Skip to content Skip to navigation

Emanuel Parzen

photo of Manny Parzen

Emanuel Parzen was a world-renowned statistician and beloved educator, pioneering work in statistical spectral analysis, stochastic processes, and time series. He came to Stanford in 1956 from Columbia University, staying for the next 14 years. During this time, he wrote what has become one of the classical texts in probability theory: Modern Probability Theory and Its Applications (1960). Opting to return his family to an Eastern lifestyle, Manny accepted the chair of the developing statistics department at SUNY Buffalo in 1970.

The story of his recruitment by Stanford Statistics is a foundational one. Once the Statistics Department at Stanford became a reality in 1948, Al Bowker set about building it into an eminent presence. Bowker wanted to hire the best probabilists and went around the country interviewing people and generating a list of the best young probabilists. Emanuel Parzen was number one on that list. At Stanford, he developed STATS 116, "Introductory Probability," as well as introductory stochastic processes courses STATS 217 and 218, during a period when teaching probability as a topic separate from statistics was considered controversial. Five hundred students per year took his probability course; the bookstore reported never seeing a used copy of his text. Calling the professional atmosphere "very supportive" and "unbelievably friendly", Manny recalled "fantastic parties" with Herman Chernoff, Herb Solomon, Ted Anderson, Ingram Olkin, Sam Karlin, Tom Cover, Pat Suppes, Joe Keller in mathematics, Ken Arrow in economics, Tom Kailath in electrical engineering, and Gene Golub and George Forsythe (both in computer science).