Founder of ISI (Indian Statistical Institute) in India – An institute where Legends in Mathematics study, work & Excel !

Founder of ISI (Indian Statistical Institute) in India – An institute where Legends in Mathematics study, work & Excel !

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He was an Indian scientist and statistician. He founded the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI – a leading institute for Mathematics and statistics study & research) and contributed to the design of large-scale sample surveys. He was being one of the members of the first Planning Commission of free India. For his contributions, he has been considered the father of modern statistics in India.

He belonged to a family of Bengali who lived in Bikrampur (now in Bangladesh). His grandfather moved to Calcutta in 1854 and built up a business, starting a chemist shop in 1860, was actively involved in social movements such as the Brahmo Samaj. His house was the centre of the Brahmo Samaj. His grandfather married a widow, an action against social traditions.

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He is Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis & He is best remembered for the Mahalanobis distance, a statistical measure, and for He made pioneering studies in anthropometry in India,.

In 1908, P.C. Mahalanobis was Born in culcutta. He grew up in a socially active family surrounded by intellectuals and reformers. Mahalanobis received his early schooling at the Brahmo Boys Schoolin Calcutta, graduating in 1908. He joined the Presidency College, where he was taught by teachers who included Jagadish Chandra Bose, and Prafulla Chandra Ray. Mahalanobis received a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in physics in 1912. He left for England in 1913 to join the University of London.

After missing a train, he stayed with a friend at King’s College, Cambridge. He was impressed by King’s College Chapel and joined there. He did well in his studies at King’s, but also took an interest in cross-country walking and punting on the river. He interacted with the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan during the latter’s time at Cambridge. After his Tripos in physics, Mahalanobis worked with C. T. R. Wilson at the Cavendish Laboratory. He took a short break and went to India, where he was introduced to the Principal of Presidency College and was invited to take classes in physics.

In Calcutta, Mahalanobis met Nirmalkumari, daughter of Herambhachandra Maitra, a leading educationist and member of the Brahmo Samaj. They married on 27 February 1923, although her father did not completely approve of the union. He was concerned about Mahalanobis’s opposition to various clauses of Brahmo Samaj, including prohibitions against members’ drinking alcohol and smoking.


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Many colleagues of Mahalanobis took an interest in statistics.  An informal group of Pramatha Nath Banerji , Nikhil Ranjan Sen & Sir R. N. Mukherji developed in the Statistical Laboratory. Together they established the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Baranagar. The Institute was initially in the Physics Department of the Presidency College. The institute also gained major assistance through Pitambar Pant, who was a secretary to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Pant was trained in statistics at the Institute and took a keen interest in its affairs. In 1959, the institute was declared as an institute of national importance and a Deemed university.

In later life, Mahalanobis was a member of the planning commission contributed prominently to newly independent India’s five-year plans starting from the second. In the second five-year plan he emphasized industrialization on the basis of a two-sector model.  In the 1950s, Mahalanobis played a critical role in the campaign to bring India its first digital computers. He received one of the highest civilian awards, the Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India for his contribution to science and services to the country.

Mahalanobis died on 28 June 1972, a day before his seventy-ninth birthday. Even at this age, he was still active doing research work and discharging his duties as the Secretary and Director of the Indian Statistical Institute and as the Honorary Statistical Advisor to the Cabinet of the Government of India.

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