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Obituaries for February 2010

1 February 2010 1,202 views No Comment

Mortimer B. Keats

Mortimer Keats died on November 30, 2009, in Schenectady, New York, at the age of 98.

Keats had an illustrious career as an applied statistician in government and industry. Holding degrees from Columbia University and The George Washington University, he worked directly for W. Edwards Deming at the U.S. Census Bureau in the late 1930s and was a close associate of other renowned statisticians, including Sam Greenhouse, Phil Hauser, Bill Madow, Nathan Mantel, and Leslie Simon.

Keats subsequently worked for General Electric, where he was manager of product assurance at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory. He retired to Phoenix, Arizona.

Erich Lehmann


Erich Lehmann, a major figure in the field of statistics, died on September 12, 2009, at the age of 91. Lehmann, who taught in the statistics department at the University of California, Berkeley, touched the lives of many people in statistics and beyond. He was a leading figure in the second generation of statisticians, following the establishment of the modern field by Jerzey Neyman, R. A. Fisher, and Abraham Wald before World War II.

As is usual after a period of explosive innovation, confusion reigned. It was Lehmann’s great talent to clear the fog and build a coherent theoretical structure. This was reflected in his great books, Testing Statistical Hypotheses (1959) and Theory of Point Estimation (1983), which were the centerpieces of graduate statistics education for most of the last half of the century and have been translated into many languages. The books also added considerably to these theoretical structures, and his research advanced many other areas of theoretical statistics, including the following:

    • Concepts of dependence, starting a new literature
    • Concepts of unbiasedness, again leading to a new literature
    • Rank-based nonparametric methods, in a series of papers—many in collaboration with Joseph Hodges Jr.—with some surprising results
    • Illuminations of historical issues in statistical theory

    Lehmann achieved all the major honors awarded in the field and beyond: the prestigious Wald and Fisher lectureships, the presidency of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), and the editorship of IMS’ main journal, The Annals of Mathematical Statistics. He was granted three Guggenheim fellowships in 1955, 1966, and 1980 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1975 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1978. The University of Leiden and University of Chicago awarded him honorary doctorates. At Berkeley, he held Miller professorships twice and served as department chair.

    Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1917, Lehmann was raised in Frankfurt am Main. Fleeing the Nazis with his family in 1933, he grad­­­­uated from high school in Switzerland and attended college in Cambridge, England. He enrolled in Berkeley as a graduate student in 1940 and never left, save for stints in the Air Force during World War II—when he was stationed in Guam—and leaves at Columbia, Princeton, and Stanford.

    Earning his PhD in 1946, he embarked on a teaching career that included the supervision of more than 40 doctoral students, several of whom became leaders in the next generation of statisticians. This achievement was due not only to his great scientific stature, but also his remarkable personal qualities. He was kind and generous of spirit and had an unusual sensitivity to the feelings of others and a great astuteness about the world, what could be achieved, and how to do it. As a consequence, his influence on his students and colleagues went beyond the scientific. They honored him with a Festschrift (1983) for his 65th birthday, a series of three Lehmann symposia (1992, 1994, 1997), and a forthcoming volume of selected works.

    In addition to his masterpieces, Lehmann published three important, but less advanced, texts: Basic Concepts of Statistics (with his longtime collaborator and friend J. L. Hodges Jr.), Nonparametrics: Statistical Methods Based on Ranks, and Elements of Large-Sample Theory. After a second edition of his classic Testing Statistical Hypotheses in 1986, he recruited young collaborators for further editions of his major texts—George Casella for Estimation in 1998 and Joe Romano for a third edition of Testing in 2005. These were major revisions that brought the books back to the frontiers of research.

    In his last decade, he turned his energies to the history of the field, in whose development he played such an important part, publishing his professional autobiography, Reminiscences of a Statistician: The Company I Kept, and an account of the productive rivalry between Fisher and Neyman, to be published by Springer and tentatively titled Fisher, Neyman, and the Creation of Classical Statistics. He also enjoyed a lifelong passion for literature and, in retirement, translated stories by favorite authors such as Adalbert Stifter and Wilhelm Raabe, seeking to give them a wider audience than they previously enjoyed. At the time of his death, he was working with Fritz Scholz, a former student, on a new edition of his Nonparametrics, to be used in conjunction with the popular R statistical language.

    He is survived by his wife, Juliet Popper Shaffer, and a loving blended family that includes his three children, three step-children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, with a third on the way.

    Donations in memory of Lehmann can be made online through the Department of Statistics at the University of California web site or mailed to Maria Torralba, University of California, Berkeley, Statistics Department, 367 Evans Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720.

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