When he died in March 2013, statistician George Box left behind a considerable legacy, with important work in experimental design, forecasting, and data manipulation. But although his academic output made him one of the most prominent statisticians of the 20th century, a large part of his contributions to the field never made it into the literature. He spent nearly his entire career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, building the school’s now-prominent statistics department from scratch starting in 1960 and mentoring generations of students.
Box’s memoir, An Accidental Statistician, was published less than a month after his death and details the academic and personal aspects of his life. The book’s title comes from Box’s beginnings as a chemist; he had to teach himself statistical methodology while serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during the Battle of Britain, because his department could not afford to hire another expert. The book also explores Box’s intellectual influences, his unorthodox teaching style, and his lifelong friendship with pioneering statistician R. A. Fisher.