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\noindent{\bf George Waddel SNEDECOR}\\
b. 20 October 1881 - d. 15 February 1974
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\noindent{\bf Summary.} George Snedecor is widely known for
his text {\em Statistical
Methods}, first published in 1937, now in its eighth edition. He was the
founder of the Iowa State University Statistical Laboratory in 1933, the
first unit if its kind in the United States.
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George W. Snedecor is best remembered as a pioneer in making
statistical tools accessible to experimenters in agriculture,
biology, and
other areas of application.
Through his work he laid
the foundations for what is today
the Department of Statistics at Iowa State University, one of the
most prestigious of applied statistics departments.
But perhaps his most remarkable
contribution was his book, {\em Statistical Methods Applied to
Experiments in Agriculture and Biology}, published
first in 1937, and arguably the most popular and influential
statistics text ever
written.
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\noindent{\bf 1. Origins}
George Waddel Snedecor was born in Memphis,
Tennessee, the oldest child of James George Snedecor and
Emily Alston Estes. George's father was the descendant of Dutch
pioneers who had arrived in the United States in the early part of
the 17th century.
At the time of George's
birth, James Snedecor was a practicing lawyer in Memphis.
Soon after George was born, the family moved
to Florida and later to Alabama, where his father, by then an
ordained Presbyterian minister, preached in churches in and around
Birmingham.
Most of young Snedecor's school years were spent in Alabama. In
1899, he began two years of college at the
Alabama Polytechnic Institute in Auburn, followed by two years of
preparatory school teaching. When the family
moved to Tuscaloosa in 1903, George transfered to the
University of Alabama. In 1905 he graduated with a
B.S. in mathematics and physics, with honors.
After graduation, George accepted his first academic job, at the
Selma Military Academy. As an instructor he taught at the Academy
from 1905 through 1907.
He then secured a position in Sherman, Texas, teaching
mathematics and Greek at Austin College. It was in
Sherman where he
met and married Gertrude Douglas Crosier in 1908, the daughter of a
dormitory matron at Austin College.
In 1910, the Snedecors moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan,
while George furthered his education at the
University of Michigan. In 1913 he received an A.M. degree with a
major in physics.
Finally in 1913, George and
Gertrude arrived in Ames, Iowa where they remained until 1958.
Both sons, Edward Crosier and James George, were born and raised in
Ames. It was there where Snedecor made his mark in the world of
statistics.
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\noindent{\bf 2. The Early Iowa State College Years}
George W. Snedecor joined the faculty at Iowa State College as an
Assistant Professor of Mathematics in 1913. He was quickly
promoted to Associate Professor, and in 1915 taught a course
entitled ``Mathematical Theory of Statistics''. This was the first
statistics
course designed to formally introduce statistical methods to
researchers in the mathematical and other sciences. The name of the
course soon changed to ``Statistical Methods of Interpreting
Experimental Data'', and a second course entitled
``Biometric Methods of Interpreting Agricultural Data'' was
introduced.
By the early 1920s, with several departments across campus offering
courses in
statistics, researchers in many areas of application were using
techniques such as regression analyses on their data.
The Graduate
College was created in 1920, with the mission of promoting research,
particularly in areas of importance to agriculture. Snedecor, with
his interest in interdisciplinary research, is likely to
have been influential on
researchers such as Lindstrom, who by 1925 was using multiple
regression models, quite a sophistication for those days (Cox and
Homeyer, 1975; Melde, 1990; David, 1998).
In 1927, the Mathematics Statistical Service was established, with
Snedecor and A. E. Brandt at the helm. The Service was created to
formalize statistical consulting activities, and was the precursor
of the Statistical Laboratory, established in 1933. Gertrude Cox (q.v.),
who worked part-time in the Mathematics Statistical Service, was the
first student to graduate with an M.S. degree in statistics, awarded
by the Department of Mathematics in 1931.
By the late 1920s Snedecor was recognized as a preeminent
statistician, and in 1931 was promoted to Professor in the
Department of Mathematics at Iowa State College. During this time,
Snedecor developed an important relationship with R. A. Fisher (q.v.) who
was producing path-breaking research at Rothamsted Experimental
Station. Their correspondence resulted in two influential six-week
visits by Fisher to Iowa State College, in the summers of 1931 and
1936. See also Section 4.
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\noindent{\bf 3. The Statistical Laboratory Years, 1933-1947}
In recognition of the importance of statistics in other fields of
inquiry, Iowa State College established the
Statistical Laboratory in 1933, with Snedecor as its Director.
For perhaps the first time in the United States,
experimental statistics was officially recognized as a science different
from mathematics.
Under Snedecor's direction, the Statistical Laboratory became an
active center for the research and teaching of statistics.
Many visitors were attracted and the permanent staff was substantially
increased as a result of a cooperative agreement in 1938 with the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. W. G. Cochran was hired at this time
and played a key role in strengthening work in survey sampling and
in launching a PhD program in statistics
(Cox and Homeyer, 1975).
The 1930s were Snedecor's most active research years.
He also carried out the administrative duties as the Director
of the Statistical Laboratory, in spite of a profound dislike for
paperwork. Indeed, it was his reluctance to take on any additional
administrative duties that may have led him to resist the
creation of a Department of Statistics in the 1930s. As it was, Gertrude
Cox went on to establish the
Department of Experimental Statistics at North Carolina State
College in 1941, the
first in the nation. The Iowa State College Department of
Statistics was created in 1947.
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\noindent{\bf 4. Publications}
In 1924 Henry A. Wallace, then editor of {\em Wallaces' Farmer} and later
Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President of the United States,
gave a series of ten Saturday afternoon seminars at Iowa State
College. He was anxious to pass on to an audience of mainly
agricultural and biological research workers the expertise in
multiple regression that he had gained primarily in studying the
factors influencing corn yields (David, 1998). Wallace summarized
these lectures in a bulletin {\em Correlation and Machine
Calculation}
that was put in final shape by Snedecor, one of his listeners. This
booklet of just 47 pages (Wallace and Snedecor, 1925) reached
worldwide circulation and was Snedecor's first publication, at the
age of 42.
Soon thereafter Snedecor became aware of R. A. Fisher's fundamental
contributions and was among the first in the United States to
recognize their great practical importance. This resulted in a
major revision of the bulletin (Wallace and Snedecor, 1931), in a
small book in which the F-statistic is introduced (Snedecor, 1934,
p. 15) and, most important by far, in {\em Statistical Methods} (Snedecor, 1937).
{\em Statistical Methods} was a phenomenal success, and has gone
through eight editions.
Snedecor was sole author of the first five, the last three being
co-authored by W. G. Cochran. The eighth edition was prepared in
1989 by several members of the Iowa State Statistics Department.
Long after the death of the co-authors, the text still had nearly
2000 entries in the Science Citation Index for 1995. Total sales
of the editions in English (apart from those published in India)
have reached 237,000.
The first edition already makes it plain why this book was to prove
so successful. Snedecor
had a gift for writing simply and clearly, often using a
conversational style. The need for the statistical approach is
presented enthusiastically through a series of examples likely to
be close to the reader's heart. Snedecor constantly asked
questions. There were many tables and charts. The book was studded
with helpful and varied exercises. Readers rusty on even
elementary mathematics were not ignored. Each topic was introduced
unhurriedly and treated in considerable detail, yet a surprising
amount of material was covered. Many of the references listed
reflected Snedecor's wide experience gained as a consultant to
research workers.
In addition, Snedecor filled a real need to satisfy the burgeoning
interest of biological research workers in useful statistical
methods. The basic texts, Fisher's {\em Statistical Methods for
Research Workers}, first published in 1925, and followed by {\em The
Design of Experiments} in 1935, were impressive and written in a
masterfully spare English style. But research workers found them
very difficult. It is interesting to note that in the course of a
warm correspondence with Fisher, Snedecor writes in 1936 that he is
working on an elementary text ``designed to lead the beginner to an
appreciation of your books.'' This aim Snedecor accomplished
splendidly, even if his presentation was not without occasional
shortcomings.
Snedecor's journal articles are mostly in the same
spirit of dealing in as simple a way as possible with problems of
direct interest to the experimenter. Many of these papers are joint
with experimenters or statisticians at Iowa State, on topics
including experimental design, analysis of variance and covariance,
the chi-square test, disproportionate subclass numbers in multiple
classifications, and sampling. Snedecor wrote also on his own on
the last two topics, as well as on computing and statistical
education and philosophy. The wide knowledge he had gained helping
research workers qualified him admirably to be the first editor for
Queries in {\em Biometrics}, from 1945 to 1958. If the flow of queries
from readers was slow, he could draw on his vast consulting experience
to manufacture a query!
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\noindent{\bf 5. The Department of Statistics Years, 1947-1958}
In 1947 George Snedecor stepped down as Director of the Statistical
Laboratory.
He remained as Professor of Statistics
until his retirement from Iowa State College in 1958.
By the
1940s, Snedecor was recognized throughout the world as an
authority in the development of statistical methods. He was
an active
member of the American Statistical Association (ASA)and the
Biometric Society. He served as
Vice
President of ASA in 1947, and as President in 1948. In
1950 he was elected member of the International Statistical
Institute, the 28th
from the United States (Cox and Homeyer, 1975). The Royal
Statistical Society made him an Honorary Fellow in 1954.
In 1958, Snedecor retired from Iowa State College after 45
years of service. He was responsible for the
establishment and flourishing of perhaps the most influential group
of applied statisticians in the United States in the first half of the
century and his legacy lasts to this day. The Department of Statistics
at Iowa State
University is now housed in Snedecor Hall, a fitting tribute to
the man.
After retirement in San Diego, California, Snedecor
retained a lively interest in Statistics until late in
life. He was further honored by the award of the Samuel
S. Wilks Memorial Medal in 1970, by election as an Honorary
Life Member of the Biometric Society in 1971, by a book of papers in his
honor (Bancroft, 1972), and posthumously by the setting up in 1976 of
{\em The George W. Snedecor Award for the Best Publication in
Biometry}, administered by the ASA. He died in 1974, at the age of
92, in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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\begin{thebibliography}{3}
\bibitem{1} Bancroft, T.A. (ed.) (1972). {\em Statistical Papers in
Honor of George W. Snedecor}. The Iowa State University Press,
Ames, Iowa.
\bibitem{2} Cox, G.M., and P.G. Homeyer (1975). Professional and
personal glimpses of George W. Snedecor. {\em Biometrics},
{\bf 31}, 265-301.
\bibitem{3} David, H.A. (1998). Statistics in U.S. universities in 1933 and
the establishment of the Statistical Laboratory at Iowa State. {\em
Statistical Science}, {\bf 13}, 68-74.
\bibitem{4} Snedecor, G.W. (1934). {\em Calculation and Interpretation
of Analysis of Variance and Covariance}. Collegiate Press, Ames,
Iowa.
\bibitem{5} Snedecor, G.W. (1937). {\em Statistical Methods Applied to
Experiments in Agriculture and Biology}. Collegiate Press, Ames,
Iowa.
\bibitem{6} Wallace, H.A., and G.W. Snedecor (1925). Correlation and
machine calculation. {\em Iowa State College Official Publication},
23(35).
\bibitem{7} Wallace, H.A., and G.W. Snedecor (1931). Correlation and
machine calculation. Revised edition. {\em Iowa State College
Official Publication}, 30(4).
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\hfill{Alicia L. Carriquiry and Herbert A. David}
\end{thebibliography}
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