Statistical Science

A conversation with Geoff Watson

R. J. Beran and N. I. Fisher

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Geoffrey Stuart Watson, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, celebrated his 75th birthday on December 3, 1996. A native Australian, his early education included Bendigo High School and Scotch College in Melbourne. After graduating with a B.A. (Hons.) from Melbourne University in December 1942, he spent the next few years, during and after World War II, doing research and teaching on applied mathematical topics. His wandering as a scholar began in 1947, when he became a graduate student in the Institute of Statistics in Raleigh, North Carolina. Leaving Raleigh after two years, he wrote his thesis while visiting the Department of Applied Economics in Cambridge University. Raleigh awarded him the Ph.D. degree in 1951.

That same year, he returned to Australia, to a Senior Lectureship in Statistics at Melbourne University. He moved in 1954 to a Senior Fellowship at the Australian National University. Three years later, he left for England and North America. In 1959, he became Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Toronto. In 1962, he became Professor of Statistics at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Soon thereafter he was appointed department chairman. In 1970, he moved to Princeton University as Professor and Chairman of Statistics. He became Professor Emeritus at Princeton in 1992.

He has published numerous research papers on a broad range of topics in statistics and applied probability. His best known contributions are the Durbin-Watson test for serial correlation, the Nadaraya-Watson estimator in nonparametric regression and fundamental methods for analyzing directional or axial data. He is the author of an important monograph, Statistics on Spheres. His professional honors include Membership in the International Statistical Institute and Fellowships of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In private life, he is an accomplished painter of watercolors, a few of which may be seen on his website ( at Princeton University. He married Shirley Elwyn Jennings in 1952. Their four children, one son and three daughters, pursue careers in Japanese literature, health care in Uganda, singing opera, and administering opera and ballet.

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Statist. Sci. Volume 13, Number 1 (1998), 75-93.

First available in Project Euclid: 9 August 2002

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Beran, R. J.; Fisher, N. I. A conversation with Geoff Watson. Statist. Sci. 13 (1998), no. 1, 75--93. doi:10.1214/ss/1028905975.

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