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David Spiegelhalter

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David Spiegelhalter
Spiegelhalter giving a presentation in November 2020
David John Spiegelhalter

(1953-08-16) 16 August 1953 (age 70)
Barnstaple, Devon, England
Alma mater
Scientific career
ThesisAdaptive inference using finite mixture models (1978)
Doctoral advisorAdrian Smith[2]

Sir David John Spiegelhalter OBE FRS (born 16 August 1953) is a British statistician and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.[1][3][4][5] From 2007 to 2018 he was Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.[6] Spiegelhalter is an ISI highly cited researcher.

He is currently Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge.[7] On 27 May 2020 he joined the board of the UK Statistics Authority as a non-executive director for a period of three years,[8] a term which was extended through to 2026.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Spiegelhalter was born on 16 August 1953.[10] He was educated at Barnstaple Grammar School, a state grammar school in Barnstaple, Devon, from 1963 to 1970.[11] He then studied mathematics at Keble College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1974.[12][13] He moved to University College London, where he gained his Master of Science (MSc) degree in statistics in 1975 and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in mathematical statistics in 1978.[12][13] His doctoral thesis was titled "Adaptive Inference Using Finite Mixture Models",[14] and was supervised by Adrian Smith.[2]


Spiegelhalter was research assistant in Brunel University in 1976[13] and then visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, 1977–78. After his PhD, he was a research assistant for the Royal College of Physicians; he was based at the University of Nottingham, where his PhD supervisor, Adrian Smith, had been appointed a professor.[citation needed]

From 1981 he was at the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit at Cambridge. He has been an honorary lecturer at the University of Hong Kong since 1991. He has also been a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and the World Anti-Doping Agency. He played a leading role in the public inquiries into children's heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, the murders by Harold Shipman,[15] the independent inquiry on Mid Staffs Trust and, more recently, the infected blood inquiry.

Between 2007 and 2012 he divided his work[16] between the Cambridge Statistical Laboratory (three-fifths) and the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit (two-fifths).[17] He left the MRC in March 2012[18] and worked full-time at the Statistical Laboratory as the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk until his retirement. He remained chair of the Winton Centre until it closed in 2023. As of 2012 Spiegelhalter has supervised 7 PhD students.[13][19]

David Spiegelhalter playing with Arco Iris Samba band, July 2009

In 2012, Spiegelhalter hosted the BBC Four documentary Tails You Win: The Science of Chance which described the application of probability in everyday life.[20] He also presented a 2013 Cambridge Science Festival talk, How to Spot a Shabby Statistic at the Babbage Lecture Theatre in Cambridge.[5][21]

He was elected as President of the Royal Statistical Society, and took up the position on 1 January 2017. His Presidential address later that year took as its subject Trust in Numbers.[22]

In March 2020 Spiegelhalter launched a podcast called Risky Talk where he interviews experts in risk and evidence communication on topics like genetics, nutrition, climate change and immigration.[23] He appeared on BBC Desert Island Discs on 6 February 2022.[24]


Spiegelhalter's research interests are in statistics[1][25][26] including


Media appearances[edit]


  • Sex by Numbers: What Statistics Can Tell Us About Sexual Behaviour (2015, Wellcome Collection)
  • Teaching Probability (2016, Cambridge University Press) (with Jenny Gage)
  • The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data (2019, Pelican)
  • Covid by Numbers: Making Sense of the Pandemic with Data (2021, Pelican) (with Dr Anthony Masters)
  • The Art of Uncertainty: Living with Chance, Ignorance, Risk and Luck (2024, Pelican)


  1. ^ a b c David Spiegelhalter publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ a b David Spiegelhalter at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ "Churchill College: Fellows: List of current Fellows". Archived from the original on 18 February 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  4. ^ David Spiegelhalter's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b David Spiegelhalter at IMDb
  6. ^ "David Spiegelhalter's Personal Home Page". Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  7. ^ Spiegelhalter, D. J. (2021). Covid by numbers : making sense of the pandemic with data / David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters. Anthony Masters. [United Kingdom]. ISBN 978-0-241-54773-1. OCLC 1250202258.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ "Appointment of two new Non-Executive Directors to the UK Statistics Authority Board". Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  9. ^ "UK Statistics Authority welcomes three new non-executive directors".
  10. ^ "SPIEGELHALTER, Prof. David John". Who's Who. Vol. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  11. ^ Keeble, Andy (18 June 2014). "Barnstaple old boy knighted in Queen's Birthday honours". North Devon Gazette.
  12. ^ a b "Spiegelhalter, Sir David (John), (born 16 Aug. 1953), Chair, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, since 2017 (Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk, 2007–18); Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge". Who's Who 2021. Oxford University Press. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d "CURRICULUM VITAE – David John SPIEGELHALTER" (PDF). Understanding Uncertainty. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  14. ^ Spiegelhalter, David (1978). Adaptive inference using finite mixture models (PhD thesis). University College London.
  15. ^ "Programme transcript". BBC News. 2 April 2006.
  16. ^ Spiegelhalter, David (October 2009). "Don's Diary" (PDF). CAM. Cambridge University Alumni Association. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  17. ^ "MRC Biostatistics Unit: People". Archived from the original on 3 September 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  18. ^ "Welcome to the MRC Biostatistics Unit". Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  19. ^ "David John Spiegelhalter". Mathematics Genealogy Project. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  20. ^ BBC Four – Tails You Win: The Science of Chance
  21. ^ What's On » Cambridge Science Festival – How to spot a shabby statistic
  22. ^ Spiegelhalter, D. (2017). "Trust in numbers". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A. 180 (4): 949-965. doi:10.1111/rssa.12302.
  23. ^ Risky Talk website. Accessed 30 December 2022.
  24. ^ "Desert Island Discs – Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician – BBC Sounds". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  25. ^ David Spiegelhalter publications indexed by Microsoft Academic
  26. ^ David J. Spiegelhalter at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  27. ^ Spiegelhalter, D. J.; Best, N. G.; Carlin, B. P.; Linde, A. V. D. (2002). "Bayesian Measures of Model Complexity and Fit". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. 64 (4): 583–639. doi:10.1111/1467-9868.00353.
  28. ^ Lauritzen, S. L.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (1988). "Local Computations with Probabilities on Graphical Structures and Their Application to Expert Systems". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. 50 (2): 157–224. JSTOR 2345762.
  29. ^ Gilks, W. R.; Richardson, S.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (1996). Markov Chain Monte Carlo in Practice. Chapman & Hall. ISBN 978-0-412-05551-5.
  30. ^ Spiegelhalter, David; Thomas, Andrew; Best, Nicky; Lunn, Dave (January 2003), WinBUGS User Manual (Version 1.4 ed.), Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 2SR, UK: MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, PDF document, archived from the original on 3 March 2012, retrieved 27 February 2012{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  31. ^ Neuenschwander, B.; Capkun-Niggli, G.; Branson, M.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (2010). "Summarizing historical information on controls in clinical trials". Clinical Trials. 7 (1): 5–18. doi:10.1177/1740774509356002. PMID 20156954. S2CID 38751711.
  32. ^ Spiegelhalter, D.; Pearson, M.; Short, I. (2011). "Visualizing Uncertainty About the Future". Science. 333 (6048): 1393–1400. Bibcode:2011Sci...333.1393S. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1191181. PMID 21903802. S2CID 1223740.
  33. ^ "David Spiegelhalter's blog | Understanding Uncertainty". Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  34. ^ Riesch, H.; Spiegelhalter, D. J. (2011). "'Careless pork costs lives': Risk stories from science to press release to media". Health, Risk & Society. 13: 47–64. doi:10.1080/13698575.2010.540645. S2CID 72065012.
  35. ^ Outstanding Statistical Application Award, ASA, retrieved 31 March 2014.
  36. ^ UK list: "No. 58014". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 17 June 2006. p. 13.
  37. ^ "Weldon Memorial Prize and Medal – International Statistical Institute". Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  38. ^ "Honorary graduates, 2010 to 2019".
  39. ^ "David Spiegelhalter's Personal Home Page". www.statslab.cam.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  40. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b2.
  41. ^ Gallagher, James (14 June 2014). "Prof Colin Blakemore: Medical research defender knighted". BBC News.
  42. ^ "Newly elected Honorary Fellows of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries".
  43. ^ "Announcing our honours recipients for 2020".
  44. ^ "David Spiegelhalter wins Faraday Prize".
  45. ^ "MRS celebrates 75th anniversary with Honorary Fellowships".
  46. ^ "Professor Sir DAVID JOHN SPIEGELHALTER was awarded an Honorary Doctorate".
  47. ^ "Honorary Degrees | University of Dundee, UK".

External links[edit]