James Vaupel—Jim to his friends—left us at 1.30 pm on March 27, 2022. The news of his death left the whole community of demographers stunned. Jim was for all of us a scientific reference point, and so much more. His passing—before he had even reached the age of eighty—seems strangely inconsonant with his position as a researcher on questions to do with longevity and the ageing of populations. His model of longevity is presented in every school of demography in the world: a model that was illustrated by the author with great optimism, to the point of convincing the reader that new milestones in the increase of human survival are not only possible, but certainly achievable. Without a doubt his demise is seen by all of us as a cruel joke, and certainly by himself as a premature death.
Tracing a complete picture of the scientific status of Jim Vaupel would mean filling many pages and being, in any case, certain that one had forgotten something important. Even his C.V. that is to be found on web pages states the main stages in his career, the numerous honours he received, and the hundreds of publications, but neglects to record his extensive activity as an organizer of international conferences and meetings, and his extraordinary commitment in training the legions of demographers of the present century.
Let it be recalled that Jim Vaupel, member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, regular Scientific Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was Founding Director and Emeritus Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research of Rostock (MPIDR), an institute that he directed from 1996 to 2017, when he retired. From 2013 to 2017 he also directed the Max-Planck Odense Centre on the Biodemography of Aging in Denmark, which he had founded before leaving Rostock. He was still as busy as ever, both as Professor of Social Sciences, of Health Sciences and of Natural Sciences at the University of Southern Denmark a few days before his death, and as a researcher at the Max-Planck Odense Centre, where, surrounded by colleagues and many post-docs, Italian too, he continued his studies with the same enthusiasm as always.
As is well-known, he was an all-round researcher. His research work ranged from demographics to mathematics and statistics, from the social sciences to economics and politics, from biology to anthropology and genetics. His numerous articles were published in the most prestigious international journals of all the human and social sciences. We need only recall, as he did in his C.V. such fundamental writings as the articles in Nature, “Biodemography of human ageing” and “Diversity of Ageing across the Tree of Life”, and the article in Science, “Getting to the root of aging”.
Published in Genus under Creative Commons 4.0 license