1994).

Honorary degrees from several universities, including Uppsala, Yale, Princeton and Sydney.

Editor (1973-1989) of Monographs in Population Biology, Princeton University Press, and of Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution (OSEE, since 1989), Oxford University Press, and member of other Editorial Boards.

His scientific contributions include, besides his many articles, book chapters and book reviews, the following books:

–          R.M. May, Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 236 + vii (1973); 2° Ed., pp. 265 + vii (1974);

–          R.M. May (Ed), Theoretical Ecology: Principles and Applications, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, and Saunders, Philadelphia, pp. 317 + viii (1976); 2° Ed., pp. 496 + viii, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, and Sinauer, Sunderland, Mass. (1981). Translated into German, 1982. Translated into Chinese, 1983;

–          R.M. Anderson and R.M. May (Eds), Population Biology of Infectious Diseases, Springer Verlag, Berlin and New York, pp. 314 + viii (1982);

–          R.M. May (Ed), Exploitation of Marine Communities, Springer Verlag, Berlin and New York, pp. 36 + x (1984);

–          J. Roughgarden, R.M. May and S.A. Levin (Eds), Perspectives in Ecological Theory, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. 397 + vii (1989);

–          M.P. Hassell and R.M. May (Eds), Population Regulation and Dynamics, The Royal Society, London, and Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 182 + v (1990);

–          R.M. Anderson and R.M. May, Infectious Diseases of Humans: Dynamics and Control, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 757 + viii (1991); 2° printing, with minor revisions, in paperback (1992);

–          J.R. Beddington, D.H. Cushing, R.M. May and J.H. Steele (Eds), Generalizing Across Marine and Terrestrial Ecology, The Royal Society, London, pp. 111 (1994);

–         P.J. Edwards, R.M. May and N.R. Webb (Eds), Large-Scale Ecology and Conservation Biology, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp. 375 + xi (1994);

–          B. Grenfell, R.M. May and H. Tong (Eds), Chaos and Forecasting, The Royal Society, London (Single Issue of Philosophical Transactions, 348, No. 1688), pp. 323-514 (1994). Also published by World Scientific Publishing, Singapore (1995);

–          J.H. Lawton and R.M. May (Eds), Extinction Rates, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 233 + xii (1995).

(December 2001)

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