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Encyclopedia > Dennis Lindley

Dennis Victor Lindley born 25 July 1923 is a noted British statistician, decision theorist and leading advocate of Bayesian statistics. Bayesian inference is statistical inference in which probabilities are interpreted not as frequencies or proportions or the like, but rather as degrees of belief. ...

Dennis Lindley grew up in the south-west London suburb of Surbiton. He was an only child and his father was a local building contractor. Dennis recalled (to Adrian Smith) that the family had "little culture" and that both his parents were "proud of the fact that they had never read a book." The school Dennis attended, Tiffin Boys' School, introduced him to "ordinary cultural activities." From there Lindley went to read mathematics at Trinity College Cambridge in 1941. During the war the degree course lasted only 2 years and, on finishing, Lindley had a choice between entering the armed forces and joining the Civil Service as a statistician. He chose the latter and, after taking a short course given by Oscar Irwin which he "did not understand", he joined a section of the Ministry of Supply doing statistical work under George Barnard. After the war Lindley spent some time at the National Physical Laboratory before returning to Cambridge for a further year of study. From 1948 to 1960 he worked at Cambridge, starting as a demonstrator and leaving as director of the Statistical Laboratory. In 1960 Lindley left to take up a new chair at Aberystwyth. In 1967 he moved to University College London. In 1977 Lindley took early retirement at the age of 54! From then until 1987 he travelled the world as an "itinerant scholar." He has continued to write and to attend conferences. Surbiton is a suburban area of London situated in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. ... Tiffin Boys School is a selective Grammar School in Kingston-Upon-Thames, southwest London, England. ... A number of educational institutions carry the name Trinity College, some independent, others constituent colleges of a larger university. ... Joseph Oscar Irwin (December 17, 1898 - July 27, 1982) British statistician who advanced the use of statistical methods in biological assay and other fields of laboratory medicine. ... The Ministry of Supply (MoS) was a department of the UK Government formed in 1939 to co-ordinate the supplying of equipment to the British armed forces, headed by the Minister of Supply. ... George Alfred Barnard (September 23, 1915 - August 9, 2002) British statistician known particularly for his work on the foundations of statistics and on quality control. ... The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the national measurement standards laboratory for the United Kingdom, based at Bushy Park in Teddington in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. ... University of Wales, Aberystwyth   The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, a Member Institution of the federal University of Wales, was the first university institution to be established in Wales. ... University College London, commonly known as UCL, is one of the colleges that make up the University of London. ...

Lindley first encountered statistics as a set of techniques and in his early years at Cambridge he worked to find a mathematical basis for the subject. His lectures on probability were based on Kolmogorov's approach which at that time had no following in Britain. In 1954 Lindley met Savage who was also looking for a deeper justification of the ideas of Neyman, Pearson, Wald and Fisher. Both found that justification in Bayesian theory and they turned into critics of the classical statistical inference they had hoped to justify. Lindley became a great missionary for the Bayesian gospel. The atmosphere of the Bayesian revival is captured in a comment by Rivett on Lindley's move to University College London and the premier chair of statistics in Britain: "it was as though a Jehovah's Witness had been elected Pope." Andrey Kolmogorov Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov (Андре́й Никола́евич Колмого́ров) (kahl-mah-GAW-raff) (April 25, 1903 in Tambov - October 20, 1987 in Moscow) was a Soviet mathematician who made major advances in the fields of probability theory and topology. ... Leonard Jimmie Savage (20 November 1917 - 1 November 1971) was a US mathematician and statistician. ... Jerzy Neyman was a Polish mathematician (April 16, 1894, in Bendery, Moldova -- August 5, 1981, in Oakland, Calif). ... Egon Sharpe Pearson (11 August 1895 — 12 June 1980) a son of Karl Pearson, was like his father, a British statistician, and succeeded him as professor of statistics at University College London. ... Abraham Wald (October 31, 1902 Kolozsvár, Hungary (now Cluj, Romania) - December 13, 1950 India) was a mathematician who contributed to decision theory, geometry, and econometrics, and founded the field of statistical sequential analysis. ... Sir Ronald Fisher Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, FRS (17 February 1890 – 29 July 1962) was a British eugenicist, evolutionary biologist, geneticist and statistician. ... Bayesian refers to probability and statistics -- either methods associated with the Reverend Thomas Bayes (ca. ...


Publications of D. V. Lindley

  • (with J.C.P. Miller) Cambridge Elementary Statistical Tables, Cambridge. 1953.
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics from a Bayesian Viewpoint, 2 volumes, Cambridge 1965.
  • Bayesian Statistics : a Review, SIAM. 1971.
  • Making Decisions, Wiley-Interscience. 1971.
  • (with W.F. Scott) New Cambridge Elementary Statistical Tables Cambridge. 1984

The bibliography in Freeman and Smith lists 118 articles up to 1993.

70th Birthday Tribute

P.R. Freeman and A.F.M. Smith (editors) Aspects of Uncertainty : A Tribute to D.V. Lindley Wiley 1994.

P. Rivett (1995) Review of Aspects of Uncertainty. Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 46, No. 5 (May, 1995), pp. 663-665


  • Adrian Smith (1995) A Conversation with Dennis Lindley, Statistical Science, 10, No. 3. (Aug., 1995), pp. 305-319.
  • Dennis Lindley (Interview with Helen Joyce) A Life in Statistics: Bayesian Thoughts, Significance Volume 1 Issue 2 June 2004 pp. 73-75.

External links

  • The History of the Cambridge Statistical Laboratory

There is a photograph of the archetypal progressive--Volvo, Guardian and green wellies--at

  • Lindley on the Portraits of Statisticians page.



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