Photo of Bradley Efron

Bradley Efron

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science

For his contributions to theoretical and applied statistics, especially the bootstrap sampling technique; for his extraordinary geometric insight into nonlinear statistical problems; and for applications in medicine, physics, and astronomy.

Bradley Efron explains the bootstrap resampling method

Growing up, Bradley Efron watched his father crunch data – numbers, specifically, from baseball box scores. The house, he remembers, was awash in numbers.

So it was hardly surprising that Efron would gravitate to mathematics. But Efron has become much more than a mathematician. Over the course of his amazing career he has come to redefine statistics.

After moving from math to statistics when he entered Stanford as a doctoral student, Efron has spent his life focusing on the methodologies of his field, both in collecting and interpreting data and in determining how credible that data really is. Efron is famous for creating the “bootstrap technique,’’ essentially an analysis of numbers that helps determine the plus or minus value of any statistical estimate.

Efron once summed the usefulness of bootstrap technique in an interview: It provides scientists “an estimate of how wrong their estimates might be.’’

Efron has also pioneered the use of statistics in a wide range of fields, including medicine. One such study looked at the genes of numerous heart patients.

Efron teaches and researches at Stanford, where he joined the faculty in 1965, shortly after earning his doctorate.

By Bob Warren