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Biology by Numbers: An Encouragement to Quantitative Thinking

TextbookHandbook / Manual
Written for the number-shy undergraduate, a common species of biologist, and assumes minimal maths ability
Takes the approach of explaining why maths is a powerful tool in biology rather than just rote learning of exercises
The author wrote the popular text Physiology by Numbers widely adopted for biology and medicine courses

By: Richard F Burton (Author)

238 pages, 64 b/w illustrations, 12 tables

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Feb 1998 | #69764 | ISBN: 0521576989
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £40.99 $50/€46 approx
Hardback | Feb 1998 | #69763 | ISBN: 0521571561
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £75.99 $93/€85 approx

About this book

Biologists are notoriously reticent about using mathematics. Biology by Numbers is both an introduction to quantitative biology and a guide for the number-shy. Richard Burton fosters a sense of the fundamental importance and usefulness of mathematical principles in biology, with a fascinating range of examples. Biology by Numbers is geared towards the non-mathematician, and covers the basics as well as various more advanced topics from many diverse biological disciplines. Questions and calculations encourage active participation without holding up the reader. A key feature is the structure of Biology by Numbers. Rather than building it around biological disciplines, Dr Burton emphasises the common ways of reasoning used in areas as diverse as insect and population growth, seed mortality and sensory response (to mention a few that use logarithms). Written primarily for beginning undergraduates, this enlightening text will also be an essential aid for students throughout their undergraduate and graduate years.

"As a gentle introduction to mathematics for the numerically phobic biology undergraduate, Richard Burton's Biology by Numbers could hardly be bettered. Well-chosen examples take the agony out of algorithms and the confusion out of calculus."
- New Scientist

"If you have ever fancied doing some biologically relevant maths, but haven't known how, this could be a good place to start."
- John A. Lee, Biologist

"The book contains lots of examples of numerical common sense that bring biology to life. Thre is a wealth of information to be learned too."
- Hugh Fletcher, Journal of Biological Education

"[...] I recommended this book to fill a gap in undergraduate teaching about number crunching – I'll be using it."
- Australian Journal of Ecology


A guide to the book

1. Putting two and two together
2. Units, formulae and the use of old envelopes: confronting some obstacles to quantitative thinking
3. Aspects of energy metabolism
4. Getting things in proportion
5. Perilous percentages, dangerous ratios
6. Building a trophic pyramid
7. Sodium in animals and plants
8. Exchanges of water and carbon dioxide
9. A geometric series
10. Introduction to logarithms
11. Bringing logarithms to life
12. Exponential relationships
13. Aspects of allometry
14. More on allometry, and on quantitative patterns in nature
15. How the abundance of food affects rates of feeding
16. The characterization of trees and other branching systems
17. Epilogue


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