Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hubert Arnold I: Earlier Years and Statistics (145)

1. 1949 El Rodeo
As detailed in post number 144 and related posts referenced there, Hubert Arnold was the intellectual leader of the science-based critique of fluoridation in Davis from the first public policy episode in 1960 through the fifth in 1991. 

Fluoridation, though, was only a small element in the range of his interests and activities. He was one of those “larger than life” and multi-talented intellectuals who flourish in college towns. Present at the start of the full-campus phase of UC Davis history, he might even deserve the title of being the first in the line of eccentric/brilliant UCD professors who have blessed our community right up to the present day.

His life was long and complicated and requires at least two posts to cover. This one describes his earlier years and a few of his statistical critique activities. The next one will focus on his later years, his amazing involvement in the arts, and his role as something of a guru.
2. 1951 El Rodeo

I draw together aspects of his life with the understanding that I have not verified many of the assertions published about him and some of these claims might be as much legend as fact.

  Born to the family of a prominent Omaha, Nebraska physician in 1912, he earned an A. B. in Mathematics at the University of Nebraska in 1933.

  He studied at the Sorbonne before attending the California Institute of Technology where he was awarded a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1939.

   After holding teaching and research posts at Minnesota and Virginia, he entered the U.S Navy as a lieutenant in 1942.

  Assigned as the officer in charge of a program at Princeton aimed at developing a device called a "computer,” he was promoted to naval lieutenant commander. For a time, he was also in charge of an IBM project at Harvard working on a “calculator.”

   Always also interested in the arts, he became an understudy member of the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1946 and 1948 (and later danced with the Sacramento ballet for many years).

  He joined what was then the UCD department of mathematics and physics in 1948.

 In addition to an interest in statistics, his formal areas of mathematical studies included differentials and abstract spaces.

  By all the accounts I have read by or heard from people who took his courses, he was a highly engaging and effective teacher. He taught a variety of courses and was especially known for a course on “the pitfalls of faulty statistical data.”

  At one point he was the organizer of a “Statistical Frauds Group” dedicated to identifying the misuse of statistics in public policy (images 3 and 4).

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The above matters are only a preface to his even more intriguing later years, which are the topic of the next post.