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The Symposia, 1933 — 2003

1957:   Population Studies: Animal Ecology and Demography, Vol. XXII

Organizer: Milislav Demerec

Table of Contents

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The 1955 Symposium had dealt with Population Genetics: The Nature and Causes of Genetic Variability in Populations. Two years later, participants in the 1957 Symposium considered populations in relation to their interactions with the environment and other populations. This topic was interpreted broadly, and as LaMont Cole wrote in his introductory essay, the participants must have wondered "...what it is that has brought together such a strangely assorted group of people, drawn, as we are, from the lists of anthropologists, mathematicians, zoologists, and even economists." Cole went on to define the demographic population (in contrast the Mendelian Population described Dobzhansky in 1955) as "...a biological unit at the level of ecological integration where it is meaningful to speak of a birth rate, a death rate, a sex ratio, and an age structure in describing the properties of the unit."

Cole also made a claim that there was no fundamental difference between the animal ecologists and the human demographers in terms of their goals and strategies, and was soundly rebuked by Frank Lorimer who stressed the essential social component of human demography. The latter was the topic of the first session and this was followed by a session on demographic theory, including some rather heavy mathematical modeling. The extraordinary range of topics is illustrated by

Moser's detailed analysis of bacterial populations while in the next session, Potter presented an analysis of Farris' Formula for predicting a woman's fertile days during her menstrual cycle.

There were three sessions on animal ecology and it was only in the final two sessions that the ecologists and demographers presented together. But even here, it seemed that the two groups spoke past one another. G. Evelyn Hutchison gave the concluding remarks, ending on a rather somber note that reiterated the differences: "An adequate science of human demography must take into account mechanism of these kinds [social] just as animal demography has taken into account all the available information on the physiological ecology and behavior of blow flies, Daphnia, and bean weevils. Unhappily, human beings are far harder to investigate than are these admirable laboratory animals; unhappily also, the need becomes more urgent daily."

Jan A. Witkowski

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