The Pleasures of Statistics: The Autobiography of Frederick Mosteller
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From his unique perspective, renowned statistician and educator Frederick Mosteller describes many of the projects and events in his long career. From humble beginnings in western Pennsylvania to becoming the founding chairman of Harvard University’s Department of Statistics and beyond, he inspired many statisticians, scientists, and students with his unabashed pragmatism, creative thinking, and zest for both learning and teaching. This candid account offers fresh insights into the qualities that made Mosteller a superb teacher, a prolific scholar, a respected leader, and a valued advisor.
A special feature of the book is its chapter-length insider accounts of work on the pre-election polls of 1948, statistical aspects of the Kinsey report on sexual behavior in the human male, mathematical learning theory, authorship of the disputed Federalist papers, safety of anesthetics, and a wide-ranging examination of the Coleman report on equality of educational opportunity.
This volume is a companion to Selected Papers of Frederick Mosteller (Springer, 2006) and A Statistical Model: Frederick Mosteller’s Contributions to Statistics, Science, and Public Policy (Springer-Verlag, 1990).
Frederick Mosteller (1916–2006) was Roger I. Lee Professor of Mathematical Statistics at Harvard University. His manuscript was unfinished at his death and has been updated.
sample surveys and what cannot. How can you ﬁnd out about the equality of educational opportunity? Can you ask people whether they have had equal opportunity? You can, but you won’t get much in return. What Coleman and his colleagues did was sample the schools in the United States and assess their quality, state, and performances on a variety of dimensions. For example, they inquired about the numbers of laboratories that were available for science classes. They assessed the amount of education
least at a few institutions, but it does not much address elementary and secondary education. Hand-wringing, such as we have steadily been doing, after the ﬁrst few years, does not accomplish much. We know, apparently, that when we decide on a big and concrete goal like putting a man on the moon, we need to have a major long-run program, one that may take much longer than the persons in governmental oﬃces will all see during their tenure or even their lifetimes. When this is so obvious for a
very hard to ﬁnd an inexpensive but adequate set, but even so, where could the school ﬁnd the money? I have no idea, but they did. All the mathematics teachers went to bat for us. Working Summers When I returned to Pittsburgh, my father got in touch with us again, and during the summers I began again to work on the road construction jobs, ﬁrst as a ditch digger, then as a semi-skilled laborer such as mason’s or carpenter’s assistant, and then later as foreman on various gangs, rough grading,
fairly high and few people came to meals. The great excitement was that the European war was declared while we were at sea. From time to time submarines from diﬀerent countries would surface suddenly and take a good look at us and then submerge, giving the passengers some thrills and scares. In Boston, we had lunch at the Hotel Vendome. In the end, we went safely back to Philadelphia. My mother went home to Pittsburgh, and I to nearby Princeton. My ﬁrst two years at Princeton I stayed at the
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