IU professor emeritus honored with American Statistical Association's Wilks Award

  • Aug. 4, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Madan L. Puri received one of the American Statistical Association’s most prestigious honors on Sunday: the Samuel S. Wilks Award. With this recognition, he becomes the sixth person in the world to have received the association’s two most distinguished awards, having been honored with the Gottfried E. Noether Senior Scholar Award in 2008.

Puri is considered one of the world’s most versatile, prolific researchers and influential contributors to theoretical statistics over more than four decades. His research areas include nonparametric statistics, limit theory under mixing, time series, tests of normality, generalized inverses of matrices, stochastic processes, statistics of directional data and fuzzy sets and fuzzy measures. His work on rank-based methods has driven the frontier of the subject forward, and his fundamental contributions in developing rank-based methods and precise evaluation of the standard procedures, asymptotic expansions of distributions of rank statistics and large deviation results concerning them, span various areas such as analysis of variance, analysis of covariance, multivariate analysis and time series.

“This outstanding honor is testament to not only the renown of Madan’s research and scholarship in statistical analysis, but also to his impressive record of achievement in teaching,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. “His dedication to his work combined with his unwavering commitment to his students, as well as campus, college and higher education, is equally commendable. We are honored to have Madan as a member of our emeritus faculty.”

Puri came to Indiana University as a professor in 1968. In 1997 he was ranked as the fourth most prolific author in the world in the report “Statistics on Statistics: Worldwide Performance Based on Journal Publications in the Period 1985-1995.” Among statisticians in universities that did not have separate departments of statistics, Puri ranked first in the “prolific” category.

The methods he and his co-authors introduced for implementing rank-based methods with dependent data, and for theoretically analyzing the properties of those techniques, fundamentally changed the direction in which the subject evolved for a decade from the mid-1980s. His 1964 paper on rank-based methods in one-way layout models laid the foundation for the development of nonparametric methods in analysis of variance. Puri’s two advanced research monographs, co-authored with P.K. Sen in 1971 and 1987, on nonparametric methods in multivariate analysis and general linear models -- the fields he created -- laid out precise theories that remain standard treatises for researchers in the field.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, in a series of path-breaking papers with Marc Hallin, he tackled the most difficult problem of applying nonparametric methods to time series analysis. Even today, the far-reaching impact of this analysis is still being felt by statisticians and time series specialists all over the world.

The methodology developed by Puri in the statistical design and analysis of experiments has paved the way for the development of clinical designs, epidemiological investigations and environmental studies. He has been honored by universities in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the Middle East as visiting fellow, chair professor, guest professor and distinguished visitor. In 1974, he was invited by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences to visit Japan under its Visiting Professorship Program to conduct cooperative research with Japanese scientists.

In the area of fuzzy mathematics, Puri has raised the level of the subject from ad hoc approaches to a high level of mathematical sophistication, adding much credibility and dignity to the subject, ignored until recently by statisticians. In a series of papers, many of which have appeared in outstanding mathematics and probability journals, the contours of whole theory became visible.

Puri has received Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Senior U.S. Scientist Award twice and been honored by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, “in recognition of past achievements in research and teaching.” For his 65th birthday, 52 of his colleagues wrote articles for a book, "Research Developments in Probability and Statistics," in his honor. Another book, "Asymptotics, Nonparametrics and Time Series Analysis: A Tribute to Madan Puri," in which 43 of his colleagues around the world wrote articles in his honor, was presented to him in 1999. In 2007, the Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference published a volume in his honor for which 68 of his colleagues wrote articles.

In 2003, in a compilation by the Institute for Scientific Information, he was listed among 231 researchers worldwide who are most cited for their articles in the mathematics category, which include all areas of mathematics, statistics, biostatistics and probability. He is still one of the most highly cited authors in mathematics, according to ISI Science Watch. In 2003, "Selected Collected Works of Madan L. Puri," edited by Peter Hall (Australian National University), Marc Hallin (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) and George G. Roussas (University of California at Davis) was published in three volumes by International Science Publishers. In 2004, his short biography appeared in the book "Oxford Dictionary of Statistics," authored by G.J.G. Upton of the University of Essex, England.

“Professor Puri has relentlessly pushed the boundaries of statistics for more than 50 years, and this award reflects his continuous and substantial impact on the profession,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Larry Singell. “The College has been extremely fortunate to have such a distinguished scholar as part of its faculty, and we celebrate with him in his very deserving receipt of such a prestigious award as the Samuel S. Wilks Award.”

In granting the award, the American Statistical Association specifically cited Puri “for his pioneering and innovating research in multiple fields of mathematical statistics; for extraordinarily broad and deep contributions in initiating and developing rank-based methods in many areas of statistics; for his contributions to limit theory under dependence, extreme value theory, asymptotic expansions, large deviation theory, and fuzzy sets and measures; and for his tireless efforts to promote our discipline through his doctoral students and his many collaborations with colleagues around the world.”

“This honor reflects the outstanding quality of Madan’s scholarly work and his dedication to the fields of statistics and mathematics,” IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said. “We at IU Bloomington are proud to count him among our most distinguished faculty members and thank him for his remarkable contributions.”

Puri still maintains an office on the IU Bloomington campus and will serve as a visiting professor at Columbia University this fall. He has over 255 publications in several areas of statistics, probability and mathematics, including 13 books.

"The Department of Mathematics is indebted to Madan for his historical efforts to establish a program in mathematics statistics in our department,” said department chair Elizabeth Housworth. “He developed most of our courses in that area, led many doctoral students through their dissertations, and helped put the Department of Mathematics on a strong research footing. We congratulate him on his well-deserved honor of receiving the ASA Wilks Award.”

Puri received the award in Boston during the largest annual gathering of statisticians in North America, the Aug. 2-7 Joint Statistics Meeting of the American Statistical Association and eight other institutes, societies and associations.

Puri is an elected fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the American Statistical Association; an elected member of the International Statistical Institute and the New York Academy of Sciences; and an Honorary Fellow of the International Indian Statistical Society.

Madan Puri

Madan Puri | Photo by Indiana University

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