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Mathematician-Actor Patrick Billingsley Dies at 85

May 10, 2011

Patrick Billingsley, an influential probability theorist who became a stage and screen actor, died in late April 2011. He was 85.

“He’s most known for his series of books in advanced probability theory,” said Steve Lalley (University of Chicago). All models of exposition, said Lalley, they included Statistical Inference for Markov Processes (1961), Ergodic Theory and Information (1965), Convergence of Probability Measures (1968), and The Elements of Statistical Inference (1986).

Born on May 3, 1925, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Billingsley received a Master’s degree in 1952 and a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1955 from Princeton University. He joined the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in statistics in 1958, attaining the rank of professor in statistics and mathematics five years later. Serving as department chairman from 1980-83, he retired in 1994.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Billingsley gave an invited address at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in 1970. In 1974, he won the MAA’s Lester R. Ford award for his article “Prime Numbers and Brownian Motion” (American Mathematical Monthly, 1973).

Billingsley held leading roles in a score of productions at Court Theatre and Body Politic Theatre in Chicago, which included "We Bombed in New Haven" (1970), "The Tempest" (1977), "Equus," (1980), and "The Birthday Party" (1978 and 1985).

On screen Billingsley appeared in The Fury (1978), My Bodyguard (1980), Somewhere in Time (1980), and The Untouchables (1987).

“When you teach, you perform in front of an audience. That’s much like acting. As a teacher you’re used to being on stage,” Billingsley told the Chicago Tribune Magazine in 1978.

Source: University of Chicago News (April 29, 2011)


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