Image: © 2007 Erik Jacobs, Jacobs Photographic

Martin Nowak


Program for Evolutionary Dynamics
Harvard University
One Brattle Square, suite 6
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138-3758

phone: +1 (617) 496 4737
fax: +1 (617) 496 4629



selected list
articles in Scientific American, Natural History, and New Scientist
complete list

Some Press

Die Presse 2014

Project Syndicate 2014
Discover magazine 2012
Wisconsin Public Radio 2012 MP3:
Plus magazine 2012
Wired 2011
profil 2011
New York Times 2011
New Scientist 2011
ORF 2011
Die Presse 2011
Die Presse 2011
Studium 2011
New York Times 2010
Ziarul de Iasi 2010
Harvard Magazine 2010
JHU Gazette 2010
JHU news release 2010
bridges 2009 2009
German Public Radio 2009
Die Presse 2009
Boston Globe 2008
Scientific American 2008
New York Times 2007
Boston Globe 2007
Harvard Magazine 2007
Panorama news magazine 2007
Yomiuri newspaper 2007
Die Presse newspaper 2007
Panda's Thumb 2007
ScienceBlogs 2007
Harvard Crimson 2003
Thirteen/WNET 2003
Stanford University News 2002
Esquire 1999
Discover magazine 1993
New York Times 1992
Chicago Sun Times 1992

Martin A. Nowak is Professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. He works on the mathematical description of evolutionary processes, including the evolution of cooperation and human language, as well as the dynamics of virus infections and human cancer. His major scientific contributions and discoveries include: the mechanism of HIV disease progression; the rapid turnover and evolution of drug resistance in HIV infection; quantifying the dynamics of HBV infection; the evolution of virulence under superinfection and coinfection; the role of chromosomal instability in human cancer; quantifying the dynamics of chronic myeloid leukemia; the accumulation of drivers and passengers in cancer progression; the evolution of drug resistance in targeted cancer therapy; the mechanisms for the evolution of genetic redundancy; "generous tit-for-tat" and "win-stay, lose-shift"; the alternating Prisoner's Dilemma; the evolution of cooperation by indirect reciprocity; spatial game dynamics; adaptive dynamics; evolutionary game dynamics in finite populations; evolutionary graph theory; the five mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation; the evolution of eusociality by natural selection; a mathematical approach for studying the evolution of human language; the dynamics of language regularization; culturomics; "winners don't punish"; prelife; and the origin of evolution.

An Austrian by birth, he studied biochemistry and mathematics at the University of Vienna with Peter Schuster and Karl Sigmund. He received his Ph.D. sub auspiciis praesidentis in 1989. He went on to the University of Oxford as an Erwin Schrödinger Scholar and worked there with Robert May, the later Lord May of Oxford, with whom he co-authored numerous articles and his first book, Virus Dynamics (2000). Nowak was a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College and later at Keble College. He was also a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. Nowak became head of the mathematical biology group at Oxford in 1995 and Professor of Mathematical Biology in 1997. A year later, he moved to Princeton to establish the first program in theoretical biology at the Institute for Advanced Study. He accepted his present position at Harvard University in 2003.

A corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Nowak is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Weldon Memorial Prize of Oxford University, the David Starr Jordan Prize of Stanford University, and the Akira Okubo Prize of the Society for Mathematical Biology. Nowak is the author of over 350 papers and four books. Evolutionary Dynamics (2006) provides an overview of the powerful yet simple laws that govern the evolution of living systems. SuperCooperators (2011) argues that cooperation is the third fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and selection.

view CV

Current Research Interests

Evolutionary dynamics
Somatic evolution of cancer, genetic instability
Molecularly targeted anti-cancer therapy
Infectious diseases, immunology, virus dynamics
Quasispecies theory
Genetic redundancy
Evolutionary game theory
Adaptive dynamics
Finite populations
Evolutionary graph theory
Evolution of language
Cooperation, fairness, reputation
Indirect reciprocity
Group selection
Experimental games
Origin of evolution, prelife


1975-1983 Albertus Magnus Gymnasium in Vienna
1983-1989 University of Vienna, studying Biochemistry and Mathematics
1985First Diploma: Biochemistry (with highest honors)
1987Diploma thesis: Theoretical Chemistry
1987Second Diploma: Biochemistry (with highest honors)
1987-1989 Doctoral thesis: Mathematics
1989Doctor rerum naturalium (sub auspiciis praesidentis)

Scientific Career

1987-1988 Institute for Theoretical Chemistry, Professor Peter Schuster
1987-1989Institute for Mathematics, Professor Karl Sigmund
Sept-Nov 1988Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany, Professor Manfred Eigen
1993"Habilitation" at the Institute of Mathematics, University of Vienna (Universitäts Dozent)
1989-1990 Erwin Schrödinger Scholarship to work with Professor Sir Robert May
1990-1992 Guy Newton Junior Research Fellow, Wolfson College
1992-1998 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Sciences
1993-1996 E. P. Abraham Junior Research Fellow, Keble College
1995-1998 Head of Mathematical Biology Group
1996-1998 Senior Research Fellow, Keble College
1997-1998 Professor of Mathematical Biology
1998-2003 Head, Program in Theoretical Biology Institute for Advanced Study
1999-2003 Associated Faculty, Princeton University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
2000-2003Associated Faculty, Princeton University, Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics
2003- Professor of Mathematics and Biology
2003- Director, Program for Evolutionary Dynamics

Prizes, Named Lectures and Memberships

1990Prize from the Austrian Science Minister
1990 Promotion sub auspiciis praesidentis rei publicae
1995Richardson Lecture, Keble College, Oxford
1996Weldon Memorial Prize
1997 Shanks Lecture, Vanderbilt University
1998Albert Wander Prize and Memorial Lecture, University of Bern
1999Roger F. Murray Prize, Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance
1999Akira Okubo Prize, International and Japanese Society for Mathematical Biology
1999Erwin Schroedinger Lecture, University of Vienna
1999 Porter Lecture, Rice University
2000 Gergen Lecture, Duke University
2001 David Starr Jordan Prize, Stanford University, Cornell University, Indiana University
2001Rainich Lectures, University of Michigan
2001 Corresponding Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
2001Benjamin Pinkel Lecture, University of Pennsylvania
2003 Henry Dale Prize, The Royal Institution, London
2006Invited Lecture, Congress for Mathematics, Madrid
2006R.R. Hawkins Award for Evolutionary Dynamics, Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the American Association of Publishers
2007Radon Lecture, Austrian Academy of Sciences
2008Coxeter Lectures, Fields Institute, Toronto
2010 Templeton Research Lectures at Johns Hopkins University
2010 Doctor Honoris Causa, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania
2011 Max Planck Lecture, Stuttgart, Germany
2012 MBI 10th Anniversary Keynote talk, Ohio State University
2012 Plenary speaker, Canadian Mathematical Society
2013 Winifred Asprey Distinguished Lectures in Mathematics, Vassar College
2013 Plenary Speaker, 10th Seoul Digital Forum
2013 2013 André Aisenstadt Chair, Centre de Recherches Mathématiques, Université de Montréal
2013 Plenary Speaker, 11th INTECOL Congress, London

Editorial Work

Editorial board member: Proceedings of the Royal Society London, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Journal of Theoretical Medicine, Journal of Difference Equations, International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos. Referee: Nature, Science, PNAS, and others.

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