The International Prize in Statistics — the statistics equivalent of the Nobel Prize — is awarded to individuals or groups “for major achievements using statistics to advance science, technology and human welfare”.
And this time Indian-American statistician Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao’s work has been awarded.
What is outstanding is that C R Rao’s work that has won him this recognition is more than 75 years old.
Following a master’s degree in statistics, Rao went on to pursue his PhD in the years spanning 1946-1948 at King’s College, Cambridge University.
He was mentored by Ronald A Fisher who was regarded as the father of modern statistics.
In 1945, Rao’s paper titled ‘Information and accuracy attainable in the estimation of statistical parameters’ was published.
Today, years later, the three results of this paper have found great implications.
The Cramér-Rao inequality, which is the first result, provides a lower limit while estimating the value of an unknown parameter.
This has applications in quantum physics, spectroscopy, multiple-image radiography, risk analysis, and probability theory, among other fields.
The second is Rao-Blackwell Theorem, which provides a method through which an estimate can be improved to an optimal estimate.
The third result paved the way for the field of information geometry.
This has helped optimise Higgs boson measurements at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
But even more fascinating is the story of Rao’s entry into the world of statistics.
Following being rejected for a mathematician’s job at an army survey unit as he was too young, Rao was staying at a hotel in then Calcutta.
Here, he met a gentleman who was undergoing training at the Indian Statistical Institute and recommended that Rao apply as well.
Rao did so and was selected! Following a four-decade-long stay at the institute, Rao retired in 1979, and afterwards, settled in the US.