Statistical Science

A Conversation with Jerry Friedman

N. I. Fisher

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Jerome H. Friedman was born in Yreka, California, USA, on December 29, 1939. He received his high school education at Yreka High School, then spent two years at Chico State College before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley in 1959. He completed an undergraduate degree in physics in 1962 and a Ph.D. in high-energy particle physics in 1968 and was a post-doctoral research physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory during 1968–1972. In 1972, he moved to Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) as head of the Computation Research Group, retaining this position until 2006. In 1981, he was appointed half time as Professor in the Department of Statistics, Stanford University, remaining half time with his SLAC appointment. He has held visiting appointments at CSIRO in Sydney, CERN and the Department of Statistics at Berkeley, and has had a very active career as a commercial consultant. Jerry became Professor Emeritus in the Department of Statistics in 2007. Apart from some 30 publications in high-energy physics early in his career, Jerry has published over 70 research articles and books in statistics and computer science, including co-authoring the pioneering books Classification and Regression Trees and The Elements of Statistical Learning. Many of his publications have hundreds if not thousands of citations (e.g., the CART book has over 21,000). Much of his software is incorporated in commercial products, including at least one popular search engine. Many of his methods and algorithms are essential inclusions in modern statistical and data mining packages. Honors include the following: the Rietz Lecture (1999) and the Wald Lectures (2009); election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005) and the US National Academy of Sciences (2010); a Fellow of the American Statistical Association; Paper of the Year ( JASA 1980, 1985; Technometrics 1998, 1992); Statistician of the Year (ASA, Chicago Chapter, 1999); ACM Data Mining Lifetime Innovation Award (2002), Emanuel & Carol Parzen Award for Statistical Innovation (2004); Noether Senior Lecturer (American Statistical Association, 2010); and the IEEE Computer Society Data Mining Research Contribution Award (2012).

The interview was recorded at his home in Palo Alto, California during 3–4 August 2012.

Article information

Statist. Sci., Volume 30, Number 2 (2015), 268-295.

First available in Project Euclid: 3 June 2015

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Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Zentralblatt MATH identifier

ACE boosting CART machine learning MARS MART projection pursuit RuleFit statistical computing statistical graphics statistical learning


Fisher, N. I. A Conversation with Jerry Friedman. Statist. Sci. 30 (2015), no. 2, 268--295. doi:10.1214/14-STS509.

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Supplemental materials

  • Supplement to “A conversation with Jerry Friedman”. The supplementary materials associated with this article comprise a number of anecdotes, plus an example of one way in which John Tukey communicated his research ideas to Jerry in the course of their collaboration. They are available from Fisher (2015).