Ballari-born genius Prof C R Rao passes away in the US

Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, born on September 10, 1920, into a Telugu-speaking household to parents C D Naidu and A Laxmikantamma, has left us. A statistical luminary, he passed away in the United States just three away from his 103rd birthday. Renowned for his groundbreaking contributions, he was often hailed as one of the foremost figures in the realm of statistics.

Merely a month ago, Prof. Rao was honored with the International Prize in Statistics, a distinction often likened to the Nobel Prize within this field.

His early life was marked by its nomadic nature due to his father’s occupation in the police force, leading to multiple relocations during his childhood. Pursuing his education across various locations, he ultimately secured a BA (Honors) in Mathematics from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. Interestingly, he confessed that statistics became his chosen path almost as a final recourse.

In 1940, in the midst of World War II, his attempt to enlist in the military was thwarted due to his young age. Fortuitously, he encountered the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) during this period. Applying for a one-year statistics training program there, he embarked on a journey that spanned over eight decades and became synonymous with his dedication to statistics.

For four decades, Prof. Rao’s contributions flourished at the institute, transforming it into India’s premier statistical institution. His directorship concluded in 1978, but retirement wasn’t synonymous with rest. Crossing oceans, he ventured to the United States and assumed a faculty role at the University of Pittsburgh. By 1988, he became associated with the Pennsylvania State University, culminating his academic tenure as Eberly Professor Emeritus in the Statistics Department in 2001—an accolade crowned by the Padma Bhushan from India the same year.

An illustrious figure, he accrued over 40 honorary doctorates from esteemed global institutions and clinched numerous awards. His leadership extended to being the president of the International Statistical Institute and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

Among his impactful works are the Cramer-Rao inequality, the Rao-Blackwell theorem, Rao’s score test, and Rao’s orthogonal arrays. In a candid 2003 interview, he attributed his discipline to his mother and his academic accomplishments to his father.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed profound condolences, acknowledging Prof. Rao’s passing as an “irreparable loss.”

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