Celebratio Mathematica

David H. Blackwell

Statistics  ·  UC Berkeley

A Tribute to David Blackwell

by Howard Tucker

Dav­id Black­well was a con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence in my life. This in­flu­ence is best sum­mar­ized in my ded­ic­a­tion of a joint pa­per I was in­vited to sub­mit for the I.M.S. Lec­ture Notes Mono­graph series in his hon­or, which stated, “To Dav­id Black­well, who with his char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally con­cise sen­tences taught me, among oth­er things, how to write a math­em­at­ics pa­per, how to look at math­em­at­ics, how to wel­come re­spons­ib­il­ity and how to face one’s more ma­ture years, this pa­per is af­fec­tion­ately ded­ic­ated.”

When Dav­id ar­rived at Berke­ley in 1954 I was be­gin­ning my last year as a gradu­ate stu­dent. My hazy re­col­lec­tion of my first in­ter­ac­tion with him was that I was ap­poin­ted as his teach­ing as­sist­ant for the gradu­ate course in prob­ab­il­ity at the meas­ure-the­or­et­ic level. When I asked him what he wanted me to do dur­ing the two one-hour ses­sions per week for the semester, his in­struc­tions were for me to do what I felt I should do for the six or sev­en stu­dents in the class. Since he wanted to cov­er oth­er top­ics, I had a very en­joy­able time for the semester or the year (I for­get which) go­ing through the re­cently pub­lished Gneden­ko and Kolmogorov book on lim­it dis­tri­bu­tions.

I re­ceived my Ph.D. in math­em­at­ics in June 1955 and am lis­ted as Dav­id’s first doc­tor­al stu­dent. This oc­curred as fol­lows. The prob­lem that I was work­ing on start­ing in 1953 was one sug­ges­ted by Pro­fess­or J. Ney­man. However, some time after Dav­id ar­rived at Berke­ley, Ney­man asked him if he would be avail­able to ad­vise me in the throes of put­ting the dis­ser­ta­tion in­to its fi­nal shape. Among oth­er things dur­ing that peri­od, he showed me how to write a math­em­at­ics pa­per, which is re­called in the ded­ic­a­tion quoted above. So some­how Dav­id was ap­poin­ted chair­man of my com­mit­tee, and I am lis­ted as his first doc­tor­al stu­dent. This was and is a great hon­or for me.