David Blackwell
David Harold Blackwell  

Blackwell in 1999


Born  Centralia, Illinois, United States 
April 24, 1919
Died  July 8, 2010 Berkeley, California 
(aged 91)^{[1]}
Nationality  African American 
Fields  Statistician 
Institutions  University of California, Berkeley 
Alma mater  University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign 
Doctoral advisor  Joseph Leo Doob 
Notable students  Roger JB Wets Richard S. Bucy 
Known for  Rao–Blackwell theorem Blackwell channel Blackwell's approachability theory Arbitrarily varying channel Games of imperfect information Dirichlet distribution Mathematical economics Recursive economics Sequential analysis Optimal searching in boxes 
David Harold Blackwell (April 24, 1919 – July 8, 2010) was Professor Emeritus of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and is one of the eponyms of the Rao–Blackwell theorem.^{[2]} Born in Centralia, Illinois, he was the first African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the first black tenured faculty member at UC Berkeley.^{[1]}^{[3]}
Career
Blackwell entered the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign with the intent to teach elementary school mathematics. In 1938 he earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in 1939, and was awarded a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1941 at the age of 22, all by the University of Illinois.^{[4]}^{[5]}
He did a year of postdoctoral studies as a fellow at Institute for Advanced Study in 1941–42.^{[6]} At the Institute, he met John von Neumann and von Neumann asked Blackwell to discuss his Ph.D. thesis with him.^{[7]} Blackwell, who believed that von Neumann was just being polite and not genuinely interested in his work, did not approach him until von Neumann himself asked him again a few months later. According to Blackwell on this meeting, "He (von Neumann) listened to me talk about this rather obscure subject and in ten minutes he knew more about it than I did."^{[8]} He departed when he was prevented from attending lectures or undertaking research at nearby Princeton University, which the IAS has historically collaborated with in research and scholarship activities.^{[5]}^{[9]}
Seeking a permanent position, he wrote letters of application to 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities; he felt at the time that a black teacher would be limited to teaching only at black colleges.^{[10]} He also sought a position at the University of California, Berkeley, and was interviewed by statistician Jerzy Neyman. While Neyman supported his appointment, racebased objections prevented his appointment at that time. He was offered a post at Southern University at Baton Rouge, which he held in 1942–43, followed by a year as an Instructor at Clark College in Atlanta. He then moved to Howard University in 1944 and within three years was appointed full professor and head of the Mathematics Department.^{[5]} He remained at Howard until 1954.
He took a position at University of California Berkeley as a visiting professor in 1954, and was hired by UC Berkeley as a full professor in the newly created Statistics Department in 1955, becoming the Statistics department chair in 1956.^{[5]}^{[11]} He spent the rest of his career at UC Berkeley, retiring in 1988.^{[5]}
Blackwell was also a pioneer in textbook writing and game theory. Blackwell wrote one of the first Bayesian textbooks, his 1969 Basic Statistics.^{[12]}
Blackwell was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (Tau chapter – University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign).
Quotation
I've worked in so many areas—I'm sort of a dilettante. Basically, I'm not interested in doing research and I never have been. I'm interested in understanding, which is quite a different thing. And often to understand something you have to work it out yourself because no one else has done it. — David Blackwell
Honors and awards
 Invited Speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians, 1954
 President, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, 1956
 National Academy of Sciences, 1965
 American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1968
 President of the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability, 19751977
 Honorary Fellow, Royal Statistical Society, 1976
 Vice President, American Statistical Association, 1978
 John von Neumann Theory Prize, 1979
 R. A. Fisher Lectureship, 1986
 The Berkeley Citation, 1988^{[13]}
 National Medal of Science (posthumously), 2014
See also
References
 ↑ ^{1.0} ^{1.1} Sorkin, Michael (July 14, 2010). "David Blackwell fought racism; become worldfamous statistician". Saint Louis PostDispatch.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Roussas, G.G. et al. (2011) A Tribute to David Blackwell, NAMS 58(7), 912–928.
 ↑ Cattau, Daniel (July 2009). "David Blackwell 'Superstar'". Illinois Alumni. University of Illinois Alumni Association. pp. 32–34.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ James H. Kessler, J. S. Kidd, Renee A. Kidd. Katherine A. Morin (1996), Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century, Greenwood, ISBN 0897749553CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ ^{5.0} ^{5.1} ^{5.2} ^{5.3} ^{5.4} Grime, David (July 17, 2007). "David Blackwell, Scholar of Probability, Dies at 91". New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Institute for Advanced Study: A Community of Scholars
 ↑ Gary Musser, Lynn Trimpe; Gary Musser; Lynn Trimpe (2007). Harold R. Parks (ed.). A Mathematical View of Our World. Cengage Learning. p. 32. ISBN 9780495010616.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Steven Krantz (2005). Mathematical Apocrypha Redux: More Stories and Anecdotes of Mathematicians and the Mathematical. Cambridge University Press. p. 225. ISBN 9780883855546.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ "Mission and History". Institute for Advances Studies.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Donald J. Albers (2008), "David Blackwell", in Donald J. Albers, Gerald L. Alexanderson (eds.), Mathematical People: Profiles and Interviews (2 ed.), A K Peters, ISBN 1568813406CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Morris H. DeGroot (1986), "A conversation with David Blackwell", Statistical Science, 1 (1): 40–53, doi:10.1214/ss/1177013814<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
 ↑ Blackwell's Basic Statistics inspired the 1995 textbook Statistics: A Bayesian Approach by the biostatician Donald Berry.
 ↑ University of California, Berkeley (2015), "List of recipients". Retrieved March 4, 2015.
External links
 bio sketch from the American Statistical Association
 bio sketch from the Mathematical Association of America
 Dr. David Blackwell Biography Packet (5.21MB) provided by the Department of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley.
 David Blackwell's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
 On Google scholar
 David Blackwell, Scholar of Probability, Dies at 91 New York Times
 David Blackwell at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 A volume dedicated to David H. Blackwell, Celebratio Mathematica
 CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list
 CS1 maint: uses editors parameter
 1919 births
 2010 deaths
 People from Centralia, Illinois
 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign alumni
 University of California, Berkeley faculty
 Institute for Advanced Study visiting scholars
 AfricanAmerican academics
 AfricanAmerican mathematicians
 AfricanAmerican scientists
 American statisticians
 Probability theorists
 Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences
 Presidents of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics
 John von Neumann Theory Prize winners
 Fellows of the American Statistical Association
 National Medal of Science laureates
 Game theorists