Howard Odum

University of Florida
Director, Center for Wetlands
Howard Odum Image

Howard T. Odum (1924 - 2002), American ecologist noted for his pioneering studies of energy flows in ecosystems, and for the application of those same principles to energy use in society. The results from Odumês seminal research in the 1950s on the energetics of the food web in Silver Springs, Florida, and of the the coral reefs of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands are found in nearly every text on ecology. Odumês Environment, Power and Society (1971) was based on a pathbreaking application of thermodynamics and ecological energetics to energy flows in human society. Based on the work of Lotka, Odum argued that society faced many of the same energetic constraints that confront other organisms and systems. He introduced the concept of emergy, the amount of solar energy embodied in the products of the biosphere and human society. His work built important theoretical foundations for the subsequent development of the fields of ecological economics and ecological engineering. With his brother Eugene Odum, he was awarded the Crafoord Prize--the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in ecological sciences -- from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1987.