Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Goodbye, Fred!

In a previous life, I worked as member-publications manager at the American Statistical Association (a fact that would have made my college statistics teacher laugh merrily--I was hopeless). One of our most esteemed members, Frederick Mosteller, died July 23 in Virginia. He served as ASA President in 1967 and was always one of the people we'd point to and say, "Look at what this man has accomplished."

And indeed, his accomplishments were many: He founded Harvard's department of statistics and published influential books and papers in many fields, including health, education, and the field of statistics known as "meta-analysis." The Washington Post has a nice summary of his professional life here.

But he wasn't just about the work. Long before Bill James and the invention of Sabermetrics, Fred was mulling over baseball and the numbers, as the Post says:
One of Dr. Mosteller's early papers, the first known academic analysis of baseball, showed that even a strong team relies heavily on luck in a short, seven-game series. He wrote the piece after the Boston Red Sox, his favorite team, lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946.
A longtime resident of Belmont, he moved to Northern Virginia two years ago to be near his kids. Though I only met him in passing at one of our national meetings, I know that he had many friends and admirers. The world will miss you, Fred--we've lost a Sox fan and a great man.


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