George E. P. Box

October 18, 1919 – March 28, 2013

Brief Biography

Born in Kent, England, George Edward Pelham Box was a renowned statistician and quality control theorist. Box served in the engineering corps of the British Army during the Second World War. Having previously studied chemistry, he was assigned to a chemical warfare defense unit. His supervisor recognized the need of a statistician to better analyze collected data on how animals reacted to various gas treatments. Without such a person on staff, Box was trained in statistics and taught himself the necessary techniques to fill the position. After the war, he decided to grasp a more thorough understanding of what he’d been doing and pursue the subject at the university level.

When searching for a program, Box considered studying under Cambridge’s R.A. Fisher, whose book had been his introductory text to statistics. After learning that Fisher was becoming more involved in genetics, he approached Karl Pearson at University College London. Pearson offered him placement at the university, where Box went on to earn a bachelors in mathematics and statistics. Upon showing what was meant to be his master’s thesis to Pearson, he so impressed his supervisor that he was told to skip the MA and go straight onto a PhD. During this time, Box had begun working at Imperial Chemical Industries in London. He enjoyed his ICI tenure, working in the “miscellaneous chemicals services” department, where he was allowed to pursue whatever he pleased. Box put off completing his graduate work until he was pressured by his advisers. He took his PhD in 1952.

In 1957, Box moved to the United States to head the Statistical Techniques Research Group at Princeton. After three years, he left and joined the University of Wisconsin, where he founded and fostered the Department of Statistics. In the early 1960s, Box began working with Welsh statistician Gwilym Jenkins. Their research was supported by the United States Air Force. After authoring a series of technical reports, they decided it would be easier to publish all of their findings in a single book. In 1970, said book, Time Series Analysis Forecasting and Control, received an honorable mention from the Frederick W. Lanchester Prize committee for its unified presentation of a complex topic.  In 1972, the American Statistical Association (ASA) named Box the sole recipient of that year’s Samuel S. Wilks Award. He was recognized for his contributions to experimental design, robustness, Bayesian methods, and time series analysis.

Box went on to serve as President of both the ASA and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in consecutive terms. He continued his prolific writing career, publishing nine books and over two hundred articles on a number of statistical methods and applications. Box remained at Wisconsin, becoming the newly created Ronald A. Fisher Chair of Statistics in 1971 and Vilas Research Professor of Mathematics and Statistics in 1980. In 2003, the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics established the George Box Medal in his honor to recognize an extraordinary statistician’s contribution to the development and application of statistical methods in European industry. Box himself received the first such medal. He passed away at ninety-two years old.

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for George E. P. Box

American Society for Quality. About: George E. P. Box. Accessed June 8, 2015. (link)

University of St. Andrews School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences. Box Biography. Accessed June 8, 2015. (link)

Education

University of London, BS 1947

University of London, PhD 1952 (Mathematics Genealogy)

University of London, DSc 1961 

Affiliations

Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • Imperial Chemical Industries

Key Interests in OR/MS

Methodologies

Oral Histories

DeGroot M. H. (1987) A conversation with George Box. Statistical Science, 2(3): 239-258. (link)

Pena D. (2001) George Box: an interview with the International Journal of Forecasting. International Journal of Forecasting, 17(1): 1-9. (link)

Memoirs and Autobiographies

Memoirs

Box G. E. P. (2013) An Accidental Statistician: The Life and Memories of George E. P. Box. John Wiley & Sons: New York. (link)

Obituaries

Hunter J. S. (2013) In memoriam: George E. P. Box. Technometrics, 55(2): 119-120. (link)

Institute of Mathematical Statistics Bulletin Online. Obituary: George E. P. Box, 1919-2013. Published July 16, 2013. Accessed June 8, 2015. (link)

University of Wisconsin Department of Statistics. People: George Box - A Celebration of Life May 5, 2013. Accessed June, 2015. (link)

Awards and Honors

American Society of Quality Control Shewhart Medal 1968

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize Honorable Mention 1970

Samuel Wilks Memorial Award 1972

Royal Statistical Society Guy Gold Medal 1993

ENBIS George Box Medal 2003

Professional Service

Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Preisdent 1979

American Statistical Association, President 1978

Selected Publications

Box G. E. & Wilson K. B. (1951) On the experimental attainment of optimum conditions. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological), 13(1): 1-45.

Box G. E. & Muller M. E. (1958) A note on the generation of random normal deviates.The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 31(2): 610-611.

Behnken D. W. & Box G. E. (1960) Some new three level designs for the study of quantitative variables. Technometrics,2(4): 455-475.

Box G. E. & Cox D. R. (1964) An analysis of transformations. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological), 26(2): 211-252.

Box G. E. & Jenkins G. M. (1970) Time Series Analysis, Forecasting, and Control. Holden-Day: San Francisco.

Box G. E. & Tiao G. C. (1973) Bayesian Inference in Statistical Analysis. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Box G. E. & Tiao G. C. (1975) Intervention analysis with applications to economic and environmental problems. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 70(349): 70-79.

Box G. E., Hunter J. S., & Hunter W. G. (1978) Statistics for Experimenters: An Introduction to Design, Data Analysis, and Model Building. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Box G. E. & Ljung G. M. (1978) On a measure of lack of fit in time series models. Biometrika, 65(2): 297-303.

Box G. E. & Draper N. R. (1987) Empirical Model-Building and Response Durfaces. Wiley & Sons: New York.

Additional Resources

Wikiqupte. George E. P. Box. Accessed June 8, 2015. (link)

Box G. E. (1983) Gwilym Jenkins, experimental design, and the time series. Questiio, 7(4): 515-525. (link)