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Sir David Cox: ‘A giant of statistics with a large place in the hearts of many’





Professor Sir David Cox - “a giant in the field of statistics” with close links to the University of Cambridge’s MRC Biostatistics Unit - has died at the age of 97.

Sir David Cox who has died at 97, had close links with the MRC Biostatistics Unit. Picture: MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge
Sir David Cox who has died at 97, had close links with the MRC Biostatistics Unit. Picture: MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge

David Cox received a MA in mathematics at St John’s College, Cambridge, and obtained his PhD from the University of Leeds in 1949. From 1950 to 1955 he worked at the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He went to be become professor of statistics at Birkbeck College, London, head of the mathematics department at Imperial College London, and Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford in 1988.

He was able to remain active as a researcher until the end of his life. During his long career, he made pioneering and important contributions to numerous areas of statistics and applied probability. His contributions to science were recognised by the Royal Society’s highest award, the Copley Medal in 2010. He was knighted in 1985.

He supported the work of the MRC Biostatistics Unit over the years and was a frequent guest in the unit, particularly at the annual Armitage Lecture. He died on January 18 and is survived by his wife, Joyce, and his family.

Professor Vern Farewell said: “There are many individuals, a number having worked in the unit, who owe an immense debt to David Cox for his mentoring, sometimes initially as a student as in my case, but for many others at critical, often early, stages of their career.

“What a privilege it was to work with him and to benefit from his scientific brilliance and personal support. He was a man whose reputation was enhanced, and never tarnished, by getting to know him.

“In the sadness of his death, the MRC Biostatistics Unit, along with many, many others around the world, is so thankful for the life of David Roxbee Cox, a giant in the field of statistics who will have an equally large place in the hearts of many.”

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