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Posts Tagged ‘John W. Tukey’

During the 2012 C.L. and M.D. Rustagi Memorial Lecture, Prof. Stephen E. Fienberg talked about “Statistics in Service to the Nation“. He started with posing one question, “who are the first ones to run a large scale Bayesian Hierarchical model in practice?” (he also gave one hint: not Jim berger 🙂 )

With the picture shown below, he gave his answer, David Brillinger (lower left) and John Tukey (lower right, June 16, 1915 – July 26, 2000). And it was when they were hired by RCA/NBC to carry out Election Forecasting back in 60’s.

Wait! I was neighbor with David for four years in Evans Hall (415~417), but I have never heard him mentioning anything like Bayesian Hierarchical model at all.

Out of curiosity, I found David’s paper, JOHN W. TUKEY: HIS LIFE AND PROFESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS  (The Annals of Statistics 2002, Vol. 30, No. 6, 1535-1575), in which he described the election forecasting practice as:

Starting with the 1962 Congressional election John assembled a statistical team to develop the required methodology and to analyze the results as they flowed in on election night. Early members of the team included Bob Abelson, Dick Link, John Mauchly, David Wallace, and myself.
Without doubt, it turned out to be a fun and inspiring article to read. Here are some quotes from the paper:
Statistics is a science in my opinion, and it is no more a branch of mathematics than are physics, chemistry and economics; for if its methods fail the test of experience—not the test of logic—they are discarded. [TUKEY,J.W.(1953).The growth of experimental design in a research laboratory. InResearch Operations in Industry 303–313. King’s Crown Press, New York.]
One Christmas Tukey gave his students books of crossword puzzles as presents. Upon examining the books the students found that Tukey had removed the puzzle answers and had replaced them with words of the sense: Doing statistics is like doing crosswords except that one cannot know for sure whether one has found the solution.
. . . the first time I was in a statistics course, I was there to teach it. [TUKEY,J.W.(1984). Speech when receiving James Madison Medal, Princeton Univ.]
A consultant is a man who thinks with other people’s brains. [TUKEY,J.W.(1967).What can mathematicians do for the Federal Government? Amer. Math. Monthly 74 (1, Part II) 101–109. ]
When on sabbatical in New Zealand 25 years ago this writer learned the following method to go between the centigrade and Fahrenheit scales of temperature in a couple of important cases—one simply reverses the digits of 61 and 16 and of 82 and 28. I told this to John and he very quickly came up with another case. He remarked that 40 converts to 04.

Don’t forget to check out Appendix E of the paper. It is too fun to miss.

Thank you, David! Thank you, John!

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