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When the world celebrated Chandrayaan’s successful soft landing on the Moon, International Prize in Statistics recipient C Radhakrishna Rao left for the heavenly abode at the age of 102 in the US.
Born on September 10, 1920, in Hadagali, Bellary district, Rao came from a Telugu family. The former director of Indian Statistical Institute started his educational journey at the same institution, established by Dr. PC Mahalanobis. With guidance from Mahalanobis, Rao was selected to go to Cambridge University for applying statistical techniques to anthropological analysis. Influenced by his parents, he excelled academically. His father recognised his mathematical aptitude, prompting him to pursue the subject.
Rao, an MA in Mathematics from Andhra University, went on to get a PhD and DSc from Cambridge University. Rao directed research at the Indian Statistical Institute before moving to the University of Pittsburgh. Even after retiring at 81, he remained active, continuing research and directing the Center for Multivariate Analysis at Pennsylvania State University.
The statistics genius received an award for his influential 1945 paper ‘Information and Accuracy Attainable in the Estimation of Statistical Parameters’. This paper introduced key concepts like the Cramér-Rao inequality and Rao-Blackwellisation, shaping modern statistics. The paper was initially published in the ‘Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society’ and later included in ‘Breakthroughs in Statistics Vol.1, 1890 – 1990’. Its impact spans from quantum physics to biostatistics.
Rao’s accomplishments have been extensively recognised, earning him over 45 awards and honours, including the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and the National Medal of Science from the US President. His groundbreaking work influenced diverse fields and underlies statistical and machine learning methods used in AI.
CR Rao’s contributions and legacy will forever remain with us.
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