Biography and History

Frank W. (Wallace) Notestein contributed significantly to the science of demography and to a better understanding of population problems in world affairs, notably through his work on family planning and population control. Born in Alma, Michigan in 1902, Notestein received his undergraduate degree from the College of Wooster in 1923. He earned his PhD in Economics from Cornell University in 1927 and was an Economics instructor there from 1926-1927. From 1927 through 1928, Notestein worked abroad as a fellow of the Social Sciences Research Council. He began work for the Milbank Memorial Fund, an endowed national foundation that supports nonpartisan analysis, study, and research on significant issues in health policy, as a research assistant and then became a member of its technical staff from 1929 through 1936, working on differential fertility, the total genetic contribution to the next generation.

In 1936, Notestein began as a Lecturer at Princeton University. At the same time, he developed and directed the Office of Population Research (OPR) at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with funding from the Milbank Memorial Fund. The OPR focused on the study of the interrelation of population growth and change in underdeveloped areas and on the social and psychological factors affecting fertility in the American family. By 1941, Notestein had attained full professorship as the Director of the OPR and as a professor of Demography, holding both titles until his resignation in 1959. Notestein remained as “Acting Director” of the OPR for the fall 1959 term while his successor, Ansley J. Coale, took a sabbatical. After Notestein’s resignation, he remained involved at Princeton as a “Visiting Senior Demographer” through 1963. In addition, he was a “Visiting Lecturer in Public and International Affairs,” at Princeton beginning in 1968. He maintained both positions until June 1982.

Notestein’s resignation from full professorship and director of the OPR at Princeton allowed him to become the president of the Population Council (PC) until 1968. The PC was founded in 1952 by John D. Rockefeller III to study and promote understanding of the scientific aspects of population change throughout the world by fostering scientific theory and research in social, economic and medical fields. Notestein had been a trustee of the PC since its establishment.

Along with Notestein’s positions at Princeton and the PC, he was the organizer and first director of the Population Division of the United Nations, 1946-1948. In 1955 he advised India’s Minister of Health on population policies and beginning a population center for training and research on demography in India. He chaired the Technical Advisory Committee on Population for the 1950 United States Census and was a member of the 1960 United States Census Committee.

Notestein was a co-editor of the Population Index, a bibliography of population literature that was the official publication of the Population Association of American and the OPR from 1936-1957. He co-authored Controlled Fertility in 1940 and The Future Population of Europe and the Soviet Union in 1944, as well as authoring numerous journal publications. Notestein was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Sociological Association, and the American Statistical Association. He was a member of the American Eugenics Society, the American Philosophical Society, the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Statistical Institute, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, the Population Association of America, and the Century Association.

Notestein married Daphne Limbach in 1927; they had no children. He passed away in 1983.

Source: From the finding aid for MC184

  • Frank W. Notestein Papers. 1930-1977 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC184

    Frank W. Notestein contributed significantly to the science of demography and to a better understanding of population problems in world affairs. The Frank W. Notestein Papers contain correspondence, speeches, and writings documenting the research, ideas, career and leadership roles of this former Princeton professor, director of the Office of Population Research, and president of the Population Council.

  • Ansley J. Coale Papers. 1935-1998 (inclusive), 1954-1994 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC208

    Professor Ansley J. Coale (1917-2002) was a demographer whose work focused on nuptiality, fertility, and mortality in several countries. Coale joined the Princeton University faculty in 1947 and spent his entire career as a member of the university's Office of Population Research (OPR). The papers contain correspondence, Coale's research papers and projects, and samples of data collected. The material spans the several decades (1950s to 1990s) Coale spent as a member of the Princeton faculty, as well as the work he did during his retirement.