The Academy Remembers Sir David Cox

Prominent British statistician Sir David Cox, the AAPSS 2003 Harold Lasswell Fellow, passed away on January 18 at the age of 97. He was an Honorary Fellow at Nuffield College at the University of Oxford and was affiliated with the Department of Statistics at Oxford.

Cox was a standout in the field of statistics and applied probability, having developed logistic regression and the proportional hazards model. The Cox Model, which he introduced and which is named after him, helps researchers to assess and rank the risks of specific factors for mortality and other survival outcomes for different patients, but it has also been applied in many other scientific fields. In fact, the 1972 paper in which he developed the Cox Model is one of the most cited papers of all time.

In 1973, Cox was awarded the Royal Statistical Society’s highest honor, the Guy Medal in Gold. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985. In 2010, he received the Royal Society’s prestigious Copley Medal, “for his seminal contributions to the theory and application of statistics.”

Cox’s models provided insights into the effects of particulate air pollution on human health and the risk factors for ailments including cystic fibrosis, obesity and sleep apnea, among many other things. Cox won the 1990 Kettering Prize for work involving cancer treatment and was involved in early studies of HIV and AIDS. In 2017, he was the first ever recipient of the International Prize in Statistics, awarded every two years by a collaboration among five leading international statistics organizations. The prize committee called him “a giant in the field of statistics” and recognized his work for “life-changing breakthroughs with far-reaching societal impacts.”

Cox was a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. He had been President of the Bernoulli Society, the Royal Statistical Society, and the International Statistical Institute. He was the author or co-author of sixteen books and roughly 250 papers.