Statistical Science

A Conversation with Robert C. Elston

Gang Zheng, Zhaohai Li, and Nancy L. Geller

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Robert C. Elston was born on February 4, 1932, in London, England. He went to Cambridge University to study natural science from 1952–1956 and obtained B.A., M.A. and Diploma in Agriculture (Dip Ag). He came to the US at age 24 to study animal breeding at Cornell University and received his Ph.D. in 1959. From 1959–1960, he was a post-doctoral fellow in biostatistics at University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, where he studied mathematical statistics. He then rose through the academic ranks in the department of biostatistics at UNC, becoming a full professor in 1969. From 1979–1995, he was a professor and head of the Department of Biometry and Genetics at Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans. In 1995, he moved to Case Western Reserve University where he is a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and served as chairman from 2008 to 2014. Between 1966 and 2013, he directed 42 Ph.D. students and mentored over 40 post-doctoral fellows. If one regards him as a founder of a pedigree in research in genetic epidemiology, it was estimated in 2007 that there were more than 500 progeny. Among his many honors are a NIH Research Career Development Award (1966–1976), the Leadership Award from International Society of Human Genetics (1995), William Allan Award from American Society of Human Genetics (1996), NIH MERIT Award (1998) and the Marvin Zelen Leadership Award, Harvard University (2004). He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics as well as a Fellow of the Ohio Academy of Science. A leader in research in genetic epidemiology for over 40 years, he has published over 600 research articles in biostatistics, genetic epidemiology and applications. He has also coauthored and edited 9 books in biostatistics, population genetics and methods for the analysis of genetic data.

The original conversation took place on August 4, 2009, during the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) in Washington, DC by GZ and ZL. NLG had dinner with RCE during the 2013 JSM in Montreal, Canada, and added supplementary material and edited the conversation. RCE updated and clarified certain points.

Article information

Statist. Sci., Volume 30, Number 2 (2015), 258-267.

First available in Project Euclid: 3 June 2015

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British statisticians family studies genetic epidemiology history of statistical genetics pedigree data S.A.G.E. software statistical genetics statistics biographies


Zheng, Gang; Li, Zhaohai; Geller, Nancy L. A Conversation with Robert C. Elston. Statist. Sci. 30 (2015), no. 2, 258--267. doi:10.1214/14-STS497.

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