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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 8 months ago

Howard T. Odum


(1924 – 2002)

Honorary Doctor of Science Degree - Posthumous




Truth is a state of mind in which there is no contradiction. A person perceives his idea as true because he has heard no contradiction. The less one knows, the easier it is to be dogmatic and to be sure that what one knows is true. We tend to defend dogmatically as true the things we are taught, whereas the things we learn from experience and experiments tend to be properly couched in sometimes-contradictory reality.

H.T. Odum





Entry in the Wikipedia has lots of links to publications


An EcoUnits proposal here is an example of applying Emergy ideas to designing local economies.



"A whole generation of citizens thought that the carrying capacity of the earth was proportional to the amount of land under cultivation and that higher efficiencies in using the energy of the sun had arrived. This is a sad hoax, for industrial man no longer eats potatoes made from solar energy, now he eats potatoes partly made of oil."

~ Environment, Power and Society (1971)




The University of Florida is honored to award the late Dr. Howard T. Odum, graduate research professor emeritus, the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, posthumously, in recognition of his extraordinary career as a leader in the field of environmental sciences.


Howard T. Odum was one of the most creative minds in the fields of ecology, environmental science, systems ecology, environmental policy, and energy studies. The fact that it is difficult to pin down his field is testimony to his creative genius.


Odum served during World War II as a meteorology instructor in the U.S. Air Force at the Tropical Weather School in Panama. HT, as his close friends and associates called him, often said it was the time he spent in the tropics that initiated his intense interest in the energetics of systems. He left Panama upon completion of his term to earn his BS in zoology from the University of North Carolina and later a doctorate in zoology from Yale University.


In 1950, HT came to UF as an assistant professor in biology. He undertook his seminal research on Silver Springs in which he evaluated the energetics of the spring’s food web, publishing the results in Ecological Monographs. This study, and a companion study of the coral reefs of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, are now “standard” in most texts on ecology. The Ecological Society of America recognized his Silver Springs publication with the George Mercer Award. Also during the 1950s, he collaborated with his brother, Eugene Odum, a distinguished ecologist at the University of Georgia, on the authoritative text, Fundamentals of Ecology.


After spending four years at UF, in quick succession over the next 11 years, Odum was a faculty member at Duke University, the director of the University of Texas’ Marine Sciences Center, and chief scientist at the University of Puerto Rico’s Nuclear Sciences Center. It was during this time that he published an impressive quantity of research on whole ecosystem studies of the Texas Gulf Coast and the effects of radiation on tropical rainforests. Both collections of papers are widely quoted and considered some of the most important contributions to understanding the fundamental processes of these ecosystems.


Odum left Puerto Rico for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the late 1960s. While holding joint appointments and teaching in the departments of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Zoology, and Botany, he wrote Environment Power and Society. It was in this book where Odum first observed that all wealth stems from the environment and its myriad of systems and processes and that the value of services and commodities should be based on the energy and resources required to produce them, rather than on what someone is willing to pay for them.


HT returned to UF in 1971 where he remained, with the exception of visiting appointments elsewhere, until his retirement in 2002. Appointed as graduate research professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, in 1973, he founded and directed UF’s Center for Wetlands. In 1991, he also founded and was director of UF’s Center for Environmental Policy.


It was at Florida, during his 31-year tenure, that the ideas generated from the study of many systems during his earlier career began to mature into a generalized approach to energy systems. He pioneered research on the recycling of wastewaters in wetlands, developed the concepts of “net energy” of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, and created the field of “emergy” analyses. He also initiated two separate academic fields of study – Ecological Economics and Ecological Engineering. HT and his graduate students embarked on a series of studies of south Florida, the Everglades, and Lake Okeechobee that resulted in recommendations for fixing many of the problems, nearly a quarter century prior to Congress allocating billions for the same tasks.


In 1983, HT published Systems Ecology his textbook introduction to ecological and general systems. Sometimes called the “Odum Bible” by his students, Systems Ecology was a tour de force of systems thinking focusing on bringing the concepts of systems into general education.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s he collaborated with Jacques Cousteau, participating as consulting scientist on numerous expeditions around the world aboard Calypso, the research vessel of the Cousteau Society.


While at UF, Odum was awarded numerous honors, including the 1976 Institute de la Vie Prize, Paris; the 1976 University of Florida Presidential Medal; distinguished service awards from the Universities of North Carolina and Puerto Rico; the Distinguished Service Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences; an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from The Ohio State University, election to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the prestigious Crafoord Prize – the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in ecological sciences – from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Odum published 14 books, 11 of which were written during his tenure at UF.


Throughout his career, HT took his examples and analogies from the ecological world, saying that since it had millions of years of self-organization and “testing” we could learn a lot about systems from observing nature. The concepts of steady state, pulsing, and hierarchical organization were never far from Odum’s lexicon of properties used to compare systems of widely different composition and function. His last paper outlined in some detail the concept of a cosmos composed of a hierarchy of processes connected in ever increasing cycles of convergence of energy and matter yet held together by recycle pathways. His view of the cosmos was conceived with the creative energy he brought to everything he addressed.


There is no telling what might have been in store in the coming years. Those of us who were lucky enough to have spent time with him and studied his concepts in more than a cursory way understand his genius and wish to pay tribute. HT, your creative genius and vision of how systems work will be sorely missed.


Tribute by Mark T. Brown (2)




Selected works of Howard T. Odum:


  • Ewel, K.C. and H.T. Odum. 1978. Cypress swamps for nutrient removal and wastewater recycling. In Advances in Water and Wastewater Treatment: Biological Nutrient Removal, M.P. Wanelista and W.W. Edkenfelder, Jr., eds. Ann Arbor Sci. Publ., Inc., Ann Arbor, MI. pp. 181-198.
  • Lotka, A.J. 1922a .Contribution to the Energetics of Evolution. Proc. National Academy of Sciences, 8:147-150.
  • Lotka, A.J. 1922b .Natural Selection as a Physical Principle. Proc. National Academy of Sciences, 8:151-155.
  • Lotka, A.J. 1925. Elements of Physical Biology, Williams and Wilkins, Inc. New York. 465 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. 1951. The stability of the world strontium cycle. Science 114:470-411.
  • Odum, H.T. 1957. Trophic structure and productivity of Silver Springs, Florida. Ecol. Monogr. 27:55-112.
  • Odum, H.T. 1971. Environment, Power and Society. John Wiley, NY. 336 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. 1973. Energy, ecology and economics. Royal Swedish Academy of Science. AMBIO 2(6):220-227.
  • Odum, H.T. 1974. Terminating falacies in national policy on energy, economics and environment. pp. 15-19 in Energy - Today's Choices, Tomorrow's Opportunities, A.B. Schmaltz, ed. World Future Society. 301 pp
  • Odum, H.T. 1976a. 'Energy quality and carrying capacity of the earth. Response at Prize Ceremony, Institute de la Vie, Paris. Tropical Ecology 16(l):1-8.
  • Odum, H.T. 1976b. Energy analysis and net energy. In Proceedings of NSF Workshop on Net Energy, Stanford, Cal. Institute for Energy Studies, Stanford Univ. and TRW. pp. 90-115.
  • Odum, H.T. 1983a. Systems Ecology: An Introduction. John Wiley, NY. 644 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. 1983b. Maximum power and efficiency: a rebuttal. Ecol. Modelling 20(1983):71-82.
  • Odum H.T. 1984. Energy Analysis of the Environmental Role in Agriculture. From: Stanhill, G. (ed.), 1984. Energy and Agriculture. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 24-51.
  • Odum, H.T. 1985. Self Organization of Ecosystems in Marine Ponds Receiving Treated Sewage. UNC Sea Grant SG-85-04. 250 pp.

0dum H.T., 1986. Emergy in Ecosystems. In: Ecosystem Theory and Application (Edited by Nicholas Polunin). John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 1986, pp. 337-369.

  • Odum H.T., 1988a. Self-Organization, Transformity, and Information. Science, 15 November 1988, Vol.242, pp. 1132-1139.
  • Odum, H.T. 1988b. Living with complexity. pp. 19-85 in The Crafoord Prize in the Biosciences, 1987, Lectures. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden. 87 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. 1994a. Ecological and General Systems: An Introduction to Systems Ecology. (Revised edition of: Systems Ecology, 1983, John Wiley, 644 pp.) Univ. Press of Colo., P.O. Box 849, Niwot, CO., 80544. 644 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. 1994.b Ecological economics. pp. 159-161 in The Encyclopedia of the Environment, R.A. Eblen and W.R. Eblen, eds. Houghton-Mifflin, NY. 846 pp.
  • Odum H.T., 1994c. The Emergy of Natural Capital. In: Investing in Natural Capital. A.M. Jansson, M. Hammer, C. Folke, and R. Costanza, Eds.. Island Press, Covelo, CA. Pp. 200-214.
  • Odum, H.T. 1995. Self-organization and Maximum Power, in CAS Hall (ed) maximum Power: The Ideas and Applications of H.T.
  • Odum. University Press of Colorado. Niwot, CA
  • Odum, H.T. 1996. Environmental Accounting: EMERGY and Decision Making. John Wiley, NY. 370 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. 2003. Energy Hierarchy and Transformity in the Universe. Ecological Modeling. submitted
  • Odum, H.T. and C.M. Hoskin. 1958. Comparative studies of the metabolism of Texas Bays. Pubi. Inst. Mar. Sci., Univ. Tex. 5:16-46.
  • Odum, H.T. et al. 1976. Net energy Analysis of Alternatives for the United States. In U.S. Energy Policy: Trends and Goals. Part V - Middle and Long-term Energy Policies and Alternatives. 94th Congress 2nd Session Committee Print. Prepared for the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives, 66-723, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, Wash, DC. pp. 254-304.
  • Odum, H.T. and E.C. Odum. 2001. The Prosperous Way Down. Univ. Press of Colorado, Boulder. 375 pp.
  • Odum, H.T. and E.P. Odum. 1955. Trophic structure and productivity of a windward coral reef at Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands. Ecol. Monogr. 25:291-320
  • Odum, H.T. and R.F. Pigeon, eds. 1970. A Tropical Rain Forest. Division of Technical Information, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. 1600 pp
  • Odum, H.T. and R.C. Pinkerton. 1955. Time's speed regulator: the optimum efficiency for maximum power output in physical and biological systems. Am. Scientist 43(2):331-343.





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