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Essential Mathematical Biology

Nicholas F. Britten
Springer Verlag
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Springer Undergraduate Mathematics Series
[Reviewed by
Ioana Mihaila
, on

 Essential Mathematical Biology is written as a comprehensive introduction to a new and rapidly growing field. In the words of the author, the book is aimed at junior or senior honors undergraduates.

The book is quite comprehensive for its size, covering topics such as population dynamics (for single and interacting species), infectious diseases, genetics, molecular and cellular biology, pattern formation, tumor modeling and others. This is quite impressive, as books in the field covering close to the same number of topics (classics are Murray's Mathematical Biology and Edelstein-Keshet's Mathematical Models in Biology) total at least twice the number of pages. Of course, brevity comes at a cost, and the cost is in this case assumed background. Standard techniques such as the use of difference and differential equations, and visualizations through cobweb diagrams are hidden in the appendix. This makes the text look slightly daunting, especially for an introductory course. One has to keep in mind that the book is written for honors students in the UK, which have a different curriculum. It is unlikely to find a sufficient number of highly mathematically skilled students in a typical undergraduate institution, to offer a course using this book as a text.

The book has a companion website, which has corrections and some additional materials related to chapters 3 (Infectious Diseases) and 4 (Population Genetics and Evolution). The author is planning to add more materials in the future. Currently the address for the website is (this is a change from the address published in the book).

Essential Mathematical Biology is concise but well written. The variety of topics and the summaries provided at the end of each topic would make this book an excellent choice for a "topics in mathematical biology" class, and a great source for undergraduate student projects. As a resource, it would also make a valuable library addition.

Ioana Mihaila ( is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Cal Poly Pomona. Her research area is analysis.

Single Species Population Dynamics.- Population Dynamics of Interacting Species.- Infectious Diseases.- Population Genetics and Evolution.- Biological Motion.- Molecular and Cellular Biology.- Pattern Formation.- Tumour Modelling.- Further Reading.- Some Techniques for Difference Equations.- Some Techniques for Ordinary Differential Equations.- Some Techniques for Partial Differential Equations.- Non-negative Matrices.- Hints for Exercises.- Index.