Jerzy Neyman

April 16, 1894 – August 5, 1981

Brief Biography

Born in Imperial Russia, Jerzy Splawa-Neyman was a Polish statistician who spent the first part of his career in Europe.  Coming from a line of Polish nobility and military leadership, Neyman grew in Kamyantes-Podilsky prior to enrolling at Kharkov University in 1912. There, he developed a fascination with probability and integration. During the Polish-Soviet War, the Russian government imprisoned Neyman as an enemy alien. He was sent to Poland after the conflict where he pursued a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Warsaw. There, Neyman authored his dissertation on the application of probability theory to agriculture.

Neyman spent his first postdoctoral years in London and Paris on a fellowship to study statistics with Karl Pearson and Emile Borel. In London, he developed a relationship with the Royal Statistical Society (a paper he presented at the Society in 1934 led the creation of modern scientific sampling). Neyman returned to Warsaw and established the Biometric Laboratory at the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he lectured at the University of Warsaw and the Central College of Agriculture.  To supplement his small academic’s salary and secure the financial future of his laboratory, Neyman took on a variety of consulting jobs, largely dealing with agricultural problems.

In 1934, Egon Pearson of University College, London offered Neyman a position at his laboratory. Neyman was quick to accept as the opportunity presented a solution to his financial problems. In 1935, he was promoted to a permanent Reader position in Pearson’s department and settled in London full-time.

Neyman remained in Britain for four years, continuing a close collaboration with Pearson in developing optimal tests and graduating two PhD students. During the London period, his attitude toward probability radically changed when he began to struggle between pro-Bayesian and anti-Bayesian arguments. After spending a six week tour in the United States, the University of California at Berkeley offered Neyman a position on their faculty. With the growing threat of war in Europe, he accepted and moved to California in 1938.

With the exception of war time projects in the early 1940s, Neyman spent a significant portion of his early years at Berkeley building up the university’s statistics program. Neyman often conflicted with the Mathematics Department leadership as he undertook the question to gain autonomy for his group. In 1955, he finally managed to establish an independent Department of Statistics at Berkeley. He had fostered a permanent staff of twelve members that included a number of former students. Neyman went on to supervise forty PhD students including the father of linear programming, George B. Dantzig.

Neyman received a number of honors in his lifetime. He was an elected member of the United State National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. Neyman was also presented with the United States National Medal of Science and the highest honor of the Royal Statistical Society.

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for Jerzy Neyman

American Statistical Association. Statisticians in History: Jerzy Neyman. Accessed November 13, 2018. (link

Lehmann E. L. (1994) Jerzy Neyman: 1984-1981. National Academy of Sciences: Washington, DC. (link

University of St. Andrews School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences. Neyman Biography. Accessed May 26, 2015. (link


University of Kharkov, 1917

University of Warsaw, PhD 1924 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas
  • Agriculture


Jerzy Neyman, Statistics: Berkeley. University of California: In Memoriam, 1985, 314-315. Republished on Calisphere. Accessed May 26, 2015. (link)


Jerzy Neyman papers, 1938-1980.   BANC MSS 84/30 (78.2 linear feet) & BANC FILM 2611 (four reels).  Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.  Berkeley, CA.   

Jerzy Neyman, collected reprints.  308x N567 vols 1-3. University of California Archives (Northern Region Library Facility), Richmond CA.   

Awards and Honors

National Academy of Sciences 1963 

Royal Statistical Society Gold Medal 1966

National Medal of Science 1968

Royal Society 1979

Selected Publications

Pearson E. S. & Neyman J. (1928) On the use and interpretation of certain test criteria for purposes of statistical inference: Part I. Biometrika, 20A(1/2): 175-240.

Neyman J. (1934). On the two different aspects of the representative method: the method of stratified sampling and the method of purposive selection. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 97(4): 558-625.

Neyman J. (1937) Outline of a theory of statistical estimation based on the classical theory of probability. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, 236(767): 333-380.

Neyman J. (1937) Smooth test for goodness of fit. Scandinavian Actuarial Journal, 1937(3-4): 149-199.

Neyman J. (1939) On a new class of "contagious" distributions, applicable in entomology and bacteriology.The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 10(1): 35-57.

Neyman J. & Scott E. L. (1948) Consistent estimates based on partially consistent observations. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 16(1): 1-32.

Neyman J., ed. (1949) Proceedings of the Berkeley Symposium on Mathematical Statistics and Probability. University of California Press: Berkeley.

Neyman J. (1959) Optimal asymptotic tests of composite statistical hypotheses. Probability and Statistics, 57: 213.

Pearson E. S. & Neyman J. (1966) Joint Statistical Papers. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA.

Neyman J. (1971) Molecular studies of evolution: a source of novel statistical problems. Gupta S. S. & Yackel J., eds. in Statistical Decision Theory and Related Topics, 1-27. Academic Press: New York.