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Madan Puri
Department of Mathematics

Hal Kibbey
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Friday, April 30, 2004

IU creates new title of College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar for Madan Puri

Honor recognizes publication of his selected works in three volumes

Madan Puri has been awarded the newly created title of College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar in recognition of the publication in three volumes of selections from his complete works.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In an unusual tribute for any scholar, International Science Publishers recently published three volumes titled Madan Lal Puri: Selected Collected Works. Not more than three researchers nationwide have been accorded this publication honor in the past 15 to 20 years, according to the publisher.

In recognition of this publication, the new Indiana University title of College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar has been created and bestowed upon IU mathematician Madan Puri by Kumble Subbaswamy, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.

"On February 20 at a dinner in his honor, it was my great pleasure to honor Madan Lal Puri as College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar. This rare designation is reserved for those who have become world leaders in a field while on the College faculty, and whose collected works are published because of their archival value," Subbaswamy said.

Puri was ranked the fourth most prolific statistician in the world for his writings in the top statistical journals in a 1997 report by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Among statisticians in universities such as IU which do not have separate departments of statistics, Puri was ranked number one in the world by the same report.

The editorial board of ISP, consisting of Peter Hall of the London School of Economics; Marc Hallin, director of the Institute of Statistics at the European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics and professor in the Universite de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium; and George Roussas of the University of California, made the determination to publish the three volumes of Puri's work.

"The medal with which Professor Puri was adorned is testimony to his scholarly contributions to the world of statistics and to Indiana University over his illustrious career. Professor Puri's research has lead to his being considered one of the most versatile and prolific researchers in the world in mathematical statistics in the areas of nonparametric statistics, order statistics, limit theory under mixing, time series, splines, tests of normality, generalized inverses of matrices and related topics, stochastic processes, statistics of directional data, random sets, and fuzzy sets and fuzzy measures. Indeed, Professor Puri is to be commended for the 'Puri-Sen Era' in mathematical statistics. A scholar's work is never complete, and Professor Puri has certainly proved that by giving of himself in organizing international conferences and serving as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference," Subbaswamy said.

Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, senior vice president for academic affairs and chancellor of the Bloomington campus, said, "Madan Puri is certainly one of the premiere statisticians in the world. The fact that his selected works fill three huge volumes, and the fact that they were reprinted at all, speaks to his national and international reputation and visibility. He has put Indiana University on the map in statistics, and for that the campus and university will be eternally grateful."

"Madan Puri has brought honor to Indiana University in many ways," said Moya Andrews, vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the faculties at IU Bloomington. "His students are currently employed in prestigious universities all over the United States and abroad. He is ranked as the fourth most prolific statistician in the world, and he is one of the most versatile researchers in statistics and related fields. To my knowledge, no one else at this university has had three large volumes published by their professional association of their selected, not collected, works. His work in nonparametric statistics and probability theory has had profound effects on the way statistics is understood and applied. The methodology that he developed in the statistical design and analysis of experiments has paved the way for the development of clinical designs, epidemiological investigations and environmental studies. Madan Puri's name would be found on almost any statistician's list of three outstanding contributors to the world of nonparametric statistics. No one in the whole world has worked in as many aspects of this field as he has."

Puri's colleagues at other institutions paid similar tribute to his accomplishments. Stephen Stigler, the Ernest Burton Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, said, "Madan Puri has been responsible for the creation of several subfields, and he has done more for the field of rank statistics than anyone since Hajek's work in the late 1960s."

"Professor Puri has had an outstanding research career. His sustained productivity has made him a towering figure in statistics. He has carried the colors of Indiana University in the international arena. I am delighted that his creativity, intellectual leadership and commitments to his university are being given due recognition," said Mukul Majumdar, H.T. Warshow and R.I. Warshow Professor of Economics at Cornell University.

One of the most versatile researchers in statistics and related fields, Puri has co-written two advanced research monographs, edited or co-edited 11 research volumes and written more than 230 published research articles on diverse topics in statistics, probability and mathematics. He has been a member of the mathematics faculty at IU Bloomington since 1968.

In 1996, Puri was presented with a book, Research Developments in Probability and Statistics: Festschrift in Honor of Madan L. Puri on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Fifty-two authors around the world wrote articles for the book in Puri's honor. The book's editors, professors Manfred Denker and Edgar Brunner of the University of Gottingen, Germany, traveled to Bloomington to present the book in a ceremony at the IU Department of Mathematics.

"It was our intention to illustrate the wide spectrum of scientific interest which characterizes his scientific activity," the editors wrote in the book's preface. "The choice of papers offered combines fundamental principles with interesting applications selected for their originality and insight, and for their influence on the modern approach to statistics, probability and related fields."

As an additional honor, another book, Asymptotics, Nonparametrics and Time Series Analysis: A Tribute to Madan Lal Puri, for which 43 of Puri's colleagues around the world wrote articles, was published in 1999.

Statistical knowledge is a national resource for efficient planning for the future, whether the subject is medicine or agriculture or urban infrastructure, Puri pointed out. It allows for optimal decision-making in many areas of practical importance. "Statistical thinking," wrote futurist H.G. Wells, "will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write."

An example of how Puri's work can be applied to ordinary life is the concept of fuzzy sets, one of the many areas in which he has made pioneering contributions. "Fuzzy sets are effective tools for dealing with uncertainties due to vagueness," he explained. "In everyday life, we often deal with imprecisely defined properties or quantities -- a few books, a long story, a young woman, or a tall man, as examples. A fuzzy set is a class of objects with a continuum of grades of membership."

It is characterized by a membership (characteristic) function that assigns to each object a grade of membership ranging between 0 and 1. This concept was first introduced so that imprecisely defined notions could be properly formulated and manipulated. Its use is widespread, particularly in the fields of pattern recognition and information processing.

In statistics, Puri said, "we quantify the uncertainties due to randomness. With quantification of uncertainty, we have found a means to express and convey knowledge in a meaningful way. For instance, weather forecasts are made nowadays in terms of probabilities. 'There is a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow' is a more useful way of conveying information about the atmospheric conditions than the assertion 'It will rain tomorrow' or 'It will not rain tomorrow.' In other words, chance is no longer an expression of ignorance. It is a way to present our knowledge.

"In decision-making, we have to deal with uncertainty. The alternative to making mistakes is not refraining from making decisions. There can be no progress that way. The best we can do is to make decisions in an optimal way by minimizing the risk involved. Inductive reasoning and quantification of uncertainty provide an answer to that problem," he said.

As an advocate of the value of statistical analysis in many areas of life, Puri has taken his knowledge to many parts of the world. He has given invited talks and keynote addresses at many international and national conferences and has held visiting and guest professorships at several universities, including Auckland, New Zealand; Basel and Berne, Switzerland; Gottingen, Aachen, Dortmund, Hamburg and Konstanz, Germany; Lille, France; New South Wales, La Trobe, Monash and Australian National University, Australia; Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden; Nijmegen, the Netherlands; Leeds, England; the University of California at Irvine; and the University of Washington, Seattle. He was also a Distinguished Visitor in the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1991. He has collaborated with 92 scholars from 22 countries on five continents.

Puri twice received the Senior U.S. Scientist Award from Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and he was honored by the German government "in recognition of past achievements in research and teaching." In 1994, he was invited by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences to visit Japan under its Visiting Professorship Program, to conduct cooperative research with Japanese scientists.

His short biography is to appear in the forthcoming book Oxford Dictionary of Statistics, authored by G.J.G. Upton (University of Sussex, England). In 2003, in a compilation by the Institute of Scientific Information, Puri was listed among 231 researchers worldwide who were most cited for their articles in all categories of mathematics. In the field of statistics and probability, he was the only person listed from Indiana and one of five from the Midwest. In 2005, the international Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference will publish a volume in his honor.

Puri received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962. In 1975, Punjab University in India awarded him a Doctor of Science degree. He is a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the American Statistical Association, and the Royal Statistical Society, and he is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.