David Harold Blackwell
|Born||April 24, 1919
|Institutions||University of California, Berkeley|
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign|
|Doctoral advisor||Joseph Leo Doob|
|Known for||Rao–Blackwell theorem|
David Harold Blackwell (born April 24, 1919) is Professor Emeritus of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and is one of the eponyms of the Rao–Blackwell theorem. Born in Centralia, Illinois, he was the first African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the first black tenured faculty member at UC Berkeley.
In 1935, aged 16, Blackwell entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where his interest in mathematics continued to grow. While at the Institute, Blackwell started to look for academic appointments. At age 22 he earned his first Ph.D. in mathematics. He wrote letters of application to 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities to see if any post was available; he felt at the time that a black teacher would be limited to teaching only at black colleges. Later after 1966, more than a dozen universities including Harvard and Yale conferred honorary Ph.D.s to Blackwell.
He sought a position at the University of California at Berkeley, however, and was interviewed by Jerzy Neyman for the post. Neyman strongly supported his appointment but others had opposed it. He was offered a post at Southern University at Baton Rouge which he held in 1942-43, followed by a year as an Instructor at Clark College in Atlanta. He moved to Howard University in 1946 to become an associate professor, and became head of the Mathematics Department the following year. He remained at Howard until 1954 when he taught at UC Berkeley as a visiting professor. He was hired as a professor of statistics in 1955.
Blackwell was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Tau Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Blackwell held several honors and memberships.