STANLEY Oram’s letter re; population and the elephant in the room (Letters, November 9, ‘Too many people’).

At last someone else in Andover has noticed. Actually, it was noticed in the mid-19th century by the mathematician Pierre François Verhulst who realised the Fibonacci sequence published in 1202 was no way to predict population growth primarily because it assumed support for a population was inexhaustible.

In 1847 he published his work that is universally known as the ‘Logistic Equation’. It is an iterative differential calculus equation that accepted there had to be limits based on habitats supporting population be it protozoa, penguins, or people, and anything else that depended on support from habitat.

As for its accuracy. The USA in 1850 constructed a sequence to estimate the population of the US in 1950. Bearing in mind the US had endured a civil war, two world wars and the Spanish ‘flu epidemic the sequence was in 1950 2 per cent over the estimate (soldiers, sailors and airmen had seen enough of death - they wanted to breed).

A few years ago, I had a conversation with the head of methodology of the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (for England) who in friendly terms was pleased to confirm that, yes the ‘Logistic Equation’ formed the basis of demographic population prediction. The ‘conversations’ I’ve had with TVBC have given that they have no in-house expertise to understand the equation, and from the county council got the impression that they weren’t too clever either with the equation, and what they publish is a doctored cut and paste job from the Head of Methodology of the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

I’m sure the editor can’t find space for me to demonstrate the equation, but Wikipedia has a section on the logistic function.

Roderick D Pond, Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

Member of the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics, St Birstan Gardens, Andover.