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Daniels, Henry Ellis, 1912-2000 (statistician)



  • Existence: 1912 - 2000


Daniels was born in London on 2 October 1912. He was educated at the Sciennes School, Edinburgh and George Heriot's School, Edinburgh, obtaining a scholarship to read mathematics at Edinburgh University where he graduated MA in 1933. With the encouragement of the head of department, E.T. Whittaker, he went for a further period of study at Cambridge University, winning a Major Mathematical Scholarship to Clare College. Amongst his Cambridge studies he took a course in statistics with practical exercises which was provided by the School of Agriculture. In 1935 he was appointed Statistician at the Wool Research Industries Association, Leeds to study mathematical and statistical aspects of the wool industries. Skeins of wool are bundles of fibres and the mathematical theory of 'fibre bundles' was one that Daniels returned to again and again in his career. One of Daniels' colleagues at Leeds was the biochemist A.J.P. Martin who, with R.L.M. Synge, was working on the development of paper chromatography for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1952. Daniels contributed a mathematical appendix to their key paper giving a quantitative explanation of why the method works. During the Second World War Daniels was seconded to the Air Warfare Analysis Group in the Ministry of Aircraft Production to work on improvements in radiolocation. This work led in due course to a major paper on position finding in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. In 1947 he returned to Cambridge as Lecturer in Mathematics attached to the newly formed Statistical Laboratory which offered a postgraduate Diploma in Statistics. Here he played a crucial role in the formation of the Laboratory's many impressive students but became very critical of the University's treatment of his subject, there being no professor and none of the academic staff held college fellowships. In 1957 Birmingham University established a Chair in Mathematical Statistics and Daniels was invited to apply. Here he spent 21 years, retiring from the Chair in 1978 when he returned to Cambridge to continue research in association with the Statistical Laboratory. Amongst his statistical work at Birmingham was a close research relationship with J.C. Squire, a leading member of the medical faculty. Daniels' research was characterised by his deployment of classical mathematical techniques to solve very difficult probabilistic problems arising from scientific issues. Daniels' distinction in mathematical statistics was recognised by his colleagues and the wider scientific community. In 1974-1975 he served as President of the Royal Statistical Society which awarded him its Guy Medal in silver in 1957 and in gold in 1984. In 1985 he was elected an honorary fellow of the International Statistical Institute. He was elected FRS in 1980. Daniels died on 16 April 2000.