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Who is CR Rao, 102-year-old mathematician awarded ‘Nobel Prize of statistics’ for 75-year-old work?

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102-year-old mathematician CR Rao has been honoured with the 2023 International Price in Statistics, called the ‘Nobel Prize of statistics‘. Rao is being conferred with the ultimate honour for his remarkable work published 75 years ago that has with age helped in advancement across several scientific fields.

Rao is a prominent mathematician and statistician who started out from India and eventually continued his career in the United States. Rao published a paper in 1945 in the Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society where he demonstrated three fundamental results. These were called the ‘Cramer-Rao lower bound’, the ‘Rao-Blackwell Theorem’ and the third one formed the basis for a new interdisciplinary field ‘information geometry’. The paper’s results have helped scientists efficiently extract information from data and paved the way for modern statistics. They contribute in various places from the Large Hadron Collider to AI, data science, radar systems, and quantum physics.

Who is CR Rao?

Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao was born in Karnataka’s Hadagali to a Telugu family. He was schooled in different cities of Andhra Pradesh including Visakhapatnam, and then pursued MSc in mathematics from Andhra University. He then earned an MA in statistics from Calcutta University in 1943 before going abroad to earn a PhD degree at King’s College at Cambridge University. In 1965, he also earned a DSc degree from Cambridge.

Rao started his career working at the Indian Statistical Institute and the Anthropological Museum in Cambridge. In a distinguished life, he has held many important posts including the Director of the Indian Statistical Institute, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor and National Professor in India, University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Eberly Professor and Chair of Statistics and Director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis at Pennsylvania State University. Currently, he is a professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University and Research Professor at the University at Buffalo.

He has received top civilian accolades from the Indian government including the Padma Bhushan (1968) and Padma Vibhushan (2001). Rao’s latest reward will be conferred in July and will come with a $80,000 prize. The International Prize in Statistics, awarded every two years, is modelled on the Nobel prize, Abel Prize, Fields Medal and Turing Award. Confesserved by an alliance of 5 leading international statistics organisations, it was first awarded in 2017.