Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis who was born on June 29, 1893, was an Indian scientist and statistician from West Bengal. He is best remembered for the Mahalanobis distance, a statistical measure and for being one of the members of the first Planning Commission of free India.
He founded the Indian Statistical Institute and contributed to the design of large-scale sample surveys. For his contributions, Mahalanobis has been considered the Father of modern statistics in India.
Here are some interesting facts about him:
1. Mahalanobis belonged to a family of Bengali landed gentry who lived in Bangladesh.
2. He grew up in a socially active family surrounded by intellectuals and farmers.
3. Mahalanobis received a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in physics in 1912.
4. He left for England in 1913 to join the University of London.
5. His fascination with statistics started when he was introduced to the journal Biometrika.
6. In Calcutta, Mahalanobis met Nirmalkumari, daughter of Herambhachandra Maitra, a leading educationist and member of the Brahmo Samaj. They married on 27 February 1923, although her father did not completely approve of the union.
7. Mahalanobis distance is one of the most widely used metrics to find how much a point diverges from a distribution, based on measurements in multiple dimensions.
8. His most important contributions are related to large-scale sample surveys. He introduced the concept of pilot surveys and advocated the usefulness of sampling methods.
9. He introduced a method for estimating crop yields which involved statisticians sampling in the fields by cutting crops in a circle of diameter 4 feet.
10. His birthday is celebrated as National Statistics Day.
11. Mahalanobis passed away on June 28, 1972, a day before his seventy-ninth birthday.
12. Even at that age, he was actively doing research work and discharging his duties as the secretary and director of the Indian Statistical Institute and as the honorary statistical advisor to the Cabinet of the Government of India.