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William G. Cochran

William G. CochranWilliam Cochran's hometown of Rutherglen, Scotland "belched smoke and fumes," and was a starting point for the man who would shine as a mathematics scholar at major universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

At St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1931, Mr. Cochran joined four mathematics graduates of other universities. One was subsequently knighted for his work in seismology. One became a mathematics don in Cambridge, another a famous geophysicist, and the fourth the headmaster of several schools as well as the science office in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Despite such company, Mr. Cochran did not pursue a doctorate because he was too busy working and writing.

A trip to Iowa in 1938 prompted him to accept a position as professor of statistics at a college in Ames. For many years he was chairman of a panel there that provided guidance to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. In 1945, he was a member of a team that surveyed the damage from allied bombing raids to assess their efficacy.

A year later he headed the graduate program in experimental statistics at the State College in Raleigh, N.C., and his work focused on his authoritative position in sampling and the analysis of variance.

During his tenure as chair of the Department of Biostatistics (1948-1958), he completed Sampling Techniques and Experimental Designs, and was asked to assess the famous Kinsey Reports of 1948-53. He went on to become the first chairman of the Department of Statistics at Harvard and more actively pursued his interest in observational studies.

Mr. Cochran's revision of the volume Statistical Methods helped make it the most cited statistical reference book.