Published May 8, 2023
In music, there’s Bruce Springsteen. Soccer has Pele and Mia Hamm. Tom Brady is considered the “greatest of all time” in the National Football League.
He won’t quite fill an arena, but in the field of statistics, C.R. Rao is a rock star, considered the G.O.A.T. And recently, Rao added to his long list of awards by being named the recipient of the 2023 International Prize in Statistics, considered the Nobel Prize for the field.
Dubbed “a living legend” of statistics, Rao brought nine decades worth of knowledge to UB in 2010, when he was named a research professor in the Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Health Professions.
“Dr. Rao’s pioneering scholarship has transformed not only the theory and methods of statistics but has wide-ranging practical applications in areas ranging from risk analysis and weather prediction to medical diagnosis and genetics,” says President Satish K. Tripathi, who himself holds two master’s degrees in the discipline.
“He is a towering figure among statisticians, so it is only fitting that his genius be recognized with the most prestigious honor one can receive in the field. All of us at UB are delighted to see him receive this richly deserved recognition for contributions that have indelibly impacted statistical science over more than seven decades,” Tripathi adds.
On the occasion of Rao’s 100th birthday in 2020, the journal Proceedings – Mathematical Sciences, produced by the Indian Academy of Sciences, published an article titled “CR Rao: A living legend.” It was part of an entire special issue devoted to Rao to mark his milestone birthday. Numerous celebrations took place across the globe.
In announcing the award on April 1, the International Prize in Statistics noted that Rao’s “work more than 75 years ago continues to exert a profound influence on science.” It added: “In his remarkable 1945 paper published in the Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society, Calyampudi Radhakrishna (C.R.) Rao demonstrated three fundamental results that paved the way for the modern field of statistics and provided statistical tools heavily used in science today.”
The first result, known as the Cramer-Rao lower bound, provides a means for knowing when a method for estimating a quantity is as good as any method can be, the announcement notes. The second result, named the Rao-Blackwell Theorem, provides a means for transforming an estimate into an optimal one. Taken together, the two methods form the foundation on which much of statistics is built.
The insights from Rao’s third result pioneered a new interdisciplinary field called “information geometry,” which has recently been used in Higgs boson measurements at the Large Hadron Collider, as well as in recent research on radars and antennas, along with contributing significantly to advancements in artificial intelligence.
The International Prize in Statistics has been awarded every two years since 2017 and is stewarded and managed by a foundation comprising representatives of five major statistical organizations.
“In awarding this prize, we celebrate the monumental work by C.R. Rao that not only revolutionized statistical thinking in its time, but also continues to exert enormous influence on human understanding of science across a wide spectrum of disciplines,” says Guy Nason, chair of the International Prize in Statistics Foundation.
Rao will receive the award and its $80,000 prize this July at the biennial International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress in Ottawa.