John Wilder Tukey


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(1915–2000; b. New Bedford, MA; d. New Brunswick, NJ)

American statistician. Tukey was a chemistry graduate at Brown U, gaining his MA in 1937. He followed this with a PhD in topology at Princeton U in 1939. During the Second World War he worked in the Fire Control Research Office alongside Wilks and Cochran. After the war he joined Wilks at Princeton U becoming a full Professor at the age of 35. In 1946 he coined the word ‘bit’ as a shorthand for a ‘binary digit’ as used by computers, and, in 1958, the word ‘software’ to describe the programs used by computers. In 1962 he introduced the trimmed mean as one of a number of robust summary statistics. In 1965, with John Cooley, he introduced the fast Fourier transform. His 1970 book Exploratory Data Analysis introduced the stem and leaf diagram and the boxplot. He was elected to membership of the NAS in 1961 and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1973. He was President of the IMS in 1960 having been its Wald Lecturer in 1958. He was presented with the Wilks Award of the ASA in 1965 and the Shewhart Medal of the ASQ in 1976. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the RSS in 1986. Tukey once remarked that ‘The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone's backyard’.

Subjects: Probability and Statistics.

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