Florence Nightingale David

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Florence Nightingale David
Born (1909-08-23)23 August 1909
Ivington, Herefordshire, England
Died 23 July 1993(1993-07-23) (aged 83)
Fields Statistics

Florence Nightingale David, also known as F. N. David (23 August 1909 – 23 July 1993) was an English statistician, born in Ivington, Herefordshire, England. She was head of the Statistics Department at the University of California, Riverside in 1970.

Early life and education[edit]

David was named after Florence Nightingale, who was a friend of her parents.

David was tutored privately by a local parson, beginning at age five."[1] By that age she already knew some arithmetic, so she began with algebra. Since David already knew English, the parson taught her Latin and Greek.[1] At the age of ten, she entered to formal schooling. She studied mainly mathematics for three years, with the aim of becoming an actuary, but at that time the actuarial firms only accepted men. She earned a degree in Mathematics in 1931.

David received a scholarship and continued her studies with Karl Pearson at University College, London, as his research assistant. When Pearson retired, his son Egon, and R. A. Fisher, took over Karl's duties. After Karl Pearson died in 1934, David returned to the Biometrics laboratory to work with Jerzy Neyman, submitting her four most recently published papers as her PhD thesis, and earned a doctorate in 1938.


Working for Karl Pearson, F. N. David computed solutions to complicated multiple integrals, and the distribution of the correlation coefficients. As a result, her first book was released in 1938, called Tables of the Correlation Coefficient. All the calculations were done on a hand-cranked mechanical calculator known as a Brunsviga.

During World War II, David worked for the Ministry of Home Security. In late 1939 when war had started but England had not yet been attacked, she created statistical models to predict the possible consequences of bombs exploding in high density populations such as the big cities of England and especially London. From these models, she determined estimates of harm to humans and damage to non-humans This included the possible numbers living and dead, the reactions to fires and damaged buildings as well as damages to communications,utilities such as phones, water, gas, electricity and sewers. As a result, when the Germans bombed London in 1940 and 1941, vital services were kept going and her models were updated and modified with the evidence from the real harms and real damage.

After World War II she returned to University College in London and became a Professor in 1962. In 1968 she moved to California and became a Professor, and in 1970 the Chair, in the Department of Statistics at the University of California, Riverside, and was the book review editor for the journal Biometrics for four years.[2]

By 1977 she had retired but moved to the University of California, Berkeley where she continued to teach and do research in Biostatistics.

David died in 1995.[1]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In conjunction with other numerous academic honours, in 1992 David won the first Elizabeth L. Scott Award [3] "...for her efforts in opening the door to women in statistics; for contributions to the professions over many years; for contributions to education, science, and public service; for research contributions to combinatorics, statistical methods, applications and understanding history; and her spirit as a lecturer and as a role model.".[4] The University named a library for her, and in 2001 established the Florence Nightingale David Award.[5]


David's research resulted in advances in combinatorics, including a clear exposition of complicated methods. She studied the Correlation coefficient, and computed solutions of complicated multiple integrals, using the distribution of the correlation coefficient.[1]

David investigated the origins and history of probability and statistical ideas. She wrote a book on History of probability, using problems thought of by famous mathematicians and scientists like Cardano and Galileo. It was called Games, Gods and Gambling: The Origins and History of Probability.


David published ten books and more than 1000 papers,[1] including:


  1. ^ a b c d e David Salsburg (1 May 2002). The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century. Henry Holt and Company. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-4668-0178-3. 
  2. ^ Biometrics. 1993. p. 1291. 
  3. ^ Norman L. Johnson; Samuel Kotz (26 September 2011). Leading Personalities in Statistical Sciences: From the Seventeenth Century to the Present. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 92–. ISBN 978-1-118-15072-6. 
  4. ^ "F. N. David Wins First Elizabeth L. Scott Award", AWM Newsletter, May–June 1993, p.5
  5. ^ Richard H. Williams (1 January 2006). Twelve British Statisticians. Bitingduck Press LLC. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-1-932482-44-7.