MacArthur Fellows Program

Eric L. Charnov

Evolutionary Biologist | Class of 1997

Evolutionary Biologist
Salt Lake City, Utah
50 at time of award
Published July 1, 1997

About Eric's Work

Eric Charnov is an evolutionary biologist who blends population genetics with economics to understand how organisms work.

Charnov is perhaps best known for pathbreaking research in the 1970’s on foraging decisions, the evolution of sex ratio, sex reversal and hermaphroditism, and the structure of life histories.  He originated the sex allocation approach to plant breeding systems, and derived the “marginal value rule” for foraging in a patchy environment.  His current research uses ideas about symmetry, invariance, and scaling laws to understand various regularities in population biology.  In collaboration with K. Hawkes, he has applied some of these rules to human life histories, particularly to understand the riddle of menopause.  He is author or co-author of The Theory of Sex Allocation (1982), Infant-Mother Attachment (1985), and Life History Invariants: Some Explorations of Symmetry in Evolutionary Ecology (1993).


Charnov is a Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico.  He was a professor of biology at the University of Utah from 1973-1998, and also held adjunct appointments in the departments of anthropology and psychology.

Charnov received a B.S. (1969) from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. (1973) from the University of Washington.

Recent News

Eric Charnov is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolution at the University of New Mexico. His current research searches for power function rules for life histories.

Last updated July 2016

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