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Wilhelm Winkler

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Wilhelm Winkler 1884–1984 had successful careers as both an academic statistician despite receiving no formal academic training in the field, and a program director in the Austrian government


  • 1 Biography
    • 11 Early life
    • 12 War years
    • 13 Later years
  • 2 Further reading
  • 3 References


Early lifeedit

Wilhelm was the fifth1 of the eight children of Anne and music teacher Julius Winkler, a family situation that required him to work starting at age 132 He attended law school at Karl Friedrich University now Charles University in Prague, and practiced law briefly in 1908 before a brief stint in the Austrian army, then settling into a position Statistical Bureau of Bohemia2 as the sole German-speaking statistician1 While working there, he attended many university classes and reached the conclusion that "the German statistical literature did not offer too many ideas New life came into statistics from England and Russia where the importance of mathematical tools was recognized"3

War yearsedit

Winkler re-enlisted in the Austrian army at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and was decorated twice for bravery before being wounded in November 19152 During a lengthy recovery, he worked for the War Economy committee; his talents were recognized and he was appointed Secretary of State for Military Affairs at the end of the war in 1918 and he was a delegate to the Versailles Peace Conference That year, he also married a Jewish woman named Clara Deutch He joined the Austrian Central Statistics Office in 1920, and was promoted to director of its department of population statistics in 19251 Concurrently, he became a Privat-Dozent assistant professor at the University of Vienna in 1921 and an Ausserordentlicher Professor in 1929 He founded an institute for the study of minority populations,1 which published a constant stream of progressive and influential papers that made him unpopular with colleagues in his government job2 Despite his lack of formal education, he was elected a member of the International Statistical Institute in 1926 where he actively promoted applied and precise mathematical formulations in contrast to the wordy generalizations that he had criticized 20 years earlier1 As both the husband of a Jew and an outspoken critic of the unfair treatment of European minorities, Winkler was promptly fired from both his government and academic positions following the 1938 Nazi annexation of Austria1 Despite severe persecution from the Nazi party, he wrote the textbook Basic Course in Demography during the occupation2

Later yearsedit

At the end of the war, he was rehired by the University of Vienna as the first full professor of statistics since 1883, and became Dean of the School of Law and Statecraft from 1950–1955 He was also restored as Austria's lead government statistician from 1945–19551 Despite these influential positions and growing international recognition, Winkler spent many years defending the statistical department from opposition within the university1 The regressive attitude of Austrian and German academics towards statistics as a truly independent discipline meant that his contributions to international developments became more difficult4 He didn't retire until age 71, and continued to publish and vigorously promote statistics thereafter He died just after his 100th birthday, having published 20 textbooks and over 200 papers, founded two statistical societies, edited two statistical journals, been awarded two honorary degrees, and reshaped the development of German-speaking statistics through his progressive education initiatives3

Further readingedit

Pinwinkler, Alexander Wilhelm Winkler 1884–1984: Eine Biographie: Zur Geschichte Der Statistik Und Demographie in Osterreich Und Deutschland Duncker and Humboldt: Berlin German


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Pinwinkler, Alexander 2001 "Wilhelm Winkler" In Heyde, C C; Seneta, E; Crepel, P; Fienberg, S E; Gani, J Statisticians of the centuries New York, NY: Springer pp 369–372 doi:101007/978-1-4613-0179-0_79 ISBN 978-0-387-95283-3 
  2. ^ a b c d e O'Connor, J J; Robertson, E F "Winkler biography" MacTutor Biographies Retrieved 17 August 2016 
  3. ^ a b Schmetterer, L 1984 "Tribute to Wilhelm Winkler at His 100th Anniversary" International Statistical Review / Revue Internationale de Statistique 52 3: 227–228 JSTOR 1403044 
  4. ^ Heyde, C C; Seneta, E Statisticians of the Centuries 2 ed Springer Science & Business Media ISBN 9781461301790 

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