Kanti Mardia: Advancing Multivariate Analysis and Beyond

Kanti Mardia: Bridging Science and Spirituality in Statistics

Kantilal Vardichand “Kanti” Mardia OBE stands as a towering figure in the world of statistics, with a career that spans continents and disciplines. Born in 1935 in Sirohi, Rajasthan, India, into a Jain family, Mardia’s journey from a small town in India to the global stage of statistical science is nothing short of extraordinary.

Kanti Mardia’s contributions to directional statistics, multivariate analysis, geostatistics, statistical bioinformatics, and statistical shape analysis have not only advanced the field but also inspired countless students and professionals worldwide.

Early Life and Education of Kanti Mardia

Kanti Mardia’s early life was marked by a profound commitment to education and an innate curiosity about the world around him. He began his academic journey at the Ismail Yusuf College at the University of Bombay, where he earned his BSc in 1955 and MSc in statistics in 1957.

His thirst for knowledge led him to the University of Poona, where he obtained another MSc, this time in pure mathematics, in 1961. This solid foundation in both statistics and mathematics set the stage for his future groundbreaking work.

Mardia’s pursuit of excellence continued at the University of Rajasthan, where he earned his PhD in 1965. His journey didn’t stop there; he moved to the United Kingdom to further his studies at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, earning another PhD in 1967 and a DSc in 1973. This impressive academic trajectory showcased his dedication to mastering his field and pushing the boundaries of statistical science.

Academic Career and Achievements

Kanti Mardia’s academic career took off with positions at the Institute of Science, Mumbai, and the University of Hull. However, it was his tenure at the University of Leeds that truly defined his legacy.

In 1973, Kanti Mardia was appointed professor of applied statistics and head of the Department of Statistics in the School of Mathematics. His leadership and vision transformed the department into a hub of innovative research and collaboration.

During his time at Leeds, Mardia founded the Centre of Medical Imaging Research (CoMIR), where he served as joint director. His efforts were instrumental in fostering exchange programs between Leeds and prestigious institutions such as the University of Granada, Spain, and the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. These collaborations enriched the academic community and facilitated the cross-pollination of ideas and techniques.

Mardia’s commitment to advancing statistical science extended beyond his administrative roles. He authored several scholarly books, edited conference proceedings, and contributed to special volumes that have become essential references in the field.

His work on multivariate normality tests, particularly measures of multivariate skewness and kurtosis, and statistical measures of shape, has been widely recognized and utilized in various applications.

Inspirational Legacy

Kanti Mardia’s impact on the field of statistics is profound, but his influence goes beyond academic contributions. His establishment of the University of Leeds Annual Statistics Research Workshops (LASR) in 1973 created a platform for researchers worldwide to share their findings and collaborate on cutting-edge topics.

These workshops, which continue to attract an international audience, focus on applied statistical topics, especially those involving shape and images, and more recently, bioinformatics.

Mardia’s dedication to his craft has earned him numerous accolades, including the Guy Medal in Silver from the Royal Statistical Society in 2003, the Wilks Memorial Award from the American Statistical Association in 2013, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Indian Statistical Association in 2019.

In 2020, Kanti Mardia received the Mahatma Gandhi Medal of Honour from the NRI Institute, and in 2021, he was honored with the OneJAIN Life Achievement Award from the Jain All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Personal Life and Philosophy

Beyond his professional achievements, Kanti Mardia’s personal life and philosophy are deeply rooted in his Jain heritage. A practicing Jain and strict vegetarian, Mardia has integrated his beliefs into his scientific pursuits. His 1990 book, “The Scientific Foundations of Jainism,” introduced the Four Noble Truths of Jains, bridging the gap between spiritual and scientific understanding.

As the founding and current chairman of the Yorkshire Jain Foundation, Mardia continues to promote Jain values and support the Jain community. His commitment to service and education is reflected in his ongoing roles as a long-term visiting professor at the University of Oxford since 2013 and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) since 2008.

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