Renowned Statistician C.R. Rao Awarded 2023 International Prize in Statistics

Professor C. R. Rao. Photo

Indian American Professor C.R. Rao, whose work more than 75 years ago continues to exert a profound influence on science, has been awarded the 2023 International Prize in Statistics.

Rao, who at the age of 102, is Professor Emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, and Research Professor in the University at Buffalo, will receive the prize, which comes with an $80,000 award, this July at the biennial International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress in Ottawa, Canada. The Prize is bestowed every two years.

“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,” said Guy Nason, chair of the International Prize in Statistics Foundation.

The IPS announced the award April 1, noting how in a research paper written back in 1945, 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, now known as the Cramér-Rao lower bound, provides a means for knowing when a method for estimating a quantity is as good as any method can be.

The second result, named the Rao-Blackwell Theorem (because it was discovered independently by eminent statistician David Blackwell), provides a means for transforming an estimate into a better—in fact, an optimal—estimate. Together, these results form a foundation on which much of statistics is built.

And the third result provided insights that pioneered a new interdisciplinary field that has flourished as “information geometry.”

When combined, these three results help scientists more efficiently extract information from data, noted the press release.

Among the many uses of methods developed by Rao, the IPS said, are how Information Geometry has recently been used to help and optimize the Higgs boson measurements at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It has also found applications in recent research on radars and antennas and contributed significantly to advancements in artificial intelligence, data science, signal processing, shape classification, and image segregation.

The Rao-Blackwell process has been applied to stereology, particle filtering, and computational econometrics, among others, while the Cramér-Rao lower bound is of great importance in such diverse fields as signal processing, spectroscopy, radar systems, multiple image radiography, risk analysis, and quantum physics, the IPS detailed.

The International Prize in Statistics is awarded every two years by a collaboration among five leading international statistics organizations. It recognizes a major achievement by an individual or team in the statistics field, particularly an achievement of powerful and original ideas that has led to practical applications and breakthroughs in other disciplines.

Rao was born in Karnataka in 1920, and received his MSc in Mathematics from Andhra University, a Masters in Statistics from Calcutta University, and a PhD from King’s College, U.K.

He has received a total of 31 Honorary Doctoral Degrees from institutions around the world. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1968, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. Pennsylvania State University has named a biennial national award after Rao called the C.R. and Bhargavi Rao Prize in Statistics.

Rao is credited with setting up state-level statistical bureaus in India working with P.C. Mahalanobis.



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