23 November 2017

1989 YSSPer Martin Nowak at IIASA

Dr. Martin Nowak gave an institute seminar on Natural Cooperation. Currently, he is Professor of Mathematics and of Biology at Harvard University and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. He works on the mathematical description of biology. More details on his seminar and current research below.

Martin Nowak © Harvard University

Martin Nowak © Harvard University

Dr. Nowak mentioned, "Being back at IIASA is a bit of a homecoming for me as I was sent from here into the world." He was a doctoral student of Karl Sigmund when participating in the 1989 YSSP. He also collaborates with 2009 YSSPer Benjamin Allen.

During the seminar, Dr. Nowak discussed global cooperation and cooperation with the future in an institute seminar on Natural Cooperation. Cooperation implies that one individual pays a cost for another to receive a benefit. Cooperation can be at variance with natural selection. Why should you help competitors? Yet cooperation is abundant in nature and is an important component of evolutionary innovation. Cooperation is a master architect of evolution and can be seen as the third fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and selection. Nowak presented five mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation: direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, spatial selection, group selection and kin selection.

While at IIASA, he spoke with IIASA Director General and CEO Professor Dr. Pavel Kabat and colleagues Gloria Benendikt, Ulf Dieckmann and Jan Marco Müller on furthering IIASA's goal of linking science with art in game theory to increase transformative thinking and collaborating on a new work based on the institute's Science & Arts project InDilemma.


Martin Nowak is Professor of Mathematics and of Biology at Harvard University and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics . He studied at the University of Vienna where he received his PhD sub auspiciis praesidentis. He held appointments at the University of Oxford and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Dr Nowak works on the mathematical description of biology. His contributions include evolution of cooperation, of language, of eusociality, adaptive dynamics, dynamics of viral infections and cancer. He is the author of four books and over 400 scientific papers. 

Print this page

Last edited: 27 November 2017


Ulf Dieckmann

Principal Research Scholar

Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group

Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Principal Research Scholar

Systemic Risk and Resilience Research Group

Principal Research Scholar

Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 386

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313