Leland Wilkinson

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Leland Wilkinson (born c. 1945) is a statistician and computer scientist at H2O.ai and Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at University of Illinois at Chicago. Wilkinson developed the SYSTAT statistical package in the early 1980s, sold it to SPSS in 1995, and worked at SPSS for 10 years recruiting and managing the visualization team. He left SPSS in 2008 and became Executive VP of SYSTAT Software Inc. in Chicago. He then served as the VP of Data Visualization at Skytree, Inc and VP of Statistics at Tableau Software before joining H2O.ai. His research focuses on scientific visualization and statistical graphics. In these communities he is well known for his book The Grammar of Graphics,[1] which was the foundation for the R package ggplot2.

Family life[edit]

He is the son of Mr. and Mrs Kirk C. Wilkinson.[2] He is brother of Alec Wilkinson, a writer for New Yorker. He was married to Reverend Ruth VanDemark, who died in 2012, and is the father of Amie Wilkinson, a professor of mathematics at University of Chicago, and Caroline Wilkinson, a writer. He married Marilyn Vogel, an attorney, in 2013.

Education and academic work[edit]

Wilkinson received an A.B. from Harvard University in 1966, an S.T.B. from Harvard Divinity School in 1969, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University in 1975. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a full-time faculty member at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). After serving 10 years as Adjunct Professor of Statistics at Northwestern University, he rejoined UIC as Adjunct Professor of Computer Science.

Wilkinson is recognized as the primary author of the 1999 American Psychological Association's Guidelines for Statistical Methods in Psychology Journals.

Professional career[edit]

Wilkinson wrote SYSTAT, a statistical software package, in the early 1980s. This program was noted for its comprehensive graphics,[3] including the first software implementation of the heatmap display now widely used among biologists. After his company grew to 50 employees, he sold it to SPSS in 1995. At SPSS, he assembled a team of graphics programmers who developed the nViZn platform [4] that produces the visualizations in SPSS, Clementine, and other analytics products. The nViZn platform was modeled after Wilkinson's 1999 book on statistical graphics, The Grammar of Graphics.[1] This book also served as the foundation for the R package ggplot2,[5] the Python Bokeh package,[6] the R package ggbio,[7] and helped shape the Polaris project at Stanford.[8] Wilkinson now serves as Chief Scientist at H2O.ai.


Wilkinson is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.


  1. ^ a b Leland Wilkinson, The Grammar of Graphics, Springer, 1999. ISBN 0-387-98774-6. at Springer
  2. ^ "Ruth VanDemark becomes a bride". New York Times. June 24, 1967.
  3. ^ Jarrett, Jeffrey (1992). "SYSTAT/SYGRAPH and Micro-TSP". Statistics and Computing. 2 (4): 231–236. doi:10.1007/BF01889683. S2CID 119499841.
  4. ^ http://www.galaxy.gmu.edu/interface/I01/I2001Proceedings/LJones/LJones.pdf
  5. ^ https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/ggplot2/index.html
  6. ^ "Bokeh". Github. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  7. ^ Lawrence, Michael (2012). "ggbio: an R package for extending the grammar of graphics for genomic data". Genome Biology. 13 (8): R77. doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-8-r77. PMC 4053745. PMID 22937822. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  8. ^ http://www.graphics.stanford.edu/projects/polaris/

External links[edit]