2014 Fisher Lecturer Winner

Grace Wahba
University of Wisconsin


The 2014 Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) Fisher Lectureship Committee selected Grace Wahba of University of Wisconsin to deliver the Fisher Lecture at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston. The citation for Dr. Wahba’s plaque reads:

For fundamental contributions to many areas of statistics, including time series, splines, smoothing, nonparametric statistics, likelihood estimation, density estimation, and to interdisciplinary areas including climatology, epidemiology, bioinformatics and machine learning. In particular, her work in reproducing kernel Hilbert space representation and generalized cross-validation have become standard practice in scientific research and industry."

Dr. Wahba's talk is titled “Positive Definite Functions, Reproducing Kernel Hilbert Spaces, and All That."


R. A. Fisher was concerned with the importance of statistical methods to scientific investigations, but could hardly have dreamed of modern methods of statistical analysis that often require modern computer capabilities unknown during his lifetime. Reproducing Kernel Hilbert spaces appeared in an influential theoretical paper (Aronszajn) in 1950, but their use as a tool in applied nonparametric regression, statistical model building and machine learning did not begin for another 20 or so years after his death. After a brief tutorial, we describe some modern manifestations of these spaces and how they are used with both simple and complex data structures.