Robert H. Whittaker received a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Washburn Municipal University in Topeka, Kansas in 1942, served in the Army Air Force as a weather observer and forecaster in England until 1946, and received a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Illinois in 1948. In 1948, he was appointed as an instructor in the Dept. of Zoology at Washington State College in Pullman. He worked for the Aquatic Biology Unit at the Hanford Laboratories of the General Electric Company, taught at Brooklyn College and at the University of California at Irvine, and at Cornell University. He spent two years at Brookhaven National Laboratory, served as American editor of the journal
Vegetatio; was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and served as vice president of the Ecological Society of America and president of the American Society of Naturalists. Robert H. Whittaker died on October 20, 1980.