Robert R. Sokal

Robert Reuven Sokal ( born January 13, 1926 in Vienna, † April 9, 2012 in Stony Brook, New York) was an Austrian-American ecologist, evolutionary biologist and biostatisticians. He worked from 1968 to 1995 as a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is a co-founder of numerical taxonomy. For his scientific achievements, he was named among other things, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.


Robert Sokal was born in Vienna in 1926 into a middle-class family of Jewish origin, the only child of his parents. During the period of National Socialism, he emigrated to the Anschluss with his family in 1939 via Italy to Shanghai, where he completed his education. At the local Saint John's University, he earned a degree in biology, which he finished in 1947 with a bachelor's degree.

In the same year Robert Sokal moved to the University of Chicago, where he earned a doctorate in zoology under the supervision of the population geneticist Sewall Wright in 1952. He then went to the University of Kansas, where he initially served as a lecturer in entomology and in 1961 received a professorship for statistical biology. In 1968 he became a professor in the newly created Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he worked until 1995, including 1980 to 1983 as head of the department.

Robert Sokal was after his retirement as Distinguished Professor Emeritus still scientifically active and participated until shortly before his death in the events of his former department. He was married from 1948 until his death, and the father of a son and a daughter, and died 2012 in Stony Brook. The time of his life in Shanghai, during which he met his Chinese -born wife, is in the biographical works published in 2008, " Last Resort Shanghai " shown.


Robert Sokal mainly dealt with the quantitative analysis of data in the life sciences, particularly in the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, population genetics and biological systematics. Considered together with Peter Sneath (1923-2011) as co-founder of numerical taxonomy, a classification system in the scheme based on computer- aided calculation method for cluster analysis. At the University of Kansas and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he supervised a total of 25 doctoral students.

In addition, Robert Sokal published more than 200 scientific publications and 13 books, six of which have been translated into other languages. Among his most famous works is the collaboration with F. James Rohlf ( b. 1936 ) wrote and since 1969 in the previous four editions, and reprints and translations published another book, " Biometry: The Principles and Practice of Statistics in Biological Research ", which in the field of biostatistics is regarded as a standard work.


Robert Sokal in 1983 appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was added to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1987 the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. In addition, he received in 1975 and 1983 respectively, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2004 Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. The University of Crete in 1990 awarded him an honorary doctorate. At the State University of New York in 1972 he was promoted to the Leading Professor and Distinguished Professor in 1991. The American Society of Naturalists named him an honorary member.

Works (selection)

  • Principles of Numerical Taxonomy. San Francisco, 1963 ( co-author )
  • Numerical Taxonomy: The Principles and Practice of Numerical Classification. San Francisco, 1973 ( co-author )
  • Introduction to Biostatistics. New York 1973, 1987; Mineola 2009; Spanish edition: Barcelona 1980, 1999 ( co-author )
  • Biometry: The Principles and Practice of Statistics in Biological Research. San Francisco in 1969, 1981; New York 1995, 2005, 2012; Spanish edition: Madrid 1979