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Is it possible to add statistics to science? You can count on it

By Terry Speed

The 2013 winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Terry Speed, reflects on the factors that influenced his career.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I grew up near Merri Creek in Melbourne. In my early life I was interested in trees, leaves, clouds, rocks, yabbies, tadpoles, frogs, earthworms, amoebas, creek and pond water. Later we moved to live near the Elwood canal and Port Philip Bay, and I added sea, sand, shells, seaweed, fish, eels, stingrays, moulds and fossils to my interests.

But with all of them, and much else (books, music, sport), my interests were transient, unfocused and undisciplined – as described by one of my high school report cards, circa 1956:

Speed can do better. He lacks persistence, focus and discipline.

The exception was maths.

Starting with arithmetic in primary school, and then geometry, algebra and later calculus, I found that I could stick with it, be focused and be disciplined. I liked the problems I could solve, I enjoyed the challenges and I found that I could do it.

Who wouldn’t like the idea of estimating the height of a tall tree by stepping away from it 50 metres, measuring the angle subtended by the tree, and doing a little calculation? I did that in a local park.

In the Scouts we’d wander around the countryside north of Melbourne with a prismatic compass in hand, exploring and surveying,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.