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Iterations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Software History
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Memories of John W. Tukey: Maintained by Bell Laboratories, Statistics and Data Mining Research Group

Atsushi Akera
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Date published: 13 September 2002

With the advent of the World Wide Web, individuals and institutions are now creating Web sites that pay tribute to famous scientists, humanists, and other individuals. Thoughtfully maintained by those who were close to the individual, these sites generally offer a broad, personal look at a distinguished individual's long career. Memories of John W. Tukey is such a site.

Briefly, John Tukey was a famous statistician who for most of his career held a joint appointment at Princeton University and Bell Telephone Laboratories. His most important contributions in statistics were in the areas of robust analysis and exploratory data analysis, although he made broad contributions to other fields, most notably with the (re)discovery, along with IBM’s James Cooley, of the Fast Fourier Transform. He is also credited with coining the words “bit,” “byte,” and “software,” somewhat to the chagrin of those in computer science who would have wished to do so first.

The site itself—thoughtfully maintained but not excessively detailed in content—is built primarily around voluntary tributes contributed by those who knew Tukey. The site also contains a small collection of digital images, a brief biography, and a bibliography of Tukey’s works. For those unfamiliar with Tukey, it can be a little difficult to get a quick sense of his achievements from the site’s homepage. The best place to begin is with the links to the obituaries issued by The New York Times and Princeton’s Office of Communications, which appear at the bottom of the page. [end of page 1]

Sites such as these are built in memory of specific individuals, and are not necessarily geared towards historical research. Historians may, nevertheless, find such sites to be a convenient place to locate biographical and bibliographic data about specific individuals. From this point of view, the information contained at this site seems to be accurate and currently maintained.
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Atsushi Akera, “Memories of John W. Tukey: Maintained by Bell Laboratories, Statistics and Data Mining Research Group,” Iterations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Software History 1 (September 13, 2002): 1-2.

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