Person: May (2), Robert
Robert May was an Australian mathematical biologist whose work played a key role in the development of theoretical ecology.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- May did not feel that was the right course for him either.
- His chemistry teacher Lenny Basser suggested that he should study chemistry at the University of Sydney and so May decided to investigate chemical engineering.
- After talking to Rolf Prince, the Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Sydney, and having him arrange for May to visit the Colonial Sugar Refinery, he decided this was right for him and, in 1953, entered the University of Sydney.
- He could major in one of pure mathematics, applied mathematics or physics but May wanted to major in all three.
- Max Robert Schafroth (1923-59), known as Robbie, was May's thesis advisor.
- When May was in the third year of his research, Schafroth was appointed to the foundation chair in theoretical physics in Geneva, Switzerland and was due to begin on 1 September 1959.
- May was now keen to leave Australia.
- After completing his Ph.D., May went to the United States to undertake postdoctoral work as Gordon MacKay Lecturer in Applied Mathematics in the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics at Harvard University.
- They saw each other for six months before May's time at Harvard came to an end in 1961 and by the end of that time decided to marry, which they did on 3 August 1962.
- After two years at Harvard, May returned to Sydney in 1962 and was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Physics.
- May proved a wonderful theorem on mathematical models for predator-prey problems which was a generalisation of a physics theorem due to Eugene Wigner.
- In 1973, Robert May addressed these questions in this classic book.
- May investigated the mathematical roots of population dynamics and argued - counter to most current biological thinking - that complex ecosystems in themselves do not lead to population stability.
- In 1979 May had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London and, in 1988 he accepted the position as Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Zoology of Oxford University.
- In addition to his academic appointments, May became a civil servant when he was appointed as Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and head of its Office of Science and Technology between 1995 and 2000.
- May has received many honours.
- On 30 December 1995 it was announced that "The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify her intention of conferring the honour of Knighthood upon Professor Robert McCredie May, F.R.S., Chief Scientific Adviser and lately Royal Society Research Professor, University of Oxford and Imperial College, London.
- Let us now list a selection of further honours that May has received.
Born 8 January 1936, Sydney, Australia. Died 28 April 2020, Oxford, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive