Robert Helmer MacArthur ( April 7, 1930 - November 1 , 1972 ) was an American ecologist who has been in the area of the large influence community - and population ecology . As a student of G. Evelyn Hutchinson , he played a key role in the further development of the niche concept and Edward Osborne Wilson wrote The Theory of Island Biogeography , a book that thinking about biogeography has greatly affected. This work was an inspiration to many in the research community ecology and led to the development of modern landscape ecology . He attached great importance to the testing of hypotheses using statistical tests which he changed the ecology of an observational science to an experimental science, and this also led to the emergence of theoretical ecology .