Robert MacArthur

Robert Helmer MacArthur
Born (1930-04-07)April 7, 1930
Toronto, Ontario
Died November 1, 1972(1972-11-01) (aged 42)
renal cancer
Fields Ecology
Thesis  (1958)
Doctoral advisor G. Evelyn Hutchinson
Known for Study of community and population ecology

Robert Helmer MacArthur (April 7, 1930 November 1, 1972) was a Canadian-born American ecologist who made a major impact on many areas of community and population ecology.

Early life and education

MacArthur was born in Toronto, Canada, and later moved to Marlboro, Vermont as his father, John Wood MacArthur, moved from the University of Toronto to Marlboro College.[1][2] MacArthur received his Bachelor's degree in mathematics from Marlboro College, followed by a Master's degree in mathematics from Brown University in 1953.[2] A student of G. Evelyn Hutchinson, MacArthur earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1958; his thesis was on the division of ecological niches among five warbler species in the conifer forests of Maine and Vermont.[3]


MacArthur was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, 1958–65, and professor of biology at Princeton University, 1965-72. He played an important role in the development of niche partitioning, and with E.O. Wilson he co-authored The Theory of Island Biogeography, a work which changed the field of biogeography, drove community ecology and led to the development of modern landscape ecology. His emphasis on hypothesis testing helped change ecology from a primarily descriptive field into an experimental field, and drove the development of theoretical ecology.

At Princeton, MacArthur served as the general editor of the series Monographs in Population Biology, and helped to found the journal Theoretical Population Biology. He also wrote Geographical Ecology: Patterns in the Distribution of Species (1972). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1969. Robert MacArthur died of renal cancer in 1972.

See also


  1. Odenbaugh, Jay (2011). "Philosophical themes in the work of Robert H. Macarthur". In Gabbay, Dov M.; Brown, Bryson; Thagard, Paul; De Laplante, Kevin; Peacock, Kent; Woods, John. Philosophy of Ecology. Handbook of the Philosophy of Science. 11. Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-444-51673-2.
  2. 1 2 Odenbaugh, Jay (2013). "Searching for Patterns, Hunting for Causes: Robert MacArthur, the Mathemical Naturalist". In Harman, Oren; Dietrich, Michael R. Outsider Scientists: Routes to Innovation in Biology. University of Chicago Press. pp. 181–189.
  3. Anderson, Ted R. (2013-06-01). The Life of David Lack: Father of Evolutionary Ecology. Oxford University Press. p. 203. ISBN 9780199339938.
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