UF-Statistics UFL

Statistics at the University of Florida:

The Statistics Laboratory

by Alva E. Brandt and Victor Chew

The following article was prepared for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the department in 1988.
The Statistical Laboratory, with Herbert A. Mayer as Director, was established in 1951 to provide statistical consulting and computing services to students and faculty. The Laboratory was a separate budgetary unit of the University of Florida, reporting to J. Wayne Reitz (then President) and Linton E. Grinter (then Dean of the Graduate School). Early consultants at the Laboratory were David B. Duncan, Victor Chew, Douglas E. Scates and William G. O'Regan. Duncan and Chew taught design and analysis courses in the Agronomy Department, and a course in sampling was offered in the Agricultural Economics Department. A course in mathematical statistics was available in the Department of Mathematics.

The Statistical Laboratory organized a Symposium (on Monte Carlo methods) which took place March 16-17, 1954, under the sponsorship of the United States Air Force. This was immediately followed, March 18-19, by the Joint Meetings of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Eastern North American Region of the Biometric Society. These meetings were very well attended and participants included George Snedecor, Gertrude Cox, Maurice Kendall and John Tukey, for example. It was at these meetings that Duncan presented his work on the now famous multiple range test. The University of Florida went on to host the meeting of the Southern Region Educational Board's Advisory Committee on Statistics in 1955 and the Southern Regional Graduate Summer Session in Statistics in that same year.

The mid-fifties were clearly busy and productive years for the active Laboratory and it seems that, with this momentum, a Department of Statistics might be formed (organized and chaired by Duncan); however, this was not to be. Duncan left for the University of North Carolina in August, 1956 and Chew for North Carolina State College in January, 1957. The departure of these two and of Bill Regan at the same time left a considerable void in the teaching and consulting facilities even though Willard 0. Ash (who was to remain with the department until 1967) arrived in 1957 to take up some of the slack.

On November 1, 1958, A. E. Brandt was appointed "Statistician, Head of the  Statistical Section, Agricultural Experiment Station." By this time the demand for statistical services had grown to the point where there was some debate, if not outright squabbling, concerning priorities in the service queue. Brandt's principal assignments were (a) to act as funnel through which all contact between agricultural workers and the Statistical Laboratory were to pass, thereby restoring some organization to the process, and (b) to oversee the formation of the Department of Statistics.

Named head of the newly created Department of Statistics in the College of Agriculture in January, 1962, Dr. Brandt, who was due to retire on July 1, 1963, spent much of his last official year with the university working out budgetary details and interviewing prospective staff for the department. In particular, William Mendenhall, III, was hired as chairman, a position he was to assume upon Dr. Brandt's retirement. Offices for the department were provided in the basement of Dan McCarty Hall. By this time, course offerings in statistics were scattered across at least eight departments on campus and degrees with an emphasis in statistics could be obtained, though through the Department of Mathematics.

--These remarks were compiled from some notes left by Alva E. Brandt and some recollections of Victor Chew.


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