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History of the Society

D’Arcy Thompson (1860-1948) is sometimes claimed as the father of mathematical biology. Although Thompson was not mathematician, he frequently emphasized the importance of mathematics to biology. His treatise on “Growth and Form” contains few equations, but he found geometry in biological system. Decades of struggle in the cultural divide between the mathematical and the biological sciences passed before the first professional society in the field, The Society for Mathematical Biology, was founded in 1973.

The founders of the Society for Mathematical Biology were George Karreman, Herbert Landhal, and Anthony Bartholomay, all of whom were students of Nicholas Rashevsky (1899-1972). Rashehsky established arguably the first research group in mathematical biology at the University of Chicago, and published “Mathematical Biophysics” as the first compendium to “bring mathematical biology to the same level as mathematical physics” in 1938. One year later, he founded the journal “Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics”, which serve as a vehicle for establishing the Society for Mathematical Biology.

Rashevsky owned the Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, and formed a nonprofit organization known as Mathematical Biology, Incorporated. After Rashevsky’s death in 1972, his widow transferred the journal and Mathematical Biology, Inc to Herbert Landahl, who decided to establish the Society for Mathematical Biology, and renamed the official journal of the society, the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. George Karreman served as the first president of the Society, and Landahl was the second. For a list of the President of the Society for Mathematical Biology, visit our Presidents page.

For more information about the Society for Mathematical Biology, we recommend reading:

  • Bartholomay, Anthony F., Karreman, George, Landahl, Herbert D. Obituary of Nicolas Rashevsky. Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics 34. DOI: 10.1007/BF02477019
  • Conrad, Michael. 1986. Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. Society for Mathematical Biology Newsletter 9(3):8-9.
  • De Weer, Paul. 1997. In Memory of George Karreman. Society for Mathematical Biology Newsletter 9(3):8-9.
  • Karreman, George. 1975. Obituary: Anthony Francis Bartholomay. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 37. DOI: 10.1007/BF02470617
  • Keller, Evelyn Fox. 2002. Untimely births of a mathematical biology, in Making Sense of Life. Harvard University Press, 79– 112.
  • Maini, Phillip K., Schnell, Santiago, Jolliffe, Sara. 2004. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology—Facts, Figures and Comparisons. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 66:595-603. DOI: 10.1016/j.bulm.2004.03.003
  • Shmailov, Maya. 2016. Intellectual Pursuits of Nicolas Rashevsky. Birkh√§user. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-39922-5

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