Pioneer in Forensic Statistical Research and SAMSI Colleague Passes Away

stephen-fienberg-memorial-pictureWe at SAMSI were very sad to hear of the death of Steve Fienberg, whose enormously influential career in statistics included numerous contributions to SAMSI, among them, chairing the search committee that led to my appointment as Director.

Some of Steve Fienberg’s more prominent research centered on using statistical analysis to assist those in the law enforcement and the justice system with more accurate data to better assist in the field of forensic science. He was as co-chairman of the Commission on Forensic Science under the American Judicature Society. His work focused on developing statistical research to find the most accurate data possible in order to identify suspects of interest during criminal investigations. As a result there is now a whole subfield of “Forensic Statistics” that inspired the 2015-16 SAMSI Program on Statistics and Applied Mathematics in Forensic Science. Steve attended the Opening Workshop of that program and gave a superb overview lecture. Before that, he had been a leading contributor to the SAMSI programs on Computational Methods in Social Sciences (2013-14) and Complex Networks (2009-10).

Steve Fienberg was born in Canada but spent the bulk of his career in the US, obtaining his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1968 and joining Carnegie Mellon as a faculty member in 1980, where he spent the rest of his career. Apart from his contributions to forensic science, he made significant contributions to categorical data analysis and Bayesian statistics, and was a world leader in the application of statistical methods to social sciences. His numerous honors included election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1999).

I personally interacted with Steve at many points of my career but especially after I became Director of SAMSI. His advice was always well thought out and helpful.

We extend our condolences to his family. He will be sadly missed by all his professional colleagues.

Richard L. Smith

Director, SAMSI