While statistical research at Columbia predates the 1930s, the statistics department was officially formed in 1946. Since that time, the department has ebbed and flowed, and its very existence was sometimes threatened. Throughout, faculty and graduates from Columbia have made important contributions to the discipline, often through innovative interdisciplinary research motivated by real world problems. That tradition continues to this day, with researchers working on problems in a variety of areas, especially problems generated by the need to make sense of large, noisy data sets.
Listed below are articles and related links pertaining to the history of the Department of Statistics at Columbia University.
“Reminiscences of the Columbia University Statistics Department in the late 1940s” by Ingram Olkin (July 23, 1924 – April 28, 2016)
“The Statistical Research Group, 1942-1945” by W. Allen Wallis
The Statistical Research Group of World War II was a research group at Columbia University focused on military problems during World War II. Abraham Wald, W. Allen Wallis, Herbert Solomon, Frederick Mosteller, George Stigler and Milton Friedman were all part of the group in which 18 researchers participated.
For a comprehensive history of the department, please view our History of the Department of Statistics at Columbia University.
Below are excerpts taken from the History of the Department of Statistics at Columbia University
“To differentiate its purpose from the widely held perception that statistics was primarily about data collection and analysis by means of conventional methods, the new department was named Mathematical Statistics, referring to a scientific discipline that focused more on developing new methodology using sophisticated mathematics. The new department had three founding members: Wald, Jacob Wolfowitz and Theodore W. Anderson. As more and more departments of Statistics were formed in the country, in November, 1982, Columbia decided to change its name to the simpler Department of Statistics.”
“The first female PhD graduate was Rosedith Sitgreaves in 1952, who worked with T. W. Anderson on the behavior of classification procedures. Sitgreaves remained in academia until her retirement in 1981 and held professorships at Stanford, Columbia Teachers College, and California State University.”
“The Department has grown considerably in recent years. Enrollments in undergraduate and graduate classes have grown dramatically as have demands for statistical collaborations from around the campus.”
“The Department has secured a position as one of the key science departments at Columbia and looks forward to making vital contributions at the forefront of statistical research as the discipline evolves in the coming decades.”