David Blackwell

David Blackwell

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David Blackwell

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David Harold Blackwell (April 24, 1919 – July 8, 2010) was Professor Emeritus of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and is one of the eponyms of the Rao–Blackwell theorem. Born in Centralia, Illinois, he was the first African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the first black tenured faculty member at UC Berkeley.


In 1935, aged 16, Blackwell entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with the modest intent to teach elementary school mathematics. In 1938 he earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in 1939, and was awarded a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1941 at the age of 22, all by the University of Illinois.

He did a year of post-doctoral studies as a fellow at Institute for Advanced Study. He departed when he was prevented from attending lectures or undertaking research at nearby Princeton University, which the IAS has historically collaborated with in research and scholarship activities.Seeking a permanent position, he wrote letters of application to 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities; he felt at the time that a black teacher would be limited to teaching only at black colleges.He also sought a position...
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