David Harold Blackwell
Born on April 24, 1919 in Centralia, IL
Dr. David Blackwell is a theoretical statistician noted for his teaching and work in game and probability theory. He is first and only African-American member of the National Academy of Sciences. Blackwell’s research in mathematics and statistics have found application in many fields including economics and accounting.
At 16, Blackwell enrolled at the University of Illinois and majored in mathematics. He supported himself in college by washing dishes, waiting tables and cleaning equipment in the entomology lab. After three years, he graduated and continued at the university to obtain his master’s and doctorate degrees.
Blackwell was given a one-year appointment as a Rosenwald Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in 1941. It was common for Institute members to be made visiting fellows of Princeton. This caused quite a stir because there were no black students enrolled at the university during that time. Princeton’s president wrote a letter to the Institute protesting Blackwell’s admission, but the Institute upheld the appointment.
Blackwell’s focus shifted to the field of statistics while attending an Abe Girshick lecture on sequential analysis. He contacted Girshick with a counterexample to his theorem and the two became collaborators and friends. They co-authored “Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions” in 1954 and later revised it in 1980.
Also in 1954, Blackwell accepted a professorship at the University of California at Berkeley. By 1956, he was appointed chairman of the statistics department. He continued teaching and publishing a substantial amount of research until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1989. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the R.A. Fisher Award from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies. He also holds honorary degrees from 12 universities, among them Carnegie-Mellon, Yale, Howard and Harvard.
David Blackwell's Wikipedia Page
Evelyn Granville's Visionary Page (Mathematician, Educator)
URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/blackwelldavid