Tue . 19 Mar 2019

Robert May, Baron May of Oxford

robert may baron may of oxford
Robert McCredie May, Baron May of Oxford OM AC FRS FAA FTSE FRSN HonFAIB born 8 January 1936 is an Australian scientist who has been Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, President of the Royal Society, and a Professor at the University of Sydney and Princeton University He now holds joint professorships at University of Oxford and Imperial College London He was also a crossbench member of the House of Lords from 2001 until his retirement in 2017

May is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and an appointed member of the council of the British Science Association He is also a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering


  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Career and research
    • 21 Early career
    • 22 Public life
    • 23 Climate change co-operation
    • 24 Awards and honours
  • 3 Personal life
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Early life and education

May was born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Boys High School He then attended the University of Sydney, where he studied chemical engineering and theoretical physics BSc 1956 and received a PhD in theoretical physics in 1959 He is a currently Patron of the Sydney High School Old Boys Union

Career and research

Early career

Early in his career, May developed an interest in animal population dynamics and the relationship between complexity and stability in natural communities He was able to make major advances in the field of population biology through the application of mathematical techniques His work played a key role in the development of theoretical ecology through the 1970s and 1980s He also applied these tools to the study of disease and to the study of biodiversity

May was Gordon MacKay Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Harvard University 1959–61 and returned to the University of Sydney 1962 as Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor 1969–72 in Theoretical Physics From 1973 until 1988, he was Class of 1977 Professor of Zoology at Princeton University, serving as Chairman of the University Research Board 1977–88 From 1988 until 1995, he held a Royal Society Research Professorship jointly at Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, where became a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford and a Master of Arts He was Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government and head of the Office of Science and Technology 1995–2000, and President of the Royal Society 2000–2005

Public life

May has held subsidiary appointments as Executive Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation, member of the Board of the United Kingdom Sports Institute, Foundation Trustee of the Gates Trust University of Cambridge, chairman of the board of Trustees of the Natural History Museum, Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Independent Member of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Trustee of World Wildlife Fund-UK, President of the British Ecological Society, and member of the Committee on Climate Change

In 1996, May asked Ig Nobel to stop awarding prizes to British scientists because this might lead the public to treat worthwhile research less seriously see Criticism of Ig Nobel

Climate change co-operation

Although an atheist since age 11, May has stated that religion may help society deal with climate change While referring to what he believes to be a rigid structure of fundamentalist religion, he stated that the co-operational aspects of non-fundamentalist religion may in fact help with climate change When asked if religious leaders should be doing more to persuade people to combat climate change, he stated that it was absolutely necessary

Awards and honours

May was appointed Knight Bachelor in 1996, and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1998 In 2001, on the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, he was created a life peer He was one of the first fifteen peers to be elevated in this manner After his initial preference for "Baron May of Woollahra" failed an objection from the Protocol Office of the Australian Prime Minister's Department, he chose the style and title Baron May of Oxford, of Oxford in the County of Oxfordshire He was made a member of the Order of Merit in 2002

He was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1979, a Corresponding Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1991, a Foreign Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1992, to the Academia Europaea in 1994 and Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 2010 In 2005, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering In 2009 Lord May became only the 7th ever Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Building HonFAIB He has received honorary degrees from universities including Uppsala 1990, Yale 1993, Sydney 1995, Princeton 1996, and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich 2003 He has been awarded the Weldon Memorial Prize by the University of Oxford 1980, an Award by the MacArthur Foundation 1984, the Medal of the Linnean Society of London 1991, the Marsh Christian Prize 1992, the Frink Medal by the Zoological Society of London 1995, the Crafoord Prize 1996, the Balzan Prize 1998 for Biodiversity and the Copley Medal by the Royal Society 2007 and the Lord Lewis Prize by the Royal Society of Chemistry 2008

Personal life

During his postdoctoral research at the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics at Harvard University as Gordon MacKay Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, between 1959 and 1961, May met his wife, Judith Feiner, a native of Manhattan The Mays have a daughter, Naomi


  1. ^ a b c d e MAY OF OXFORD, Baron ukwhoswhocom Who's Who 2017 online Oxford University Press ed A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc  subscription required
  2. ^ May, Robert M 1972-08-18 "Will a Large Complex System be Stable" Nature 238 5364: 413–414 doi:101038/238413a0 
  3. ^ Dominique Gravel, François Massol, Mathew A Leibold, "Stability and complexity in model meta-ecosystems", Nature Communications 7, 2016
  4. ^ a b "List of Fellows" raengorguk Royal Academy of Engineering 
  5. ^ Sugihara, George; May, Robert 1990 "Nonlinear forecasting as a way of distinguishing chaos from measurement error in time series" Nature 344: 734 - 741 doi:101038/344734a0 
  6. ^ Sugihara, George; May, Robert; Ye, Hao; Hsieh, Chih-hao; Deyle, Ethan; Fogarty, Michael; Munch, Stephan 2012 "Detecting Causality in Complex Ecosystems" Science 338 6106: 496-500 doi:101126/science1227079 
  7. ^ Tilman, D; May, R M; Lehman, C L; Nowak, M A 1994 "Habitat destruction and the extinction debt" Nature 371 6492: 65 Bibcode:1994Natur37165T doi:101038/371065a0 
  8. ^ Bradbury, Jane 2000 "Sir Robert May: A new face at the Royal Society" The Lancet 356 9227: 406–736 doi:101016/S0140-67360573556-X PMID 10972381 
  9. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering" Retrieved 11 February 2011 
  10. ^ May, Robert McCredie 1959 Investigations towards an understanding of superconductivity trovenlagovau PhD thesis University of Sydney OCLC 221204076 
  11. ^ http://wwwshsobuorgau/our-patrons/
  12. ^ May, Robert M 1976 "Simple mathematical models with very complicated dynamics" Nature 261 5560: 459–467 doi:101038/261459a0 PMID 934280 
  13. ^ Robert May, Baron May of Oxford publications indexed by Google Scholar
  14. ^ Richard Alleyne, "Maybe religion is the answer" claims-atheist-scientist, The Daily Telegraph, 7 September 2009]
  15. ^ "No 54255" The London Gazette Supplement 30 December 1995 p 2 
  16. ^ "No 56282" The London Gazette 23 July 2001 p 8681 
  17. ^ Annabel Crabb, Good Lord, he said what,The Sunday Age, 20 November 2005
  18. ^ "No 56746" The London Gazette 8 November 2002 p 13557 
  19. ^ "Fellows of RSNSW" RSNSW Retrieved 25 June 2012 
  20. ^ The first six honorary fellows of the Australian Institute of Building HonFAIB are: HRH Prince Philip, Sir Eric Neil AC CVO, Janet Holmes a'Court AC, James Service AO, Sir Laurence Street AC KCMG QC, and Sir John Holland AC Subsequent appointments are Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO and Dr Kenneth Michael AC "Life and Honorary Fellows" Australian Institute of Building Retrieved 21 April 2014 
  21. ^ http://wwwuuse/en/about-uu/traditions/prizes/honorary-doctorates/
  22. ^ a b "Lord Robert May" Australian Academy of Science 
  23. ^ May, Robert McCredie 2001 Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems, Princeton University Press

External links

  • Profile of Robert May: the Recipient of the 2001 Blue Planet Prize
  • Bush Accused of "Fiddling While World Burns" by Ignoring Climate Change
  • A commentary on Robert May's request to Ignobel by the Guardian
  • Speech made at the end of Lord May's presidency of the Royal Society
  • Audio: Robert May in conversation on the BBC World Service discussion show The Forum
  • Video: Interview with Cambridge University Television following the 2011 Darwin College Lecture Series on YouTube
  • The Australian Institute of Building
  • http://abelharvardedu/archive/118r_spring_05/docs/maypdf
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir William Stewart
Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government
Succeeded by
Sir David King

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