David Finney celebrates 100th birthday

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Congratulations to our former president, Professor David Finney, who celebrates his 100th birthday today. David Spiegelhalter has, in his first act as President of the RSS, written David a letter of congratulations, saying: ‘On behalf of the Royal Statistical Society please accept my most heartfelt best wishes for the celebration of your centennial year.’

In addition, former colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and the ARC Unit of Statistics are planning a reception to celebrate his centenary, and later this year, the RSS will be running a named session at its 2017 annual conference in Glasgow in recognition of his contribution to statistics.

David’s achievements in statistics include pioneering the development of systems monitoring drug safety. His reports and papers on the subject have greatly influenced the monitoring system now in place. He has worked alongside many notable statisticians of the 20th century, including Ronald Fisher and Frank Yates. His two most widely known books, Probit Analysis (1947) and Statistical Method in Biological Assay (1952), both re-defined those subjects.

He helped set up an Agricultural Research Council Unit of Statistics for Scotland in Aberdeen where he helped run national surveys on agricultural practices, moving to Edinburgh in 1966. He worked at the University of Edinburgh until he retired in 1984 but was in great demand elsewhere, serving for many years on Advisory Committees for the FAO and WHO. He also chaired the Flowers Committee 1970-74, helping to determine the way in which computing should develop in UK universities and research councils. A sabbatical year at Harvard prompted his work on identifying adverse reactions to drugs and he helped found the Adverse Reactions Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on the Safety of Medicines, with which he was involved for more than 30 years.

As well as being President of the RSS (1973-4), David is also a past President of the Biometric Society (1964-5), a fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) since 1955, a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) and was awarded a CBE in 1978.

Former RSS president Peter Diggle remembers David Finney as his first statistics teacher at Edinburgh University in 1967. He says: 'David's lectures were notable for two reasons: they were embedded in a first-year undergraduate a course that, remarkably for the time, included statistics, numerical analysis and computing (data science by another name?); and they emphasised the importance of design.'

David still lives in Edinburgh where he enjoys listening to music, reading and conversations with friends.


Photo published courtesy of the University of Edinburgh.
If you'd like to know more about David's work, there is an audio recording of an interview he gave in 2009 for the James Lind Library which covers his life and career in more detail.

David Spiegelhalter Peter Diggle David Finney

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