C Radhakrishna Rao, a stalwart in the fields of mathematics and statistics in India, breathed his last at the age of 103. His demise marks the end of an era defined by remarkable achievements, and his contributions have left an indelible mark on the realms of academia and research.
Hailing from a Telugu family, C R Rao was born in Ballari, a region that was part of the Madras Presidency and is now located in Karnataka. In the year 1941, he completed his MSc in Mathematics from Andhra University, a step that laid the foundation for his illustrious career. Subsequently, in 1943, Rao embarked on a journey with the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta, joining as a research scholar.
An impressive feat for a young researcher, Rao’s paper titled ‘Information and accuracy attainable in the estimation of statistical parameters’ was published in the Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society in 1945. Although the journal might have been lesser-known in the statistics community, the paper went on to showcase Rao’s immense potential and set the stage for his groundbreaking work.
His impact reached far beyond the confines of statistics, spanning diverse disciplines such as economics, genetics, anthropology, geology, national planning, demography, biometry, and medicine. Rao’s prolific contributions continue to reverberate in modern research and academia, earning him the title of a “living legend,” a distinction acknowledged by the American Statistical Association.
In 2020, as C R Rao turned 100, the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) paid tribute to his exceptional journey. The department organized an online symposium to honor his “path-breaking contributions in the field of statistics, for recognizing and facilitating the critical role of data and computing in addressing scientific and social challenges, for mentoring and inspiring generations of students and researchers, and for fostering the development of world-class statistical infrastructure in India.”
His exceptional contributions were duly recognized on several occasions. He was honored with the Padma Bhushan award in 1968 and elevated to the status of a Padma Vibhushan awardee in 2001. However, his most recent accolade came in 2023 when he received the esteemed International Prize in Statistics, cementing his position as a trailblazer and a luminary in the world of mathematics and statistics.