Watts, Duncan J. 1971-

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WATTS, Duncan J. 1971-

PERSONAL: Born February 20, 1971, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Education: University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, B.Sc. (with first-class honors), 1991; Cornell University, Ph.D., 1997.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—Department of Sociology, Columbia University, 413 Fayerweather Hall, 1180 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027. E-mail— [email protected].

CAREER: Columbia University, Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences, New York, NY, postdoctoral fellow, 1998-99; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA, postdoctoral fellow, 1999-2000; Columbia University, New York, NY, assistant professor of sociology, 2000—. Speaker at conferences and symposia. Military service: Royal Australian Navy, officer, 1991-93.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholarship, 1993; H. D. Block teaching award, Cornell University, 1996; American Sociological Association award for best paper in mathematical sociology, 1999; Intel Research Council grant, 1999.


Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks betweenOrder and Randomness, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1999.

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, Norton (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to All Us Apes: And Other Scientific Wisdom from Ockham's Razor, edited by R. Williams, ABC Books (Sydney, Australia), 1997. Contributor of scientific papers to periodicals, including Nature, American Journal of Sociology, and Physical Review.

SIDELIGHTS: Duncan J. Watts is a researcher in the nascent field of networks science. This growing field creates mathematical models from such phenomena as the "small world" syndrome, in which strangers meeting for the first time find that they have mutual acquaintances, or the "Kevin Bacon game," in which film actors or actresses of all nationalities can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon through minimal degrees of separation. What Watts and other scientists studying the structure of small worlds have found is that these sorts of networks are found everywhere, from the Internet to the nerve cells in worms, and even extending to global enterprise and electrical power grids. Watts's books explain and illustrate network theory and speculate upon its implications for an increasingly interconnected world.

In Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness, Watts "uses graph theory and puts forth particular graph models to describe the connections and establish the conditions under which network models, and by extension the systems they describe exhibit the small-world phenomenon," noted Panos J. Antsaklis in the Review of Politics. The work requires a certain mathematical expertise, but it also illustrates its points with real-world situations that any lay reader can understand. Contemporary Sociology reviewer John M. Roberts wrote: "The achievement of this creative and important work is to pursue very general formulations that seem to capture certain important properties of real graphs, to explore the dependence of some graph properties on others, and to find interesting ways to examine the effect of small-world structure in some particular domains." These domains range from politics to acquaintanceship relations to the network of proteins in a cell.

Those who reviewed Small Worlds noted its technical nature but also commended Watts for his contributions to mathematical sociology. In the American Mathematical Monthly, Jerrold W. Grossman declared: "As a graph theorist, I found Small Worlds quite interesting for its blend of theoretical and experimental graph theory and its treatment of such diverse applications. . . . The author has clearly done his homework, and the apparent breadth and depth of his knowledge in so many different disciplines is impressive." Peter Kareiva in the Quarterly Review of Biology described the book as a "playfully and clearly written monograph" in which Watts "uses examples adroitly, and mixes abstract theory with real-world anecdotes with superb skill." Roberts concluded: "This admirable work will stimulate sociological research both by providing specific models and theory for networks research and as a rich example of a widely applicable analytical approach."

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age attempts to formulate mathematical predictions of network growth and behavior. The title is a reflection of the John Guare play Six Degrees of Separation, in which a character muses that everyone on the planet is separated only by six handshakes from everyone else. Six Degrees demonstrates how viral epidemics spread through the human population and through computers, how electrical blackouts can actually be caused by the security measures set up to prevent them, and even how a crowd clapping in unison without prompting relates to crickets chirping in a field. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described Six Degrees as "a dizzyingly complex blend of mathematics, computer science, biology and social theory."

Watts's aim in Six Degrees is to report on his and his colleagues' progress in creating formulas that will accurately predict networking phenomena, from influenza outbreaks to forest fires. Booklist correspondent Bryce Christensen felt that "a great many readers will accept his invitation to explore the frontiers of a new intellectual enterprise." A Kirkus Reviews contributor likewise characterized the book as a "well-done, comprehensive overview of a field that's likely to be an important growth area of science." In the New Scientist, David Cohen noted that Six Degrees requires a certain scientific competency and reflects the nascent nature of the enterprise. Nonetheless, the reviewer concluded, "Readers who persevere with Six Degrees will be rewarded with a good view of an important new subject."



American Mathematical Monthly, August-September, 2000, Jerrold W. Grossman, review of Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness, pp. 664-668.

American Scientist, July-August, 2003, Prabhakar Raghavan, review of Six Degrees, p. 374.

Booklist, December 1, 2002, Bryce Christensen, review of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, p. 639.

Choice, July-August, 2003, R. F. Conklin, review of Six Degrees, p. 1942.

Contemporary Sociology, March, 2001, John M. Roberts, review of Small Worlds, pp. 209-210.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of SixDegrees, p. 1683.

New Scientist, January 25, 2003, David Cohen, "Follow Your Nodes," p. 54.

Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, review of SixDegrees, p. 71.

Quarterly Review of Biology, March, 2001, Peter Kareiva, review of Small Worlds, p. 65.

Review of Politics, winter, 2001, Panos J. Antsaklis, "Large Networks, Small Worlds," pp. 192-195.*