Nowak at Harvard in 2014
Martin Andreas Nowak
April 7, 1965 (age 55)
|Alma mater||University of Vienna|
|Known for||Evolution of cooperation, Evolutionary dynamics, Somatic evolution in cancer, Viral dynamics, Language evolution|
|Awards||Weldon Memorial Prize|
Albert Wander Prize
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
University of Oxford
Institute for Advanced Study
|Doctoral advisor||Karl Sigmund|
|Other academic advisors||Robert May|
|Doctoral students||David G. Rand|
Erez Lieberman Aiden
Martin Andreas Nowak (born April 7, 1965) is an Austrian-born mathematical biologist and the author of several books and scientific papers. Nowak was appointed as a Professor of Biology and Mathematics and the Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University in 2003, and on May 2020 he was placed on paid administrative leave following his role in allowing Jeffrey Epstein access to the campus.
Early life and education
Nowak was born April 7, 1965 in Vienna, Austria. He studied at Albertus Magnus Gymnasium and the University of Vienna, earning a doctorate in biochemistry and mathematics in 1989. He worked with Peter Schuster on quasi-species theory and with Karl Sigmund on evolution of cooperation. Nowak received the highest Austrian honors (Sub auspiciis Praesidentis) when awarded his degree.
From 1989 to 1998, Nowak worked at the University of Oxford with Robert May as an Erwin Schrödinger postdoctoral Scholar. From 1997 to 1998, Nowak was a professor of mathematical biology. After 1998, he conducted research at the Institute for Advanced Study and established a program in theoretical biology.
In 2003, Nowak was recruited to Harvard University as Professor of Mathematics and Biology. He was appointed Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED). The PED was funded with a $30-million pledge from the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, by Nowak's friend Jeffrey Epstein, a previous supporter of his work. Scientific American reported that Nowak's team received US$6.5 million of this donation.
Nowak has authored books and scientific papers on topics in evolutionary game theory, cancer, viruses, infectious disease, the evolution of language, and the evolution of cooperation. His first book, Virus Dynamics (written with Robert May) was published by Oxford University Press in 2001. Nowak is a corresponding member of the Austrian academy of sciences. He won the Weldon Memorial Prize, the Albert Wander Prize, the Akira Okubo Prize, the David Starr Jordan Prize and the Henry Dale Prize. Nowak's 2006 book Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life earned him praise from other scientists along with the R.R. Hawkins Award for the Outstanding Professional, Reference or Scholarly Work of 2006 from the Association of American Publishers.
Nowak was co-director with Sarah Coakley of the Evolution and Theology of Cooperation project at Harvard University, sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. where he was also a member of their Board of Advisers. In a lecture given at Harvard in March 2007 called "Evolution and Christianity", Nowak, a Roman Catholic, argued that "Science and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach."
Harvard University placed Nowak on paid academic leave on May 1, 2020 because of his affiliation with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. A report commissioned by the university found that Nowak had repeatedly requested access to Epstein's philanthropy following his conviction but had been blocked by Harvard administrators. Nonetheless, Nowak allowed Epstein to visit the PED offices more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018 after his conviction, to maintain an office with a phone line and webpage, and to interact with students at PED, helping to rehabilitate Epstein's public image. Nowak played a role in substantiating Epstein's false claims to MIT administrators that he had given tens of millions of dollars to Harvard.
In 1990, Nowak and Robert May proposed a mathematical model which explained the puzzling delay between HIV infection and AIDS in terms of the evolution of different strains of the virus during individual infections, to the point where the genetic diversity of the virus reaches a threshold whereby the immune system can no longer control it. This detailed quantitative approach depended on assumptions about the biology of HIV which were subsequently confirmed by experiment.
In a paper in Science in 2006, Nowak enunciated and unified the mathematical rules for the five understood bases of the evolution of cooperation (kin selection, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, network reciprocity, and group selection). Nowak suggests that evolution is constructive because of cooperation, and that we might add “natural cooperation” as a third fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and natural selection.
In a paper featured on the front cover of Nature in 2007, Nowak and colleagues demonstrated that the transition of irregular verbs to regular verbs in English over time obeys a simple inverse-square law, thus providing one of the first quantitative laws in the evolution of language.
In 2010 a paper by Nowak, E. O. Wilson, and Corina Tarnita, in Nature, argued that standard natural selection theory represents a simpler and superior approach to kin selection theory in the evolution of eusociality. This work has led to many comments including strong criticism from proponents of inclusive fitness theory. Nowak maintains that the findings of the paper are conclusive and that the field of social evolution should move beyond inclusive fitness theory.
Nowak's research interests include:
- Somatic evolution of cancer, genetic instability, tumor suppressor genes
- Stem cells, tissue architecture
- Viruses, infectious diseases, immunology
- Genetic redundancy
- Evolution of language
- Evolutionary game theory
- Evolutionary graph theory
- Evolution of cooperation
- Prelife and origins of life
Manfred Milinski in Nature describes the book as "part autobiography, part textbook, and reads like a best-selling novel" and suggests that whereas Nowak is right that the theories of kin selection and punishment need revisiting, it is too soon to tell whether his bold ideas will hold up to empirical testing. On the Nowak/Tarnita/Wilson paper Milinski says: "I anticipate that a better mathematical formulation of social evolution theory will be found that includes relatedness, is compatible with existing evidence and includes Hamilton's rule as a rule of thumb."
David Willetts, in the Financial Times, described the book as an "excellent example" of using the nexus of evolutionary biology, game theory and neuroscience to understand the development of cooperation in society, and suggests that "all politicians can draw inspiration and ideas from the intellectual resources of this exciting approach"
-  The Boston Globe October 15, 2007
- Martin Nowak at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Anderson, Christina M. (2002-10-01). "University Lures Specialist In Interdisciplinary Science". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2020-10-10.
- Levenson, Michael (2020-05-01). "Harvard Kept Ties With Jeffrey Epstein After '08 Conviction, Report Shows". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
Harvard said it had placed one professor, Martin A. Nowak, on paid administrative leave . . .
- Svrluga, Susan (May 1, 2020). "Jeffrey Epstein had his own office at Harvard University — after he was convicted as a sex offender". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
Nowak was placed on paid administrative leave . . .
- Wax, Heather (2007-10-15). "Cooperation counts for math professor". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2020-10-10.
- Witzmann, Erich (2011-04-03). "Martin Nowak: "Junge sollen unabhängig forschen"". Die Presse (in German). Retrieved 2020-06-08.
- "Program for Evolutionary Dynamics".
- Financier pledges $30 million to support Harvard researcher, The Associated Press, 7 February 2003
- Landon Thomas Jr. (2002-10-28). "Jeffrey Epstein: International Money Man of Mystery". New York Magazine.
- Oreskes, Naomi (September 1, 2020). "Jeffrey Epstein's Harvard Connections Show How Money Can Distort Research". Scientific American.
- Nowak, M.A. (2006). "Five rules for the evolution of cooperation". Science. 314: 1560–1563. doi:10.1126/science.1133755. PMC 3279745. PMID 17158317.
- Wei, X.; Ghosh, S.K.; Taylor, M.E.; Nowak, M.A.; Hahn, B.H.; Saag, M.S.; Shaw, G.M. (1995). "Viral dynamics in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection". Nature. 373: 117–122. doi:10.1038/373117a0.
- Reiter, J.G.; Makohon-Moore, A.P.; Gerold, J.M.; Heyde, A.; Iacobuzio-Donahue, C.A.; Vogelstein, B.; Nowak, M.A. (1995). "Viral dynamics in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection". Nature. 373: 117–122. doi:10.1126/science.aat7171. PMC 6329287. PMID 30190408.
- Nowak, M.A.; May, R.M. (2018). "Minimal functional driver gene heterogeneity among untreated metastases". Science. 361: 1033–1037. doi:10.1038/359826a0.
- Nowak, Martin (October 2006). Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life. Belknap Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02338-3.
- Michel, J.B.; Shen, Y.K.; Aiden, A.P.; Nowak, M.A.; Aiden, E.L. (2011). "Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books". Science. 331: 176–182. doi:10.1038/359826a0. PMC 3279742. PMID 21163965.
- Nowak, Martin (January 2001). Virus dynamics: Mathematical principles of immunology and virology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198504179.
- "David Starr Jordan Prize recipients". Archived from the original on 2014-08-25. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- Nowak, Martin (October 2006). Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life. Belknap Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02338-3.
- e.g. in Nature "It should be on the shelf of anyone who has, or thinks they might have, an interest in theoretical biology" " wonderfully well-presented, and offers a new range of insights into interesting and important and emerging topics in mathematical biology." Robert May. ""rigor and new ideas into the study of the evolution of language and cooperation...brimming with insights and surprising findings and should be of interest to anyone who is curious about these topics" Steven Pinker "A brilliant book by a master of his field" Robert Trivers "a remarkable book, absolutely original, containing a lot of material which has never before appeared in book form. It is written in a very accessible style, and leads almost effortlessly from first principles to state-of-the-art research. The book takes an eagle's view on evolution, covering a vast range of topics from molecules to man. It emphasises analytical methods and presents a large canvas of superbly elegant mathematical models." Karl Sigmund
- Harvard release on RR Hawkins Award Archived 2008-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
- Evolution and Theology of Cooperation
- About Us : Who We Are : Board of Advisors Archived 2007-01-23 at the Wayback Machine
- "Super Cooperators". 23 May 2011.
- "Can science, religion coexist in peace?". 15 March 2007.
- Rosenberg, John S. (2020-06-08). "Jeffrey Epstein's Extensive Harvard Reach". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 2020-10-10.
- Stieb, Matt (2020-05-29). "What We've Learned From Recent Jeffrey Epstein Allegations". Intelligencer. Retrieved 2020-10-10.
- Bikales, James S. (2020-05-01). "FAS Places Prof. Nowak On Leave After Report Finds Epstein Used His Program to Rehabilitate Image". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
- Cohen, Noam (May 4, 2020). "For Jeffrey Epstein, MIT Was Just a Safety School". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
- Eigen, M.; Nieselt-Struwe, K. (1990). "How old is the immunodeficiency virus?". AIDS. 4: S95–7. doi:10.1097/00002030-199001001-00014. PMID 2152591.
- See Evolutionary Dynamics p171, etc.
- Nowak, M. A. (2006). "Five Rules for the Evolution of Cooperation". Science. 314 (5805): 1560–1563. Bibcode:2006Sci...314.1560N. doi:10.1126/science.1133755. PMC 3279745. PMID 17158317.
- Lieberman, E.; Michel, J. B.; Jackson, J.; Tang, T.; Nowak, M. A. (2007). "Quantifying the evolutionary dynamics of language". Nature. 449 (7163): 713–716. Bibcode:2007Natur.449..713L. doi:10.1038/nature06137. PMC 2460562. PMID 17928859.
- Nowak, M. A.; Tarnita, C. E.; Wilson, E. O. (2010). "The evolution of eusociality". Nature. 466 (7310): 1057–1062. Bibcode:2010Natur.466.1057N. doi:10.1038/nature09205. PMC 3279739. PMID 20740005.
- Krakauer, D. C.; Flack, J. C. (2010). "Better living through physics". Nature. 467 (7316): 661. Bibcode:2010Natur.467..661K. doi:10.1038/467661a. PMID 20930827.
- Gadagkar, R (2010). "Sociobiology in turmoil again". Current Science. 99: 1036–1041.
- Rousset, F.; Lion, S. (2011). "Much ado about nothing: Nowak et al.'s charge against inclusive fitness theory". Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 24 (6): 1386–1392. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2011.02251.x. PMID 21457170.
Despite their claims of novelty and the media frenzy, [Nowak, Tarnita and Wilson]'s article is actually a collection of worn-out arguments and thus represents a conceptual and technical step backward.
- Abbot, P.; Abe, J.; Alcock, J.; et al. (2011). "Inclusive fitness theory and eusociality". Nature. 471 (7339): E1–E4. Bibcode:2011Natur.471E...1A. doi:10.1038/nature09831. PMC 3836173. PMID 21430721.
[We] believe that [Nowak, Tarnita and Wilson's] arguments are based upon a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and a misrepresentation of the empirical literature.
- Nowak, M. A.; Tarnita, C. E.; Wilson, E. O. (2011). "Nowak et al. Reply" (PDF). Nature. 471 (7339): E9. Bibcode:2011Natur.471E...9N. doi:10.1038/nature09836.
- Harman, Oren (April 8, 2011). "How Evolution Explains Altruism". New York Times. Retrieved 2020-10-10.
- Milinski, M. (2011). "Biology: A revolution in evolution". Nature. 471 (7338): 294–295. Bibcode:2011Natur.471..294M. doi:10.1038/471294b.
- The invisible hand that binds us all by David Willetts FT 24 April 2011
- Official website
- Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University
- Nowak biography, Harvard University
- Scientist at Work | Martin Nowak. In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution, The New York Times, 31 July 2007
- Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation
- Martin Nowak: Extended film interview with transcript for the 'Why Are We Here?' documentary series.