Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao

Honorary Doctor of Science

Citation delivered by Professor Gerard Sutton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao to the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on 17 December 2001.


Chancellor I present Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao.

C R Rao, as he is popularly known, was born in India in 1920, the eighth of ten children. By his own account, he was an "accidental" statistician. His casual visit to the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta in 1931 led eventually to international honours and recognition as one of the world's leading scientists and statisticians. The University of Wollongong is taking a special opportunity, during his visit to our campus, to applaud Professor Rao's achievement as a leader in his discipline. We trust that today's graduates may aspire to his high standards and to the breadth of his interests.

Professor Rao came from a family that valued education highly. As a shy boy, he overcame his fear to excel at school. He graduated with two Masters degree in India, one in science and one in statistics and, in 1946, sailed for England where he studied for his PhD at Cambridge, completing a thesis on "Statistical Problems of Biological Classification". Less than twenty years later, in 1965, Cambridge would honour him with a Doctor of Science for his published works and his outstanding contribution to statistical theory and application. He has been elected one of the few Life Fellows of Kings College Cambridge and enjoys the rare privilege of walking on the College lawns!

C R Rao's academic career in his home country is distinguished by a series of exceptional achievements. He was appointed as a Professor and Head of the Indian Statistical Institute's Research and Training School at the age of 28. In 1972, he was appointed Director of the Institute itself. Professor Rao was an inspirational teacher and supervisor and the Institute attracted brilliant scholars from around the world, including J Kenneth Galbraith and Simon Kuznets.

In 1979 Professor Rao took leave from the Institute to take up a Professorship at the University of Pittsburgh in the Unites States. He retired as Institute Director in 1984 and, in 1988, was offered the Eberly Family Chair in Statistics at Pennsylvania State University. Now in his 80s, he still holds that position and is also Director of the Centre for Multivariate Analysis.

CR Rao has published over 30 books in statistics, mathematics and econometrics and over 350 research papers. His fundamental contributions to statistical theory include several that bear his name, including what the initiated know as "the basic result in statistical inference "- the Cramer-Rao theorem. His work in this ubiquitous discipline has not only changed the way we look at and analyse data; it has also had major impacts on the physical and social sciences and on engineering. He has contributed to areas as diverse as defence, oil exploration and medical diagnosis.

Professor Rao is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States. The Indian Government appointed him to one of the twelve prestigious Indian National Professorships and also awarded him the title of Padma Bhushan, a high civilian award, for his contribution to science, engineering and statistics. A famous colleague, WG Cochrane, has remarked that: "C R Rao would be found in almost any statistician's list of five outstanding workers in the field of Mathematical Statistics today"

Chancellor, Professor Rao has been honoured by universities throughout the world. We join their ranks as, I believe, the first Australian university to recognise his contribution. We do so in a spirit of welcome and esteem and to give inspiration to our students and graduates.

Professor Rao has faithfully followed the scientific vocation, so well described by Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, when he wrote:

"Assume that we have deliberately made it our task to live in this unknown world of ours; to adjust ourselves to it as well as we can; to take advantage of the opportunities we can find in it; and to explain it, if possible -- and as far as possible, with the help of laws and explanatory theories".
(Karl Popper, "Conjectures and Refutations")

C R Rao is not only a consummate man of science and mathematics, he is a man of culture and humour. Like many mathematicians who appreciate the complex harmonies and patterns of the universe, C R Rao takes delight in music. He has also won prizes for his photography. He writes amusing essays and is a fine cook. The great minds are, indeed, distinguished not only by their special genius but by the wide span of their talents and interests.

It is my great privilege and pleasure to present Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao for the award of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.