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Encyclopedia > Howard T. Odum

Howard Thomas Odum (1924-2002), commonly known as H.T. Odum or Tom Odum, was an eminent American ecosystem ecologist and a professor at the University of Florida. A student of G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Odum played a key role in the development of the field of biogeochemistry. He went on the develop the idea of emergy (Embodied energy) as a unifying principle of energy flow through living systems. His students were pivotal in shaping the field of ecosystem ecology. He was the son of the noted sociologist Howard W. Odum, and brother of the seminal American ecologist, educator, and author Eugene Pleasants Odum. 1924 (MCMXXIV) was a leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 2002 (MMII) is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Ecosystem ecology is the study of the movement of energy and matter through ecosystems. ... University of Florida State University System of Florida FAMU FAU FGCU FIU FSU NCF UCF UF UNF USF UWF The University of Florida is a public university located in Gainesville, Florida. ... G. Evelyn Hutchinson G(eorge) Evelyn Hutchinson (January 30, 1903 - May 17, 1991) was an American zoologist known for his studies of freshwater lakes and considered the father of modern limnology. ... The field of biogeochemistry involves scientific study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment (including the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the pedosphere, the atmosphere, and the lithosphere), and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earths chemical... Emergy means both energy memory and embodied energy. ... There appear to be a number of different understandings of the term Embodied Energy. Basically it refers to quantitative methods of accounting for flows of energy through our environment. ... Ecology is the branch of science that studies the distribution and abundance of living organisms, and the interactions between organisms and their environment. ... Eugene P. Odum (1913-2002) is considered to have been one of the most influential figures in the science of ecology in the twentieth century. ...

Odum had an early interest in ornithology and published his first paper while he was still an undergraduate. He earned his B.S. in zoology (Phi Beta Kappa) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1947. His education was interrupted for three years by his wartime service with the Army Air Force in Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal Zone where he worked as a tropical meteorologist. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology at Yale, 1950 under the guidance G. Evelyn Hutchinson (Dissertation Title: The Biogeochemistry of Strontium: With Discussion on the Ecological Integration of Elements). This step took him from his early interest in ornithology and brought him into the emerging field of systems ecology. Ornithology (from the Greek ornis = bird and logos = word/science) is the branch of zoology concerned with the scientific study of birds and it includes observations on the structure and classification of birds, and on their habits, song and flight. ... A Bachelor of Science (B.S., B.Sc. ... Zoology (Greek zoon = animal and logos = word) is the biological discipline which involves the study of animals. ... The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the eleventh-oldest institution of higher education (and arguably the oldest public institution) in the United States. ... City nickname: The Southern Part of Heaven County Orange County Mayor Kevin C. Foy Town Council Sally Greene Ed Harrison Cam Hill Mark Kleinschmidt Bill Strom Dorothy Verkirk Jim Ward Edith Wiggins (mayor pro tem) Area  - Total  - Water 51. ... 1947 (MCMXLVII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrination, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons such as the atom bomb. ... The United States Army Air Forces, or USAAF, was a part of the U.S. military during World War II. The direct precursor to the U.S. Air Force, the USAAF formally existed between 1941 and 1947. ... Around the world there are a number of canal zones. ... Meteorology is the scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting. ... Yale can refer to: Yale University, one of the United States oldest and most famous universities. ... Systems Ecology is a transdiscipline which studies ecological systems, or ecosystems. ...

Like his older brother Eugene Odum, Howard was profoundly interested in the emerging field of ecology, or more precisely, ecology at the systems level. He is known for his work in "Emergy" and energy flows in ecosystems and economics, and for aquatic and estuarine research. Also, he was known as an avid birder in both his professional and personal life.

His collaborations with his brother Eugene began before the end of Howard’s studies at Yale. At that time, they started the first English-language textbook on systems ecology, Fundamentals of Ecology, which was published in 1953 and had very broad influence. Their collaborations after that, in research as well as writing, were frequent.

In their first book, the Odum brothers adopted the term "ecosystem." (The term was first used in a 1935 publication by the British ecologist Arthur Tansley, and had previously (1930) been coined by Tansley's colleague Roy Clapham, but its modern usage derives from the work of Raymond Lindeman in his classic study of a Minnesota lake (Lindeman, R. L. 1942. The trophic-dynamic aspect of ecology. Ecology 23: 399-418)). Before the Odums, the ecology of specific organism/environments had been studied on a more limited scale within individual sub-disciplines of biology, rather than as a discipline in itself. In ecology, an ecosystem is a naturally occurring assemblage of organisms (plant, animal and other living organisms—also referred to as a biotic community or biocoenosis) living together with their environment (or biotope), functioning as a loose unit. ... Sir Arthur George Tansley (1871 - 1955) was an English botanist who was a pioneer in the science of plant ecology. ...

One of Howard Odum’s important contributions is the concept of "Emergy" - sometimes briefly defined as "energy memory." Odum looked at natural systems as having been formed by the use of various forms of energy in the past. Odum elaborated that "emergy is a measure of energy used in the past and thus is different from a measure of energy now. The unit of emergy (past available energy use) is the emjoule to distinguish it from joules used for available energy remaining now."

Howard Odum founded the Center for Wetlands at the University of Florida, now managed by notable ecologist Thomas L. Crisman, in 1973. By the end of his life, Odum was Graduate Research Professor Emeritus at the U of F, and Director of its Center for Environmental Policy. He wrote some 15 books and 300 papers. University of Florida State University System of Florida FAMU FAU FGCU FIU FSU NCF UCF UF UNF USF UWF The University of Florida is a public university located in Gainesville, Florida. ...


  • The Prosperous Way Down: Principles and Policies (with Elisabeth C. Odum), 2001
  • Heavy Metals in the Environment : Using Wetlands for Their Removal, 1999
  • Biosphere 2 : Research, Past and Present (with Bruno D. V. Marino), 1999
  • Environmental Accounting : EMERGY and environmental decision making, 1996
  • Ecological Microcosms (with Michael J. Beyers), 1993
  • Cypress Swamps (with Katherine C. Ewel), 1984
  • Systems Ecology : an Introduction, 1983
  • Energy Basis for Man and Nature (with Elisabeth C. Odum), 1976, 1981
  • A Tropical Rain Forest; a Study of Irradiation and Ecology at El Verde, Puerto Rico (with Robert F. Pigeon), 1970
  • Environment, Power and Society, 1971
  • Fundamentals of Ecology (with Eugene P. Odum), (first edition) 1953


  • Ewel, John J. 2003. Resolution of Respect: Howard Thomas Odum Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. January 2003: 12-15 (pdf)



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