Oct 1, 2014

Obituary: Witold Klonecki, 1930–2012

Witold Klonecki

Prominent Polish statistician Witold Klonecki, born on September 28, 1930, died on August 10, 2012 at the age of 82.

Witold Klonecki received a master degree in mathematics from the University of Poznań in 1955 and a PhD degree from the University of Wrocław in 1963. His PhD dissertation, “On phenotypical functions,” was written under the supervision of Julian Perkal. Witold Klonecki completed his habilitation in 1970 and in 1983 he has received the title of professor.

Klonecki worked in the University of Poznań from 1954–58. From 1959 to 1963 he was employed by the University of Wrocław and later on he returned to Poznań. In 1968 he became a head of the Section of Applications to Biology, Economics and Technology at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Wrocław Branch. The section had existed since the late 1940s and was directed by Hugo Steinhaus, followed by Julian Perkal and Stefan Zubrzycki, respectively. The main activities of the section included intensive collaboration with various professionals and education in applied probability and statistics. Under Witold Klonecki’s guidance the main activity of the section evolved to, and was mainly focused on, PhD studies in modern statistical methodology. Consequently, the section was renamed Section of Mathematical Statistics and Its Applications in 1973. He headed the section until 1991. During this period the section was visited by leading statisticians from around the world. Also in 1973 Witold Klonecki with co-workers initiated the organization in Poland of a series of conferences on mathematical statistics. This year the fortieth conference in this series is organized. Many of the conferences were international ones, with strong representation of outstanding guests. Moreover, Klonecki’s close contacts with Jerzy Neyman made it possible to send some Polish students to take part in PhD studies in Berkeley. In turn, he organized in Poland two big international conferences to celebrate the 80th and 100th anniversaries of Neyman’s birth. These events were followed by special volumes of papers, edited by him and his colleagues. He also organized the 14th European Meeting of Statisticians in Wrocław in 1981. All these activities gave young Polish statisticians opportunities to make contact with many leading researchers worldwide, making it possible to learn current statistical topics and trends and enabling them to be invited to several statistical departments. This was a springboard for many academic careers.

As further support to the development of statistics in Poland, the journal Probability and Mathematical Statistics was founded in Wrocław due to the initiative of Witold Klonecki, who also served many years as its co-editor.

In 1992 Professor Klonecki moved to the Institute of Mathematics of the Technical University of Wrocław, where he was active well beyond his official retirement in 2000. During his work he supervised 14 PhD theses.

His scientific interests in his early career were focused on population genetics and Poisson mixtures; linear models when working at the Academy of Sciences; and again on some mathematical aspects of genetics while employed at the Technical University. The series of his papers, written in the period 1983–92 in co-operation with Stefan Zontek, constitutes an interesting and important contribution to the theory of admissible estimation in linear models.

Witold Klonecki was a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and a member of the Bernoulli Society and the International Statistical Institute.

His wife Kazimiera passed away several years before him. He is survived by four sons. He will be remembered as a person full of energy who played a considerable organizational role in re-establishing the statistical community in post-war Poland.

Written by Teresa Ledwina, Institute of Mathematics, Polish Academy of Sciences

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