Person: Blackwell, David Harold
David Blackwell was an American statistician and mathematician who worked in game theory, probability theory, information theory and Bayesian statistics. He was the first African-American member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- As an African American David might well have attended one of the two racially segregated elementary schools in Centralia but, in his own words, he was fortunate to attend an integrated school.
- In 1935, at age 16, Blackwell entered the University of Illinois.
- After graduating Blackwell continued to study at the University of Illinois for his Master's degree which was awarded in 1939 and then for his doctorate supervised by Joseph Doob.
- This was awarded in 1941, when Blackwell was still only 22 years old, for a thesis on Markov chains.
- At this point Blackwell received a prestigious one year appointment as Rosenwald Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
- This, however, led to problems over the fact that Blackwell was a black African American.
- The standard practice was to have Fellows of the Institute become honorary Faculty members of Princeton University but, in Blackwell's case, this caused a problem.
- Fortunately at the time Blackwell was not fully aware of the problems his appointment was causing.
- While at the Institute, Blackwell started to look for academic appointments.
- Neyman strongly support his appointment but others had far too strong prejudices to allow Blackwell to be appointed.
- By this time Blackwell's interests had turned towards statistics and in 1956 he became Chairman of the Department of Statistics.
- It was a lecture in 1945 by Abe Girshick of the Department of Agriculture on sequential analysis which sparked Blackwell's interest in statistics.
- Blackwell's interest in the theory of games had been heightened during three summers between 1948 and 1950 when he worked at the RAND Corporation.
- The Cold War did much to promote interest in this type of game, and Blackwell soon became a leading expert.
- In 1954 Blackwell was invited to address the International Congress of Mathematicians in Amsterdam.
- Blackwell remained at the University of California until he retired in 1989.
Born 24 April 1919, Centralia, Illinois, USA. Died 8 July 2010, Berkeley, California, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
African American, Origin Usa
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive