Frank Wilcoxon


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(1892–1965; b. Glengarriffe Castle, Ireland; d. Tallahassee, FL)

American chemist and self-taught statistician. Wilcoxon was a teenage rebel who was in turn a merchant seaman, a petrol-station attendant, and a tree surgeon. Subsequently conforming, he obtained his doctorate in physical chemistry from Cornell U in 1924. For the next 25 years he worked as a chemist in various of the larger chemical firms in the USA. Only for the last seven years of his working life was he officially employed as a statistician. However, his interest in the subject dated back to 1925, when he wished to devise statistical tests of the effectiveness of various types of insecticide and fungicide. He led the research group that worked on the development of various of the pyrethrin-based insecticides, including Malathion. His statistical work concentrated on devising methods of testing that were simple and easy to understand (the hallmarks of non-parametric tests) and he is remembered now in the context of the Wilcoxon signed-rank tests introduced in a 1945 paper.

Subjects: Probability and Statistics.

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