Steven Strogatz

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Steven H. Strogatz
Born (1959-08-13) August 13, 1959 (age 64)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materPrinceton University (BA)
Trinity College, Cambridge
Harvard University (PhD)
Known forWatts and Strogatz model
Dynamical systems theory
Network theory
SpouseCarole Schiffman
ChildrenLeah Strogatz, Joanna Strogatz
AwardsFellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Lewis Thomas Prize
Scientific career
Complex systems
Applied mathematics
Chaos theory[1]
InstitutionsCornell University
University of Cambridge
Princeton University
Harvard University
Boston University
ThesisThe Mathematical Structure of the Human Sleep-Wake Cycle (1986)
Doctoral advisorRichard Ernest Kronauer
Charles Czeisler[2]
Doctoral studentsDuncan J. Watts[2]

Steven Henry Strogatz (/ˈstrɡæts/), born August 13, 1959, is an American mathematician and the Susan and Barton Winokur Distinguished Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Mathematics at Cornell University.[3][4] He is known for his work on nonlinear systems, including contributions to the study of synchronization in dynamical systems, and for his research in a variety of areas of applied mathematics, including mathematical biology and complex network theory.

Strogatz is the host of Quanta Magazine's The Joy of Why podcast.[5] He previously hosted The Joy of x podcast, named after his book of the same name.[6][7]


Strogatz attended high school at Loomis Chaffee from 1972 to 1976. He then attended Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude with a B.A. in mathematics. Strogatz completed his senior thesis, titled "The mathematics of supercoiled DNA: an essay in geometric biology", under the supervision of Frederick J. Almgren, Jr.[8] Strogatz then studied as a Marshall Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1980 to 1982, and then received a Ph.D.[9] in applied mathematics from Harvard University in 1986 for his research on the dynamics of the human sleep-wake cycle. He completed his postdoc under Nancy Kopell at Boston University.


After spending three years as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and Boston University, Strogatz joined the faculty of the department of mathematics at MIT in 1989. His research on dynamical systems was recognized with a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1990. In 1994 he moved to Cornell where he is a professor of mathematics. From 2007 to 2023 he was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics,[10] and in 2023 he was named the inaugural holder of the Susan and Barton Winokur Distinguished Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science and Mathematics.[11] From 2004 to 2010, he was also on the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute.


Early in his career, Strogatz worked on a variety of problems in mathematical biology, including the geometry of supercoiled DNA,[12] the topology of three-dimensional chemical waves,[13] and the collective behavior of biological oscillators, such as swarms of synchronously flashing fireflies.[14] In the 1990s, his work focused on nonlinear dynamics and chaos applied to physics, engineering, and biology. Several of these projects dealt with coupled oscillators, such as lasers, superconducting Josephson junctions, and crickets that chirp in unison.[15] His more recent work examines complex systems and their consequences in everyday life, such as the role of crowd synchronization in the wobbling of London's Millennium Bridge on its opening day,[16] and the dynamics of structural balance in social systems.[17][18]

Perhaps his best-known research contribution is his 1998 Nature paper with Duncan Watts, entitled "Collective dynamics of small-world networks".[19] This paper is widely regarded as a foundational contribution to the interdisciplinary field of complex networks, whose applications reach from graph theory and statistical physics to sociology, business, epidemiology, and neuroscience. As one measure of its importance, it was the most highly cited article about networks between 1998 and 2008, and the sixth most highly cited paper in all of physics.[20] It has now been cited more than 50,000 times, according to Google Scholar; as of 17 October 2014, it was the 63rd most highly cited research article of all time.[21][22]

Writing and outreach[edit]

Strogatz's writing for the general public includes four books and frequent newspaper articles. His book Sync[23] was chosen as a Best Book of 2003 by Discover Magazine.[24] His 2009 book The Calculus of Friendship[25] was called "a genuine tearjerker"[26] and "part biography, part autobiography and part off-the-beaten-path guide to calculus".[27] His 2012 book, The Joy of x,[28] won the 2014 Euler Book Prize.[29] It grew out of his series of New York Times columns on the elements of mathematics.[30] These columns were described by the Harvard Business Review as "a model for how mathematics needs to be popularized" and as "must reads for entrepreneurs and executives who grasp that mathematics is now the lingua franca of serious business analysis.".[31] Strogatz's second New York Times series, "Me, Myself and Math" appeared in the fall of 2012.[32] His most recent book, Infinite Powers,[33] was shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize[34] and was a New York Times Best Seller.[35] Published in 2019, it "evocatively conveys how calculus illuminates the patterns of the Universe, large and small," according to a review in Nature.[36]

In 2020 Strogatz began hosting a podcast for Quanta Magazine called “The Joy of x” in which he chats “with a wide range of scientists about their lives and work.”[37]


Strogatz is a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics,[38] the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[39] the American Physical Society,[40] and the American Mathematical Society.[41]

Strogatz has been lauded for his ability as a teacher and communicator. In 1991 he was honored with the E. M. Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, MIT's only institute-wide teaching award selected and awarded solely by students. He has also won several teaching awards at Cornell, including Cornell's highest undergraduate teaching prize, the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowship (2016).[42] At the national level, Strogatz received the JPBM Communications Award in 2007.[43] Presented annually, this award recognizes outstanding achievement in communicating about mathematics to nonmathematicians. The JPBM represents the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. In 2013 he received the AAAS Public Engagement with Science Award[44] for "his exceptional commitment to and passion for conveying the beauty and importance of mathematics to the general public."

Strogatz was selected to be the 2009 Rouse Ball Lecturer at Cambridge[45] and an MIT Mathematics 2011 Simons lecturer.[46]

In 2014 he was awarded the Euler Book Prize by The Mathematical Association of America for "The Joy of x".[47] The award citation[48] describes the book as "a masterpiece of expository writing" and remarks that it is "directed to the millions of readers who claim they never really understood what the mathematics they studied was all about, for whom math was a series of techniques to be mastered for no apparent reason." Along with Ian Stewart, Strogatz was awarded the 2015 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science.[49]


  1. ^ Steven Strogatz publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ a b Steven Strogatz at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ Strogatz personal web page
  4. ^ Strogatz at Cornell
  5. ^ "The Joy of Why". Quanta Magazine. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  6. ^ "Quanta Magazine". Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  7. ^ "Why I'm Hosting The Joy of x Podcast". Quanta Magazine. 15 January 2020. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  8. ^ Strogatz, Steven (1980). The mathematics of supercoiled DNA : an essay in geometric biology. Princeton, NJ: Department of Mathematics.
  9. ^ Strogatz, Steven H. (1986). The Mathematical Structure of the Human Sleep-Wake Cycle. Vol. 2. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 317–29. doi:10.1177/074873048700200405. ISBN 978-0-387-17176-0. PMID 2979668. S2CID 85106859. {{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Cornell news article about Schurman Professors
  11. ^ Cornell news article about Winokur Professorship
  12. ^ Worcel, A.; Strogatz, S.; Riley, D. (1981). "Structure of chromatin and the linking number of DNA". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 78 (3): 1461–1465. Bibcode:1981PNAS...78.1461W. doi:10.1073/pnas.78.3.1461. PMC 319150. PMID 6940168.
  13. ^ Sullivan, Walter (1985-01-08). "Strange, Scroll-Like Wave is Linked to Biological Processes". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Sullivan, Walter (1991-08-13). "A Mystery of Nature: Mangroves Full of Fireflies Blinking in Unison". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Nadis, Steve (February 2003). "All together now". Nature. 421 (6925): 780–782. doi:10.1038/421780a. PMID 12594475. S2CID 2249987.
  16. ^ Chang, Kenneth (2005-11-08). "All Together Now: Synchrony Explains Swaying". The New York Times.
  17. ^ 2011 Simons Lectures - Steven Strogatz, Social networks that balance themselves
  18. ^ Marvel, Seth A.; Kleinberg, Jon; Kleinberg, Robert D.; Strogatz, Steven H. (1 February 2011). "Continuous-time model of structural balance". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 108 (5): 1771–1776. doi:10.1073/pnas.1013213108. PMC 3033300. PMID 21199953.
  19. ^ Watts, D. J.; Strogatz, S. H. (1998). "Collective dynamics of 'small-world' networks" (PDF). Nature. 393 (6684): 440–442. Bibcode:1998Natur.393..440W. doi:10.1038/30918. PMID 9623998. S2CID 4429113.
  20. ^ "ScienceWatch December 2008". Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
  21. ^ Van Noorden, Richard; Maher, Brendan; Nuzzo, Regina (2014-10-30). "The top 100 papers". Nature News. 514 (7524): 550–3. Bibcode:2014Natur.514..550V. doi:10.1038/514550a. PMID 25355343.
  22. ^ "Excel spreadsheet of Google Scholar's 100 top-cited research articles. Extracted on 17 October 2014".[unreliable source?]
  23. ^ Strogatz, Steven (2003). Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. Hyperion. ISBN 978-0-7868-6844-5. OCLC 50511177.
  24. ^ Discover's Best Books 2003
  25. ^ Strogatz, Steven H (2009). The Calculus of Friendship : What a Teacher and a Student Learned About Life While Corresponding About Math. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-13493-2. OCLC 276274618.
  26. ^ Bookslut book review for The Calculus of Friendship
  27. ^ American Scientist book review for The Calculus of Friendship
  28. ^ Strogatz, Steven H (2012). The Joy of x : A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity. Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0547517650.
  29. ^ Euler Book Prize, Mathematical Association of America, retrieved 2015-08-03.
  30. ^ 2010 New York Times "Elements of Math" series
  31. ^ Harvard Business Review blog by Michael Schrage
  32. ^ "Me, Myself and Math - Opinionator -". Archived from the original on 2015-02-15. Retrieved 2015-02-15.
  33. ^ "Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe | HMH Books". Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  34. ^ "Shortlist for Royal Society Science Book Prize 2019".
  35. ^ "New York Times Best Sellers, Science, May 2019". The New York Times.
  36. ^ Ananthaswamy, Anil (2019-04-02). "From counting with stones to artificial intelligence: the story of calculus". Nature. 568 (7750): 32. Bibcode:2019Natur.568...32A. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-01038-4.
  37. ^ Quanta Magazine essay about The Joy of x Podcast
  38. ^ SIAM Fellows Class of 2009
  39. ^ "AAAS Fellows elected 2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-05-22. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  40. ^ 2014 Fellows of American Physical Society
  41. ^ 2016 Class of the Fellows of the AMS, American Mathematical Society, retrieved 2015-11-16.
  42. ^ Weiss Presidential Fellowship
  43. ^ JPBM award announcement
  44. ^ AAAS Public Engagement with Science Award
  45. ^ "Rouse Ball Lecture". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  46. ^ "MIT Mathematics | Simons". Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-08-14.
  47. ^ Euler Book Prize
  48. ^ Citation for Euler Book Prize, pp. 22-23
  49. ^ Lewis Thomas Prize Archived 2015-03-20 at the Wayback Machine

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