C.R. Rao, who pioneered several fundamental statistical concepts, dead

The University of Buffalo in its home page called C.R. Rao ‘a rockstar’ in the field of statistics

August 23, 2023 03:50 pm | Updated August 24, 2023 02:39 am IST - NEW DELHI

A file photo of Indian-American mathematician C.R. Rao

A file photo of Indian-American mathematician C.R. Rao | Photo Credit: PTI

Calyampudi Radhakrishnan Rao, 102, among the world’s most eminent statisticians, and who spent nearly all of his professional career in India, died on Wednesday in the United States.

Having taught and researched at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, Dr. Rao pioneered several fundamental statistical concepts such as the Cramer–Rao inequality and Rao–Blackwellization, concepts that appear in undergraduate textbooks on statistics and econometrics.

C.R. Rao was born on September 10, 1920, in Hadagali, Bellary district in a Telugu family. He joined the ISI as a student when it was set up by Dr. P.C. Mahanobilis when statistics as a subject was still in its early years and yet to be taught as a distinct subject at the post-graduate level.

He was sent by Dr. Mahalanobis to Cambridge University, United Kingdom to use certain statistical techniques for anthropological analysis, and from where he earned a doctorate under the supervision of Ronald Fischer, among the pioneers of the field.

On returning to the ISI in India, where Dr. Rao spent the next 40 years of his career, he conceived and established several undergraduate and graduate programmes in statistics and was instrumental in establishing several bureaus of the Indian Statistical Institute in various States.

Dr. Rao was also a member of several government committees for the development of national statistical systems, statistical education and research in India. He served as chairman of the Committee on Statistics (1962-69), chairman of the Demographic and Communication for Population Control (1968-69), chairman of the Committee on Mathematics, Atomic Energy Commission, AEC (1969-78), member of the Committee on Science and Technology, COST (1969-71).

“He was a pillar of the ISI, inspiring generations of students and researchers who themselves became iconic figures like S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan and K.R. Parthasarathy. He had won every conceivable award and honour,” Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh posted on X, formerly Twitter.

After his retirement, Dr. Rao moved to the United States and worked at several universities. Former U.S. President George Bush conferred on him the National Medal of Science. He was awarded India’s highest honours the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan in 1969 and 2001, respectively.

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