Julian Besag 1945-2010

I have just learned that Julian Besag passed away last morning in Bristol after being admitted to the hospital two weeks ago. He was a leading figure of our field, a fiercely independent thinker, a brilliant statistician, and undoubtedly the clearest pretendent to having fathered MCMC. His influence on the field of spatial statistics will be felt for years, but he will be sorely missed… My first meeting with Julian was in 1993 in Laramie, Wyoming, and my last memory of him will be this visit George Casella and I made to Bath and Bristol in October 2008, and where Julian attended both of our talks as well as the dinner in Bath and the after-seminar beer in Bristol… He will be missed.

6 Responses to “Julian Besag 1945-2010”

  1. David Green Says:

    This is a bit late in coming but I wanted to add a tribute. Julian was my lecturer in Liverpool between 1970 and 1974. He was an inspirational guy and I had the honour of ‘helping’ him in his research by undertaking a final year honours project with him and subsequently being appointed as his research assistant for 6 whole weeks immediately after I had finished my degree. He offered me the post as I sat at the examination desk having just started my finals exam paper in statistics. I said yes just to get rid of him so I could concentrate on the job in hand! It was a magical 6 weeks and during that time I experienced his impatience, his bad temper, his phenomenal intellect but also his humanity. The best bits were when we would adjourn to the pub most lunch times for a few beers, which seem to stretch into the late afternoon most times! He would then go back to his office and continue his research, whilst I was too wasted to do anything. We exchanged letters over the years but met up only once when he returned to Liverpool for a hockey reunion. He stayed over at my house and we spent a very pleasant evening drinking and catching up. My mum loved him after meeting him for the first and last time, a meeting that lasted all of 10 minutes; on my graduation day my parents and I were in the local pub celebrating and Julian was sitting alone at a table. I explained to mum who he was. Mum would never ever approach strangers, but bold as brass she walked over, said “what do you think of my son”. Julian would not offer an opinion whilst I was there so I was banished. Apparently he said some nice things about me and mum was very pleased. I thought and still do it was very human thing for him to do, but Julian always maintained that common touch despite his genius. I regret not taking him up on his offer to visit him on his house boat. I always thought there would be plenty of time to do that. Requiescat In Pace.

  2. [...] April 1 and 2, there will be a memorial and a symposium in memory of Julian Besag in Bristol, organised by Peter Green and Peter Diggle. The details are given on the symposium [...]

  3. Friends and colleagues of Julian may be interested to know that we are holding a Memorial event in his name in Bristol, UK, 1/2 April 2011. This will include (on 2 April) a one-day research symposium. To request details, please email sustain-admin@bristol.ac.uk

  4. [...] and John Nelder passing away, on Aug. 11 and 15, respectively. Following this close the death of Julian Besag, this is a sad series of departures of leading figures in the fields of statistics and [...]

  5. Geoff Brooker Says:

    Never knew him professionally only as a friend & a sportsman.
    We were often mistaken for one another which was strange because we each suffered deafness ( and bad temper) in one ear . I well remember wthe first day we moved ( in my case ) from left to right & held a more ‘normal’ chat.

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