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Frederick Mosteller, 89; Used Statistics to Analyze Everyday Life

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Frederick Mosteller, 89, who founded Harvard University’s statistics department and used mathematical theories to explain everyday concerns, from healthcare to the World Series, died Sunday at a nursing home in Falls Church, Va.

The Washington Post reported the cause of death as sepsis, a toxic condition resulting from the spread of bacteria or their toxic products through the body after an infection.

The topics of Mosteller’s statistical studies ranged from determining who wrote 12 of the 85 Federalist Papers, examining the effects of home life on a child’s education, investigating better communication between scientists and laymen, and considering how luck plays into a short series in the baseball postseason.

He published hundreds of academic papers and shared writing credits on dozens of books.

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Born on Dec. 24, 1916, in Clarksburg, W.Va., Mosteller received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and his doctorate from Princeton in 1946.

He joined the social relations department at Harvard before becoming the first chairman of the statistics department in 1957 and served in that role until 1971. He retired in 1987 as chairman of the department of health policy and management.


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