Jul 15, 2011

Obituary: Bernard Harris 1926–2011

Bernard Harris passed away peacefully on January 28, 2011, at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans, La., following complications from heart surgery.
Bernard was born on June 20, 1926, in New York City, the son of Samuel S. and Ella L. (Heyman) Harris. An academically precocious youngster, he graduated at an early age from Townsend-Harris High School, and then entered City College of New York. During his college education, he was drafted into the army, assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, and sent to Germany towards the end of World War II. Upon completion of military service, he finished his bachelor’s degree in business administration at City College in 1946. He changed his academic focus to mathematics and statistics, earned a master’s degree from George Washington University in 1953, and in one year, completed his doctorate at Stanford University in 1958.
During the years between his master’s and doctorate degrees, he worked as a statistician at the US Census Bureau and as a mathematician for the National Security Agency. After completing his doctorate, he became an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to work as a professor in the Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1964 to 1985, and as a professor in the Statistics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1966 to 2002. After his retirement from UW–Madison, he rejoined the faculty of the Statistics Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was an adjunct faculty member there until his death. Bernard enjoyed visiting professorships at the Technical Institute in Munich, Germany; Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands; University of Lund, Sweden; the Mathematics Institute Steklova, Moscow, Russia; University of Münster, Germany; Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany; and KTH in Stockholm.
Bernard was a member of many commissions and advisory boards for the government including a review board of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Statistics Task Force for the FAA/DOD Committee on Material Properties. He was an elected fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the American Statistical Association. He was proud to be one of founding members of the Section on Risk Analysis for the American Statistical Association and served as its first chair. He was a member of the Classification Society of North America, and served on its board of directors. He was also a member of the International Classification Society and the American Mathematical Association. He was a recipient of the Pioneers of Science Award. Professor Harris was a perennial advocate of and contributor to statistical science for the Department of the Army. He participated as part of the Mathematics Research Center at Wisconsin that supported the Army in addressing research questions and presented his work at countless statistical conferences sponsored by the Army spanning the years, 1964–2010.
His contributions to risk analysis, reliability, probability, and statistical inferences with application to open DOD questions, such as the survivability of subterranean targets, was recognized in 1982 with the Wilks Award for Contributions to Statistical Methodologies in Army Research, Development and Testing. His work continued to address current problems in his later years, with recent work concerning mathematical methods in combating terrorism, and his 2010 paper entitled “Random Contamination of Semiconductor Materials.”
Bernard was the author of a book, Theory of Probability, and the editor of Spectral Analysis of Time series and Graph Theory and its Applications. He published hundreds of articles and reviews in professional journals over the course of his career. He was most proud of his work in random mappings, combinatorics, reliability and risk analysis.
In addition to his academic interests, Bernard enjoyed a wide variety of music (classical, opera and jazz), reading in several languages, gourmet cooking, films and doing the New York Times crossword puzzles (in ink). He loved to create simple and complex puns.
Most of all, Bernard deeply loved and appreciated his family and steadfastly supported them with his advice and presence. Bernard was a member of the Beth Israel Congregation in Madison.
Bernard married Anita (Greenberg) in 1949. He and Anita had four children, Shelley Nolte, Mark Harris (Katherine), David Harris (Susan) and Susan Handrich (Tom). His wife, Anita, died in 1977. He married Susan Stephens Burns in 1983, and was a stepfather to Laura Burns (Brad Sinner) and Erin Charles (Jesse). He was the proud grandfather of seven. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Alan and Alvin; his first wife, Anita; and his beloved daughter, Shelley.
Memorials may be directed to the American Statistical Association to support the education of young statisticians.

Written by members of the Harris family. Reproduced with permission from 


Leave a comment




Welcome to the IMS Bulletin website! We are developing the way we communicate news and information more effectively with members. The print Bulletin is still with us (free with IMS membership), and still available as a PDF to download, but in addition, we are placing some of the news, columns and articles on this blog site, which will allow you the opportunity to interact more. We are always keen to hear from IMS members, and encourage you to write articles and reports that other IMS members would find interesting. Contact the IMS Bulletin at bulletin@imstat.org

What is “Open Forum”?

In the Open Forum, any IMS member can propose a topic for discussion. Email your subject and an opening paragraph (to bulletin@imstat.org) and we'll post it to start off the discussion. Other readers can join in the debate by commenting on the post. Search other Open Forum posts by using the Open Forum category link below. Start a discussion today!

About IMS

The Institute of Mathematical Statistics is an international scholarly society devoted to the development and dissemination of the theory and applications of statistics and probability. We have about 4,500 members around the world. Visit IMS at http://imstat.org
Latest Issue