Statistical Science

Quiet Contributor: The Civic Career and Times of John W. Tukey

F. R. Anscombe

Full-text: Open access


Across 60 years, John W. Tukey contributed to the advancement of democracy, peace and industry via development, application and teaching of knowledge. In his nation's service, he contributed to the Nike missile defense, U-2 spy plane, surveillance satellites in space, hydrophones in the oceans, seismic data interpretation and communications code breaking. As computer and communication pioneer, Tukey collaborated with von Neumann, Shannon and Pierce; coined "bit'' and "software''; applied statistical time series methods to processing signals; and recognized the usefulness of fast Fourier transform algorithms to digital processing of correlated data. Practical problems inspired Tukey to invent new ways to analyze data. As teacher and author, he made these available to others. Tukey advised government and industry regarding environmental quality, educational testing, the census, pharmaceutical efficacy, manufacturing quality and technologies for gathering intelligence. This paper explores the civic career, influences and philosophies of a practicing data analyst, inventor and remarkable public servant.

Article information

Statist. Sci., Volume 18, Issue 3 (2003), 287-310.

First available in Project Euclid: 6 February 2004

Permanent link to this document

Digital Object Identifier

Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Exploratory data analysis fast Fourier transform time series boxplot stem-and-leaf display multiple comparisons analysis of variance one degree of freedom for nonadditivity robust estimates software bit American Philosophical Society Bell Labs Brown University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Central Intelligence Agency Health Effects Institute Institute for Advanced Study Institute for Defense Analyses Merck National Security Agency Princeton University RAND Presidential Science Advisory Committee System Development Foundation Xerox PARC census educational testing election returns environmental protection CFCs Nike missile pharmaceutical testing SOSUS U-2 spy plane Edgar Anderson F. J. Anscombe William O. Baker Hendrik Bode Arthur Burks W. E. Deming Richard Feynman R. A. Fisher William F. Friedman Richard Garwin H. H. Goldstine I. J. Good David C. Hoaglin James Killian Alfred C. Kinsey Solomon Kullback Edwin Land Richard Leibler Brockway McMillan Oskar Morgenstern Frederick Mosteller Daniel P. Moynihan Walter Munk M. H. A. Newman John R. Pierce Edward Purcell Claude E. Shannon Lyman Spitzer, Jr. Alan Turing Stanislaw Ulam John von Neumann John Archibald Wheeler Norbert Wiener Samuel S. Wilks Charles P. Winsor


Anscombe, F. R. Quiet Contributor: The Civic Career and Times of John W. Tukey. Statist. Sci. 18 (2003), no. 3, 287--310. doi:10.1214/ss/1076102417.

Export citation


  • Andrews, D. F., Bickel, P. J., Hampel, F. R., Huber, P. J., Rogers, W. H. and Tukey, J. W. (1972). Robust Estimates of Location: Survey and Advances. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Anscombe, F. J. (1988). Frederick Mosteller and John W. Tukey: A conversation. Statist. Sci. 3 136--144.
  • Aspray, W. (1988). The emergence of Princeton as a world center for mathematical research, 1896--1939. In History and Philosophy of Modern Mathematics (W. Aspray and P. Kitcher, eds.) 346--366. Univ. Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
  • Bamford, V. J. (1982). The Puzzle Palace: A Report on NSA, America's Most Secret Agency. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Bamford, V. J. (2001). Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-secret National Security Agency from the Cold War through the Dawn of a New Century. Doubleday, New York.
  • Basford, K. E. and Tukey, J. W. (1998). Graphical Analysis of Multiresponse Data Illustrated with a Plant Breeding Trial: Interdisciplinary Statistics. Chapman and Hall/CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Bell Labs News (1985) 25 18.
  • Bello, F. (November 1958). Fortune.
  • Benson, R. L. (2001). The Venona Story. Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency, Fort Meade, MD.
  • Blackman, R. B. and Tukey, J. W. (1959). The Measurement of Power Spectra from the Point of View of Communications Engineering. Dover, New York.
  • Bode, H. W., Mosteller, F., Tukey, J. W. and Winsor, C. P. (1949). The education of a scientific generalist. Science 109 553--558.
  • Bogert, B. P., Healy, M. J. R. and Tukey, J. W. (1963). The quefrency alanysis of time series for echoes: cepstrum, pseudo-autocovariance, cross-cepstrum and saphe-cracking. In Proc. Symposium on Time Series Analysis (M. Rosenblatt, ed.) 209--243. Wiley, New York.
  • Brillinger, D. R. (2002a). John W. Tukey: His life and professional contributions. Ann. Statist. 30 1535--1575. Available at
  • Brillinger, D. R. (2002b). John W. Tukey's work on time series and spectral analysis. Ann. Statist. 30 1595--1618. Available at
  • Buderi, R. (1996). The Invention That Changed the World: How a Small Group of Radar Pioneers Won the Second World War and Launched a Technological Revolution. Simon and Schuster, New York.
  • Budiansky, S. (2000). Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II. Free Press, New York.
  • Burks, A. W., Goldstine, H. H. and von Neumann, J. (1946). Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument. Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ.
  • Canby, E. T. (1980). Audio, December 8--9.
  • Cleveland, W. S. (1988). Preface. In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey V. Graphics: 1965--1985. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  • Cochran, W. G., Mosteller, F. and Tukey, J. W. (1954). Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Amer. Statist. Assoc., Washington, DC.
  • Cooley, J. W. and Tukey, J. W. (1965). An algorithm for the machine calculation of complex Fourier series. Math. Comp. 19 297--301.
  • Cornfield, J. et al. (1959). Smoking and lung cancer: Recent evidence and a discussion of some questions. J. National Cancer Institute 22 173--203.
  • Eisenhart, C. (1955). Tukey recommendation for the Cosmos Club, Washington. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.
  • Fagan, M. D. (1978). A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925--1975). Bell Telephone Laboratories, New York.
  • Fienberg, S. E., Hoaglin, D. C., Kruskal, W. H. and Tanur, J. M., eds. (1990). A Statistical Model: Frederick Mosteller's Contributions to Statistics, Science and Public Policy. Springer, New York.
  • Gardner, M. (1959). Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions: The First Scientific American Book of Puzzles and Games. Simon and Schuster, New York.
  • Gleik, J. (1992). Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. Pantheon, New York.
  • Goldstine, H. H. (1972). The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Good, I. J. (1993). Enigma and fish. In Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park (H. Hinsley and A. Stripp, eds.) 149--166. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Greenwood, R. (1984). Interview with Albert Tucker and William Aspray. In The Princeton Mathematics Community in the 1930s. Available at
  • Hamming, R. W. (1986). You and your research. Unpublished manuscript. Available at: cache/hamming.html.
  • Haynes, J. E. and Klehr, H. (1999). Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Yale Univ. Press.
  • Herken, G. (2000). Cardinal Choices: Presidential Science Advising from the Atomic Bomb to SDI. Stanford Univ. Press.
  • Hinsley, H. and Stripp, A., eds. (1993). Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Hoaglin, D. C., Mosteller, F. and Tukey, J. W., eds. (1983). Understanding Robust and Exploratory Data Analysis. Wiley, New York.
  • Hoaglin, D. C., Mosteller, F. and Tukey, J. W., eds. (1985). Exploring Data Tables, Trends, and Shapes. Wiley, New York.
  • Hoaglin, D. C., Mosteller, F. and Tukey, J. W., eds. (1991). Fundamentals of Exploratory Analysis of Variance. Wiley, New York.
  • Hodges, A. (1983). Alan Turing: The Enigma. Simon and Schuster, New York.
  • Institute for Defense Analyses (1960). Fourth Annual Report. Washington, DC.
  • Kahn, D. (1996). The Code-breakers. Scribner, New York.
  • Krumbein, W. C. and Tukey, J. W. (1956). Multivariate analysis of mineralogic, lithologic, and chemical composition of rock bodies. J. Sedimentary Petrology 26 322--337.
  • Kleinman, K. (2002). How graphical innovations assisted Edgar Anderson's discoveries in evolutionary biology. Chance 15(3) 17--21.
  • Kullback, S. (1959). Information Theory and Statistics. Wiley, New York.
  • Kullback, S. (1977, written 1938). Statistical Methods in Cryptanalysis. Aegean Park Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
  • Kullback, S. and Leibler, R. A. (1951). On information and sufficiency. Ann. Math. Statist. 22 79--86.
  • Mac Lane, S. (1989). The Applied Mathematics Group at Columbia in World War II. In A Century of Mathematics in America (P. Duren, ed.) 3 495--515. Amer. Math. Soc., Providence, RI.
  • McCartney, S. (1999). ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer. Walker and Company, New York.
  • McMillan, B. (1984). Annals of the History of Computing 6.
  • Morgenthaler, S. and Tukey, J. W., eds. (1991). Configural Polysampling: A Route to Practical Robustness. Wiley, New York.
  • Mosteller, F. (1984). Biography of John W. Tukey. In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey I. Time Series: 1949--1964. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  • Mosteller, F. and Tukey, J. W. (1968). Data analysis, including statistics. In Handbook of Social Psychology, 2nd ed. (G. Lindzey and E. Aronson, eds.) 2 80--203. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
  • Mosteller, F. and Tukey, J. W. (1977). Data Analysis and Regression: A Second Course in Statistics. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
  • Pétard, H. (1938). A contribution to the mathematical theory of big game hunting. Amer. Math. Monthly 45 446--447. [In Selected Papers of Lyman Spitzer (1995). Princeton Univ. Press.]
  • Pierce, J. R. (1961). An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals, and Noise. Dover, New York.
  • Poundstone, W. (1992). Prisoner's Dilemma: John von Neumann, Game Theory, and the Puzzle of the Bomb. Doubleday, New York.
  • Press, H. and Tukey, J. W. (1956). Power spectral methods of analysis and their application to problems in airplane dynamics. In AGARD Flight Test Manual 1--41. NATO Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development.
  • Princeton Alumni Weekly (October 9,1985).
  • Rhodes, R. (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon and Schuster, New York.
  • Rhodes, R. (1995). Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb. Simon and Schuster, New York.
  • Richelson, J. T. (2001). The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. Westview Press, Boulder, CO.
  • Salsburg, D. (2001). The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century. W. H. Freeman, New York.
  • Segal, I. (1992). Norbert Wiener. Biographical Memoirs 61 389--436. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.
  • Shannon, C. E. and Weaver, W. (1949). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Univ. Illinois Press, Urbana.
  • Shapiro, F. R. (2000). Origin of the term software. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 22 69. Available at
  • Smyth, H. D. (1945). Atomic Energy for Military Purposes. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Spitzer, L., Jr. and Tukey, J. W. (1949). Interstellar polarization, galactic magnetic fields, and ferromagnetism. Science 109 461--462.
  • Spitzer, L., Jr. and Tukey, J. W. (1951). A theory of interstellar polarization. Astrophysical J. 114 187--205.
  • Stone, A. H. and Tukey, J. W. (1942). Generalized ``sandwich'' theorems. Duke Math. J. 9 356--359.
  • Taubman, P. (2003). Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage. Simon and Schuster, New York.
  • Thompson, J. R. (2001). The age of Tukey. Technometrics 43 256--265.
  • Tukey, E. R. (1997). Remarks at John Tukey's 80th birthday. In The Practice of Data Analysis: Essays in Honor of John W. Tukey (D. R. Brillinger, L. T. Fernholz and S. Morgenthaler, eds.) 46--47. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1940). Convergence and Uniformity in Topology. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1947). Linearization of solutions in supersonic flow. Quart. Appl. Math. 5 361--365.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1949a). Memorandum on statistics in the federal government, I. Amer. Statist. 3(1) 6--17.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1949b). Memorandum on statistics in the federal government, II. Amer. Statist. 3(2) 12--16.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1950a). The sampling theory of power spectrum estimates. In Symposium on Applications of Autocorrelation Analysis to Physical Problems, Woods Hole, MA 47--67. NAVEXOS P-735, Office of Naval Research, Washington, DC. [In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey I. Time Series: 1949--1964 (1984). Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.]
  • Tukey, J. W. (1950b). Index. In Contributions to Mathematical Statistics by R. A. Fisher. Wiley, New York.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1958). The teaching of concrete mathematics. Amer. Math. Monthly 65 1--9.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1959). Equalization and pulse shaping techniques applied to the determination of initial sense of Rayleigh waves. In The Need for Fundamental Research on Seismology 60--129. U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1961). Discussion, emphasizing the connection between analysis of variance and spectrum analysis. Technometrics 3 191--219.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1962). The future of data analysis. Ann. Math. Statist. 33 1--67, 812.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1964). Samuel Stanley Wilks. Yearbook of the American Philosophical Society 147--154.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1965a). Mathematics. In Listen to Leaders in Science (A. Love and J. S. Childers, eds.) 219--232. David McKay, New York.
  • Tukey, J. W. et al. (1965b). Restoring the Quality of Our Environment. Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel, President's Science Advisory Committee. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1965c). Data analysis and the frontiers of geophysics. Science 148 1283--1289.
  • Tukey, J. W. et al. (1973). Chemicals and Health. Report of the President's Science Advisory Committee. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1974). New Bedford High School commencement remarks. Unpublished.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1977a). Exploratory Data Analysis. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1977b). Some thoughts on clinical trials, especially problems of multiplicity. Science 198 679--684.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1978). Statistics at Princeton. In A Princeton Companion (A. Leitch, ed.) 449--451. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1979). Obituary: Harold F. Dodge, 1893--1976. J. Roy. Statist. Soc. Ser. A 142 394.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1984a). Remarks on receipt of James Madison Medal. Unpublished.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1984b). Foreword. In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey I. Time Series: 1949--1964. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1984c, written 1963). Mathematics 596: An introduction to the frequency analysis of time series. In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey I. Time Series: 1949--1964. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1985). Interview by William Aspray and Albert Tucker. The Princeton Mathematics Community in the 1930s. Available at
  • Tukey, J. W. (1993, written 1953). The problem of multiple comparisons. In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey VIII. Multiple Comparisons: 1948--1983. Chapman and Hall, New York.
  • Tukey, J. W. (1998). Where might we be going? Unpublished manuscript.
  • Tukey, J. W. and Hamming, R. W. (1949). Measuring noise color. In The Collected Works of John W. Tukey I. Time Series: 1949--1964. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  • Wheeler, J. A. with Ford, K. (1998). Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics. Norton, New York.
  • Wheeler, J. A. (1994). At Home in the Universe. American Institute of Physics, New York.
  • York, H. F. (1987). Making Weapons, Talking Peace. Basic Books, New York.
  • Zachary, G. P. (1997). Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century. Free Press, New York. \endthebibliography