Francis John Anscombe


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William Edwards Deming (1900—1993)

John Wilder Tukey (1915—2000)


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(1918–2001; b. Hove, England; d. New Haven, CT)

English statistician. Graduating from Cambridge U in 1939, Anscombe worked during the Second World War for the Ministry of Supply. His tasks included a mathematical solution for firing rockets during D-Day. In 1948 he joined the staff at Cambridge U, where, on behalf of the Fitzwilliam Museum, he purchased a work by the then unknown painter Francis Bacon. When the Museum decided it was too modern, he retained it and subsequently sold it to pay for his four children's education. He was keen that his PhD students should be involved with real problems. Both Deming and Tukey were fond of quoting his maxim that it is better to ‘realize what the problem really is, and solve that problem as well as we can, instead of inventing a substitute problem that can be solved exactly, but is irrelevant’. In 1956 he was recruited to a chair at Princeton U by Tukey who ‘wanted someone to talk to, not at’. In 1963 he moved to Yale U, where he founded its Department of Statistics. He was the COPSS Fisher Lecturer in 1982.

Subjects: Probability and Statistics.

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