Dennis Lindley (1923-2013)

Dennis Lindley most sadly passed away yesterday at the hospital near his home in Somerset. He was one of the founding fathers of our field (of Bayesian statistics), who contributed to formalise Bayesian statistics in a coherent theory. And to make it one with rational decision-making, a perspective missing in Jeffreys’ vision. (His papers figured prominently in the tutorials we gave yesterday for the opening of O’Bayes 250.) At the age of 90, his interest in the topic had not waned away: as his interview with Tony O’Hagan last Spring showed, his passionate arguing for the rationale of the Bayesian approach was still there and alive! The review he wrote of The Black Swan a few years ago also demonstrated he had preserved his ability to see through bogus arguments. (See his scathing “One hardly advances the respect with which statisticians are held in society by making such declarations” in his ripping discussion of Aitkin’s 1991 Posterior Bayes factors.) He also started this interesting discussion last year about the five standard deviations “needed” for the Higgs boson…  My personal email contacts with Dennis over the re-reading of Jeffreys’ book  were a fantastic experience as he kindly contributed by expanding on how the book was received at the time and correcting some of my misunderstanding. It is a pity I can no longer send him the (soon to come?) final version of my Jeffreys-Lindley paradox paper as I intended to do. The email will no longer answer our queries… I figure there will be many testimonies and shared memories of his contributions and life at the Bayes-250 conference tomorrow. Farewell, Dennis, and I hope you now explore the paths of a more coherent world than ours!

6 Responses to “Dennis Lindley (1923-2013)”

  1. Your Aitkin link is missing an ‘f’ at the end for “pdf”.

  2. I was very saddened to hear of Dennis’s passing. I first encountered him in the mid 1990s when I was working as a science journalist and was just discovering the power of Bayesian methods. He patiently responded to all my stupid questions and seemed glad to have Bayesian methods written about in the newspapers and magazines I contributed to.

    I was lucky enough to meet him in person about 10 years ago, and loved his puckish, anti-establishment persona. It was hard not to admire someone who quit a tenured professorship in his mid-50s because he wanted rid of all the bureaucracy.

    Thanks for your kind patience, Dennis – and your determination to keep the Bayesian light burning during the “Dark Ages”. I’m glad you lived long enough to see the re-emergence of Bayes into the limelight.

  3. I have this memory of reading old statistics journals in the library, back when I was a student, and Lindley in his articles would always come across as this cranky guy who, whatever the question, would always answer, “Bayes!”

    But, then, hover the years, I’ve moved toward this position. I think that, for years, informative priors have been underrated by many Bayesians, including myself. Over the past couple of decades I’ve gradually moved toward the “simplistic” Lindley-esque position. It just took me awhile.

  4. Pierre Jacob Says:

    Reblogged this on Statisfaction and commented:
    I’ve just heard this sad piece of news. Definitely one of the greatest statisticians of the last 50 years. Wished I’d had met him in person.

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