David Blackwell: Groundbreaking Statistician and Mathematician Dies

The first black scholar admitted to the National Academy of Sciences dies at 91.

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Renowned statistician and mathematician David Blackwell has passed away at the age of 91. Blackwell was the first African American admitted to the National Academy of Sciences and the first black tenured professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is most famous for his work in probability and game theory. Blackwell attended the University of Illinois and received a Rosenwald Fellowship. He attended Princeton but left after he was denied the opportunity to teach at the university, as was customary for fellows there, because he was black. He was denied the chance to teach at UC Berkeley for the same reason. After brief stints at Southern University and Clark College in Atlanta, he went on to teach at Howard University. While a professor at Howard, Blackwell co-authored Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions (1954) with famed statistician Meyer A. Girshick. He served as a consultant for the Rand Corporation, applying game theory to military situations. His Basic Statistics (1969) was one of the first textbooks on Bayesian statistics, which assess the uncertainty of future outcomes by incorporating new evidence as it arises, rather than relying on historical data. He later became a professor at UC Berkeley, chairing the department and becoming the school's first black tenured professor.

Read more at The New York Times.

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