Statisticians in History

Calyampudi Rao 

Calyampudi R. Rao

C.R. Rao Receives National Medal of Science
by Megan Kruse, Public Affairs/Careers Coordinator

Calyampudi Radhakrishna (C.R.) Rao, Eberly Professor Emeritus of Statistics and Director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis at Pennsylvania State University, was honored at the White House with the National Medal of Science on June 13, 2002.

Rao earned an M.A. in Mathematics at Andhra University, another M.A. in Statistics at Calcutta University, and his PhD and ScD at Cambridge University. Since 1967, he has received 27 honorary doctoral degrees from colleges and universities in 16 countries on 5 different continents, including 7 degrees from India and 4 from the United States.

His professional experience includes over 40 years at the Indian Statistical Institute as Superintending Statistician, Head of the Research and Training School (RTS), Director of the RTS, Secretary, and National Professor. He has over 20 years of experience at universities in the United States and United Kingdom, including the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, and Cambridge University.

Rao joined the ASA in 1970 and was honored two years later with election to Fellow for outstanding and prolific contributions and for his devoted statistical teaching and service. The ASA Pittsburgh Chapter named Rao its Statistician of the Year in 1981. In 1989, he was awarded the Samuel S. Wilks Medal for outstanding contributions to statistics. In 1997, he received the Distinguished Achievement Medal from the ASA Section on Statistics and the Environment for outstanding contributions to the development of methods, issues, concepts, and applications of environmental statistics.

In addition to his extensive ASA activities and awards, Rao is a member of eight National Academies in India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy. He has been elected Fellow or Honorary Member to 26 statistical, mathematical, or scientific organizations. Since 1943, Rao has received dozens of medals, citations, awards, and other honors for his contributions to statistics and science. For example, in 2000, the mayor of Kent proclaimed May 13 as C.R. Rao Day and presented him with a key to the city. The government of India instituted a national award in honor of Rao to recognize and reward young Indian statisticians.

Statisticians and scientists across the world have celebrated Rao's long career in statistics. In the past decade, there have been nine special issues of journals from India, the United States, and the United Kingdom celebrating his life and works. There have also been six special conferences in honor of Rao since 1980, usually coinciding with his birthday. The Times of India chose Rao as one of the top ten scientists of modern India considering all disciplines and the impact of the work done by each scientist.

In the Preface to the 1991 special issue of the Journal of Quantitative Economics in Rao's honor, the author stated: "Dr. Rao is a very distinguished scientist and a highly eminent statistician of our time. His contributions to statistical theory and applications are well known, and many of his results, which bear his name, are included in the curriculum of courses in statistics at bachelor's and master's level all over the world. He is an inspiring teacher and has guided the research work of numerous students in all areas of statistics. His early work had greatly influenced the course of statistical research during the last four decades. One of the purposes of this special issue is to recognize Dr. Rao's own contributions to econometrics and acknowledge his major role in the development of econometric research in India.''

Rao has served as president of five statistical societies: (1) Indian Econometric Society, (2) International Biometric Society, (3) Institute of Mathematical Statistics, (4) International Statistical Institute, and (5) the Forum for Interdisciplinary Mathematics. He has spent his entire career promoting statistics and their usefulness in society. "If there is a problem to be solved, seek statistical advice instead of appointing a committee of experts. Statistics can throw more light than the collective wisdom of the articulate few,'' said Rao. In addition to his own work, he has been the PhD thesis advisor for nearly fifty graduate students and has helped thousands of others through teaching and mentoring.

Several statistical terms and equations are named after Rao and are regularly incorporated into textbooks and other statistician's publications. He has worked with such famous statisticians as Blackwell, Fisher, Neyman, Hamming, and Rubin, and has dozens of theorems to his credit. He is the author or coauthor of over a dozen books and hundreds of research publications, many of which have appeared in prestigious journals such as the Journal of the American Statistical Association, Econometrika, and the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

The National Medal of Science honors individuals for pioneering scientific research that has enhanced our basic understanding of life and the world around us. The National Science Foundation administers the award established by Congress in 1959 for individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences. More information on the National Medal of Science is available online at

Rao was born on September 10, 1920, in India. Today, he is a living legend whose work has influenced not just statistics, but has had far reaching implications for fields as varied as economics, genetics, anthropology, geology, national planning, demography, biometry, and medicine.

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