A brief history of mathematical modeling

Mostly for me, I am writing a little history of mathematical models. A timeline really.

1202, Fibonacci tried to model rabbits with the eponymous sequence.

1780, Malthus tries to model human populations as a deterministic birth death process, not valid as time goes to infinity of course, but he has

\dot{N}=\alpha N

where \alpha=b-d the difference between birth and death rates.

1820, Verhulst makes this more realistic by adding a carrying capacity that depends on resources. Thus he uses


so that N>K makes for \dot{N}<0 and a decline in population, whereas below the carrying capacity, the population grows.

1925, Lotka writes his famous differential equations to describe predator-prey dynamical systems (1926 Volterra independently publishes… allegedly). Here I write them in terms of rabbits R and foxes F

\dot{R} = \alpha_R R - \beta RF

\dot{F} = \beta\omega RF - \delta_F F

1936ish, Kolmogorov generalizes these equations

1927, Kermack and McKendrick write the famous SIR model, describing an epidemic process in susceptible, infected and recovered individuals. Typically this model is a fractional model using S+I+R=N and rates are written in terms of fractions

\dot{S}=-{\frac {\beta IS}{N}}

\dot{I}={\frac {\beta IS}{N}}-\gamma I

\dot{R}=\gamma I

von Foerster

Zipf’s law


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