Founding Director James W. Vaupel Passed Away

We are saddened to announce that the Institute’s founding director and director emeritus, Prof. Dr. James W. Vaupel, passed away yesterday, after a brief period of critical illness.

Jim was a towering figure in the demography of health and aging, an innovator, an institution builder, and a charismatic leader. He was also a mentor, a teacher, an inspiring scholar, and a lively colleague. His passion for demography, for mathematics, for science and for policy-relevant issues were truly contagious. He inspired countless of students and scientists all over the world, and nurtured them over the course of their professional development. He instilled a love for demography in generations of scholars across all disciplines, and in particular love for formal demography—or the champagne of demography, as Jim himself put it.

In 1996 Jim became the director of the newly-founded Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR). Under his leadership, the Institute developed to become one of the most eminent demographic research centers in the world. He was instrumental in founding the open-access journal Demographic Research, in establishing numerous initiatives to support and educate new generations of demographers, among them the European Doctoral School of Demography and the Max Planck Research Network on Aging. He was also the co-founder of the Population Europe network. After his retirement from the MPIDR, at the end of 2017, Jim continued to be a leader in the field as Professor of Social Sciences, Health Sciences and Natural Sciences at the University of Southern Denmark, and director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Population Dynamics. He will not only be remembered for his brilliant contributions to mathematical, formal and bio-demography, but also as a great champion of early-career researchers, open-access publishing and outreach activities.

His loss is a deep shock to his colleagues near and far. In Rostock we will not only remember him as a shining beacon of demographic research and one of the greatest advocates for the Institute but also as a generous and caring teacher with the most warm-hearted laugh. We were lucky to be able to celebrate the Institute’s 25th anniversary with him last year, during which we reflected on the history of the Institute and the future of the discipline.

We will honor his legacy to the very best of our abilities.

Emilio Zagheni and Mikko Myrskylä