What is Biomath?

What is Biomathematics? Biomathematics, or mathematical biology, is the interdisciplinary science which develops mathematical models in order to explain aspects of biology. In the past, mathematicians and biologists have had at times difficulty in communicating. But recently, there has been a large upsurge of truly collaborative work, in part due to an explosion of data collection by biologists. Essentially all important fields in both disciplines have been involved. Watch Darwin’s Extra Sense to hear some local perspectives about Biomathematics. Partial list of Biomath research in the 4CBC community

Biomath in history – some highlights

  • Some of the earliest record of biomathematics can be found in the 1830’s works of Schimper, Braun and Bravais on phyllotaxis (plant patterns).  These mostly descriptive work used geometry and number theory. van Iterson (1907) took a more morphogenetic approach to phyllotaxis. 
  • Early on in the study of genetics, Hardy and Weinberg (1908) used probabilities to prove the constancy of gene frequency. 
  • In 1910, Lotka introduced a system of differential equations modeling the interaction of predator and prey species. 
  • The 1917 book “On Growth and Form”  by the biologist d’Arcy Thompson studied, among other things, geometric transformations relating morphologies of different species. 
  • The inventor of the (theoretical) computer, Alan Turing proposed in 1952 a set of partial differential equations (reaction-diffusion)  modeling theoretical chemical reactions that he hoped would explain embryology, leopard spots and phyllotaxis. 
  • The same year, Hodgkin and Huxley (1952) introduced an influential model of neuron action potential, using differential equations. 
  • Starting in the 1960’s the Field medalist René Thom studied the mathematical concepts of catastrophe to explain morphogenesis.
This is a very incomplete list, which keeps expanding…