The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Page  656
Courses in Mathematical Statistics

The first work in mathematical statistics which was offered by this University was presented in a two-hour combined course, Mathematics of Insurance and Statistics, listed in the 1902-3 Announcement of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts by the Department of Political Economy and Sociology. This course was initiated and taught by James W. Glover, and was listed among the mathematical courses with the note: "For a detailed description of the same, consult this Announcement under Political Economy and Sociology."

Although the description of this two-hour course indicated that an important place was given to statistical theory, subsequent Announcements reveal that the course was developed in the direction of insurance, rather than of statistics. Thus, in 1906-7 and the succeeding years the description was as follows: "This course includes an elementary treatment of the following subjects: Interest, investment securities, averages, mortality tables, annuities, computations of life insurance premiums, and reserves."

The first course that was devoted exclusively to statistical theory was offered in 1912 by Professor Glover, and this date should be regarded as marking the birth of our curriculum in statistics. The following year the course was taught by Edward Brind Escott ('95, M.S. Chicago '96) and in the next two years by Chester Hume Forsyth (Butler '06, Ph.D. Michigan '15). It was described (Cal., 1912-13, p. 213) as follows: "The subjects treated in this course are averages, graphical representation of statistics, frequency curves, correlation, smoothing of statistics; with applications to statistical problems in economics, biology, insurance, and physics." It was given for two hours credit and was continued through the second semester as Course 50. Elderton's Frequency Curves and Correlation, recommended by the Actuarial Society of America, was used as a text, and this work was supplemented by lectures on interpolation and mechanical quadrature.

During recent years research workers in nearly all fields have recognized the necessity of utilizing statistical methods in measuring the validity of results derived from observational data, and consequently a number of courses in statistical methodology are now being offered in an effort to serve the particular needs of the various departments and schools. The Department of Mathematics offers a special course in mathematics and statistics designed to meet the needs of students in the School of Forestry and Conservation, another course for students of sociology, the basic Courses 49 and 50 (now listed as Mathematics 43 and Mathematics 44), for which one year's work in freshman mathematics is a prerequisite, an intermediate course requiring a knowledge of calculus, and an advanced course designed for students working for higher degrees and specializing in the more theoretical aspects of probability and statistics. Until the end of June, 1940, nineteen students had received their doctor's degrees in mathematical statistics, the first doctorate in this field having been conferred in 1915.

The members of the mathematical-statistical staff are constantly being consulted on matters concerning statistical research from all corners of the campus. They also offer informal courses in statistics for staff members of the University who use statistical methods in their researches but who cannot afford the time required to master the mathematical background so necessary for a complete understanding of the statistical methodology which they employ.

The unusual success of this University in teaching and utilizing statistical methods Page  657has been achieved largely through the use of excellent mechanical equipment provided by the administration. Since a computing machine is available for each student in all recitation periods, it is possible for the student to work out numerical exercises simultaneously with the presentation of new topics. The University utilizes two complete Hollerith installations, one in the Rackham Building and the other in the University Hospital. The statistical laboratory possesses a very complete set of instruments such as adding machines, integraphs, and harmonic analyzers.

In addition to the personnel of its mathematical-statistical staff, two other factors have contributed largely to the leadership of the University of Michigan in statistical research. The Department of Mathematics is providing an essential mathematical background through courses in probability, finite differences, and other branches of pure mathematics which are of great value in developments of theoretical statistics. Also, the Annals of Mathematical Statistics — the only journal of its kind in the country and the official publication of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, with a worldwide circulation — was founded within the University's Department of Mathematics in 1930 and was edited here until 1938, when its editorial office was transferred to Princeton University.