An Accidental Statistician: The Life and Memories of George E. P. Box


thumbnail image: An Accidental Statistician: The Life and Memories of George E. P. Box

Celebrating the life of an admired pioneer in statistics

In this captivating and inspiring memoir, world-renowned statistician George E. P. Box offers a firsthand account of his life and statistical work. Writing in an engaging, charming style, Dr. Box reveals the unlikely events that led him to a career in statistics, beginning with his job as a chemist conducting experiments for the British army during World War II. At this turning point in his life and career, Dr. Box taught himself the statistical methods necessary to analyze his own findings when there were no statisticians available to check his work.

Throughout his autobiography, Dr. Box expertly weaves a personal and professional narrative to illustrate the effects his work had on his life and vice-versa. Interwoven between his research with time series analysis, experimental design, and the quality movement, Dr. Box recounts coming to the United States, his family life, and stories of the people who mean the most to him.

This fascinating account balances the influence of both personal and professional relationships to demonstrate the extraordinary life of one of the greatest and most influential statisticians of our time. An Accidental Statistician also features:

• Two forewords written by Dr. Box’s former colleagues and closest confidants

• Personal insights from more than a dozen statisticians on how Dr. Box has influenced and continues to touch their careers and lives

• Numerous, previously unpublished photos from the author’s personal collection

An Accidental Statistician is a compelling read for statisticians in education or industry, mathematicians, engineers, and anyone interested in the life story of an influential intellectual who altered the world of modern statistics.


Foreword xi

Second Foreword xv

Preface xix

Acknowledgments xxi

From ThePublisher xxiii

1 Early Years 1

‘‘Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.’’

2 Army Life 19

‘‘Contrarywise, if it was so, it might be: and if it were so, it would be: but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’’

3 ICI and the Statistical Methods Panel 44

‘‘Can you answer useful questions?’’

4 George Barnard 53

‘‘When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.’’

5 An Invitation to the United States 63

‘‘The time has come, ‘the walrus said,’ to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.’’

6 Princeton 78

‘‘Ah! Then yours wasn’t a really good school.’’

7 A New Life in Madison 94

‘‘Digging for apples, your honor!’’

8 Time Series 124

‘‘What do you know about this business?’’

9 George Tiao and the Bayes Book 139

‘‘It gets easier further on.’’

10 GrowingUp (Helen and Harry) 144

‘‘There are 364 days when you might get unbirthday presents, and only 1 for birthday presents, you know.’’

11 Fisher—Father and Son 151

‘‘I only hope the boat won’t tipple over!’’

12 Bill Hunter and Some Ideas on Experimental Design 157

‘‘There goes Bill!’’

13 The Quality Movement 181

‘‘The race is over!. . . ‘Everybody has won and all must have prizes.’’’

14 Adventures with Claire 197

‘‘What else had you to learn?’’ ‘‘Well, there was Mystery.’’

15 The Many Sides of Mac 209

‘‘There’s nothing like eating hay when you’re feeling faint.’’

16 Life in England 218

‘‘What matters is how far we go? There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.’’

17 Journeys to Scandinavia 224

‘‘What sort of people live here?’’

18 A Second Home in Spain 228

‘‘I know something interesting is sure to happen.’’

19 The Royal Society of London 245

20 Conclusion 247

21 Memories 248

Index 265

Related Topics

Related Publications

Related Content

Site Footer


This website is provided by John Wiley & Sons Limited, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SQ (Company No: 00641132, VAT No: 376766987)

Published features on are checked for statistical accuracy by a panel from the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics (ENBIS)   to whom Wiley and express their gratitude. This panel are: Ron Kenett, David Steinberg, Shirley Coleman, Irena Ograjenšek, Fabrizio Ruggeri, Rainer Göb, Philippe Castagliola, Xavier Tort-Martorell, Bart De Ketelaere, Antonio Pievatolo, Martina Vandebroek, Lance Mitchell, Gilbert Saporta, Helmut Waldl and Stelios Psarakis.