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The Inimitable F. N. David: A Renaissance Statistician

By Amanda L. Golbeck and Craig A. Molgaard |

Florence Nightingale David (1909–1993) was known to readers of her scholarly publications as “F. N. David” and to her colleagues as “David” or “FND.” David has been recognized as the leading, most accomplished and most memorable British woman statistician of the mid-20th cen-tury ([11], [14]). She was a professor at University College London (UCL), and then at the University of California (UC). When we were graduate students in the early 1980s at UC-Berkeley, where David had an affiliation before and after her retirement from UC-Riverside, she was already a legend in statistics.

“Enormous energy” and “prolific output.” These are words that statistician D. E. Barton wrote in an obituary to describe his close UCL colleague. Barton added that these qualities were part of what made David “an exciting colleague to work with” [1]. These qualities are also what make it difficult to pigeonhole David’s illustrious 60-year-long career, which was packed with probability and statis-tical ideas. The numbers alone make clear the extent of her immense energy and output: She wrote nine books, over one-hundred published articles, over fifteen secret (classi-fied) war reports, and various forest service white papers. She was working on a tenth book and other articles and papers when she died.

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