David R. Bellhouse, Honorary Member 2017

SSC 2017 Honorary Member
Honorary Member

David R. Bellhouse, Professor Emeritus of Statistics at Western University, London, Ontario, has been named an Honorary Member of the Statistical Society of Canada. This award is intended to honor an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the development of the statistical sciences in Canada and whose work has had a major impact in this country.

David was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 19, 1948. Part of his youth was spent in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where his father worked for nine years. He nurtured two of his talents there: mathematics was his best subject at school and he learned to play the French horn. The family returned to Winnipeg in 1964 and while David was in Grade 12, he was persuaded by his teachers to enter the Manitoba Mathematics Contest. As he placed in the top 25, his father encouraged him to take actuarial science at the University of Manitoba. He followed the advice.

David completed a BA (Honors) in actuarial mathematics in 1970. In the process, however, he discovered that he had little interest in the corporate world. Having taken several courses in statistics and history as an undergraduate, he considered switching to one of these two fields and finally opted for statistics as job prospects seemed brighter for statisticians than for historians. During his MA studies at the University of Manitoba, completed in 1972, he was greatly influenced and helped by Jon Rao, who was then on faculty there. Their collaboration continued during David’s doctoral studies at Waterloo (PhD, 1975) and for many years thereafter. Much of David’s work in survey sampling profited from this continued contact.

After graduation, David took a staff position in the Social Science Computing Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario. He was then hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics in 1977 and designed the statistics curriculum when the Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences was formed in 1980. He became an Associate Professor in 1982 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1987. He chaired the department from 1992 to 1999 and retired on July 1, 2016.

During his career, David published extensively and supervised 45 MSc students, four PhD students, and one postdoctoral fellow. His technical contributions and broad expertise helped to improve numerous surveys run in Canada and the US. He was, among others, a member of Statistics Canada’s Advisory Committee on Statistical Methods from 1998 to 2005 and served on the Editorial Board of five different journals, including the Journal of the American Statistical Association, Survey Methodology and The Canadian Journal of Statistics. In addition to collaborative research in fields such as archeology, biology, geography, law, and medicine, he did a lot of work around the lotteries.

Early in the 1980s, David’s passion for history led him to investigate the origin of ideas in probability and statistics. His work in this area has been exceptionally successful and widely acclaimed. His biographies of Thomas Bayes (published with discussion in Statistical Science) and Abraham De Moivre (in book form, 2011), enriched by many original archival findings, are particularly noteworthy.

Over the years, David showed deep and long-standing commitment towards the statistical profession. He held several positions within the SSC, most notably as Secretary (1988-90), President of the Survey Methods Section (1992-93), and President (1998-99). In the latter capacity, he played a leading role in the development of the Society’s first strategic plan and initiated the move to professional accreditation of statisticians. He also served on NSERC’s Statistical Sciences Grant Selection Committee, which he chaired for one year.

David’s outstanding professional achievements earned him a University of Western Ontario Gold Medal for Excellence in Teaching (1985), an Elected Membership in the International Statistical Institute (1987), the title of Fellow of the American Statistical Association (1989), the SSC Service Award (2003), and the 2017 University of Manitoba Faculty of Science Alumni Award.

David’s wife Louise (née Budnick) is a violinist. He met her when he played for the Winnipeg Youth Orchestra. They will be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary this summer. They have two daughters. Erika has a PhD in engineering and works in steel research at ArcelorMittal (Dofasco) in Hamilton, Ontario. Laura is a psychotherapist counselling students at London’s Fanshawe College as well as young children in a private practice.

In his retirement, David continues his historical research in statistics, financed in part by consulting work, mostly related to law cases. He recently returned to his actuarial roots and has a new book coming out this summer on the development of actuarial science in 18th century England. He also plays French horn in two concert bands and a woodwind quintet.

The citation for the award reads: 

“To David R. Bellhouse, for his many contributions to survey sampling and to the history of probability and statistics; for his excellence in training and mentoring; for his academic leadership; and for his dedication to the profession.”


Thanks to Christian Genest, who was primarily responsible for producing this material.