Last week my grandfather’s brother visited us. Those of you who have studied statistics would definitely know him. His name is C.R.Rao. He is a famous statistician and is best known for his discoveries like Cramér-Rao bound and the Rao-Blackwell theorem.
In many ways I feel more close to him then my own grandfather who died when I was very young. In fact, I got to know him well during that time. Although I was just a kid (11 years old) he treated me like an equal. From then to now it’s always been that way, I could talk to him like an equal. He came to Chennai a few weeks back to receive an honorary doctorate from Madras University which was being conferred on him on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. He has received 31 honorary doctoral degrees from 18 countries. His name figures in the list of 35 major contributors to the field of statistics from the year 1650AD. He happens to be the only living member in the list.
When he flew down this time, he was his usual affectionate self. I reached the airport one hour late because I got the flight time wrong. He did not lose his temper. At 87 he is as sharp as he always was. Government of India has recently founded an institute in his name at Hyderabad. He is actively involved in its functioning.
He was talking about the people who are responsible for his success, the two women in his life – his mother and his wife. He claims that he owes his success to his mother. She taught him discipline and hard work. She used to wake them all up at 4:00AM and make them study. They did not have electricity so they used study in using a kerosene lantern.
He was working as a research scholar in ISI at Calcutta for a salary of Rs300. He had two children to support, it was hard. At that time he was offered a job of a lecturer for a salary of Rs1000. It was huge rise and a tempting offer. But he loved his research. He told his wife that he found this job intellectually stimulating and he would not get the same kind of gratification in being a lecturer. She herself was a Masters Degree holder. She told him, “You do what you love doing. I will take up a job and we will manage”. Thatha and Bhragavi aunty have many common interests and it is such a pleasure to watch them together. (Some how I never got round to calling his wife, grandma. She so young at heart and such a fun person that it is hard think of her as old )
I will do a separate post on Cramer Rao Bound and how it came to be named. For now, I will leave you with my favorite quote from one of his lectures
All knowledge is, in the final analysis, history
All sciences are, in abstract, mathematics
All judgments are, in their rationale, statistics
I am really proud of you, Thatha.