Monday, January 7, 2019

Bradley Efron and the Bootstrap

Econometricians make extensive use of various forms of "The Bootstrap", thanks to Bradley (Brad) Efron's pioneering work.

I've posted about the history of the bootstrap previously - e.g., here, and here.

You probably know by now that Brad was awarded The International Prize in Statistics last November - this was only the second time that this prize has been awarded. It's difficult to think of a more deserving recipient.

If you want to read an excellent account of Brad's work, and how the bootstrap came to be, I recommend the 2003 piece by Susan Holmes, Carl Morris, and Rob Tibshirani.

There are some fascinating snippets in this conversation/interview, including:
Efron: "One of the reasons I came to Stanford was because of its humor magazine. I wrote a humor column at Caltech, and I always wanted to write for a humor magazine. Stanford had a great humor magazine, The Chaparral. The first few months I was there, the editor literally went crazy and had to be hospitalized, and so I became editor. For one issue we did a parody of Playboy and it went a little too far. I was expelled from school, ..... I went away for 6 months and then I came back. That was by far the most famous I’ve ever been." 
 Referring to his seminal paper (Efron, 1979):
Tibshirani: "It was sent to the Annals. What kind of reception did it get?" 
Efron: "Rupert Miller was the editor of the Annals at the time. I submitted what was the Rietz lecture, and it got turned down. The associate editor, who will remain nameless, said it that didn’t have any theorems in it. So, I put some theorems in at the end and put a lot of pressure on Rupert, and he finally published it."
I guess there's still hope for the rest of us!


Efron, B., 1979. Bootstrap methods: Another look at the jackknife. Annals of Statistics, 7, 1-26.

Holmes, S., C. Morris, & R. Tibshirani, 2003. Bradley Efron: A conversation with good friends. Statistical Science, 18, 268-281.

© 2019, David E. Giles