German sociologist Ulrich Beck, who examined the way modern society deals with risk, has died. He was 70.

Tanja Postpischil, a spokeswoman for his German publisher Suhrkamp, said Sunday that Beck died of a heart attack Jan. 1.

Beck was born May 15, 1944, in Stolp, now the Polish town of Slupsk.

He studied and taught at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-University, focusing on the way modern societies struggle with problems of their own making, such as environmental pollution, globalization and the cost of an aging population.

His 1986 book "Risk Society" was translated into 35 languages.

Beck, who also taught at the London School of Economics, was influential among European Social Democrats, famously criticizing his own country for taking what he called a "Merkiavelli" approach to the recent economic crisis in Europe.