David George Kendall


Born: 15 January 1918 in Ripon, Yorkshire, England
Died: 23 October 2007 in Cambridge, England


David Kendall attended Ripon Grammar School and then entered Queen's College, Oxford. He was awarded his M.A. in 1943 but he had already been involved in war work. During the years of World War II Kendall worked as an Experimental Officer with the Ministry of Supply from 1940 until the end of the war in 1945. Other mathematicians such as Rogers also held similar posts with the Ministry of Supply.

In 1946 Kendall was elected a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and appointed a lecturer in mathematics. He spent the academic year 1952-53 in the United States as a visiting lecturer at Princeton University. Then in 1962 Kendall was appointed as Professor of Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cambridge. At the same time he was elected a fellow of Churchill College Cambridge. Kendall held this chair of mathematical statistics until he retired in 1985 and which time he became professor emeritus. He also became an Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1989.

Kendall is a leading world authority on applied probability and data analysis. He has written on stochastic geometry and its applications, and the statistical theory of shape. His recent work includes two articles How to look at objects in a five-dimensional shape space (1994-95) and The Riemannian structure of Euclidean shape spaces: a novel environment for statistics (1993).

He has received many honours and awards for his outstanding work in these areas of mathematical statistics including the Guy Medal in Silver of the Royal Statistical Society in 1955 and the Gold Medal of the Royal Statistical Society in 1981. He was also awarded the Weldon Memorial Prize and Medal for Biometric Science from Oxford University in 1974 and Princeton University awarded him their Wilks Prize in 1980.

An exceptional lecturer, Kendall has been the Larmor Lecturer at the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1980, the Milne Lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford in 1983, the Hoteling Lecturer at the University of North Carolina in 1985, the Rietz Lecturer at the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in 1989 and the Kolmogorov Lecturer at the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability in 1990.

In 1964, Kendall was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London and served on the Council of that Society during 1967-69 and then for a second spell during 1982-83. The Royal Society awarded Kendall their Sylvester Medal in 1976. He was the 56th president of the London Mathematical Society during 1972-74 and the London Mathematical Society awarded him their Whitehead Prize in 1980 and their De Morgan Medal in 1989.

However it is not only the London Mathematical Society that has elected Kendall to be their president. He has also been president of the Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability in 1975 and of the Mathematics and Physics Sections of the British Association in 1982. He has also received a number of honorary degrees to mark his outstanding contributions to statistics. For example he was elected an honorary member of the Romanian Academy in 1992 and has received honorary degrees from the University of Paris René Descartes (1976) and the University of Bath (1986).

Kendall has been joint editor of a number of important works, including Mathematics in the Archaeological and Historical Sciences (1971), Stochastic Analysis (1973), Stochastic Geometry (1974), Analytic and Geometric Stochastics (1986).

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

June 1998


MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Kendall.html]