David Brillinger

David Ross Brillinger was born on October 27, 1937, in Toronto. In 1955 he entered the University of Toronto, graduating with a B.A. with Honours in Pure Mathematics in 1959, while also serving as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Naval Reserve. He was one of the five winners of the Putnam mathematical competition in 1958. He then went on to obtain his M.A. and Ph.D. in Mathematics at Princeton University, in 1960 and 1961, the latter under the guidance of John W. Tukey.
During the period 1962-4, David held halftime appointments as a Lecturer in Mathematics at Princeton, and a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey. In 1964 he was appointed Lecturer and two years later Reader in Statistics at the London School of Economics. After spending a sabbatical year at Berkeley in 1967-8, he returned to become Professor of Statistics in 1970, and has been there ever since. In the course of his career, he has supervised 40 doctoral theses and published over 220 papers in a wide variety of books, scientific journals, and conference proceedings.
David’s career has been exemplary in every respect. He has made seminal contributions to the theory of time series and point processes. His outstanding methodological work has always been motivated through collaborations with researchers from other fields. His techniques for spike train analysis are widely known in neurophysiology, and his work on modeling earthquake risk is equally well known in seismology. More recently, David has also contributed to the advancement of environmental statistics by developing techniques for animal tracking and wildfire risk. He has also written papers on sports statistics, particularly hockey and soccer.
Although he spent most of his career abroad, David has always maintained close ties with Canada and its statistical community in particular. His contributions have been numerous and varied. He was President of the SSC in 2001-2 and was associated with The Canadian Journal of Statistics both as an Associate Editor (1977-88) and as a Consulting Editor (1992-4). In addition to his work on various SSC committees, he was a long-term member of Statistics Canada’s Advisory Committee of Statistical Methods (1982-91) and he served two terms on NSERC’s Statistical Sciences Grant Selection Committee (1977-80, 1987-90). Various Canadian universities and institutions also called on him for reviews and scientific advisory panels, including the Fields Institute (1992-8) and the Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences (1999-2005).
David’s record of scholarship and his work with the Canadian statistical and mathematical communities have been recognized through receipt of the SSC Gold Medal (1992), fellowships in the Royal Society of Canada (1985) and honourary doctorates at the universities of Western Ontario (1999), Waterloo (2003) and McMaster (2008).
However remarkable was David’s work within the Canadian statistical community, it represents only a fraction of his efforts in furthering statistical science globally. In particular, he was President of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1994-5) and of The International Environmetrics Society (2006-8). A member of numerous international grant and scientific review panels, he served in editorial or advisory capacities for Springer’s Series in Statistics and Lecture Notes in Statistics (1976-87) and for 12 journals: the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B (1968-9), The Annals of Mathematical Statistics (1970-2), The Annals of Probability (1972-8), The Annals of Statistics (1972-8), the Journal of Multivariate Analysis (1975-8), the Journal of Time Series Analysis (1979-87), the Journal of Theoretical Neurobiology (1980-7), Statistical Science (1984-7, 1994-8), the International Statistical Review (1987-91), Chance (1987-93), Environmetrics (1990- ), and the Latin American Journal of Probability and Mathematical Statistics (2006- ).
On the international scene, David’s contributions have led to many honours, including Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1969), Fellow of the American Statistical Association (1972), Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute (1974), Guggenheim Fellow (1975-6, 1982-3), IMS Medallion Lecturer (1974, 1979), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1983), Wald Lecturer (1983), winner of the R.A. Fisher Award (1991), Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993), winner of the Parzen Prize for Statistical Innovation (2001), Foreign Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (2004), Neyman Lecturer (2005), and Foreign Member of the Brazilian Academy of Science (2006).
David has been married for 49 years to Lorie, whom many have met at SSC meetings over the years. They had two sons. The older, Jef, died after a fifteen-year fight against cancer. The younger, Matt, lives in Ottawa with his wife and their three children, who love skating. David, whose eight-year-old grandson plays hockey, has been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan since he was three years old and he does not hesitate to root for them, even in California. At an SSC banquet some years ago, he gave the after-dinner speech with the title “Why I became a statistician.” The punch line was because he couldn’t make the competitive hockey teams (at a time when the Leafs were good!). David likes to say that his role models as he was growing up were his four uncles, all Toronto taxi drivers.