Happy 100th birthday to one of our most longstanding RSS honorary fellows, CR Rao!
Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao is a formidable name in modern statistics. He has made pioneering contributions to statistical inference, multivariate analysis, design of experiments and combinatorics, robust inference and differential geometric methods and many other areas. Several of his results have become parts of standard textbooks on statistical methodology. He is currently professor emeritus at Penn State University and Research Professor at the University at Buffalo.
Born in the town of Hadagali, India, in 1920, Rao started worked at the Indian Statistical Institute in 1941 and in 1945, published his first paper on what is now known as the Fisher–Rao metric, which introduced differential geometry into statistical inference. This led to opening up the burgeoning field now called information geometry, which has grown to become an important tool not only in statistics but also in artificial intelligence, data science, signal processing, physics and many other fields. His work on maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) played a central role in the method’s eventual success in modern practice such as machine learning world.
After completing his PhD in 1948 under the supervision of Ronald Fisher, he published various papers on orthogonal array and multivariate analysis of variance and test of significance in multivariate analysis in the late forties. He authored a breakthrough book Linear Statistical Inference and its Applications in 1965.
During the seventies he was president of a number of mathematical Societies, including the Indian Econometric Society, the International Biometric Society, The Institute of Mathematical Statistics USA, the International Statistical Institute. He was made Professor at the University of Pittsburgh 1979-88 and became a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences in 1995. In 2001 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, and in 2002 he was awarded the National Medal of Science, the USA’s highest science award.
Rao was made an RSS honorary fellow in 1969, having won the Society's Guy Medal in Silver in 1965. In 2011, he was awarded the Society’s highest honour, the Guy Medal in Gold.
In a recent Significance magazine piece, a number of eminent statisticians paid tribute to CR Rao, which includes the following testimonies:
Bradley Efron: 'Rao really was Fisher's student, in the sense of carrying on the Fisherian statistical tradition... Thank you, CR, for a long and especially inspirational career!'
Shun‐ichi Amari: 'Rao's initiation of information geometry is one of the many achievements for which he was awarded the US National Medal of Science … He is a godfather of Japanese statisticians!'
Donald B Rubin: 'His focus on big ideas … had major effects on the subsequent directions of the field of statistics.'
Arni SR Srinivasa Rao: 'Rao's ideas continue to find new applications today.'
David R Cox: 'It is a privilege to have the chance to congratulate Professor Rao on his centenary and more particularly to express my admiration for his remarkably rich, original, influential and wide‐ranging contributions to our field.'