Statistical Science

A conversation with Leslie Kish

Martin Frankel and Benjamin King

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Leslie Kish was born in Poprad, Hungary in 1910. He arrived with his family in the United States in 1926 with an English vocabulary of approximately 300 words. Within a year, his father died and Leslie became the principal wage earner in a five-person household. By 1929 he had secured full-time employment as a lab assistant at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. One year later he finished Bay Ridge Evening High School and enrolled in the College of the City of New York evening program. He became a U.S. citizen in 1936.

In 1937, with less than one college year left, Kish joined the International Brigades and went to Spain to fight for the Loyalists. He returned to the United States in 1939, and that same year received a B.S. in mathematics, cum laude, from the College of the City of New York.

Leslie Kish was hired by the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 1940 and in 1941 moved to the Division of Program Surveys of the Department of Agriculture. From 1942 to 1945 he served as a meteorologist in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the war he returned to the Department of Agriculture, but in 1947 moved to the University of Michigan as a member of the newly created Survey Research Center, which became the Institute for Social Research. While working full time, Kish received an M.A. in mathematical statistics in 1948 and a Ph.D. in sociology in 1952. He became a lecturer at the University of Michigan in 1951, an Associate Professor in 1956, a professor in 1960 and professor emeritus in 1981.

Kish is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as President of the American Statistical Association in 1977. He was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1980 and was named Honorary Fellow of the International Statistical Institute in 1994. In 1988, Kish received an Honorary Doctorate in statistics from the University of Bologna (900th anniversary) and in 1995 was elected an Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

In addition to his pioneering work in the theory and practice of survey sampling, Kish has been responsible for the training of hundreds of practicing sampling statisticians in the United States and in more than 90 other countries.

The following conversation took place at Leslie Kish's home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 22-23, 1994.

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Statist. Sci. Volume 11, Number 1 (1996), 65-87.

First available: 16 September 2002

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