An Interpretation of the Coat of Arms

An Interpretation of the Coat of Arms

By Geoff Hole, SSC President 1989-1990
June 10, 1990

Coat of Arms of the SSCSome of the symbolism in our coat of arms deserves to be explained. But we should also take note of the comments by Charles Maier, the Athabaska Herald, that symbolism is always open to new and fresh interpretation.

The dominant colours are red and white which make for a bold and striking design. Red is appropriate for the colour of the three maple leaves that recall the Canadian flag.

The Latin square speaks for itself and brings to mind statistical ideas of randomization and orthogonality, fundamental in designing statistical experiments. The shield seems to be divided into two parts (top left and bottom right) by a line recalling regression.

The Coat of Arms includes a Snowy Owl representing wisdom. It is the provincial bird of Quebec and thus also symbolizes in part the birthplace of the SSC. A recent nature program on TV featured the Snowy Owl. Evidently it is a bird with exceptional vision and acute hearing and can detect prey at several miles distant. This great white owl is a beautiful sight, a bird of open country and unlike many owls is active during the daylight hours. In the Far North, where it breeds, it depends largely on the lemming supply for food. Lemmings undergo periodic population changes (here we have stochastic processes!) due to population explosion and subsequent epidemics, and when their numbers decrease the owls must migrate southward to avoid starvation (statisticians will go anywhere for work!). The interpretation of the owl with dark markings on the tee-shirts [designed by Maureen Tingley and offered for sale at the 1990 Annual Meeting] is seen more often on female and young birds. The female interpretation would nicely balance the masculine shield and remind us of Maureen Tingley’s efforts and those of the increasing number of statisticians who are women.

The bolt of lighting in the owl’s claw perhaps symbolizes modern statistical computing and the flashes of insight that the study of statistics can generate. It can also be viewed as a times series.

Many asked why the owl is sitting on a helmet. Perhaps we can observe based on Canon George Earle’s talk, The “Feel and Flavour” of Newfoundland, at the Newfoundland Soiree, that “The owl zats on ze elmit zo it won’t zhat on ze zhald”. Incidentally, the mantle over the helmet follows the normal distribution.

Finally we have the motto. Freely translated, it says science, wisdom and counsel. Science reflects and emphazises the latin square, wisdom similarly the owl, while counsel picks out the searching yellow eyes, the vision our Society needs and the role it must play to maintain the common and statistical (à la Marcus Aurelius).