Mathematics and Statistics
Radha Govind Laha (1930 - 1999)
R.G. Laha, Professor Emeritus at Bowling Green State University, died of health complications in Perrysburg, Ohio on July 14, 1999. He is survived by three brothers and four sisters, all residing in Calcutta, India.
Radha Govind Laha was born in Calcutta, India on October 1, 1930; his primary and secondary education was completed in Calcutta. He attended Presidency College, Calcutta, receiving a bachelor's degree in statistics in 1949, graduating first in rank; and a master's degree in statistics in 1951, with a first class. He was awarded a doctoral degree in analytical probability theory by Calcutta University in 1957. During his student years, he was the recipient of many prizes and awards including the Saradprasad prize, the Duff scholarship, the S.S. Bose Gold Medal, and a University of Calcutta Silver Medal. He came to the U.S. on a Fullbright Fellowship.
Laha joined the staff of the Theoretical Research and Training School of the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta in 1952, and by early 1960's had established an international reputation with invitations to statistical institutes in France, Switzerland and the U.S. in 1962, he came to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he stayed until 1972, at which time he moved to Bowling Green State University in Ohio (along with CUA colleagues Eugene Lukacs and Vijay Rohatgi). He retired at Bowling Green in 1996. After coming to the United States he continued to travel, spending a year at M.I.T. and summers at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and at Yale University, In 1980 he was a visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.
Professor Laha authored several advanced texts in probability and statistics and a large number of research papers, many now included in standard statistics texts. He was fluent in Bengali, Hindi, English, French and Russian and often reviewed and translated technical research papers written in these languages. Laha was a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He was an engaging teacher and expositor, much appreciated by his colleagues and students.
Professor Laha's outside interests were in the arts, especially music and theater. He regularly traveled to New York, London and Paris to attend theatrical productions and visit cultural centers. He was well read and would engage in animated conversation on the work of both new and old playwrights and composers.
His family, friends and colleagues will miss him. Memorial services will be held at a later date at Bowling Green State University.
Addendum by G. Szekely
Laha's favorite research area was characterization of probability distributions. There are lots of properties that characterize normal distributions and for a long time if was conjectured that the ratio of two independent, identically distributed random variables is Cauchy distributed if and only if the variables have normal distributions. Laha became known for a disproof of this conjecture. He also proved several generalizations of the classical characterization of normal sample distribution by the independence of sample mean and sample variance.
July 18, 1999