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Janet Lane-Claypon

Janet Elizabeth Lane-Claypon (1877–1967) was a pioneer in the use of cohort and casecontrol studies. She was born in Lincolnshire county, England, and began her studies at the London School of Medicine for Women in 1898. From 1907 to 1912, she was a research fellow at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, where she was a colleague of Major Greenwood. By the end of her studies, she obtained both a doctorate in physiology and one in medicine.

In 1912, she published one of the first retrospective cohort studies, examining the weight gain of babies fed cow’s milk versus that of babies fed breast milk. Using statistical techniques, she determined that babies fed breast milk gained weight faster; she later employed that knowledge to become a public health advocate for breast feeding.

She also conducted one of the first case–control studies, examining risk factors associated with breast cancer. Her study included 500 women without breast cancer as well as 500 women with breast cancer. To obtain what was at the time a remarkably large sample, she coordinated data collection from nine different hospitals. Carefully controlling for variables such as occupation and infant mortality, she determined that factors like age of first pregnancy, age of menopause, and number of children all influence the incidence of breast cancer, factors still considered to be among the prime determinants.

In 1926, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, Lane-Claypon published one of the first studies to contain long-term follow-up results. In that study, she followed patients who had undergone surgery for breast cancer for up to 10 years after the operation. As is still the case today, her study showed that the sooner the cancer was treated, the better the woman’s chance for long-term survival. Notably, her study was among the first to consider survivorship bias.


Jerzy Neyman

Jerzy Neyman (1894–1981) was born in Bendery, Russia, now Moldavia. He studied and then taught at Kharkov University, moving from physics to mathematics. In 1921, Neyman moved to Poland, where he worked in statistics at Bydgoszcz and then Warsaw. Neyman received a Rockefeller Fellowship to work with Karl Pearson at University College London. There, he collaborated with Egon Pearson, Karl’s son, on the theory of hypothesis testing. Life in Poland became progressively more difficult, and Neyman returned to UCL to work there from 1934 to 1938. At this time, he published on the theory of confidence intervals. He then was offered a post in California at Berkeley, where he settled. Neyman established an outstanding statistics department and remained highly active in research, including applications in astronomy, meteorology, and medicine. He was one of the great statisticians of the 20th century


Elizabeth L. Scott

Elizabeth L. (“Betty”) Scott (1917–1988) was an astronomer and mathematician trained at the University of California at Berkeley, where her family had lived since she was four years old. She published her first paper when she was just 22 years old, and much of her early academic career was focused on comets.

During World War II, she began working at the statistical laboratory at Berkeley, which had recently been established by Jerzey Neyman, sparking what would be a long and fruitful collaboration with him. After World War II, she shifted her focus toward mathematics and statistics, partly because of limited career opportunities as an astronomer, though even after the shift, she still applied her research to astronomical topics. For example, in 1949, she published a paper using statistical techniques to analyze the distribution of binary star systems. She also published papers examining the distribution of galaxies, and she is the name behind the “Scott effect” which plays a role in determining the distances to galaxies. Later in her career she also applied her statistical knowledge to problems associated with ozone depletion and its effects on the incidence of skin cancer as well as weather modification. She was also a champion of equality for women graduate students and faculty.

Among her many awards and accomplishments, she was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1992, the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies established the Elizabeth L. Scott Award, a biannual award to recognize recipients who have strived to enhance the status of women within the statistics profession.


Abraham Wald

Abraham Wald (1902–1950) was born in Cluj, in what is now Romania. He studied mathematics at the University of Vienna, publishing at first on geometry, but then became interested in economics and econometrics. He moved to the United States in 1938 and later joined the faculty at Columbia. His major contributions to statistics include work in decision theory, optimal sequential sampling, large-sample distributions of likelihoodratio tests, and nonparametric inference. Wald died in a plane crash in India.


Halbert Lynn White, Jr.

Halbert Lynn White Jr. (1950–2012) was born in Kansas City. After receiving economics degrees at Princeton and MIT, he taught and did research in econometrics at the University of Rochester and, beginning in 1979, at the University of California, San Diego. He also cofounded an economics and legal consulting firm known for its rigorous use of econometric methods. His 1980 paper on heteroskedasticity introduced the use of robust covariance matrices to economists and passed 16,000 citations in Google Scholar in 2012. His 1982 paper on maximum likelihood estimation of misspecified models helped develop the now-common use of quasi-maximum-likelihood estimation techniques. Later in his career, he explored the use of neural networks, nonparametric models, and time-series modeling of financial markets.

Among his many awards and distinctions, White was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society; he also won a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Had he not died prematurely, many scholars believe he would have eventually been awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Aside from his academic work, White was an avid jazz musician and played with well-known jazz trombonist and fellow University of California at San Diego teacher Jimmy Cheatham.