Agnes Scott College

Gertrude Mary Cox

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January 13, 1900 - October 17, 1978


Gertrude Cox was a leader in the promotion of modern statistical methods. She was born in Dayton, Iowa, in 1900. After graduating from high school in 1918, she studied to become a deaconess in the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1925, however, she enrolled at Iowa State University and received her B.S. in mathematics in 1929. She described her start in statistics in a 1959 interview: "I majored in math...because I liked it and because I could elect all the psychology and craft courses that I needed. I was working my way through college and managed to land a job in the computing laboratory. In that manner I became interested in statistics. By the time I graduated, I was as well trained in psychology and crafts as in math but I was already in statistics. Consequently, I stayed on in that field." In 1931 she received the first M.S. degree in statistics from Iowa State University with a dissertation on "A Statistical Investigation of a Teacher's Ability as Indicated by the Success of His Students in Subsequent Courses."

She left Iowa to study psychological statistics for two years at the University of California at Berkeley, but returned to Iowa State to assist George Snedecor, her master's thesis advisor, in organizing his new Statistical Laboratory. In 1939 she was appointed as an assistant professor of statistics at Iowa Sate, then became a professor of statistics at North Carolina State University at Raleigh in 1940. She helped to establish the Department of Experimental Statistics at North Carolina State University (1941) and the Institute of Statistics of the Consolidated University of North Carolina (1944). After her retirement from NCSU in 1960, Cox became the first head of the Statistics Research Division of the Research Triangle Institute. She retired from that position in 1965, then worked as a consultant to promote the development of statistical programs in Egypt and Thailand.

Gertrude Cox was one of the founders of the Biometric Society in 1947. She served as a member of its Council and as its president from 1968-69. She also served as President of the American Statistical Association in 1956. In 1949 Cox became the first female elected into the International Statistical Institute, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1975. In 1958 she was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Iowa State University. In 1950 Cox and William G. Cochran wrote the book Experimental Design [Table of Contents] that became a classic in the design and analysis of replicated experiments. A second edition appeared in 1957. Cox continued to be professionally active up to her death from leukemia in 1978.

References

  1. Nichols, Maryjo. "Gertrude Mary Cox (1900--1978)," Women of mathematics, pp26-29, Greenwood, Westport, CT, 1987.
  2. Monroe, Robert J. and McVay, Francis E. "Gertrude Mary Cox (1900--1978)," Amer. Statist. 34 (1980), no. 1, 48.
  3. Anderson, R. L. Monroe, R. J. and Nelson, L. A. "Gertrude M. Cox—a modern pioneer in statistics," Biometrics 35 (1979), no. 1, 3-7.
  4. Cochran, William G. "Some reflections," Biometrics 35 (1979), no. 1, 1-2
  5. Yates, Frank. "Obituary: Gertrude Mary Cox, 1900--1978," J. Roy. Statist. Soc. Ser. A 142 (1979), no. 4, 516--517
  6. "Gertrude Mary Cox—1900–1978," Biometrics 34 (1978), no. 4, 719-720
  7. Sandra Stinnett. "Women in Statistics: Sesquicentennial Activities," The American Statistician, May 1990, Vol 44, No. 2, 74-80 [Biography reprinted from Statisticians in History, American Statistical Association website]
  8. Gertrude Cox: First Lady of Statistics, online exhibit from the North Carolina State University Library
  9. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  10. Author Profile at zbMath
  11. Mathematics Genealogy Project
  12. Biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive.