Andhra Pradesh: Tale of two Raos winning global recognition

A renowned Statistician and a widely respected Ophthalmologist, coincidentally both Dr Raos and hailing from Andhra Pradesh, hit global headlines this past week for winning laurels.

Dr Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, better known as C R Rao, at 102 has been selected for the highest award in Statistics (equivalent to a Nobel Prize).

Gullapalli Nageswara Rao, popular as G N Rao, founder chairman of the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Hyderabad at 78 has been honoured with a prestigious award by the WHO (heroes of public health) recently.

MS Education Academy

Interestingly, both the Raos have been instrumental in creating Institutes of global importance in Hyderabad—the LVPEI (1987) and the Dr C R Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (2007), at the University of Hyderabad (UoH). The University has also named a road in honour of the legendary scientist, which is quite rare.

If Dr C R Rao, served India with distinction laying the foundations for planning, surveys, using modelling at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Calcutta along with Dr P C Mahalonobis till 1979 and migrated to the US to continue his extraordinary contributions in statistics, Dr G N Rao, left a lucrative practice in the US, returned to India in the early 1980s and set up the LVPEI, which is today counted among the top 10 best eyecare institutions in the world.

Dr G N Rao was recognized with the prestigious Heroes of Public Health Award – 2023 by the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Regional Office. The award acknowledges his exceptional contribution to public health in the country and was presented during the WHO’s World Health Day celebrations on April 7, marking its 75th anniversary.

Dr Rao received his basic medical education in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, and completed his postgraduate residency training in ophthalmology at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences, New Delhi. His areas of specialisation include diseases of the cornea, eye banking, corneal transplantation, community eye health, eye care policy and planning. He has also been inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ of the American Ophthalmologists Association 2017.

C R Rao, the Living Legend

In its citation announcing the 2023 award, which carries a prize money of $80,000, the International Prize in Statistics Foundation said “Dr Rao’s work more than 75 years ago, continues to exert profound influence on science.”

The Indian-American, Dr Rao will be conferred with the award, the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the field, for his monumental work that revolutionised statistical thinking this July at the biennial International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The prize, instituted in 2017 and awarded once in two years, recognises a major achievement by an individual or team in the statistics field, particularly an achievement of powerful and original ideas that have led to practical applications and breakthroughs in other disciplines.

“In awarding this prize, we celebrate the monumental work by C R Rao that not only revolutionized statistical thinking in its time but also continues to exert enormous influence on human understanding of science across a wide spectrum of disciplines,” said Guy Nason, chair of the International Prize in Statistics Foundation in a statement.

In his remarkable 1945 paper published in the Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society, Dr Rao demonstrated three fundamental results that paved the way for the modern field of statistics and provided statistical tools widely used in science today, the Foundation said.

The first, now known as the Cramer-Rao lower bound, provides a means for knowing when a method for estimating a quantity is as good as any method can be, it said.

The second result, named the Rao-Blackwell Theorem (because it was discovered independently by eminent statistician David Blackwell), provides a means for transforming an estimate into a better-in fact, an optimal-estimate. Together, these results form a foundation on which much of statistics is built.

And the third result provided insights that pioneered a new interdisciplinary field that has flourished as “information geometry.” Combined, these results help scientists more efficiently extract information from data, the statement added.
Information geometry has recently been used to aid the understanding and optimization of Higgs boson measurements at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, Geneva where a big number of physicists finally proved the existence of the elusive ‘God Particle’, a few years ago.

Dr Rao was born into a Telugu family in Hadagali, Bellary, Karnataka, now in Andhra Pradesh. His schooling was completed in Gudur, Nuzvid, Nandigama, and Visakhapatnam, all in Andhra Pradesh. He received an MSc in mathematics from Andhra University, Waltair and an MA in statistics from Calcutta University in 1943. He obtained a PhD from King’s College at Cambridge University.

Dr Rao, succeeded the great Prof P C Mahalonobis as the Director of the Indian Statistical Institute. During a decade of eventful leadership and groundbreaking contributions, Dr Rao was also ‘Gheraoed’ by the staff on one occasion for a few days. He turned it into an unforgettable episode with his trademark humour when he said “The word Gherao comes from his name Rao”.

Around 1980, he moved to the US as the University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Eberly Professor and Chair of Statistics and Director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis at Pennsylvania State University. He is currently a professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University and Research Professor at the University at Buffalo.

Dr Rao has won every conceivable prize in Statistics and Mathematics with the highest ones being the Abel Prize, the Turing Award and Fields Medal. The Indian government conferred on him the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. In 2002, he was honoured with the, National Science Medal, the highest science award by the US government.

Back to top button