The French Response to the Demographic Works of Alfred Lotka

By Jacques Véron, Catriona Dutreuilh


Although Lotka published his founding article on demography in 1907, he was not discovered by French statisticians interested in population questions until 1931. It was Raoul Husson who introduced his work in France, with the publication of a comparative study of population growth in France and abroad. Lotka’s notion of stable population and his method for calculating the intrinsic rate of natural increase are his most commonly cited contributions, primarily in the Journal de la Société de statistique de Paris. Dublin and Lotka’s work on health and mortality, notably in relation to the United States, are also known. The second part of Théorie analytique des associations biologiques, published in French in 1939, rapidly became a reference text for specialists of “demographic analysis”. Adolphe Landry helped to popularize Lotka’s work, and Paul Vincent explicitly acknowledged his intellectual debt to the American demographer. Over his lifetime, Lotka developed close relations with French statisticians who appreciated both his scientific intellect and his human qualities.

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