Patrick Billingsley

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Patrick Paul Billingsley (May 3, 1925 – April 22, 2011[1][2]) was an American mathematician and stage and screen actor, noted for his books in advanced probability theory and statistics. He was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946.

Billingsley in 1961

After earning a Ph.D. in mathematics at Princeton University in 1955, he was attached to the NSA until his discharge from the Navy in 1957. In 1958 he became a professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of Chicago, where he served as chair of the Department of Statistics from 1980 to 1983, and retired in 1994. In 1964-65 he was a Fulbright Fellow and visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen. In 1971-72 he was a Guggenheim Fellow and visiting professor at the University of Cambridge (Peterhouse). From 1976 to 1979 he edited the Annals of Probability. In 1983 he was president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. He was given the Lester R. Ford Award for his article "Prime Numbers and Brownian Motion."[3] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986.[4]

He starred in a number of plays at Court Theatre and Body Politic Theatre in Chicago and appeared in at least nine movies.[5] In 1978 he told Chicago Tribune Magazine: "As a teacher you're used to being on stage."

In Young Men and Fire, fellow University of Chicago professor Norman Maclean wrote about Billingsley that "he is a distinguished statistician and one of the best amateur actors I have ever seen".


Stage plays[edit]



  • Dummy, Dr. Morris (1978)
  • Flesh and Blood, boxing official (1978)
  • The Children Nobody Wanted, preacher (1981)
  • The Dollmaker, Cooper (1983)
  • The Last Leaf – A Parable of Easter, Dr. Winchester (1983)
  • The Private Eye, guard (1983)
  • Murder Ordained, Ray Call (1986)
  • Jack and Mike (episode), judge (1986)
  • The Father Clements Story, Father Donovan (1987)
  • Sable (episode), security guard (1987)


He died in 2011, aged 85, in his Hyde Park, Chicago home. He was survived by his children, Franny, Patty, Julie, Marty and Paul, and his companion, Florence Weisblatt. His wife of nearly 50 years, social activist Ruth Billingsley, died in 2000.

Erdős-Bacon Number[edit]

Billingsley's Erdős–Bacon number is six, one of the lowest in the world, sharing 12th place with such notables as Richard Feynman and Tom Lehrer.

His Erdős number is four, and can be calculated at least one way:

  • Billingsley wrote a paper with Baum (Baum, Leonard E.; Billingsley, Patrick. Asymptotic distributions for the coupon collector's problem. Annals of Mathematical Statistics 36 1965 1835–1839.)
  • Baum wrote a paper with Lomonaco (Baum, Leonard E.; Herzberg, Norman P.; Lomonaco, S. J., Jr.; Sweet, Melvin M. Fields of almost periodic sequences. J. Combinatorial Theory Ser. A 22 (1977), no. 2, 169–180.)
  • Lomonaco wrote a paper with Conway (Conway, J. H.; Lomonaco, S. J., Jr.; Sloane, N. J. A. A code with minimal distance. Discrete Math. 83 (1990), no. 2-3, 213–217.)
  • Conway wrote a paper with Erdös (Conway, J. H.; Croft, H. T.; Erdos, P.; Guy, M. J. T. On the distribution of values of angles determined by coplanar points. J. London Math. Soc. (2) 19 (1979), no. 1, 137–143.)

His Bacon number is two, and can be calculated in several ways:

  1. Billingsley was in The Untouchables with Robert De Niro; Robert De Niro was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon
  2. Billingsley was in The Untouchables with Kevin Costner; Kevin Costner was in JFK with Kevin Bacon
  3. Billingsley was in The Dollmaker with Tom Hanks; Tom Hanks was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon
  4. Billingsley was in My Bodyguard with Matt Dillon; Matt Dillon was in Wild Things with Kevin Bacon


External links[edit]