Mathematical biology? (1)

One, who clicks this webpage, must have reached here with a keen interest in this weird academic field. I will explain my thought on mathematical ecology little by little over a couple of essays. In short, “Mathematical ecology” is a subfield in “Mathematical biology”. If so, I have to explain at first “what is mathematical biology?”.

Mathematical biology is a kind of mixture of mathematics and biology. Therefore, the name varies depending on which one focuses on, mathematics or biology. One who focuses on mathematics names it “Biomathematics”. The common points are that they use mathematical models and/or mathematical knowledge and the object to model is a biological phenomenon.

The history of mathematical biology is as old as that of quantum physics, though students hardly hear the name in their high school days. In the same period as de Broglie’s matter wave hypothesis and Shrodinger’s wave equation, Prof. Feldman wrote a textbook, “Biomathematics, being the principles of mathematics for students of biological science”, in 1924 and Prof. Sewall Wright wrote “Evolution in Mendelian populations” in 1931. In fact, theorists in population genetics made a big wave of mathematical biology. Additionally, it is in 1925 that Prof. Lotka wrote a pioneer book in mathematical theory of ecology.

It took a lot of time for the new wave to reach Japan. The oldest Japanese textbook of mathematical biology I know is “Introduction of mathematical biology” in postwar 1953, written by Prof. Yusaku Komatsu. In the textbook, logistic model, Lotla-Volterra model and age-structured model are introduced in the chapter 1, “propagation in organisms”. In chapter 2, it minutely explains an analytical way of multi-loci and multi-alleles model. Furthermore, early mathematical models on micro phenomena are introduced; models to describe the mass diffusion in cells and Rashevsky model on excitation of nerves. It was 10 years before that Profs. Hodgkin and Huxley won Nobel Prize in 1963.
(To be continued to Mathematical biology? (2))