Joel E. Cohen

Joel E. Cohen

Fellow: Awarded 1981

Field of Study: Statistics

Competition: US & Canada

Joel E. Cohen is the 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. He has published thirteen books (four as sole author, four as co-author, four as editor, and one as translator) and 342 papers and chapters. His most recent book is Educating All Children: A Global Agenda, edited with David E. Bloom and Martin Malin (MIT Press, 2007). Forthcoming is International Perspectives on the Goals of Universal Basic and Secondary Education, co-edited with Martin Malin (Routledge, 2009).

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, which he wrote 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 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 Award “for excellence in writing in the population sciences.” The Nordberg Prize recognized his book How Many People Can the Earth Support? (Norton, 1995), which has been translated into Japanese and Italian.

His other scientific books are A Model of Simple Competition (Harvard UP, 1966), Casual Groups of Monkeys and Men (Harvard UP, 1971), Food Webs and Niche Space (Princeton UP, 1978), Community Food Webs: Data and Theory, written with F. Briand and C. M. Newman (Springer-Verlag, 1990), and Forecasting Product Liability Claims: Epidemiology and Modeling in the Manville Asbestos Case, written with E. Stallard and K. G. Manton (Springer-Verlag, 2005). His coedited volumes are 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 UP, 1993); and Plants and Population: Is There Time? with N. V. Fedoroff (National Academy Press, 1999). He has also published, a book, written with B. Devine, of scientific and mathematical jokes: Absolute Zero Gravity (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."

Mr. Cohen serves as a member of the worldwide Board of Directors of The Nature Conservancy, since 2000; and the Board of Trustees of the New York State Nature Conservancy (2001- ),  the Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC (2004- ); the Black Rock Forest Preserve, New York (1989- ), as well as the Council (governing board) of the American Philosophical Society (2008- ). He is a member of the advisory council of the Education Policy and Data Center, Washington, DC (2004- ), a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association.

Mr. 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), as a Special Master (1996) on the panel to select experts for the multidistrict 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 appointed to the Panel (now Committee) on Science, Technology and Law of the National Research Council, Washington, DC, and to the Panel's Executive Committee in 2000. He served on the Science, Technology and Law Panel's Committee on Alternate Models to Daubert Standards in 2004. He served on the Advisory Board of the Science for Judges Project of Brooklyn Law School throughout that project's duration  (2002-07)

.He was elected a Fellow of Harvard University's Society of Fellows (1967-71), King's College Cambridge (1974-75), 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 its board (1996-99); a member of the Committee of 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 member of the scientific board of the Institute for Scientific Interchange, Torino, Italy (1991-2007); a Visiting Scholar of Phi Beta Kappa (1992-93); and a member of the editorial board of The American Scholar (1994-99). He has also been a  member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences (2001-04), the Governing Board of the National Research Council (2001-05); the Council of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000-4),  and the Executive Committee of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2001-04, 2005-06). He jointly led the project on Universal Basic and Secondary Education at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA (1998-2007).

Joel Cohen 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. He spent a sabbatical in 1997-98 at the Harvard Institute for International Development and the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. He gave the commencement address to the University of California, Berkeley, College of Natural Resources in 1999 and was Hitchcock Professor at UC Berkeley the following year.


National Academy of Sciences , 1997