Obituaries for August 2012
Earl S. Pollack
ASA member Earl Pollack passed away June 11, 2012.
Pollack was a study director for the Committee on National Statistics, National Research Council, and chief of biometry at the National Cancer Institute. More recently, he was a research professor at the biostatistics center of The George Washington University and served as senior statistical adviser for the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, the construction research arm of the AFL/CIO.
His interests were in chronic disease epidemiology and in the analysis of observational data from large health and medical databases. He was a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, American College of Epidemiology, and American Public Health Association.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Grace Kovar, and his two step-children, David and Elspeth Kovar. Letters of condolence may be sent to Mary Grace Kovar, 10450 Lottsford Road, Cottage 5010, Bowie, MD 20721.
Submitted by Jogesh Babu of Penn State University and Regina Liu, William Strawderman, and Minge Xie of Rutgers University
Kesar Singh—a beloved colleague, friend, teacher, and researcher—left us forever, and far too soon, on May 16, 2012.
Kesar had a massive heart attack the night before he died and was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where heart surgery was unable to save him. His wife, Swati, and some of his colleagues who were in the hospital had the chance to see him before he passed away peacefully.
Kesar was born on June 20, 1955, into a farming family just outside of Varanasi, India. He earned his BSc degree in 1973 from Allahabad University and PhD in 1979 from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, with Jogesh Babu as his adviser. Kesar was considered exceptionally brilliant by his teachers and fellow students at ISI.
He was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1979 to join the Stanford Statistics Department as a post-doc. It was around that time that Bradley Efron introduced the bootstrap method and many leading statisticians were racing to provide a theoretical justification for it. Kesar, as a fresh PhD, was the first to show that the bootstrap approximation is superior to that derived from the Central Limit Theorem for the distribution of the sample mean of i.i.d random variables from a non-lattice distribution. This landmark result and his subsequent seminal work in many statistics areas, including data depth and confidence distributions, made Kesar a household name in bootstrap circles, as well as in several other statistics communities. When Efron heard of Kesar’s passing, he commented “… Among other things, Kesar is a key bootstrap guy.”
Kesar joined the Rutgers Statistics Department in 1980 and was promoted to professor in 1988. He was a bright scholar and a beloved teacher. He published almost 100 papers and supervised 10 PhD students. He was recognized as a leading statistician worldwide. He was elected Fellow of Institute of Mathematical Statistics and was an Elected Member of International Statistical Institute.
Kesar was an extremely kind and gentle person. He was universally liked and appreciated by students, friends, colleagues, fellow statisticians, and neighbors. His students responded positively to his warmth, kindness, and sense of humor. It was always rewarding to work with Kesar, as his knowledge of statistics was extensive. His willingness to share his gifts was always present.
Kesar was devoted to his wife, whom he met when they were both students at ISI. He was an avid gardener and proud of the beautiful flowers and vegetables he grew each year. He and Swati also lavished attention and affection on their dogs.
At his funeral service, many people testified to Kesar’s kind, gentle, and friendly nature. A neighbor, who only knew of him as Mr. Singh and was unaware of his connection to Rutgers or his academic eminence, commented that he had always greeted her and her sons with warmth and kindness when they passed by his house and they admired the enormous pumpkin he grew each year.
The Department of Statistics at Rutgers and the statistics community have lost an outstanding scholar, teacher, and friend. He will be greatly missed for his enormous intellect, as well as his constant generosity, gentleness, and kindness.
Submitted by Madhav Phadke and Vijay Nair
Genichi Taguchi died in Tokyo, Japan, on June 2, 2012, at the age of 88. He had risen from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential people in quality engineering. He has made pioneering contributions to Japanese and U.S. industry. His quality engineering methods consist of both offline and online quality control techniques. In particular, Taguchi’s methods for robust parameter design have had a profound effect on the way experimental techniques are used to address the core needs of engineering.
Taguchi has been recognized through numerous awards and honors. He is a three-time winner of the prestigious and highly coveted Deming Prize in Japan for contributions to the field of quality engineering. He received the Indigo Ribbon from the Emperor of Japan in 1986 for his outstanding contributions to Japanese economics and industry. That year, he also received the International Technology Institute’s Willard F. Rockwell Medal for combining engineering and statistical methods to achieve rapid improvements in cost and quality by optimizing product design and manufacturing processes. He is an honorary member of the American Society for Quality and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has authored or co-authored dozens of books on design of experiments, online quality control, and the Mahalanobis-Taguchi method and their applications in diverse industries.
Taguchi began his studies in textile engineering at Kiryu Technical College with plans to enter his family’s kimono business. However, he was drafted in 1942 to serve the Navigation Institute of the Imperial Japanese Navy. After World War II ended, he studied statistics with Matosaburo Masuyama. He visited the Indian Statistical Institute during 1954–1955, where he had the opportunity to interact with C. R. Rao, Ronald Fisher, and Walter Shewhart. He earned a PhD in electrical engineering from Kyushu University in 1962.
In 1950, Taguchi joined the Electrical Communication Laboratory (ECL), where he was responsible for developing methods that could be used for designing and producing high-reliability telecommunications products using then-available low-quality components and equipment. This led to his work in quality engineering, later known as robust design or Taguchi method. From 1950–1962, he worked on the design and manufacture of cross bar telephone switches, leading to dramatic increase in ECL switch reliability versus its key competitor, Bell Labs – Western Electric. In fact, the reliability of the switches was so superior that Western Electric started buying switches from Japan.
Taguchi’s quality engineering methods focus on economically reducing product and process performance variation. They improve engineering productivity and deliver products at significantly low cost while providing consistently high performance under diverse operating conditions. Although his ideas have created controversy among some statisticians, there can be no doubt about the lasting effect of his work and the transformative role he has played in quality improvement, especially in the application of design of experiments for variation reduction.
Motivated by gratitude for helping Japan after World War II, Taguchi wanted to come to the United States and expose the engineering community to his ideas on quality engineering. He began this project in 1980 by volunteering his time at Bell Labs, the place in which the science of quality control was born, because of the tremendous contributions of Bell Labs and the Western Electric Company to Japan. Soon, his message spread to other major industries in the United States and globally. His humble wish was to improve global productivity, leading to prosperity and peace.
Taguchi is survived by his wife, Kiyoh; daughter, Kumiko; son, Shin; a daughter-in-law; and three granddaughters.